Watching Trent Finish in Nome, On-line Tomorrow on Iditarod Website

March 21

Let's assume Trent leaves White Mountain right at the end of his 8 hour mandatory rest, at 1133PM this evening.  Teams have been making the trip from White Mountain to Safety to Nome in, generally between 9-1/2 hours and 11 hours.  That would put Trent in sometime between 9AM and 1030AM AKST tomorrow morning (March 22).   Pacific Time is one hour later, (between 10 AM and 1130 AM), Mountain Time is two hours later (between 11 AM and 1230 AM), etc.

There is a "live cam" at the finish line on the Iditarod website.   If you want to go there and stream the video and see Trent pull in to Nome, go to the URL below and watch the streaming video on the LiveCam.


Will Rogers on Dogs and Alaska

March 21

Two great Will Rogers quotes below; and a few thoughts I’m left with on dogs and Alaska.

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” – Will Rogers

 “Of all the great Eskimo innovations in hunting and traveling, probably none was more important than their use of dogs. Dogs became the Eskimos’ ‘sixth sense,’ their extra nose, ears, and eyes, which could smell a seal or hear a caribou long before a mere human. The dog made life possible for the Eskimos in the Arctic. ‘Without dogs,’ as the ethnologist E. W. Nelson wrote in 1887, ‘the larger portion of the great Eskimo family peopling the barren northern coast of Alaska would find it impossible to exist in its chosen home.’ “ – Will Rogers

As an aside, the bargain and bond between man and dog is likely as old and stronger in Alaska than anywhere in the world.  Dogs have been shown to have accompanied Native man on the migration journey across the Beringia Land Bridge from Siberia to Alaska over 10,000 years ago.  The Athabascan Native Indians that thrived in the Alaskan Interior were nomadic hunters and partnered with dogs for ‘traction and travel’ to carry meat and belongings from camp to camp.   The Inupiat Native Indians (often referred to as Eskimos) that adapted and thrived in the Northern coast, partnered with dogs more for hunting seal and caribou.   In all cases, the dogs asked only for the opportunity to work tirelessly in exchange for kindness and meals. 

Shortly after the Great Serum Run of 1925, the airplane came of age and began to replace the dog teams for mail delivery and transportation in the interior of Alaska.  The introduction of snowmobiles/snow-machines in the 1960’s were a near final step in the inevitable transformation from dogs to iron dogs.  In Native villages of the Interior, the snow-machines are ubiquitous and do the work of checking traplines, hauling wood, and traveling between villages. 

In the 1970’s, a group of Alaskans led by Joe Reddington recognized the need to promote and restore the heritage of the old trails and dog sled travel.   The Iditarod race and preservation of this trail system is a result of their efforts.  It’s a pretty amazing thing for a dog fan and outdoors fan to experience and appreciate.   

I found a nice set of images (a few below) with a Google search at the following URL, click-through to view: 

This year, the Iditarod ran the route of the 1925 Serum Run from Fairbanks to Nome.  The story of the heroic relay to transport the anti-toxin to stem the diphtheria epidemic is well told in “The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic” by Gay and Laney Salisbury.  I highly recommend it as a great read.

A quick, “Cliff Notes” read of the event can be found at: 

The title of the “Cruelest Miles” comes from a letter of recognition sent by President Ronald Reagan to the 3 surviving members (surviving at that time, the last of the mushers passed away in 1999) of the dog sled relay teams recounting how: 

“Together with 19 others, you traveled across some of the world’s cruelest miles to accomplish the impossible– and you did it in the name of humanity.”


Checkpoint #14 - White Mountain

March 21

Trent pulled in to the final checkpoint at White Mountain at 333 PM on Saturday after a 7 hour 13 minute, 6.37 mph run over the 46 miles from Elim.  Trent will take the mandatory 8 hour rest required in White Mountain and should be leaving for Nome at about 1133 PM this evening.  It should be a nice rest in the sun for the dog team this afternoon (sunset is 920 up here now) and a musher’s choice, through the middle of the night, run to Nome and the finish line. 

I was at the White Mountain checkpoint briefly earlier this week, on Tuesday.  When we arrived, eventual winner Dallas Seavey was the only team in, that is the winning team sleeping in the first dog shot.  I assume Dallas was sleeping in the checkpoint somewhere as well.  His dad Mitch Seavey came in off the trail second while we were there and finished second in the race, it's a family affair evidently.   Mitch won in 2013 and Dallas also won in 2012 and 2014.  Couple of village shots, and then I found Trent’s checkpoint bags, with some obvious personalization by his students.

