Rainy Pass to Rohn
I know that some mushers charge for their Iditarod journals or only tell the tales in books, but I feel so much gratitude and thanks to all of you
who support and follow our adventures that I think I owe all of you these stories.
As you read these entries, I ask you all to remember that none of it could have happened without the support and interest of each one of you.
Please never underestimate how thankful I am.
I donít think the sleeping spot for mushers in Rainy Pass is ever the same Ė the last few years the one thing consistent about whatever shelter has been found for us is that it has been COLD!!
It never helps that I am usually more tired in Rainy Pass than at any other point during the Race.
I rarely sleep in either Skwentna or Finger Lake, so by the time
I get to Rainy Pass, I've been awake about 48 hours and all I want
to do is get my chores done and get some shut-eye. Later in the Race, mushers, at least this musher, seem to be more settled into a routine and can get by with less sleep.
Anyway, chores done, I packed up my personal junk (sleeping bag,
clean socks, juice packs, Gatorade, snacks, toothbrush, etc.) and
headed up to the, promised by ITC, warm sleeping spot. I wouldn't
call the place toasty warm, but it was definitely warmer than
outside and many mushers had clothes hanging about the room that had
obviously dried out while they slept. So I peeled off all my outer layers of clothes and found spots to hang them, laid out some juice packs to thaw, and grabbed a spot on the floor to sleep. There were some very comfy looking (remember, I hadnít slept in 2 days) cots in the room, but all were taken when I arrived. After about an hour someone vacated a cot and I scooted up onto it. Heaven!
What I was unaware of was that the sleeping room had indeed at one time been
warm, but shortly before I arrived, one of the doors to outside was broken and
became stuck partially open.
When I woke up after about 4 hours sleep the room was FREEZING!! All my gear was frozen solid and none of my drinks were drinkable. If I had realized it was going to get so cold in there, I would have just slept in my gear Ė now I had the miserable task of climbing into frozen solid clothes. Iíll admit to using some really not pleasant language under my breath as I got dressed.
I plodded out to the dogs in my heavy, cold clothes and set about my dog chores. The dogs seemed to have rested well Ė better
than I Ė and lapped up their meals with gusto.
After they were taken care of, I grabbed some juice packs and headed over to the
checkers' tent, hoping to find a little heat. Lynda Plettner was in there doing the same and I managed to swap some frozen juice packs for thawed ones, so I got some fluid into me.
About a half hour before I wanted to leave, I walked back up to the sleeping area with an extra layer of clothes I wanted to put on before I left. This included my spiffy, new this season, Apocalypse Design wind bibs.
I sat down in a chair to pull off my boots. Next thing I knew my head snapped up and over a half hour had vanished. Man, I was more tired
than I thought. Now I was annoyed with myself and hurried through my clothes change and back out to the team.
Finally I pulled out of the checkpoint almost an hour later than I had wanted to. At least kicking myself helped keep me warm.
I do love this leg of the race and always take the time to appreciate the beautiful scenery as we climb up to the Pass and start back down. Everything through there is just so big Ė and so ALASKA. I LOVE it!
It was storming pretty good near the top of the Pass and Kara made it perfectly clear that she was not up to finding and breaking trail in those conditions. I played around with leaders for a while until I got a pair that seemed up for the challenge. As I was doing that I realized that my legs were cold. Whatís the
deal? I had been really pleased with those wind bibs during pre-Iditarod racing
and training. I looked down and realized I wasnít wearing the darn things! My mind flashed back to a mental picture of them slung over a chair back in Rainy Pass. Damn it!
I had been so flustered by my unplanned nap, I'd rushed out of the building
without putting them on.
Again I helped stay warm by kicking myself as I headed down the trail.
A team or two passed as we headed down the top of the Gorge and I enjoyed catching occasional glimpses of the teams ahead winding back and forth through the narrow pass.
I, and Iím sure every other Iditarod musher, had the death of Iditarod volunteer Richard Strick Jr. on our mind as we headed down the Dalzell Gorge. A trail like the Gorge demands a musherís undivided attention, yet we had been told that a marker was going to be placed where he had been taken by the avalanche, and I was watching out of the corner of my eye for it. At a particularly tricky and narrow
but spectacularly beautiful spot, I glanced up to my left and saw a lovely, simple cross. A fitting tribute. Unfortunately, the trail was not conducive to stopping and paying respects, but I was certainly thinking about Richard as we wound down the pass. May he rest in peace.
The run was going really well and I found myself humming once again. All of a
sudden, as we approached some of the trickiest spots on the trail, right before
the first ice bridge of the actual Dalzell Gorge, I could hear dogs barking - A
LOT of dogs barking. Never a good sign. Sure enough, at the top of a pitch down the side of the Gorge I came across Lachlan Clark stopped in the trail. He held his hands up to stop me and explained that there were FIVE teams on the trail ahead of him (it was narrow and windy enough that I couldnít see anything in front of him). Apparently, Lynda Plettner was the one at the front of the line. She had hit a tree or some such thing and rumor was she and Paul Ellering were trying to, basically, winch her sled back down onto the trail, over the top of Paulís leaders. Gives you an idea of how tricky this trail is!
Thankfully, my team is used to stopping and taking trail breaks and they were reasonably well mannered. It took about 15 minutes and things finally got moving again. Of course, I now had a rested, rather jacked up team on one of the trickiest pieces of trail on Iditarod Ė but we made it down and across the bridge without issue.
For the rest of the way down to the Tatina River, the trail winds back and forth over ice bridges across the roaring Dalzell Creek. Huge rocky cliffs hold
the creek in tight. It is definitely a dangerous piece of trail, but it is also so beautiful it is grabs at your heart.
The team and I dropped down onto the River and it occurred to me that I hadnít put my sled down once on the trip over from Rainy Pass. That was definitely a first. Still whistling and humming, we pulled into
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