North Wapiti Iditarod 2000 Journal
Rohn to Nikolai
Ive heard varying opinions from mushers on the Rohn checkpoint,
I personally thought it was a lovely spot. The checkers were helpful and friendly and
there were nice sheltered spots for the resting teams. It would have been nice to spend
awhile there, but seeing I had just taken my 24 the dogs werent really ready
for a big rest.
I had heard that the first 20 miles or so of trail out of Rohn could
be pretty tough going, culminating in an icy scramble up the Post River Glacier. I wanted
to try to get to the Glacier before it got too dark, so with three hours rest we rolled
out of the checkpoint.
Not to be blunt, but the trail out of Rohn SUCKED! It had hardly any
snow and we just bounced along across the frozen ground. It was dark when we hit the
Glacier, but it didnt matter. The team went up and over the frozen ice with no
problems. Grover would prove himself on the ice again and again over the course of the
night, as we crossed many large lakes that had all the snow completely blown off them. He
never hesitated or strayed from the markers what a boy!!!!
I did have trouble at a water crossing though that bugged me as I spent a lot of
time in the summer and fall working with the dogs on water crossings. I thought they were
solid on that, but they ducked away from the crossing before I even saw it was there. We
crashed around in the bush for awhile while I tried to get them back on the trail. During
all this Neen Brown came up behind me. Neen and I had been sharing living and training
accommodations in Willow since January, so it was nice to see a familiar face out in the
middle of nowhere. She secured her team and came up and rode my sled across the water,
while I walked the leaders across. I repaid the favor by going back and leading her team.
My feet got drenched in the process, but my bunny boots kept them reasonably comfortable.
Neens leaders werent doing well on the lake crossings, so I told her to stay
close and see if they would follow mine across. She
had trouble on one crossing and I stopped to wait for her. As I was waiting I heard
something moving around in the bush a little ways off.
The dogs all turned to stare and then started low, deep barks. Usually when
they see game, they get excited and start barking in a high pitch, so this warning
bark kind of spooked me a little. Thank goodness Neen got moving around this time.
When she caught up, I told her I wanted to get going, because we had some sort of company.
She later told me that as I called my team up something dark jumped into the trees ahead
of me. Im assuming it was a wolf very cool!
We passed a few teams camped on the side of the trail. I didnt like the looks of
their camping spots and decided to keep moving. One of the musher, Shane Goosen told me
about a buffalo camp about 5 miles down the trail. He said it was a nice place to stop, it
even had a wall tent you could crash in. I
was aiming for it, but lost my resolve when I came across Kevin Kortuem in a lovely spot
with lots of room. I pulled in well ahead of him and made camp. As I was doing chores,
Neen pulled in and decide to stay as well. As I was finishing up my feeding, Neen called
over and asked what the noise was she was hearing. I listened for a moment and identified
the sound as wolves. I wondered if it was my friend from earlier on in the
I was trying to decide whether or not to go to the trouble of unpacking my sleeping bag
and sled and getting a good sleep or just napping on top of the sled bag. My feet were wet
and my pants frozen from mid calf down, so I really should have been getting out of them
and, besides I thought, itll be good practice for when I run Iditarod. I had a
good giggle when I realized I was on the Iditarod. I have spent so many years training and preparing myself for this that it was hard
to believe I was actually standing in the middle of the Farewell Burn. I did go to the
trouble to settle in for a nice sleep in my bag. As I snuggled deep into my warm sleeping
bag, the wolves began their howling again. The Northern Lights almost seemed to be
reacting to the wonderful song they sang. I could imagine no more incredible place to be
in the world then right were I was. I will NEVER forget that moment!
When I woke up 3 hours later, my bunny boots were frozen solid. I pulled out my spare
Northern Outfitters boots and a few extra layers of clothing. Kevin and Neen were stirring
too. I was the first to get packed up and back on the trail. Neen was close on my heels.
Just a little ways past our spot, we passed Bill McKee and Mike Murphy camping. I wished
them a good morning and kept going. Neen must have stopped to talk to them, because I
didnt see her again.
The trail through the Farewell Burn is straight and flat a nice treat after the
awful trail from the night before. As I looked back over my shoulder I was given a
wonderful treat the sunrise casting back on the mountains of the Alaska Range had
bathed them in a wonderful pink color. The sense of accomplishment at having realized that
I had just driven a dog team right through them was just as glorious.
With the exception of one more problem at another creek crossing (we would obviously have to go and spend more time
on this back at home!), the rest of the long trip into Nikolai was pretty uneventful.
Smiley stopped pulling a few miles out of the checkpoint. He was still easily keeping up
with the team, but his tug was slapping loosely around and that is very unlike him.
Nothing obvious was wrong, but I suspected maybe something similar to Spuds shoulder
problem on the way into Finger Lake.
The dogs happily nested into the straw offered at Nikolai. I was going to need to stay
for at least long enough to dry out all my clothing. Seven or eight hours sounded like a
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