Iditarod Mushers Prepare For Break From Yukon River

Huslia marks the halfway point along this year’s Iditarod Trail. Many mushers are looking forward to leaving the Yukon River and heading for the tiny Interior village.

For most of the first 385 miles of the race, teams travelled long stretches of flat, frozen river. Musher Paige Drobny says the easy-going trail has been good for her.

“I don’t really mind it,” she said. “I’ve gotten more sleep than I ever have before, because of being able to sit on my sled and being able to sleep while the dogs are running.”

But Drobny says the monotony is getting to her dogs.

Wade Marrs at the 2015 Iditarod ceremonial start. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN - Anchorage)
Wade Marrs at the 2015 Iditarod ceremonial start. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

“The dogs are bored. On the way here, my leader Wiseman was trying to take every random snow machine off of the trail that he could, because he was getting bored, and it was very clear they weren’t dog trails,” Drobny said. “He would take a 90 degree turn onto the snow machine trail. He was like ‘get me somewhere more interesting and maybe I’ll do my job right.’”

Wade Marrs says his dog team is also ready for a change of scenery.

“Every time the trail turns and heads toward the bank, they get really excited and take off wide open like ‘oh, we’re going somewhere new!’ So, yeah it will be really cool t get off the river and the dogs will be really happy about that,” Marrs said.

For rookie Jason Campeau, it’s not the trail that’s the most challenging part.

“You know you have to be tough mentally to get through these.,” Campeau said. “There’s times that you’re out there and it’s beautiful and you’re with your dogs and you’re loving it and then there’s other times when it’s freezing and every single person in here will tell you it’s tough when that happens, so it’s a matter of staying tough mentally and staying focused.”

Huslia is the next stop along the Iditarod trail. It’s the home of George Attla, one of Alaska’s most famous sprint mushers. Also known as the Huslia Husler, Attla passed away last month. Many of the mushers taking part in this year’s race say they are looking forward to paying their respects to Attla and visiting a village that hasn’t seen an Iditarod since the last time the trail was rerouted in 2003.