Over the Ice to Koyuk

As the situation in the United States becomes more tenuous, there is still a dog race underway.

So much has happened and is happening and it’s been quite a day.

Today I awoke to Pete and the Team heading North. I’ve been contemplating whether or not going to Nome was a good plan. It’s been advised against, but I was thinking of going because I could cover the finish for those who couldn’t go.

Well, in the end, I decided against it and had to rush-rush-rush to get supplies for my trip back home to Bethel. I had been hanging in Anchorage waiting for the best time to head to Nome, but now it was Bush Mode and that changed everything.

Living in the Bush has it’s advantages and disadvantages. It is an awesome place to live, but unfortunately prices are a bit expensive so it’s common place for “Bush People” to stock up on the way back home. As you drive around Anchorage you can see us all over. We stick out because we are the crazy people packing load of groceries into plastic totes that are exactly 50lbs. We take all of our goodies back to Bethel as baggage. Bush luggage is Rubbermaid Totes, or a case of papertowels, or egg boxes full of groceries. In any case, once I made the decision to go, I had to get to the grocery stores to load up. Problem is that with all of the coronavirus things happening, the stores were full and some supplies were limited. There isn’t a shortage, but people are buying like there is and it’s just a madhouse!!

So in all of that activity, I had no time to post!!

Now back in Bethel there are stories to tell.

The biggest news is our friend and trail partner, Richie Diehl withdrew from the race and headed back home to Aniak. His Team picked up a bug on the Trail after Ruby and just couldn’t recover in a timely manner. After a couple of days of rest and recuperation the Team will be ready to “Rock and Roll”, but by that time the Race will be over. This is Richie’s first scratch and as much no one ever wants that to happen, everything about dog care is about the health of the Team. It’s a bummer not to be able to continue, but Richie will be back again on the runners in no time. Real Diehl Racing had a great run for the 2020 Iditarod. Bum luck has nothing to do with great dog care. See ya again soon!

Meanwhile Pete and the Team began to recuperate after similar trouble. After a good long rest in both Unalakleet and Shaktoolik, they appear to be having great trail times. Speeds have picked up and Ron is pleased with the performance. “Times look good and he appears to be moving well on the trail,” he said.

Some interesting movement at the front of the pack. After laying low for much of the race, Mitch Seavey has started to increase his speed and is now in second place! I’ve been watching his trail times from Ruby and his race is the perfect example of what I posted earlier– Keep your Team in position to take advantage of another Team’s trouble. Mitch is certainly doing this and having speed at the end is really impressive for the Seward musher.

Pete is now 20 miles out of Koyuk. After a long night on the ice expect him to take a good break before heading for all points West.

Mushing weather for this evening: Clear- 28 degrees and light winds. Let’s hope it doesn’t get any warmer!

As our Country braces for the impact of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) please use precautions recommended by the CDC. Practice self-isolation if you have been traveling, stick with the 6 foot separation rule, don’t shake hands or hug, wash your hands often, and don’t touch your face. We are in for a tough trail with this one, but if everyone practices good hygiene it will hopefully lessen the impact.

See ya in the Morning. Go Team Kaiser!

Back on the trail…

Pete and the Team are back on the trail. It has been a pretty tough Iditarod for Pete and the Team. Both Pete and Richie camped out and took a breather after a 6 hour run on the trail to Unalakleet. The fact that they are both moving now is encouraging.

We will surely learn the details once they get to Unalakleet.

Go Team Kaiser!

 

A Little More Time…

Good Morning Race Fans!

I’m sure you all were doing the same thing I was this morning. Rubbing your eyes and wondering where Pete and the Team were. Hmmm… They should have left by now shouldn’t they? I know that’s what my eyes were telling me ūüôā

The problem with Kaltag is that phone service is very limited and with no interview by the Insider, we are only left to speculate.

Whatever the situation might have been, Pete thought it necessary to take a good long break in Kaltag before returning to the trail. The Team looked to be in good spirits upon arriving, but as Pete went through the Team he may have decided that a bit more rest would do them good. Either way, after a 13 hour break, he left Kaltag just after his buddy Richie Diehl.

