Iditarod Field Notes #1

From Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage


It’s cold here in Unalakleet, but not very. The sun glares off the snow and the brisk air makes me feel like getting out for a long walk. I love to walk, but people keep offering me snowmachine rides. I really hate snowmachines and would swap five miles of walking for five minutes on one of those things, but I don’t want to be rude to people offering help.

We flew over the Whaleback Mountains on the way. They look like whipped cream mountains outside the plane window as we descend into Unalakleet. Soft and creamy curves. My seatmate is a college kid named Eugene. He’s on spring break. In Unalakleet? He says he grew up here, lives here in a cabin seven miles upriver. He’s in school in Soldotna now, but can’t wait to get home again. Eugene has two earrings in one ear, smells like he’s had a couple of beers, and is genuinely happy to be back home in Unk.

In the airport, kids greet parents, moms greet grandmas, dads buy kids snacks and everyone knows everyone. Lots of hugs and kisses. Good wishes fill the air and passengers bustle through the door, both ways, as incoming and departing flights are the same little PenAir twin prop.

The good natured airport pandemonium lessens as the departing plane boards. Next, find a ride the mile or less down the one paved road to the elementary school. That’s easy. I offer a fur hatted older guy in a beat up truck $5 toward gas, but he says no, it’s okay. I climb in, hauling laptop, backpack and recording kit along. My duffel rides in the back of the truck, and as we pull away another guy throws his stuff in and jumps in back. The driver lets us off at the school, which is locked, but I know where there is an open door. It’s open and I drag my stuff in and let the other guy know how to get in.

Three freelance photographers and me are sharing the school’s cafeteria.

Now to race HQ… they are barely set up, but the comms people are already here, plugged into their laptops. The good news is that the GCI internet connex is working sort of , but the wireless is on the fritz and is expected to stay that way.

I hear there is wireless at a local coffee shop.