Thursday’s Three to Read: catch up on Iditarod 44

Denali musher Jeff King at the 2016 Iditarod ceremonial start in Anchorage on Saturday, March 5. (Photo by Patrick Yack/Alaska Public Media)
Denali musher Jeff King at the 2016 Iditarod ceremonial start in Anchorage on Saturday, March 5. (Photo by Patrick Yack/Alaska Public Media)
Halfway to Nome, teams’ locations on the map are just dots, or perhaps more appropriately, asterisks. The question this morning is not “where are the mushers?,” but rather “when are the mushers?”

Hugh Neff is hustling back into the mix after taking his 24-hour rest in Nikolai. Jeff King is pushing all the way to the Yukon River before settling in for his mandatory break, and Dallas Seavey will soon push out of Cripple. Amid the 81 moving pieces, here’s what you need to read to catch up with the 2016 Iditarod.

1. Celebrate like a King in Ruby

Four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King is going all the way to Ruby in search of his fifth. As the race pace pushes the record speed set by Dallas Seavey in 2014, KNOM’s Emily Schwing takes a quick look at King’s march past the traditional resting spots.

“Not since 1975 has a musher driven a dog team as far as Ruby without 24 hours rest and won. It’s where the Iditarod trail reaches the Yukon River and the first musher there wins a five-course meal cooked by a professional chef. That’s why four-time champion Jeff King says he shipped a bottle of wine.

“Because I’m going to be there a while and when I get there I’m going to be celebrating,” King said. ‘Actually it’s mimosa makings.'” 

Ruby is where the first musher to the Yukon River receives a prize of a gourmet dinner from the chefs at the Lakefront Hotel.

Teams are pushing past the halfway mark of Iditarod 2016. (Graphic by Ben Matheson / Alaska Public Media.)
Teams are pushing past the halfway mark of Iditarod 2016. (Graphic by Ben Matheson / Alaska Public Media.)

2. Off the 24, fresh legs give chase

From the perch of his snowmachine in remote Cripple, Sebastian Schnuelle at the Iditarod Insider can somehow still provide a 30,000-foot view of the race. Schnuelle gives us quick hits on the status of the tactics of Hugh Neff, Aliy Zirkle, Brent Sass, Mitch Seavey, and Dallas Seavey as the race comes into focus.

“Most mushers run schedules will converge in Ruby again. The teams stopping en route to Cripple, will most likely go through here and camp out. When they leave Cripple, it will appear that they are many hours ahead of Dallas Seavey, but on the way to Ruby they need to rest, where as Dallas, fresh of his 24 can make a big push to Ruby. As Mitch put it in Takotna: “The only difference will be, Dallas with come fresh out of his 24-hour layover, where I come off a normal rest.“

3. The grumpy bison who barged into DeeDee Jonrowe’s race

After DeeDee Jonrowe left Rohn, she found the trail blocked by a couple thousand pounds of bison. At Alaska Dispatch News, Tegan Hanlon tells the story of the trailboss who decided to take on the 5’1”musher.

“Jonrowe said she couldn’t stop her dogs in time and they ran up alongside the bison — a “grumpy, single bull” built like a “Mack truck.” The bison put its head down, turned around and plowed into the team, stomping its feet. The dogs bolted into the nearby brush, she said.

“They didn’t get hurt, which was unbelievable,” Jonrowe said.
The bison went back to his business. Which, yes, meant “he kept on pooping,” she said. 

After about 45 minutes, the bison sauntered off the trail and Jonrowe’s team rushed past in a tangle.” 

BONUS:

KSKA’s Zachariah Hughes has filed stories from small villages, school gym, and cramped quarters. But in the bustling Takotna checkpoint, he had to go new lengths to find studio-quality quiet to record a story. Read more in Trail Mix, our reporters’ inside look at covering the Iditarod.

“Only by post-holing through snow up to my thighs, filling both boots with fine, icy snow. I stood behind what I believe was a birch tree, laptop balanced on the crook of my elbow, snow up to my inseam, microphone clutched up to my mouth.”

You can find complete coverage of the 2016 Iditarod sled dog race at alaskapublic.org/Iditarod.