|The trail to Rohn.|
We knew that parts of the trail heading over the Alaska Range would be bad. Judging from local trail conditions, I guessed they would be really bad. I did my best to prepare. In retrospect, I think the smartest decision I made was to take 14 dogs instead of the maximum number allowed: 16. I just didn’t feel comfortable taking a full 16. 14 dogs is still an incredible amount of power (Yukon Quest allows a maximum of 14, with sleds loaded nearly double what we take on Iditarod). The safety of the dogs is paramount, and the idea of my team getting injured because I couldn't keep them slowed down was unconscionable. So in addition to deciding on a smaller team, I asked the veritable Bernie Willis (local musher-sled builder-horse trainer-pilot extraordinaire) to help me build a drag mat. In place of a ridged piece of plastic the size of two pieces of toast (as is common on race sleds), I had a wicked two foot long snowmachine track with seventeen 1” spikes bolted into it. Bernie fashioned a UMHW lip for the mat to keep it from catching on stumps. I didn't care that it was heavy and bulky. It was practical and I loved it.
My relief to have made it to the checkpoint quickly turned to worry. It was so rough; I hoped the mushers behind me would make it ok. Some did, some did not.
To be continued......
Coming up: Part IV: The Harder Part.
Missed the first few installments of my Iditarod story?
|Pete & Nils in lead. Straight back to the right you can see the drop off with the chute.|
|Fezzik & Vinnie.|
|Frigg & Doc.|
|Goofy & Jackie.|
|Major & Victor.|
|Robber & Sneezy.|
|Nils and Pete at the bottom of the notorious Happy River Steps.|
|The Happy River at dusk.|
|The trail sweeps posing on a sketchy bridge over the Happy River. Photo by Pete Radano.|
|My shaky shot of the same bridge.|
|Into the heart of the Alaska Range.|
|Ruby and Nils; approaching the top of Rainy Pass at daybreak.|
|Upper section of the Gorge.|
|Nils & Ruby. Numerous willow stubs sticking out a trail|
were a concern we had been warned about at the
pre-race musher meeting.
|Through the stubs and down the Gorge.|
|Tatina River, just outside of Rohn.|
|Running along the Rohn Airstrip.|