Willow is the official start of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. This was the scene as we walked toward the lake. There was something a little disconcerting about knowing that there were thousands of people, hundreds of vehicles and a large TV truck park on a lake. People even had campfires on the lake and cooked their meals. It was a very festive, family oriented atmosphere.
The fence separated the mushers from the general public. Today was all about the business at hand, so, unlike at the ceremonial start, spectators were not allowed near the teams as they prepared for the race.
The start line is behind us in the picture. We had a great place to watch. Each team stopped in front of us while the team ahead of it was at the start line.
We saw lots of kids on sleds. It is the easiest way for parents to take tehm across the snow on the lake. The little one is the back had to have his nap, sled or not.
Note different types of teams in all of the pictures. Some teams are all the same color; some have the traditional husky breeding and some are definitely the canine version of a marathon runner (very lean).
Handlers keeping a tight grip on the lines to keep the teams slowed down as they approach the start line.
A lot of the dogs wear jackets and booties. The jackets keep them from expending unnecessary calories to keep warm. The booties protect their feet from the ice and snow. This year, however, the temperatures have been very warm for the dogs. In some cases, the booties and the jackets are counter-productive because they cause the dogs to retain heat and become overheated.
Zach Steer from Sheep Mountain, Alaska.
Zack's two young sons are riding to the start line on their dad's sled.
Dee Dee Jonrowe and her team.
Rookie Melissa Owens and her team.
Melissa is the youngest girl to run the Iditarod. She turned 18 years old on Feb. 18.
Melissa Owens and her team.
Four-time winner Jeff King
Four-time winner Martin Buser.
Martin holds the record for the fastest race (8 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes and 2 seconds). HE set the record in 2002.
Lance Mackey, the 2007 Iditarod winner.
Lance also had won the 2007 Yukon Quest just a few days before the Iditarod started. He won the 2008 Yukon Quest and is trying for a repeat of last year's Iditarod win.
This musher did not have a seat on his sled. 1100 miles is a long way to ride standing up the whole time.
Idita-Poop For Sale
Remember, it takes thousand of volunteers because there are LOTS of jobs to do. One of the more important ones is keeping the runway cleaned up for the teams. This man's bucket is actually labeled "Idita-Poop". He tried to sell it to the crowd using sales come-ons like "FRESH!" and "QUICK_FROZEN"! I didn't see any takers though.