First Team in. Ray Redington Jr. Started first, came in first. Also came in with a bit of a gap to the second team, being Jody Baily. We passed her coming in alongside a big bonfire. Come to think of it, she had a bale of Straw strapped to the sled, so she might have been close to Ray but will choose to camp. Right behind her was Aliy Zircle and Jeff King behind that.
Leaving the starting chute was everything but easy, with it being well fenced off. During the first miles, we were chased off the trail quite a few times too. Man, some of those security people do take their job serious. Little did they know, that we were going all the way to Nome, although by the amount of gear strapped on, some might have clued in. As usual after a few miles we came by the flock of pink flamingos?., this time they were also Pirate on the trail, swords and everything, all decked out.
Passing a few friends like Matt Giblin and Aaron Burmeister we leapfrogged a bit to take some pictures. A beautiful sunset casted a very nice light. Each year I have gone by a place called ? The Luce?s ? on the north shore of the Yentna River. It is about 7 miles before Yentna and while running dogs, I never had a chance to stop. So of course this time Gerd and I did, and much to our delight, they had hamburgers. Bingo. While enjoying the view of passing teams I tried to get into the internet, without luck. Short before we arrived there, we passed a tight cluster of teams, being Gerry Willomitzer, Mike Suprenant, Lance Mackey and the current Champion of John Baker. All teams looked nice and steady. Boy are the differences in teams appearances huge. Some are loping flat out, while other trot in beautiful harmony. Jake Berkowitz?s team sure caught my eye. Riding alongside we chatted a bit and even Jake could not resist to comment on the fact that some of the mushers were letting their teams go way too fast.
At times it was not that easy to ride along the trail, specially close to Deshka Landing the moguls were pretty high. With me being not much of a snowmachine, it took me a while to figure out it might be the wisest to get off the main trail and find a track of someone who had pulled a huge toboggan. They are forced to find a smooth path. And for the most part that worked very well. Gerd got his sled stuck once, but with some help we got it out quickly. Bonfires were burning huge against the westerly Skyline of the Alaska Range. It could not be a more beautiful day. The close we got to Skwentna, the more defined the actual trail was becoming. With that the size of bonfires also went down.
While I type this 70 year young Jim Lanier came in as team no 2 at 21:00. I am not sure what to think of that. This is his 14th race I think, his first one in 1976. Hell if I ever try to get out of this mushing addiction, my future to wean myself off does not look good. Jim is 30 years older than me. Time will tell what I will be doing in 30 years from now. I joked with Jeff King too today, that I hope that my retirement from long distance racing is longer than his. He smiled: ?Don?t get your hopes up? ? Jeff?s team as usual looked strong, he had quite a few loping dogs in there too, but in his case, I am very certain he know what he is doing. Rick Swenson commented before the race, that he wants all dogs in his team to be able to do whatever speed he chooses to do, and that includes loping early on. Although that has never been my philosophy, its hard to argue with a 5 time champion.
Skwentna is once again a super hospitable stopover! And its been for 40 years. There is one major difference. Norma and Joe Delia are not here. They moved to Anchorage this past fall to be a bit closer to civilization and medical services. Their spirit will live on forever outhere .