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Iditarod 2004 - Tales from the Trail

Iditarod 2004


Ruby to Galena

I’ve always liked Ruby. I think that is because my first visit here, following the Race in ’98 was such fun!

The checkers helped my team into a lovely parking spot near the church. On a clear day, like this one, the view from up on this hill is spectacular!

The vets quickly began going over the team, all the while teasing me that I was making them work too hard because I had so many dogs. I told them that in ’98 while I was following the Race Dr. Sonny King pulled into town with all 16 of his dogs still in harness. There was an absolute buzz in the checkpoint about how amazing this was. My traveling companion, Karen Adam and I rented a snow machine and went partway down the trail to Galena. On the way home, Sonny passed us leaving Ruby, still with all 16 dogs. We stopped and watched in awe as his big string trotted by. Now, here I was running Iditarod myself, in Ruby - still with 16 dogs. It was rather mind boggling to me. The vets made some very complimentary comments about my dog care and my team – I was so pleased.

The cut on Loki’s face wasn’t bad at all, but because he is a show dog in the ‘off season’ we decided to put in a couple stitches to make sure it wouldn’t scar. I held his head while the vet stitched. What a brave and stoic dog, he didn’t even flinch when the needle went in!

As I was tending to my dog chores one of the checkers came over with a pleasant surprise – the vest I had left in Rainy Pass had finally caught up with me! Yeah! Another nice treat awaited me inside the checkpoint – a box of goodies from my Mom. How cool! Moms always know the perfect things to send their kids!

After some food and something to drink I wandered down to the washeteria (a combination washroom, laundry, and shower facility that you find in many of the villages in Alaska). As much as I love Ruby – I have learned that one should NEVER use the outhouses in town – even in an emergency – they are atrocious! I didn’t take the time to shower, but I washed my face, changed clothes, and otherwise freshened up! On the way back I stopped in the hardware/general merchandise store looking for some bolts. Three of the 4 bolts holding my right footboard on my sled had sheered off on the trip over. Kind of strange – but this is the Iditarod Trail! As I was sifting through their box of bolts one of the locals inquired what I was after. I showed him one of the broken bolts and he assured me he had some just like it at home (the store didn’t). He offered to go get them and meet me back at my team. Very typical of the hospitality to be found in the Yukon Villages! In no time at all I had my footboard again securely attached to the runner.

I decided to see if I could get a little sleep before leaving Ruby, so headed back into the checkpoint building. For Iditarod the building has dividers put up in the middle so mushers can sleep in the one half. It isn’t really comfortable or quiet, but it it’ll do. I was too lazy to pull out my sleeping bag, so I just stretched out and quickly fell asleep in the middle of a ‘rug’ of other mushers. I woke up a very short time later, shivering because all the mushers around me had left – taking their body heat with them. I still had a bit of time before my wake up call and when I found a noisy but warm corner next to the furnace, I took advantage of it. Obviously, the warmth was just what I was looking for, as I understand the checker couldn’t get me to wake up at the requested time. That has never happened to me on Iditarod before! Gratefully, I believe it was another musher that snapped me back into reality. Checkers are sometimes too polite – other mushers rarely are!

Nighttime was just taking over when I left town. The lights of Ruby look so pretty nestled in the banks of the Yukon when you look back on them from the trail.

The trail took an entirely different route then I’d been on previously. In fact, we weren’t even on the River, but a slough that ran parallel with it. I felt kind of gypped, as I had prepared myself for a river run. Maybe the dogs were feeding off my mood, because they moved along very poorly. I was puzzled, normally runs at this time of the evening are among the best I have on a race. Doug was planning on leaving 40 minutes after me (we had both taken our mandatory 8 hour rest on the Yukon in Ruby) and I had bet him he wouldn’t catch me before Galena. I was frustrated, but not surprised when he caught me not even halfway into the run.

I went through a rash of leader changing and then got a grip on myself. About that time, the trail spit us back onto the Yukon. It perked up my spirits that I knew the spot, as there was a light on the far side of the River that I remembered from last year. It is very, very rare to see a light outside of a village along the River. The trail crossed a strange stretch blown clear of snow; it seemed to be frozen sand and rocks that we were on. Interesting things were happening overhead too, as the Northern Lights had started up and were coloring the night.

As we hit the wee hours of the morning, even though the dogs were moving along better, it got very tough to stay awake. I caught up with Doug, who was having the same trouble and he said he probably would have just shut down and napped if I hadn’t been out there with him.

The lights of Galena play wicked tricks on the mushers at night. Quite a way out of town there is a red beckon. Even though I KNOW Galena is still well over an hour away, it always gets my hopes up. When the lights of town do pop into view, they appear deceivingly close, again getting the dogs and I all excited – only to never get closer. About the time you are about to go insane, the trail swings up the bank and into Galena. What a relief!

Place Checkpoint Time from Previous Checkpoint Rest Time
in Checkpoint
Dogs Layovers
  Galena 8:33 10:11 16  24 Hr 8 Hr

Karen's Diary - 2004 Edition

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