Takotna provides respite for weary dogs and mushers

It’s the fourth day of the Iditarod, and dozens of teams are in the middle of their mandatory 24 hour rests. Mitch Seavey was the first to declare his rest in Takotna, and is cleared to leave just before 11 o’clock Wednesday. The elder Seavey is a regular in Takotna, and says there are plenty of reasons for that.

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Jessie Royer, left, eats in Takotna with Mark Sass, Brent Sass's father, as well as Richie Diehl and Pete Kaiser. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes/ Alaska Public Media)
Jessie Royer, left, eats in Takotna with Mark Sass, Brent Sass’s father, as well as Richie Diehl and Pete Kaiser. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes/ Alaska Public Media)

“It just works out just about right here. They aren’t too tired, but they’ll make good use of the rest. And the amenities here are great, especially the hot water to feed your dogs. It’s really important,” said Seavey.
Two-time champion Mitch Seavey, pictured here in McGrath, is taking his 24-hour break in Takotna. (Photo by Zach Hughes, Alaska Public Media)
Two-time champion Mitch Seavey, pictured here in McGrath, is taking his 24-hour break in Takotna. (Photo by Zach Hughes, Alaska Public Media)

The long break gives mushers the chance to spend a little more time examining and caring for their dogs in ways that aren’t possible during short three or four hour rests. For Jodi Bailey, that’s time spent refueling and recalibrating her team.

“The dogs will get four big feedings while they’re here, they’ll get snacks. And actually this has been…the trail conditions are such that [it’s] actually taking a toll on the feet, so I’ve actually gone through the team twice and massaged the feet with a really nice liniment massage oil,” said Bailey.

Bailey says the snow is rough for those running in the middle of the pack because it’s getting ground down to the consistency of sugar, which is hard on paws. Bailey’s own priorities during the 24 were not so different from her team.

“I’m trying to eat and sleep myself a lot,” said Bailey.

Takotna has proven to be a popular stop for winning mushers along the Iditarod's northern route. (Map by Ben Matheson/Alaska Pubic Media)
Takotna has proven to be a popular stop for winning mushers along the Iditarod’s northern route. (Map by Ben Matheson/Alaska Pubic Media)

There’s a strategic benefit to comfort. Many mushers pick Takotna for their 24 because the hospitality extends beyond hearty food and an abundant selection of pies. Signs warn tourists and media away from resting teams, lest they intrude. In spite of the amenities, Norwegian race rookie Lars Monsen is set up in a tent next to his sled and dogs. Which is how he likes it.

Lars Monsen tends to his dogs--all 16 still running--with a tent-for camping beside-them. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes / Alaska Public Media.)
Lars Monsen tends to his dogs–all 16 still running–with a tent-for camping beside-them. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes / Alaska Public Media.)

“Total calmness and privacy. You know, I’m totally alone, that’s much better,” said Monsen.

But for many, Takotna has simply too many distractions. Several front-runners have been stopped in Ophir since the early hours of Wednesday morning, with several more speeding out of Ophir at eight or nine miles per hour. Suggesting there’s no rest for the weary, until at least Cripple or Ruby.