The Iditarod is a long grueling race and I would imagine it feels pretty good to talk to your friend and build up each other now and then. Just a bit of encouragement is a bit like “home” and I’m sure boosts the mood out there. When things aren’t going as well as you’d like it’s always good to have your partner around! Richie and Pete are traveling together at this point and that will be helpful as they get back on track.

The bottom line, always, is keeping the Team happy and healthy and I’m sure that’s what’s going on. Both Teams have been dealing with dogs in heat and that has become the issue for them in this race.

The good thing this morning is that the weather has cooled just a little and visibility is way better. Light winds on their backs will make for a scenic trip over the portage to Unalakleet. With warm temperatures, let’s hope the trail has packed a little and is in good shape for Pete and the Team.

Stay tuned and let’s cheer on our “Champ”!! Go Team Kaiser!! Go Richie!

Here’s Unalakleet this morning-

 

 

Last Layover – Kaltag

Pete and the Team arrived into Kaltag at 6:16pm after a bit of a soft slow trail into the last Iditarod Checkpoint on the Yukon. Nulato to Kaltag is 47 miles. Just about the same distance from Tuluksak to Kalskag, so it is a good run.

Weather Cam photos are the spitting image of the ones earlier today– Snow and low ceilings. Warm temps and dead calm. In the background of the live cam you can hear water running somewhere (!!)

Pete has an 8 hour mandatory layover here. This will be the longest break he’s had since Takotna and as he prepared to feed the Team, you could see he was a bit tired. Some food, some rest, and some quiet is what the Team needs right now.

Richie Diehl, who had been at the front of the pack for a good long time ran into the same dogs in heat issue that plagued Pete earlier in the race. He decided to give them a bit longer break to get focused before he returned to the trail. Richie is back on the ice again at this hour, so let’s hope his troubles are over. Richie and his Team are having a great Iditarod!!

While Pete takes his 8 hours Teams are resting up for the run across the portage to Unalakleet. Soft snow and warm temperatures combined with a trail that was put in quite awhile ago will make for a challenging evening. It’s going to be a long hard battle tonight for everyone. It’s a hard sell to say which will be the better– Early Teams or late teams. With warmer weather I’d bet that the trail doesn’t setup to be very hard unless it already has a good base. Predictions are for up to 10 and maybe more inches of snow. Wet snow is like mashed potatoes and can be a real slow trip.

One thing that is in Pete’s favor if the trail is blown over is that there will be several Teams ahead of him that will have marked a good trail for him to follow. On the other hand soft trail can easily churned up by a few Teams. I’m sure Pete’s got this on his mind as well as conserving the remaining 10 dogs in the Team. It’s not entirely unusual to leave Kaltag with 10 in harness, but you just have to be careful and make sure that everyone is happy and wants to run.

The benefit of 10 is it’s is far easier in checkpoints to get food ready, bedded down, massaged, foot treatments and all that.

Waerner still seems to have the fastest Team, but there are many good Teams. The musher from Norway is the true leader and can leave at his leisure, having taken his 8 hour layover in Ruby. Jessie Royer and Brent Sass are in their 8 hour layover as well, so they are on the same interval as Pete.

The true order right now is

1- Waerner
2- Burmeister
3- Marrs
4- Royer
5- Sass
6- Kaiser

Redington and Ulsom are possibilities of passing Pete as well because they have taken their 8 hour already.

As we have seen from Richie’s issues today and Nic Petit’s last year, anything can happen and usually does in this last third of the race. Teams try to stay positioned to take advantage of any weakness of the Teams in front of them to advance up the leaderboard.

The excitement for me starts to build just as Teams arrive into Unalakleet. All of the stories that I remember have happened in the last 250 miles. I can’t wait!!

It’s going to be a great one! Stay tuned!

Kaiser Mushing Weather Forecast is rather nasty for tonight and tomorrow. Unalakleet at this hour is reporting 34F light wind with snow and mist. Ugh! The coastal humidity already makes it feel cold, but even with warm temps, the mist just creeps through you and it’s hard to stay warm. Pete will be working extra hard on feet tonight as booties slip off and snow begins to build little balls between the toes of the dogs. They don’t like it and at a break he’ll have to work fast to get to all 40 paws. More often than not Mushers prefer cold weather to warm and this will be a night I’d bet that’s the case.

