Well I have to admit, I’m a bit behind on what is going on in the race. I spent the day running a team and getting the handlers at home squared away with their training schedules for the remaining teams. We have puppy teams running, a yearling team, a race team that can do long miles and race dogs that are coming back from muscle injuries and need shorter miles. The running schedule is complicated, but we got that all worked out today between spying on the trackers. We still have 14 dogs at home training for my Iditarod team and they will fill in the spots left after we see how many dogs finish in Paige’s team. But who cares about that race! We have one going in front of our faces.
I did hear from Megan and Chris who are handling on the road. They told me the story of the cliff carnage on the first run. I noticed on the first run in both Hugh’s and Paige’s time/speed plot that they had both been stopped for almost half an hour. Which I thought odd and wondered what had happened. I later saw the photo of Hugh crashing and wondered if they went together. Then I saw the Youtube video taken by some fans along the trail. In fact, I got a message from them with a link to this video and telling me she was okay. It turns out Paige had made quite the impression on their children and they went out to watch her come by and a show they got. Here is the story as I heard it. It sounds like Paige’s sled slid off some sort of steep cliff like bank approaching the river and she was not able to get it back up. The dogs were still on the trail, but the sled weighed too much. She was in a bad spot and Hugh came along and could not stop his team. He came in fast and somehow got caught up in her team and sled. Somehow in the madness two of Paige’s dogs had their snaps break and the dogs got free. Also in the craziness, Hugh’s gang-line released from the sled and all 14 dogs took off down the slope careening onto the river. The result can be seen in the Youtube video. Hugh and Paige reported all dogs to be in good condition and they are both cruising down the trail with all their dogs. Thanks to all of the folks on the river that ran to lend a hand to make sure all the dogs and mushers were safe. When safety of a team is a concern outside help is always allowed. Check out this video from Carrie Ariss and her family. About half way through they get into the part I was talking about.
So what’s going on out there now? Well The top 8 teams are moving towards McCabe as I write this. Hugh, Brent, Allen, Ed and Matt all took a rest at Carmacks. Teams like Katherine and Paige went through Carmacks so they will likely need to rest sooner than Pelly. It is 41 miles to McCabe Creek and 26 miles beyond that to Pelly Crossing. After Pelly Crossing there is roughly 205 miles of trail with no resupplying. The last place to fill your sled with everything you need for that run is Pelly. In 2015 I attempted to stay at McCabe and then “go through” Pelly. I practiced packing my sled beforehand a few times to make sure I could pack 200 miles of supplies as quickly as possible. It still took me almost an hour before I pulled the hook and left for Stepping Stone Hospitality Stop.. the morale of the story. It is probably in a mushers best interest to take a real rest at Pelly with dogs on straw so one has time to pack. However, I do think it can be done. Since the entire distance from McCabe to Pelly is 67 miles, I imagine most of the first 5 mushers will run straight into Pelly, take a sizable rest for themselves and the dogs and set themselves up for the next 200 miles. Some may stop at McCabe and then do a short rest at Pelly while they pack moving on to Stepping Stone which is roughly 30 miles beyond Pelly. Where the burritos and lasagna are plentiful and candles in ice lanterns light the path to the warm cabin. The next section out of Pelly is one of those sections where the race can be won or lost. Setting ones self and team up for success on this run are important.
I’m not sure where Paige is at with her plan at this moment. Her original plan was to camp halfway between Carmacks and Pelly, but I think it is possible she is on the course for running to McCabe where they have a massive woodstove. I don’t blame her.. I heard she got pretty sweaty yesterday and sleeping arrangements for mushers in Braeburn were less than warm so she left last night in subzero temps in cold wet clothes and has been on the trail in them ever since. Sometimes you have to dry out and warm up before moving on. Pelly is one of those stops that the people are really nice, but is not comfortable to a backwoods musher.. you sleep in a cool room, your damp icy clothes never dry out, only thaw out to be wetter. The hub bub of the village is loud and makes it hard to rest. Places like McCabe or Stepping stone are what we are used to. A big woodstove in dimly lit building and good food and musher company. That is what the Quest is truly about. If she stops at McCabe, I would expect her to take a short rest at Pelly and move on down the trail. Keep any eye on the trackers and see what unfolds.
Hard Eats, in Fairbanks provided meals for Paige and the handler crew on the road. They make high octane meals frozen and packaged for races and expeditions. Contact them if you are interested in ordering meals for your next adventure.