The sky had been threatening rain for the last 24 hours. Just as I stepped out of the car on 5th Avenue it upheld that threat and started to drizzle. By the time I reached the staging area for the volunteers it was nearing a downpour.
Crews had worked relentlessly overnight hauling in tons of snow and forming a makeshift trail along the streets of downtown Anchorage and it was literally just washing down the drain. Thankfully, as one of the few local volunteers, I knew of the craptastic winter (if one can really call it that) we’ve been having here in town & had dressed the part; waterproof boots, water repellent pants & a rain shell.
By the time the sun was just starting to come up the rain was beginning to slow. The air was electric as most of the dog trucks started arriving around this time as well. When we got our assignments I was put on a team to handle the first sled out the chute, the 2015 Jr Iditarod winner Kevin Harper. It was a quick 1/4 mile sprint to the starting line, and just as quick as we got there, the team was on their way through Anchorage on a rapidly disappearing trail. I sat at the starting line for a few minutes to watch the next musher get on his way, more so that I could stop and take it all in for a minute than dashed back to our staging area to get my next assignment.
|Can you find me?|
By the end of the day I had handled for 4 teams total, Kevin Harper, Seth Barnes, Jane Steves & Trent Herbs. I was exhausted and hungry and ready to head out to Fairbanks for the re-start, rather the official start of Iditarod 2015.
Sunday morning, after sleeping in, I kissed Brian goodbye, threw my bag in the car & headed out for Fairbanks. The weather turned nasty around Denali and I joined up with a caravan of Iditarod mushers headed for the same destination. After arriving at my hotel for checking nearly 2 hours later than I had planned, I checked in for my race credentials and was put on musher parking for the night. So I stood for the next 3 1/2 hours in a makeshift parking lot at a balmy 3 degrees to check in a grand total of 3 mushers. Having not had a chance to eat all day, I was excited to head bag to my hotel room for a quick meal and then pass out for a couple of hours before returning early the next morning.
The differences between the ceremonial start and the official start of the Iditarod were drastic not only in the way the volunteers were handled, but in the overall atmosphere. The jovial mushers who had been signing autographs and making jokes just two mornings before, were now mentally prepping for an arduous 1,000 mile race in the middle of an Alaskan winter. Because of the last minute course change to accommodate for the lack of snow, this trail was also going to be completely new to most of the mushers, regardless of their veteran status.
As I was heading back from taking a team to the starting line, I stopped just in time to snag a quick picture of Dallas Seavey. He just happened to come to a stop directly in front of me!
Between the lack of sleep and the overall excitement, the day went by quick and as a blur. Before I knew it the final teams were crossing the line and heading down the trail. I stopped by a friends house in Fairbanks before hitting the road for Anchorage.
As I neared the town of Nenana I spotted a couple of mushers heading down the river. So I stopped in town to catch a glimpse of a couple of them leaving the first checkpoint. This was the first time I actually got to just sit and enjoy what was happening around me.
What an experience I’ll never forget…