Monday the weather is supposed to improve, so he has that to look forward to!

Go Team Kaiser!

 

Strategy Change?

Good Morning Race Fans!

Pete and the Team are into the Nulato checkpoint this morning at 7:48am this morning with 10 dogs in the Team. I was looking at trail times between Galena and Nulato and thought they looked a little slow, so I did a little digging into the archives.

It has been awhile since the Iditarod has run this route, so you have to go all the way back to 2016 to get an idea of race times. In years since, a Fairbanks restart with a Huslia trail was part of the race due to warm temperatures in Alaska.

Take a look at trail times for those years:

It looks like the trail times are pretty consistent with times past. Often you can’t really look at the fastest trail time in the archives because often the fastest checkpoint to checkpoint times are completed by Teams later in the race.

Weather conditions in the area are a warm 30F,¬† overcast with light snow and light winds. Teams are now challenged with changing their race strategy based on changing conditions in the villages. The Nulato checkpoint is out on the river, so Mushers don’t really have a place to get out of the weather. After they care for their Teams, it will be critical that they take care of their personal gear to stay dry and warm themselves. Hypothermia doesn’t just happen in very cold temperatures and often occurs in mild temperatures. Staying dry is going to be a key issue for much of the next part of the race.

Shaktoolik is no longer a checkpoint in the race which is an even larger issue. Supplies have been moved to Old Shaktoolik out of town, but there will be no Iditarod personnel on site. This means no drop dogs and again not a place to take a break. This totally changes strategy for Pete. As veteran Kaiser Fans will recall, in several races past, Pete has camped out before Unalakleet to make the Kaltag to Shaktoolik run in two long runs. This “slingshot” strategy has paid off for several Teams as it puts them further up the trail. It will be interesting to see how Teams deal with this new challenge.

As Aaron Burmeister remarked about it in Galena, “It’s the Iditarod and you just have to take it day by day.” In the last couple of southern route races Eagle Island has been a challenge in terms of supplies and Mushers always figured out a way to contend with the challenge. As Aaron continued, “the change affects all of the mushers equally.”

Pete still has to take his 8 hour layover and is traveling with Teams that already have completed that mandatory break. It is hard to gauge exactly what position he is traveling because he has good speed over some of the Teams who have taken the break. I’m thinking he either takes it at Nulato now, or in Kaltag. I’m sure he’s mentally going over all of the possibilities of the loss of Shaktoolik and how to get his Team to Koyuk, which is the ultimate goal in the next day or so. Sunday is our traditional day in Unalakleet and then up the coast we go.

He has a couple of alternatives– He could break now and then try to make two long runs to Unalakleet, or he could break for a shorter amount now and then head to Kaltag and take the 8 hour and head for Unalakleet and see how it goes. Shaktoolik isn’t halfway to Koyuk, so it’s in an odd place. Teams don’t often break at the shelter cabin between Shaktoolik and Koyuk, but Nic Petit and Dallas Seavey have used that strategy. I don’t have trail reports on the trail between Shak and Koyuk yet, but it can totally be a bear and has exhausted mentally many mushers over the years.

This curve ball is what makes the Iditarod so special. It’s never the same and it’s always exciting to watch!

Here’s a little about Nulato from Wikipedia- Kind of gives a little insight as to why the Elders are a little gunshy about the Covid-19 virus:

Nulato was a location for trade between the Koyukon people and Inupiat people of the Kobuk River area before the arrival of Europeans.[citation needed]

In 1838, the Russian explorer Malakov established a trading post in Nulato.[6]

After the Alaska Purchase, a United States military telegraph line was constructed along the north side of the Yukon River. The gold rush along the Yukon River that began in 1884 brought many new diseases to the area and many people died. Our Lady of Snows Roman Catholic mission and school were opened in 1887 and many people moved to Nulato to be near the school. A measles epidemic and food shortages during 1900 reduced the population of the area by one-third. 1900 was also the peak year for steamboat travel on the Yukon River, with 46 boats in operation. That summer, two boats per day stopped at Nulato to purchase firewood.

Stay Tuned!

