North Wapiti Siberian
Iditarod 2001 -
Tales from the Trail
August 6, 2001
Kaltag to Unalakleet
Well, back on familiar ground! The checkers had a treat for us in Kaltag. Instead of the community hall they had set up for us last year, the local school had been opened up to the mushers. Running water, flushing toilets, kitchen facilities, and gym mats to sleep on the floor (don't think I've done that since kindergarten!) made it seem like we were in a luxury resort!! How wonderful. While wandering around looking for a washroom I found the most thrilling thing - a Coke machine!!! I was practically drooling as I searched the 300+ pockets on my parka. All I had was some bills, thank goodness for the teacher walking by that took mercy on me and gave me change for the machine. It must have been the drool and the crazed look in my eyes that prompted her to be so kind! Never has a Diet Coke tasted so good.
The dogs had chowed down really well and settled in for a nap. I did exactly the same, getting a few of the best hours sleep I'd had in a long time - since Shageluk, actually.
I borrowed a phone in the checkpoint and called Jamie again. I wasn't down or anything, but I was still a little discouraged that the team still wasn't 'coming together' like they had on Grand Portage. They were still doing much better then my 2000 team though - and we were still 15 strong - now the largest in the Race!
One of my favorite memories of the Race happened as I was getting ready to leave. A local Elder came by and we were chatting about the days that they used to use dog teams as their main mode of transportation. He commented that most of the front runners don't have the time to chat and I noted that they were running a much different 'Race' then I was. He said that he would have liked to run the Race himself one day, but that if he had 'he wouldn't have time to waste talking to people in checkpoints.' I smiled and told him that one of my favorite things about the Race was the opportunity to do just that and besides, I was packing up my gear while we talked, so it wasn't taking up any extra time. He wished me luck and began to walk away, and then he turned around, walked back and stuck out his hand. As we shook, he thanked me for 'taking the time to talk to him'. The privilege was
With help from checker (and Iditarod veteran) Linda Joy, I got the dogs out onto the trail. Last year I had a fair amount of troubles getting them out of Kaltag. This year, they moved solidly. I remember very much liking the terrain and trail from Kaltag to Old Woman Cabin. Memory served me well - it was as pretty and enjoyable as I recalled - and without a lot of the backbreaking moguls that plagued us last year.
Dave Tresino's team passed right around Tripod Flats. Dave was insistent that Old Woman Cabin was much farther then the 1 ½ hours away I thought it was. He ended up pulling over at the 'old' Old Woman Cabin (which is little more then a dilapidated shack). When I pulled into the 'new' Old Woman Cabin not 10 minutes later I felt for him.
Old Woman Cabin is a real luxury on the trail. It is cute, cozy and usually warm. Beth Manning left shortly after I pulled in and I had a couple hours to relax by the woodstove. For some reason, despite knowing Dave was a few miles behind me and Beth and others weren't far ahead,I was really overcome by a feeling of being alone out at Old Woman. Maybe it was the ghost of the old woman for which the cabin was named playing mind games with me. To appease her, I left a customary snack behind.
Turns out I was far from alone. As we left the cabin Grover got VERY animated! He and the rest of the dogs were barking as they ran (despite what Walt Disney will tell you - that is very unusual for sled dogs on the move). I could see a lot of dark shapes and movement just off the trail. Caribou, I'm sure, but it gave me quite the start!!
The trip into Unalkleet from there was windy and stark - a warm up for the coast ahead. As we got closer and closer to the village the snow got less and less. My feelings of dread as I approached my problem areas from last year got more and more. This year I was withholding my 'got to the coast' euphoria until Koyuk.
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