Iditarod 2015 Recap: Koyukuk to Shaktoolik (featuring the beautiful Blueberry Hills!)

Leaving Koyukuk, back on the original race route! 
A close-up of my face for Ember Hayes of Silverbear Sundries and Anne Marie Orheim. Looking pretty ok for 8 days on the trail. My cheeks and nose are quite sensitive to the cold after being badly windburnt/frostbit in 2014. This year, I used a combination of Ember's Mountain Mama Healing Salve and a lanolin-based cold salve that Anne Marie sent from Norway to soothe and protect my face. (I actually use Ember's salve for everything skin-related, summer or winter. I also use her lotions, deodorant, hemp oil and more. All-natural & highly recommended !! Silverbearsundries.com
Leaving Nulato. In a snow storm. Again. Same thing last year. Is this part of the river a snow hole ? Ripp and Ruby broke trail and led us, Monica, and Yuka Honda from Nulato to Kaltag. Awesome dogs. 
Our last night on the Yukon River. Monica's team with Blue Steel in lead. 
My mess in Kaltag. Monica lighting her cooker, our teams nestled close together.
Becca Moore's team resting with the Kaltag log roundhouse in the background. That's where the mushers slept. In 2014, Monica and I had the luxury of having the checkpoint to ourselves. This year, we had to sleep on the opposite side of the cabin from the wood stove :( 
Entrusting my sweet Goofy boy to the vet in Kaltag. He (Goofy) had a sore wrist and I didn't want to have to carry him on the 90 mile stretch to Unalakleet if it got worse. The log building behind the vet serves as quarters for race officials and volunteers. One of the volunteers was Mark Greene, a Team Anadyr supporter.
Everyone except Ripp ready to go to Unalakleet. Like a lazy teenager, he will wait until the very last second (me stepping on the sled) to get up. Or rather, to put it in a more flattering light, like a super efficient sled dog. 
A grey, somewhat dark, cloudy day to cross the Kaltag Portage, a historical no-man's-land where people have "disappeared" for millennia. 
Snack break just past Tripod Flats Cabin.
Surreal light conditions. 
Climbing into the grey. 
Ruby having a roll in the snow. Ripp, ready to keep going, ignores his sister's shenanigans. 
Old Woman Mountain, taken with a disposable camera on the 2014 Iditarod. Note the tree to the left of the mountain. 
Tried to recreate the shot, but the mountain was hiding and my timing off. But I'm pretty sure that big spruce tree directly above the leaders is the same spruce tree in the 2014 shot ! 
Old Old Woman Cabin. The walls inside are covered in neat inscriptions and signatures from mushers and travelers from years past.
Major and Fezzik snoozing in front of New Old Woman Cabin; built and maintained by the BLM. Really nice !! 
Yuka Honda.
Becca Moore positioning herself at the tip of the trail as to pull a fancy race maneuver & sneak out unnoticed by the rest of us ;)
Alan Stevens heading inside for a snooze. 
Georgie the glutton lounging in the straw. She managed to gulp down an incredible amount of kibble some musher left by the side of the cabin parking area before I could get her away from it. 

My four lead dogs: Vader, Pete, Ripp (behind) & Ruby.
Snapshot of our fantastic night run into Unalakleet. Just taken to remind me of how nice the trail was, how the dogs were feeling fresh, and of the fantastic big green northern lights that lit up the night sky for a good portion of the run. The aurora gave off a really good show, undulating wildly, arching directly above the little headlights in a string behind me. I turned my headlight off and almost got a crook in my neck from staring skyward. Monica, Allan, Yuka, Becca & I were all traveling pretty close together. Close, but not so close that when I saw their headlights all pointing straight forward when the aurora was dancing like crazy I could yell at them to LOOK UP, guys !! But close enough that if I stopped to snack, they would catch up and it would take me a while to pull ahead out of the beam of a headlight. This became a problem when I had to pee. I pulled out my ski pole and kicked and poled for a while until I had pulled a ways ahead of Allen. Then I looked ahead for a flattish spot on the trail that would work for me to drop my snowpants and have a pee on the go. Just up ahead the trail curved gently to the right. That would be fine. So I drop my pants and am going about my business when all of a sudden the team drops into the ONLY ravine in 90 miles of trail and of course I have to navigate it with my pants around my ankles. ha. ha. ha. Typical. 

The team nestled next to bags of hay (serving as a windblock) in Unalakleet. Most mushers and racers use straw instead of hay to bed their dogs, as straw has a better insulating value and is cheaper. However, every year Iditarod buys a load of hay to send to Rainy Pass, where it is fed to the lodge's horses after the race. As this year's race route bypassed Rainy Pass, the hay got sent to Unalakleet.  

The dogs snoozing in their hay beds.

Victor made himself a bed INSIDE a hay bag! He looooooved it in there. I had to pull him out to put his booties on, and then he dived right back in again.
On the river leaving Unalakleet.
Some windblown spots at the base of the Blueberry Hills.
Ripp & Ruby chilling after the first steep climb into the hills. 
Monica's team leaving the misty ocean air behind for now. 
Windblown tussocks.
Whaaaaat a day !!!  
Blue Steel leading Team Zappa over the hills.

Egavik fish camp I think ? 
Looking back at our ascent.  
Trail buddies. 
Woooowww.... what else can you say ?? 
Descending down to the dune line that leads to Shaktoolik. 
Back down to sea level. 
Snack break at the base of the hills, before it got windy. 
Not much farther in along the dune line, the wind really picked up! Minor ground storm going on here. 
Ruby & Ripp doing an awesome job leading the team to Shaktoolik in a ferocious windstorm. This was the kind of wind that tests the mettle of a team, causes sleds to barrel roll, frostbites uncovered skin, and builds up giant snow drifts in seconds. To get a sense of how deep some of the drifts were, to the left of the team is a trail marker, buried almost up to the top. Markers were scarce, blown over and covered by drifting snow. (While it is hard to get lost here because you are following the dune line, it is definately a lot easier to travel on the trail when you can find it, rather than busting through drifts to make your own way ! )

No comments:

Post a Comment