Go Team Kaiser!!

 

Racing Down the Yukon

Pete arrived into Galena at 8:46pm and left at 12:43am with just under 4 hours of rest. Leaving another member of the squad, Team Kaiser is now down to 10 dogs.

There are 5 Teams out of Galena at this hour, but the true leader appears now to be Wade Marrs who took his 8 hour layover in Ruby earlier today.

All other Teams still have to make their mandatory layover before leaving the Yukon. Wade also had the fastest trail time into Galena from Ruby and didn’t rest as he makes his way towards Nulato.

Apparently, word from the Trail is that village checkpoints are becoming a bit nervous about the Covid-19 threat and have requested that the Iditarod move the checkpoint out of the village.

The Iditarod continues to utilize best practices and caution regarding COVID-19. In consultation with the community of Shaktoolik and in the continued interest of public health, the Iditarod is moving its official checkpoint to outside the community of Shaktoolik, the 19th checkpoint along the northern route of the Iditarod trail. As in all checkpoints, mushers will be provided with their food drop bags, straw for bedding and HEET, which allows a team to be fed a hot meal, as they continue their journey to Nome.

The official word pertains to Shaktoolik, but word from the trail is that Nulato and Kaltag are doing the same thing. Since Governor Dunleavey has closed schools until March 30, it is a sure bet that mushers will be on their own on the trail to Nome. Galena may have been the last checkpoint for a long stretch that will allow Mushers to warm up and sleep. This may add an element to the race in terms of mushers getting tired. They have sleeping gear and such, but may not be fully prepared to camp out fully.

In the original run to Nome to bring medical supplies to the children, musher’s didn’t have checkpoints or accomodations either, so in some ways this is really returning to the roots of the sport.

There has been some confusion about weather. I posted a story with a real nasty looking weather report, but now all I can find is some snow and a bit of wind and not nearly the 50-70mph that was predicted. It is anticipated to have a good dumping of snow, but doppler isn’t showing it yet.

Here’s what they are predicting:

…WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT
TO 6 AM AKDT SUNDAY…

* WHAT…Heavy snow and blowing snow expected. Plan on difficult
travel conditions. Total snow accumulations of 5 to 10 inches,
with localized amounts up to 12 inches, are expected.

* WHERE…Lower Koyukuk and Middle Yukon Valleys.

* WHEN…Midnight to 6 AM Sunday.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS…Winds gusting as high as 25 mph will
cause areas of blowing and drifting snow.

Mushers now are headed towards Nulato and Kaltag. It’s cloudy and a little warm. Stay awake Mr. Kaiser!

Go Team Kaiser!

Peter Kaiser Day!

OH MY GOSH!! OMG! OMG! OMG!!

In all of the excitement of the day, I forgot to start the day off congratulating Pete on his day and thanking the City of Bethel, Alaska for the proclamation. Today- March 13 is Peter Kaiser Day!

Exactly one year ago today, Pete became the first Yup’ik to win the Iditarod Trail Race. Chief Peter Kaiser, as he was proclaimed at the Alaska Federation of Natives, started his year representing all tribes and people from Rural Alaska on that momentous day.

Let’s relive just a bit of this last year. It is Pete Kaiser day, but I’ll bet if you asked him, he would say it is all for you and all of you shared it with him. Quyana!

 

 

The Trail Down River

Good Evening Race Fans!

It’s been a nice afternoon on the Yukon, but Teams are probably complaining a bit about the warm weather.

Pete and the Team left Ruby this afternoon after an exactly 4 hour rest break. Several other Teams took their 8 hour layover, but Pete, Richie, and others decided to head on downriver and reserve their 8 hour for later on down the trail. I’d bet that Pete will take his 8 in Kaltag before he heads out over the portage to Unalakleet. That has been his traditional spot.

Jessie Royer is still leading the pack, but it appears that Brent Sass is narrowing her lead little by little.

Pete is showing in 6th position, but Waerner and Burmeister are not too far behind him and they both have taken their 8 hour in Ruby.

This morning there was a Winter Watch with Blizzard conditions showing, but I am thinking that Mushers will just miss it as they head southwest this evening.

More soon!

Go Team Kaiser!