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North Wapiti Siberian Husky Kennels
Iditarod 2004 - Tales from the Trail

Iditarod 2004

Elim to White Mountain

When I signed in at Elim, Jasper the checker told me he wanted to move my team up the road a bit, swing them 180 degrees and in behind Doug’s team. I suggested that we would need some help as my team can get a little ‘rammy’ when being parked (in other words, they have a tendency to drag checkers wherever they want to go). 

Doug's and my team in Elim

Jasper assured me no teams were rammy in Elim, but he was eating those words moments later when we struggled to get the team where we wanted them to be rather then where they wanted to be. Siberians always save a little something for these kinds of times. The team decided that they could sleep in the big raked up pile of leftover straw rather then the measly little beds I was going to lay out for them. I was too tired to argue and it just really didn’t matter. When I pulled out snacks they were all very enthusiastic for them. Kara even stood up on her back legs and did a dance.

My team in the straw at Elim

One of my biggest memories from Elim in ’01 was the outhouse. It was a port-a-potty just plunked on the ice. By the time I got there in 57th position it was basically full and tremendously gross. This year sitting in a similar spot in the standings, I didn’t want to risk walking in there. I asked if there were any other outhouses for us to use and was told that the ‘Town Hall’ had offered us their washrooms – but, it was a 4 or 5 block walk to get to them. Four or five blocks for running water and a flush toilet – I was off like a shot. And well worth the walk it was, not only was there running water, the room was beautifully painted, had soft lighting, and scented candles. It was heaven. I took a few moments to even scrub my hands and face before heading back to the checkpoint.

Sleeping arrangements in the Fire Hall, where the checkpoint is located, aren’t the greatest, but I scored a pretty decent spot and got an hour or so sleep before we headed out.

We were on a bit of a bad schedule and it was still really warm when we left at just after 2pm. My team slugged along in the heat for the first bit. Doug’s did way better and he was quickly out of sight.

I think the first bit of trail out of Elim along the sea ice, with big rocky cliffs as a backdrop, is one of the prettiest pieces of trail on the Race, this year with jumbled ice that we weaved around it was even prettier. Once you leave the ice, you start the infamous climb up and over Little McKinley. The dogs weren’t fast, but they moved steadily.

Starting up Little McKinley looking back at Norton Sound

Generally, before we left each checkpoint this year, Doug would ask me what the trail ahead was like and we would spend a few minutes discussing that. For some reason we didn’t before we left Elim and I was really grateful. I would have sounded like a fool. See in ’01 I came over Little McKinley in the dark. I remember the trail winding through a treed hillside before entering Golovin and then leaving town on a river with trees all along the left side of the trail. Imagine my shock when I crested the Mountain and found barren tundra and sea ice on the other side. Golovin is actually an island, surrounded by the sea. Seems I was pretty tired at that point in ’01 and was hallucinating trees. Either that or a major logging and earth moving project had occurred out here in the last 2 years. I’m thinking I was hallucinating.

Climbing Little McKinley

As the team hit the sea ice I called them up and they picked things up to a great clip. Chester and Grover led right through Golovin at an easy lope, settling back into a great ground-eating trot once we hit the sea ice on the other side. They rolled really well the rest of the way into White Mountain and I was grinning ear to ear when I got there.

Looking back for the top of Little McKinley

Karen's Diary - 2004 Edition

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