In the 1925 Serum Run, Charlie Olson carried the anti-toxin for 25 miles from Golovin to Bluff, over a portion of the trail that is after Elim and past White Mountain.    


Checkpoint #13 - Elim

March 21

Sorry for the late posting update.  Trent pulled in to Elim at 123AM this morning (Saturday morning) after a 6 hour 37 minute, 7.25 mph runover the 48 miles from Koyuk   Trent stayed in Elim overnight for just under 8 hours and left this morning at 820AM with 12 dogs.   Elim is at mile 856 and Trent has 123 more miles to the finish in Nome. 

The next checkpoint is White Mountain, 46 miles down the trail where all teams take a mandatory 8 hour rest before the final 77 mile push to Nome.   Trent and the team are in the final push.   Weather on the coast can be notoriously bad and fickle, but I am here in Nome today and the weather and forecast are “warm” (see below) with little wind.  With luck, it should be smooth sailing from here for the team with an anticipated finish Sunday late morning.
In the 1925 Serum Run, Leonhard Seppala and the team with lead dog Togo continued to carry the anti-toxin from Shaktoolik, through Elim all the way to Golovin (to the next cabin there, ½ way to the race checkpoint of White Mountain).     His part of the relay was 91 miles and was twice the distance any other daunting, brave team carried the serum on the 5-1/2 day, 675 mile journey from the Nenana railroad depot to Nome.  


Checkpoint #12 - Koyuk and a Successful Crossing of the Norton Sound

March 20

Trent pulled in to Koyuk at 919AM this afternoon after a 8 hr, 6.26 mph, 50 mile crossing over sea of the Norton Sound.  This leg of the 1925 Serum Run was made famous by Leonhard Seppala who chose to go over the Sea instead of along the coast to save time.  By the time Seppala took the serum outside of Shaktoolik there were 28 cases of diphtheria, and several deaths in Nome and things were getting more desperate by the hour.  Seppala’s bold move to even go, and to cross in blizzard conditions with winds over 60 mph and wind chill temperatures of -100F saved over a day of time in delivering the serum, and is considered the greatest feat in the history of dog sledding. 

Picture of Leonhard, a slightly better look at the map from Shaktoolik to Koyuk, a team crossing the Sound, and Balto the Serum Run sled dog who lives in memorial in Central Park New York City. 

Trent checked in to Koyuk with 12 dogs, and is currently running in 64th place out of the 78 teams that started the race.  


Checkpoint #11 - Shaktoolik and preparing to cross the Norton Sound

March 19

Trent pulled in to Shaktoolik at 357PM this afternoon after a 6 hour 33 minute, 6.11 mph romp over the Blueberry Hills from Unalakleet.  Trent is currently running 66th out of the 78 mushers who started the race.  

Shaktoolit, population 251, is a subsistence maritime village that sits on a spit on the Norton Sound where the Shaktoolik River terminates.  It was settled as early as 1839 but there is evidence of settled communities in the immediate area that are 6,000 to 8,000 years old.  The town had to be relocated due to erosion in 1933 and again in 1967.  It looks like a place that will be unlikely to survive the effects of climate change.   Temperatures in the winter can regularly get below -50F.  Trent told me it was “an incredible and godforsaken place at the same time”.  A couple of pix below from when I stopped in Shaktoolit for about an hour Tuesday, 2 days ago.
On Wednesday, about 20 mushers were holed up there waiting for 24 hours for the weather to clear.  They have since checked out of Shaktoolik, and hopefully Trent is in for an easier stay.  From Shaktoolik the trail makes the famous 50 mile, over-the-sea  ice crossing of the Norton Sound to Koyuk that Leonhard Seppala took in the great Serum Run to cut time off the trip to Nome.   This can be the most difficult run of the race.   I just now see where two of the mushers (Scott Jansen and Brian Bearss) that were holed up in Shak, had a horrible crossing to Koyuk and had to hit the 'rescue button' on their trackers and scratched.  

In the 1925 Great Serum Run to Nome; Myles Gonangnan carried the the anti-toxin from Unalakleet to Shaktoolik.    


Checkpoint #10 - Unalakleet

March 19

Trent pulled in to Unalakleet at 123AM this Thursday morning.  He covered the distance in two 40+ miles runs and a 6hour rest on the trail in a total of 18 hours 25 minutes.  Trent checked out of Unalakleet at 924AM this morning after an 8 hour rest.    

