Willow to McGrath on the Iditarod Trail
Mushing Magazine publisher Greg Sellentin follows behind the pack to photograph the beautiful, notoriously harsh Iditarod trail.
2 0 1 2 all images � 2012 Greg Sellentin and may not be reproduced without permission of the author in any means or media, yadda, yadda, yadda Behind the Pack Following the Iditarod Trail from Willow to McGrath. from mushingmagazine The magazine of dog-powered adventure D uring the re-start of the 2 Willow, Alaska I took off o after the front runners. Ar pass and a toboggan sled lo gear I headed out to follow Last Great RaceTM The idea was to stay in the the pack of mushers, take s record some interviews, and the country and the mushers It was a pretty laid-back a be exit points at McGrath, machine, gear and myself ou The trail and experience we unforgiving but above all b Folowing are some images an 2012 Iditarod in on my snowmachine rmed with my press oaded with camping w the e middle or front of some pictures, d generally just see s in action. and flexible plan. I knew there would Galena and Nome where I could fly the ut. ere harsh, rugged and beautiful. nd words, but mostly images. At the restart it was interesting to relaxed to game-face as it got close a long race, but the competitive mus your head in the game from the very o see the mushers go from er to the starting time. This is shers know that you have to have first dog step. 5X champion Rick Swenson gets some trail info from race marshall Mark Nordman the official re-start of Iditarod 2012 on n Willow Lake for the first 50 miles or so, there are parties and later, bonfires and parties along the trail. this is how the tail-gaters roll in alaska. jeff king was in great spirits starting the race. later, he would be forced to scratch due to sick dogs just outside of unalakleet. pulling into and out of the first checkpoint - yentna station, things get a little more serious. Last year's champ john baker, kelly maixner lifts his arms so the checkers can remove his bib. his team surged and away they went with the musher falling back onto his ass. luckily the volunteers and myself quickly grabbed the team before it could take off too far. shows some focus and intensity. skwentna roadhouse is the first checkpoint where the mushers stop for a few hours to rest their teams. the checkpoint filled up fast and got hectic, as the teams are still close together. smiling in finger lake: martin buser(L) and aaron burmeister(R) berington twins anna and kristy, spent most of the race running side by side. dallas seavey prepares to leave finger lake after from pretty tions of mou "steps turns. with t much s right end re lucky have t can't after I coul and sl the re this o ski. t I trie right points chine end it the finger lake checkpoint, the trail changes river running to trail riding through some y gnarly wooded sections. one of these secthrough the first part of the alaska range untains is called the happy river steps. the s" are a series of steep downhill twists and . at these sections the mushers dutifully stand two feet on their brakes to avoid gaining too speed and running over their dogs. it is the way to get through the steps, however the esult is a series of channels. the mushers not or fast enough to be at the front of the pack to drive their sled through narrow chutes. you tip over in the chute, but many crash right getting through. over some of these channels ld get one ski of the machine on either side, lide down with the track hanging in the air, and ear of the machine resting on the footboards. one and others had no room on one side for the there was very little room on the side where ed to balance the machine, and it just slid in. I tried winching from two different pulley s off to trees, but the big utlitiy snowmawas just too heavy and too jammed in. in the t took 2 hrs. of frantic shoveling to get out. after the rough run (it took almost 10 hrs dog teams did it in just over 3) I crashed communication room in rainy pass. waking up flipped my outlook switch back to its defau to do with the snowmachine, while hard on the floor of the iditarod p the next day to gorgeous views ult setting - optimistic. the perrins rainy pass lodge horse corral all along the trail i was surprised at how many people i knew. melissa owens was a timer and comms person at rainy pass. outside on the deck an iditarod insider interviews one of the race vets. the communications (comms) room at rainy pass is actually the summer kitchen for guests at the lodge. the lodge is run by the perrins family and is situated right ont the banks of puntilla lake. the perrins were super nice in giving me advice for further on down the trail: the notorious dalzell gorge was yet to come. i wobbled in here around 10pm and crashed on the floor right in front of the fire place. bob chlupach repairs the brake on his sled after crashing on the steps just before rainy pass. dan seavey stormed into and out of rainy pass with a