Nulato to Kaltag
Palmer Shagoonik was standing outside with the checker when I pulled in. He casually mentioned that my team had done that leg faster then his. My eyebrows waggled a little at that thought! (He didn't mention until later that he took a bit of a detour and went a ways up the Koyukuk River and into the village of Koyukuk before realizing he was off the trail! What a gentleman!)
The day was beautiful and sunny and the dogs sprawled out in the straw and basked in the warm rays. Grover worked his way over to a huge pile of straw left in the checkpoint and made himself a bed fit for a lead dog of his caliber. Everyone ate great. My only worry was amazing little Olena. I was so pleased that she had recovered from an earlier wrist injury, but then just a few miles outside of the checkpoint she had started to limp. It didn't seem to be the wrist again - I thought it was a shoulder this time and those are much harder to bounce back from. I gave her a good massage and wrapped her up in a shoulder jacket with heat packs - hoping for the best.
Inside the checkpoint, one of the ladies from the village had brought in a soup made from moose brisket and homemade buns. I inhaled two bowls of soup and a couple buns - I would have had more if there were any way I could have gotten it into my stomach. Absolutely one of the best meals I've ever had on the trail. I can still taste that delicious food!
After all that rest in Galena, sleep didn't want to come, so I pulled out my book and read a few chapters.
Finally, it was time to hit the trail again. I went outside and woke up the dogs. I unwrapped Olena and took her for a little walk. Her shoulder was bothering her as much as it was when we came in. It was time for her to go home. That was very disappointing. Although, at 2, she is still just a youngster, Ollie is one of my hardest working and favorite dogs. Her sassy and bossy personality provides me with lots of amusement - even if it does occasionally get on the nerves of her canine teammates. I gave her a whole bunch of hugs and turned her over to the vets - then snuck over for yet a few more hugs.
The dogs weren't dazzling leaving the village, but they were going forward. It was still pretty hot out and I figured things would improve as the sun went down, so I just stood on my drag brake and let them get back with the 'program'.
As the shadows of night crept over us, the team got into the groove of things. In no time they were flying down the river. I just love that solid, steady feeling that comes through the gangline and the sled when everyone is in their harness and focused on the task of pulling. I set the hook and went through the team to pet everyone and tell them how great they were. They absolutely danced in their harnesses as I played with them all.
Another magical night on the Iditarod trail!
One rather scary incident almost marred things. Just a few miles from Kaltag I had seen lights closing in on me over my shoulder. It was some local snowmachiners. I glanced back at them a few times and moved my headlamp rather erratically to warn them I was ahead. Just as they were getting close to passing my headlamp bulb blew - I was suddenly in complete darkness and unable to let the snowmachiners know my exact whereabouts. I fumbled for my spare lamp but didn't find it in time. Luckily, the folks had seen my light earlier and steered well wide of where they had last seen me. PHEW - what a relief.
The dogs charged up the bank and into Kaltag.