As dog teams get further down the trail, mushers are trying to decide where to take their 24-hour mandatory layover. Out of McGrath there are still roughly 700 miles to go before Nome. Some mushers make decisions based on timing and weather, while others have various ideas about how to use down time to their advantage.
While the front of the pack barreled down the trail, mushers coming into McGrath further back opted for even just a few hours rest. Sonny Lindner’s stop was a matter of utility.
“I want my other sled. It’s a tail dragger,” Lindner said.
Mushers can ship two-back up sleds to any checkpoint beyond Willow. The sled Lindner opted for, a tail dragger, has an extension on the back he can sit on.
“Well, actually I hardly ever sit on it while I’m moving, but I like sitting on it when I’m parked somewhere, changing socks or drinking coffee,” he said.
The next stop on the trail is Takotna. It’s a popular place for teams to take their mandatory 24-hour layover. Lindner is likely to head 23 miles further to Ophir. Jason Mackey says he’d like to go 80 miles beyond Ophir to Iditarod.
“It’s quiet for one. Takotna is crazy. Everybody goes through Takotna,” Mackey said.
Iditarod is roughly the halfway point in the race. When Mackey packed his drop bags, he gave himself the option to take his 24 hours at four different checkpoints. His ‘Plan A’ was to head for the race’s namesake, now an abandoned village.
“I think the further you get into the race, before you take your 24, the better you’ll benefit from it towards the end,” Mackey said.
Other mushers are trying to maximize the benefits of a long rest in McGrath in a different way. Mike Ellis and Paige Drobny, both rookies from Fairbanks arrived just as the sun rose.