Friday, March 9, 2007
Legends on the Iditarod Trail
Leading the race, Iditarod champs Martin Buser and Jeff King high-tailed it in and out checkpoint Shageluk (SHAG-a-luck) this morning around 8:30. Shageluk is an Ingalik Indian name meaning “village of the dog people,” and when the Iditarod hits town, that is especially true.
They are headed to Anvik (pop. 82), the first checkpoint on the Yukon River, which is the longest river in Alaska, stretching 1,875 miles from its headwaters in the Yukon Territory of Canada to the Bering Sea. The church bell signals the arrival of the first musher to this picturesque village. The Millennium Alaskan Hotel serves a seven course dinner to the first musher arriving at this checkpoint as well as a cash award.
At this point the dog teams of both contenders are looking strong for the long push through the steady, cold head winds on the frozen Yukon River. They'll have to keep a pretty good clip to keep veteran Iditarod racers, Zack Steer, Lance Mackey, Paul Gebhardt and Ken Anderson away from the prized feast in Anvik.
We are fortunate here to see the action from the trail from our owner and official Iditarod photographer, Jeff Schultz. From the comfort of our office we catalog, convert and post images Jeff sends us from the various checkpoints. You can see several of these daily updates at http://www.alaskastock.com/daily_iditarod.asp
Trail conditions have been exceptionally brutal this year, particularly through Dalzell Gorge in Rainy Pass. Barren, bumpy, frozen trails and freezing high winds characterized the harsh ride into Rohn and took their toll on dogs, sleds, and mushers, resulting in 16 teams withdrawing from the race, including veterans DeeDee Jonrowe, G.B. Jones and Doug Swingley. Yesterday the temp at the Ophir checkpoint was around -40!