Thursday, March 10, 2011

On the trail to Iditarod

Patton waiting for the start

Mike and the dogs are on the long trail between Ophir and Iditarod.  Mike is doing a fantastic job of managing the team.  They left their 24 hour break with a bang and made it to Ophir in just over two hours.  He then gave them a two hour break in the afternoon sun. Sled dogs prefer to rest during the warmest part of the day and in the latest part of the night, from midnight to dawn.  This allows them to run near dawn and dusk, similar times to when their crepuscular ancestors chose to hunt.  By giving the team a break right away he set them up to run at the right time of day and broke up the 100 miles between Takotna to Iditaord.

Iditarod is a ghost town once inhibited by ten thousand people in pursuit of gold.  Over $35 million dollars of gold was taken from the area in the early 1900's. Iditarod is considered the halfway point of the southern route of the race. 


As I have been following the GPS tracker, I have been looking at my Alaska Gazetteer atlas.  When Mike left Takona this morning he clearly reached a critical point geographically.  The scale of the maps has changed so that now 1 inch represents 22 miles instead of 4.8 miles.  I think that this idea of traveling where few people have gone before, where maps do not exist in great detail, is part of the mystique of the Iditarod.

Dr. Jayne Hempstead and Caitlin

Preparing a team for the Iditarod has been a humbling and inspiring experience.  I can't even begin to explain the amount of help we have needed.  It has taken the four of us, Mike, Lindsay, Nick, and I, working more than 16 hours a day.  Even with this we have needed help in numerous ways.  Friends, family, and supporters have gone to extremes to help us prepare.  While I know that some of this generosity is due to our friendships, I think that part of it is the appeal of participating in the type of exploration and adventure that is hard to achieve in the modern world.  It is not often that someone has the chance to head off into the wilderness with only his own wits and skills to care for himself.  People are captivated, also, by the idea of someone following and fulfilling a lifelong dream.  While I sometimes question my choices and my commitment to this adventure because of the challenges and sacrifices it requires, I know that others who have not taken the road less traveled by also question their choices and wonder, if only...  The Iditarod presents a chance for people on all paths to join in a great dream and a wild adventure. 

Down the road less traveled

Special thanks to Carrie Skinner for the great photos!

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