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North Wapiti Siberian Husky Kennels
Iditarod 2005 - Tales from the Trail

Iditarod 2005

The Restart

The night before the restart was a busy evening - packing needed to be done, things organized for the morning and decisions needed to be made. High on the list of things to be decided included whether to pack Jamie West’s .44 Magnum or Doug Grilliot’s Defender shotgun. I spent about half an hour on the phone with Doug discussing the pros and cons of each weapon. Honestly, for convenience and size reasons, I was leaning towards the .44 - Doug was suggesting the shotgun. I told him I’d sleep on it and decide in the morning. 

Not 5 minutes after I hung up the phone, Mark burst into the basement and told me to grab the shotgun - there was a moose in our dog yard. Luckily, the moose decided that we meant business and his brown butt was heading towards the trees when we got to the dogs. We fired a few shots in his general direction just to make sure he understood our position. I understood the warning and told Mark to put the shotgun in the truck, it was going on Iditarod with me. I hate moose and love my dogs – an extra few pounds to keep the dogs safe was going to be no big deal. Besides it was going to give me extra piece of mind.

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Beware all critters - there's a shotgun in here!
Bag check before the Restart
(Photo by Belinda Hutchings)

I got to bed at a reasonable hour, had a good night’s sleep, got up and had a wonderful breakfast of steak and eggs (thanks Jamie!). Mark and Markus loaded dogs while I showered and packed up the last of the stuff I thought I’d need for the next 12 days. We all piled into the truck and drove the 5 minutes over to the Community Center.

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Bag check with race volunteer before the Restart
(Photo by Belinda Hutchings)

Parking was really well laid out this year. Everyone was spaced out and had lots of room, it made for a much more relaxed atmosphere. Well done!

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Draco - the pretty Siberian Sled Dog
(Photo by Belinda Hutchings)

We were sandwiched between the Norwegian’s (both Bjonar and Robert were using one truck) and the Swingley’s (Melanie and Doug were both running out of the same truck). It was kind of intimidating to be between these two former Champions, but we are starting to get used to stuff like that – and the TV crews were at least nice enough to apologize to us when they tripped over or bumped into us to get shots of these pre race favourites, so we weren’t completely ignored. * VBG * Actually, with friends from back home and up here in Alaska, we had more then enough activity around our truck.

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Getting Team Karen ready at the Restart
(Photo by Gwen Ross)

Soon enough it became time to start hooking up. We had a great crew of handlers and hook up went really well, with the exception of Snickers munching through her neckline. She got her own personal babysitter after that – that was probably her plan all along. I had forgotten just how long a 16-dog string is. 

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Gangline for a 16 dog team
(Photo by Belinda Hutchings)

Although I routinely run 14 on a 4-wheeler in the fall, it is rare that I hook more then 12 up to a sled. This was the first time since Galena on Iditarod last year that I had been behind a 16-dog string – man, that’s a lot of dogs! Grover and Gus were given the honor of leading the team on this first leg.

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Grover and Karen at the Restart
(Photo by Belinda Hutchings)

Honestly, it was a purely sentimental decision. I knew it was probably the last Iditarod for both of them and they have been such monumental dogs in our kennel, I just couldn’t deny them the honor. I may be tough, but no one ever said I’m not sappy.

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Gus at the Ceremonial Start
(Photo by Belinda Hutchings)

I pulled the snub line on the truck and we put ourselves into the capable hands of the Iditarod volunteers for the next 5 minutes as, using radio, hand motions and big signs, they move teams up into the starting chute with impeccable timing and precision. It’s a slick operation. 

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Moving towards the Restart...Grover and Gus in lead.
(Photos by Gwen Ross)

I checked out all the dogs, thanked handlers and worked my way back to the sled. As we were moving into the chute, Mark had pointed out that Col. Norman Vaughn was sitting in a wheelchair right next to the start line. As I had 30 seconds left, I slipped over to say ‘Hello’. He is one amazing man and I was honoured to shake his hand.

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Col. Norman Vaughn - the last, living member
of Admiral Byrd's expedition to Antarctica, in 1927-30
(Photo by Gwen Ross)

I jumped onto the runners, gave Mark a kiss, called up the dogs, and headed towards Nome.

Karen's Diary - 2005 Edition

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