Unalakleet, population 688,  is the first checkpoint on the Norton Sound of the Bering Sea coast and is a major settlement of the Inupiaq tribe.  The area is well known for salmon and king crab harvests and serves as a central transportation and supply hub for outlying villages in the area.   In the 1925 Great Serum Run to Nome; Jack Nicholai and Victor Anagick carried the anti-toxin from Kaltag to Unalakleet. 

Trent checked in to Unalakleet with 13 dogs and left with 12 dogs.   I’ll try to find out who got off the team bus in Kaltag, and who got off the team bus in Unalakleet.  The next checkpoint is Shaktoolik, 40 miles away.  The trail can be very tough and windy from here to the finish.  About a dozen teams were holed up in Shak for 20+ hours on Wednesday waiting for wind and storms to clear.  It looks like they have all left Shak now, and I hope it will be better sailing for Trent through there.   I’d expect Trent to be in Shak by mid to late afternoon.  

A few pictures from earlier this week in Unalakleet are below.


Checkpoints #8, #9 – Nulato, Kaltag

March 18

Yesterday Trent checked out of Koyukuk at 908AM on Tuesday 17th after a 7 hr 12 minute rest.  The next major stop would be 69 miles down the trail to Kaltag where the trail leaves the Yukon River and portages over inland hills to the coast of the Bering Sea at Unakaleet.   In between Koyukuk and Kaltag there is a checkpoint at Nulato on the Yukon.   Both towns are part of a string of old Athabascan fishing camps on the Yukon, and also became telegraph relays during the gold rush.  In 1925 Great Serum Run to Nome; George Noliner, Charlie Evans, and Tommy Patson carried the anti-toxin through Nulato to Kaltag. 

Trent checked in to Nulato at 1214PM after a 3 hr 6 minute run over the 22 miles, averaging 7.1 mph.  Trent and the team rested for 4 hours 57 minutes at Nulato before pulling the hook at 511PM and leaving for Kaltag.  Trent and the team travelled the 47 miles to Kaltag in 6 hours 1 minute at an average speed of 7.8 mph checking in to Kaltag at 1112PM on the 17th.   Trent still has 14 dogs in to Kaltag.   Gordon and Clog jumped off the team bus in Huslia and are back in Anchorage with Jake and Greg. 


Checkpoint #7 - Koyukuk

March 17

At 154AM Tuesday 17th, Trent checked in to Koyukuk.  Koyukuk is an old Athabascan fishing camp on the Yukon that became a trading post and telegraph station during the gold rush.  Today the village has a population of 101. 

Trent covered the 86 miles from Huslia to Koyukuk in 18 hours, 20 minutes.  It looked from the tracker analytics that Trent and the team made two, 6-hour 7+ mph runs with a 6 hour rest between.  Nice and steady.  I suspect the team will take a nice rest in Koyukuk before pulling the hook sometime mid-morning.  Tomorrow will be 69 miles to the village of Kaltag, the last checkpoint before leaving the Yukon River and portaging over to the coast town of Unalakleet. 

At Koyukuk, Trent and the puppy team are in 68th place of the 78 mushers that started the race.


Google Maps maps the Iditarod Trail

March 17

Happy St. Patty's Day.   Google is doing a "special collect" to gather digital data for the Iditarod Trail,   I assume there will be a lot of neat "street views" available to us on Google Earth and Google Maps now.   I saw the Google capture platform and manual transport system at the Ceremonial Start in Anchorage and Race Start in Fairbanks riding on the back of a mysterious musher.  

Today I ran into the Google guys in "Peace on Earth" cafe in Unalakleet.  Like many Google guys you meet, they were wicked smart and quirky in a good way.   Here are a few pics from the start, and a couple of bad exposures of John Bailey and his rig inside Peace on Earth.  John was a post-doctorate in Vulcanology (Geology/Volcano guru) at University of Alaska, Fairbanks before he joined Google.  He is carrying what is supposedly the same electronics/telemetry package you see on cars when Google is mapping streets, just mounted on a backpack, battery powered.   Good article on John linked below as well.

While they were in Unalakleet, they were also walking the streets mapping the town.   All the cars here have to come in by barge, so even Google probably won't send a car for the task.  

Probably more on the coast town of Unalakleet when Trent passes through but here are a few pix in the meantime.  I put a map in the gallery first to get your bearings.  Unalakeet is the first town on the coast in the Iditarod before the run up the Norton Sound to Nome.  The town of 700 is a historical fishing and trading village.   It's a pretty amazing place.