It has been a whirlwind of activity for me since arriving early Tuesday morning in Anchorage. I am excited to begin my journey as the 2016 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™. I started off with a workshop from John Bailey and Google Earth. John mapped some of the beginning of the 2015 Iditarod in Fairbanks and wore the large, round Google Earth camera on his back. I remember him very well as I stood there cheering on the mushers at the start. He was hard to miss! He told many stories about his adventures filming for Google Earth around the world, and after his lecture, we talked about some new goals for the Iditarod with these special panorama cameras.
Iditarod has asked me to try a handheld version (thankfully) of the Google Earth camera to film panoramic images at checkpoints to then upload to Google Maps. John took the time to show me the camera and share with me how to use it. I am excited to try this new technology this weekend at the Jr. Iditarod. Stay tuned!
Later, we drove up to Wasilla to visit Iditarod Headquarters as preparations for the vet checks are beginning. Notice the snow, or lack of snow, on the ground. We are hoping for more this weekend…just in time for the Last Great Race on Earth®. The Iditarod staff work and plan at the headquarters, but it is also an incredible museum and memorabilia store. It is a fascinating place to visit for any Iditarod fan.
We jumped back in the car and continued our trek up to Willow. We stopped and walked to where the start of the race will be to check snow conditions for ourselves.
We were impressed with the change in the snow on the ground from an hour or so up the road from Wasilla. I made a snowball, snapped a few photos, and we were off to visit the students and staff at Trapper Creek Elementary School.
Trapper Creek Elementary is a quaint, rural school in Trapper Creek with about 25 students ranging from pre-k to 5th grade. I immediately was struck by the warmth and friendliness of the staff. As I sipped some hot tea, we walked around the main entrance and stopped to see the incredible mural along the main wall. The principal told me that the students drew and painted it themselves with the guidance of a visiting artist. It is a whimsical portrait of the history of the Trapper Creek area, complete with a sled team, miners with pans of gold, farmers, and of course, a trapper.
I gave an hour long presentation to the students about the Iditarod and the life of a musher, sharing many of the musher videos from posts I have created the last few months. The students learned about the life of a musher and what it takes to begin a kennel, raise puppies, train them, and prepare yourself for the starting line. Great questions were asked by the students, and I tried my best to answer them all. They also asked me some questions about Texas, and I showed them my traveling mascot from Eanes Elementary, our mustang, “Tex”. He will be in my bag all the way to Nome, to share with my school in Austin. The staff shared their school mascot with me, a sled dog, of course!