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Iditarod 2004 - Tales from the Trail

Iditarod 2004

Shaktoolik to Koyuk

I must admit that it was at Shaktoolik that the only thought of how nice it would be to be home crossed my mind during this race. I did up all my chores and headed into the checkpoint building. Doug was still up and poking around, despite having checked in well ahead of me, I figured I could get some sympathy out of him, but when I told him about my sled and tough trip in, he basically said ‘So?? Go get some rest so we can get out of here at a decent hour.’ I’m sure I muttered some ungracious comments about his character under my breath, but really his reply was just perfect. It was, in fact, pretty much what Mark would have said to me if he had been around. Well…actually…Mark would have worded it somewhat along the line of “Suck it up Princess”, but the sentiment would have been the same. I didn’t need nor want anyone to hold my hand on the trail. I went and guzzled a huge amount of Tang and was asleep on the crowded floor in no time. 

I slept hard and soundly, although not for too long – as I still had to get that sled fixed. Palmer had a game plan all worked out when I went outside and in no time, with a couple scraps pieces of metal, a drill and some bolts, I was ready to hit the trail. I asked Palmer whether he thought the repair job would hold the whole way to Nome. He said I should see what I thought after driving it over to Koyuk, but I was feeling very confident and in a much better mood as I prepared to leave. One sad thing was that Camilla was going to be staying behind here. She had been off gaited and not pulling for a while due to a sore back and it was time for her to go home and get a good, long rest. 

It was blowing pretty good when Doug and I left Shaktoolik, but then again, it always blows pretty good in Shaktoolik. The dogs worked out their kinks and settled nicely into a gait. Despite their decent clip, Doug's team had long since pulled away from us and out of sight. The miles and hours tick by slowly on the featureless terrain on Norton Sound. The wind was obscuring most of the sled tracks in front of me but there were signs that a team in front was zigzagging back and forth over the trail – obviously someone’s leader didn’t like this stuff. My leaders figured they’d follow that track so I put Grover up front and he got us all straightened out. I think that team in front must have added an extra 2 miles to their trip with all that wandering (What do you think Doug – was it an extra 2 or more?). 

Due to some unstable sea ice, the trail didn’t go straight across the Sound, but arched to parallel the shoreline most of the way. Peter Bartlett caught up to me and passed at the point that we were closest to land. As his team pulled away from mine a large, light colour, what I assumed to be coyote flushed out of a little gully right next to the trail and bee lined inland. It was many weeks after Iditarod when it occurred to me that that was a wolf I saw, not a coyote. Very cool. 

You can see Koyuk for a long time before you get to it, but the dogs all picked up their pace as it came clearly into view. 

Kids were waiting when the team pulled into town and ran along side us as we checked in and parked. Chester was in lead and his tail was wagging like crazy. The kids asked for booties and I agreed to give them some if they would do me a favour – pet Chester. He grinned ear to ear, just like the kids, at the extra attention. What a ham.

Karen's Diary - 2004 Edition

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