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North Wapiti Siberian Husky Kennels
Yukon Quest/Iditarod 2006 - Tales from the Trail

Nikolai to Takotna

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.

Nikolai to Ophir

In ’05 a local in Nikolai chewed me out because he thought race officials had parked my team too close to his house. Apparently, this man had had these kinds of concerns with the Race passing through for a number of years. Well hats off to him, because rather than just complain about the situation, he did something about it. This summer he apparently took a Cat and cleared out a spot for the checkpoint along the bank of the river, so the dog teams wouldn’t be parked in town.

It worked out very well. Officials had a warm tent near the dogs, they heated water up in a drum for us – as Skwentna and Takotna have done for years – and gave snowmachine rides up to the school, which was open for the mushers! I thought it was great!

Nikolai is the first time since the starting line that we have access to a phone, running water and flushing toilets and I had full intentions of taking advantage of all that – but first dog chores had to be done.

With hot water readily available I varied my routine some and made up a kibble, chicken and herring soup for the dogs. Everyone seemed to really enjoy that and with their bellies full, settled down into the straw. As I worked, Iditarod photographer Jeff Schultz worked around the team taking a number of shots of the dogs, including a really nice one of fancy pants show dog, Dasher.

Draco still had a lump on his face, but the soft tissue swelling was down. I was leaning strongly towards sending him home, but undecided about what to do with Surge. On one hand I felt they both may get into the routine soon and their attitudes would pick up, but on the other hand, what if they didn’t and brought down the attitude of the rest of the dogs? Something to sleep on!

Up at the school I laid down for a bit, but after my good nap at the Buffalo Camp I wasn’t too tired (tired is a relative term on the Iditarod!). I locked myself in one of the lovely large bathrooms, completely changed clothes, gave myself a bit of a sponge bath and checked out my eye – which was now almost completely swollen shut, but no longer as painful as it had been the day before. Lucky I’m fairly ‘squinty eyed’ at the best of times, so the swollen shut eye wasn’t overly obvious. Many times over the next few days though, I wished for a more exciting story to go along with it, as I answered folks' questions about what I did to my eye.

I took advantage of the phone and called Mark. We had a nice chat; I was so grateful to Janet Mattos for the use of her calling card while I was out on the trail.

I caught a ride by snowmachine back down to the dogs. Most folks hopped into the basket on the sled the snowmachines were towing to catch a ride, but not me - this big, tough Iditarod musher hopped onto the short runners of the sled for my ride. The runners were iced over and standing on them was next to impossible, so my ride down looked like a bad scene from an Abbott and Costello movie but I arrived at the checkpoint tent with everything but my ego intact.

I visited with Draco and Surge for a bit and finally made the decision that they were going to go home. Both pranced on the end of their leashes on the way to the vet’s cabin. That was a sure sign I had made the right decision – if they were happy to be dropped, it was time for them to go home. (As a side note, Mark took Draco to the vet when he picked him up from ITC and the clinic found and removed an abscessed tooth – so dropping him was absolutely the right thing to do!). I gave them big hugs and headed back to my remaining 14 strong, happy teammates.

The sun was beating strongly has we left Nikolai just after 2pm, but a strong wind was keeping it from being too warm out.

The trail out of town is a nice one to travel, crossing lakes and swamps with nice portages between, along with a bit of river travel. Nothing very demanding, but interesting and enjoyable. Olena and Moses were in lead and doing a fine job.

The only thing marring an otherwise lovely day was that I had to pee – badly. There were a number of planes buzzing overhead, so this was going to take some planning (you guys just don’t appreciate the planning necessary for a woman musher to pee out on the trail). I waited till there was a spot that I could see a ways behind me to make sure no other teams were coming and then planted my hooks and went up front to the leaders (that way, if something happens and the team pops the hook, I won’t be left stranded with my pants down – I can catch them as they go by). I could hear a plane coming from behind us and waited for them to pass over, waving as they did so. Once there were past, I quickly seized the moment, but what’s that??? The plane was circling back very low. Damn. I did some scrambling and managed to be mostly presentable before the plane came over the tree tops again. As I was pulling at various layers to try and get straightened out, the plane landed on the lake just ahead of me. I gave up on the idea of a pee for now and headed down the trail. A photographer had hopped out of the plane and snapped a picture of my team as we came out onto the lake – it ran the next morning on the front page of the Anchorage Daily News sports section. If you look closely you will probably notice my eyes were yellow, I had to pee so bad!

The rest of the trip into McGrath was pretty uneventful and enjoyable. The dogs charged through one of the portages chasing something, but I never did catch a glimpse of what it was.

I switched leaders awhile before heading up the hill into McGrath so Kara and Snickers were in lead. I figured they were the best combination to get us out of town with the least amount of problems, as we weren’t resting here.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the checker in McGrath was Lisbet Norris, the lovely granddaughter of Natalie. My wind bibs were waiting here for me too, so I grabbed those, signed in, signed out, said goodbye to Lisbet and headed out.

The dogs weren't pleased, but the fact that it was dark and cold seemed to make it better than it was in '04 and '05 - and they left without too much protest.

The trip over to Takotna was short and sweet and we pulled into town just before midnight. The trip so far had really just been fun and easy, but a long break was still going to be welcome!



Updated:  Thursday 9:12am AST

Pos Musher Checkpoint Time In Time Out Dogs Rest Travel Previous
Time Out
Speed Status
1 Doug Swingley/5 Cripple 3/09 00:09:00   15   13:08 Ophir 3/08 11:01:00 4.60  24   8
2 Dee Dee Jonrowe/31 Cripple 3/09 02:51:00   15   9:56 Ophir 3/08 16:55:00 6.00  24   8
3 John Baker/56 Cripple 3/09 05:37:00   14   12:11 Ophir 3/08 17:26:00 4.90  24   8
40 Jamie Nelson/79 Takotna 3/08 16:12:00   15   2:35 McGrath 3/08 13:37:00 8.90  24   8
48 Karen Ramstead/76 Takotna 3/08 23:28:00   14   2:46 McGrath 3/08 20:42:00 8.30  24   8



Karen's Diary - Yukon Quest/Iditarod 2006 Edition

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