team that belied his last place standing. to see an interview with dan, visit: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=2876130950980 dan told me he is not racing, and is running to raise awareness of the centennial anniversary of the iditarod trail. out of the rainy pass checkpoint and up over the actual summit, the landscape becomes decidedly lunar-like. no trees, no people, just the notorious dalzell gorge waiting ahead. the light and cloud cover changed constantly. one moment i was in the clouds, the next the sun would pop through. this photo and the previous one were taken about 10 minutes apart. the rainy pass shelter cabin looks like it was built into a wind drift in the snow. it is located just before the actual peak of rainy pass. if you were caught up here in a good blow, you would be more than happy to take shelter here, despite holes in the walls you could put your fist through. there is fuel, canned food and room to put down your sleeping mat nest to the mouse nests. surface of the moon aka: rainy pass summit the new alaska tent and tarp "pipeline" model tent was awesome. it is halfway between their famous arctic oven wall tent and a backpacking tent. warm & snug, easy and quick to setup. volunteers burn left over straw after the teams have left the rohn checkpoint the rohn checkpoint is manned by long-time "sheriff" terry boyle and "mayor" jasper bond. both were nice enough to lend me some power tools, safety wire, duct tape and bolts to repair my toboggan sled which snagged on a stump in the trail. with 30 miles of snow-less trail through the farewell and new burns, i thought it was a good idea to take them up on the offer n bogga o the t split was a like open f can o it nes. sardi halfwas a r repai ass ut ob, b j held ether tog e way h all t h cgrat to m at rohn, the dry dog food, meat and fish shipped out by mushers, but left behind has to be thrown out. being a remote checkpoint, it is far too expensive to have it flown out. volunteers estimated they took 6 of these 12ft. toboggan sleds full out to feed the ravens. if you have ever fed a kennel of sled dogs, you know how hard it was to watch. even though this was a burned, dead area most beautiful parts of the trail. death the ride out of rohn was one of the and regrowth--constant cycles of nature farewell burn: a shitty dirt trail in the most beautiful, stunning landscape you could imagine 30 miles from rohn, near the end of the burn, the trail gradually became more snow covered. the nex glacier that is xt trail challenge became "the r" a steep flume of glare ice s constantly changing form. "the glacier" or "the cube" as the local trail travelers call it presented quite a problem. i had no spikes on my snowmachine track, and was gun-shy about getting stuck again, or worse sliding and tumbling to the bottom all wadded up with my machine nd gear. i was hours behind the last musher and didn't know if there would be anyone back over the trail for about a year. i put on my crampons and walked back and forth over it searching for a semblance of traction and a possible route. when the dog teams and lead snowmachines went through this area the day prior, it was completely covered in snow. now with the temperature dropping it was glare ice. this is a trail marker buried about 4" in the ice. you can also see dog prints above it. as luck would have it, as soon as I figured out a way to traverse it involving ropes, winches, block and tackle, there started an overflow across the surface which softened up the texture just enough to allow me to scoot up. i spent almost 3 hrs here trying to make a plan, and learned that sometimes patience is underrated obligatory, gratuitous & totally unnecessary b&w nature shot. between rohn & nikolai the dirt stripe is the trail i met up with the iditarod trail s 1 mile off the trail. it was cramped and travelers. 9 of us spent the night holed u motors, but it was the best night of sle when you bring bourbon to the party, you' sweeps and two other trail the guys snored like 2-stroke up in this small shelter cabin eep i had. snore all you want, 'll get no complaints from me. drop the bucket in the water, pull up on the rope. fill water bottles with some of the best tasting and coldest water you've ever had the area to look f called th ingly it forest. u with birc i was told for was he birch was filled unsurpris- ch trees. i arrived in nikolai after the teams had gone through. just piles of used straw and ravens searching for scraps. on to mcgrath the sun was setting on a long day of riding as i approached mcgrath. i declared my "24" there and got a solid night's sleep on the floor in the community center. i awoke feeling like the flu was coming on, so i scratched. be back next year with some equipment improvements/modifications and will try to make it all the way to nome. all images � 2012 Greg Sellentin and may not be reproduced without permission of the author in any means or media, yadda, yadda, yadda