Iditarod Field Notes #4

Blog and Photos by Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Unalakleet –

King pulled up at 6:29 am with 13 dogs They got bedded down in deep straw and ate well. King disgruntled and not saying much to reporters gathered round.

It’s warmed up some, maybe heading five degrees or so back toward 20 below. King seems taciturn, pissed off. He says the trail was punchy and frustrating. He stopped a lot he said.

Meanwhile as King feeds his dogs, Mackey has asked for a wake up call at race headquarters. They get him up, but he looks wiped out. “I’m beat up” he says, head in hands, looking at a half eaten muffin blankly.

King walks in, shrugs off his parka and throws something bagged in the microwave. Reporters don’t give him a break. He answers questions first guardedly, then garrously. Like some dam broke. He says the trail was soft. “My dogs could do what Lance’s did. But I’m glad I fed them in Kaltag” he says. Maybe the extra rest and food will work for him in the long run.

Mackey not speaking much to King. There is a rivalry. Mackey wants that fourth win in a row. King wants his $50,000 back.

Both mushers were back on the trail by sunup. Mackey left at 9:48, with King right behind at 10:16

Mushers starting to come in. Hugh Neff in a little past 7 am, but out after four hours.

Hans Gatt in around 8 Sunday morning and out (above)  half past noon. Bright sunlight is dazzling, and seems to take the edge off the minus 12 degree temperatures, but the Unalakleet breeze is beginning to blow and mushers not looking forward to that. Gatt booties up an goes shortly after John Baker and Mitch Seavey bed down their teams and head for chow and a hot cup of coffee.Baker says he’s not thinking much past getting to Shaktoolik.

Seavey guarded in his answers, but relaxed as he speaks.

John Baker (above) tackles a huge steak and hash browns someone has prepared for him.

They eat side by side, Seavey  drinking hot orangy stuff (Tang? Do people still drink Tang. The lifeblood of the Iditarod, they used to call it). Seavey (below) frets about the cold – says he’s not looking forward to fighting into a North wind. Unalakleet means “where the East wind blows” according to a local sitting at the table next to me. But it could mean “where the South wind blows” he adds.

A snowmachiner says it’s coming from the North and kidking up pretty strong. Ken Anderson walks in with a water bucket, fresh off the trail. Sebastian Schnuelle wanders in, dogs fed and bedded down, and heads to the kitchen for breakfast.

Download Audio (MP3) (Mackey Arrives in Unalakleeet)

Download Audio (MP3) (Mackey Arrives in Unalakleet)