Monday, March 14, 2011


On Sunday March 6 a friend invited us to their cabin to watch the re-start of the Iditarod. Their cabin is about two blocks from the start of the race. The 62 mushers and teams, who started on Willow Lake, mushed right past the cabin. There was a lot of activity on the lake preceding the race. As we cooked and ate dinner the crowed on the lake began to grow and the activity increased.
As I post this, the two mushers below, John Baker and Ramey Smyth (seen here at the start of the race), are in a battle during the last 77 mile stretch. They will arrive in Nome in the next few of hours. No matter who wins, a new record will be set for the time it takes to travel from Willow to Nome. Race officials are anticipating a foot race between the two teams as they reach Front Street in Nome to see who passes under the burled arches first.

Ramey Smyth

John Baker

Just as we arrived at the town of Willow on our way to ur friends' cabin, we HAD to pull off the highway to capture this gorgeous view of Mt. McKinley. It was so clear we could see the top of the mountain, which is often obscured b swirling snow. They say here that Denali makes its own weather. So even if it is clear where you are, it is not necessarily clear at the peak of the mountain. We could also see Mt. Hunter and Mt. Foraker in the Alaska Range.

A zoomed-in view of Denali.

The scenery at the lake.
The mountain you can see over the top of the trees is none other than Denali.

Doug looking out over the lake from the cabin two hours before race time.
Note the spot out on the lake just above the porch railing post on the left side of the steps. That is an outhouse which someone has hauled onto the lake. You will see the crowd around the Outhouse grow as you read further.

Lots of good food, and plenty of it. Here we are grilling reindeer hot dogs.

A view of the cabin from the lake.

We walked out on the lake before the race started and observed all the activity going on. If you look closely, you can see Denali peeking over the tree in the background between us.

A look at Denali from the lake.

These two dogs and their master got a ride in a snow machine sled.

A look at the trail markers which are used to mark the trail the entire way to Nome. Also, people were cross country skiing on the lake.

This sign was hung above the race path. In the past years, those folks who lived in the Valley were referred to as "Valley Trash" by the more affluent folks in Anchorage.
We actually have our own group to watch the Husker football games in the Valley. We refer to ourselves as the VT4H - Valley Trash For Huskers). :>)

This stroller had its wheels removed and replaced with skis. They also replace the third wheel with skis so they can pull it behind them when they cross country ski.

Campfire at the cabin

The outhouse group is planning to stay for a while.
They have a nice fire going and plenty of wood.

They also put up plastic on the north side to block the wind
(which never was a factor on this day).

Other groups lining up to watch the race.
Note Denali over the top of the trees.

Our group walked from the cabin out to our chairs in preparation for the start of the race.

The whole family bundles up and's Alaska!

As I said, we were RIGHT beside the trail. This picture shows Doug giving five to musher Ally Zirkle as she mushed by. As he went by, one musher asked if I was hot in my fur coat.

Four time Iditarod champion Martin Buser.
You can see how anxious the kids are for each team to go by.
You can also see how excited the dogs are to run. They run with their heads up and are ready to race. They don't even look like they are exerting themselves. Most of the mushers were riding their brakes at this point to keep them slowed down. That's how "ready to run" the dogs are.

Musher Kristy Berington

Lance Mackey has won the last four races. He is attempting to be the first team to win five in a row. There is only one other five-time winner, Rick Swenson.
(Swenson did not win all five of his in a row).
You can really see the hot pink dog booties.
Note Denali in the background.

According to a park ranger, 90% of the people who come to Alaska on their vacation with "seeing Denali" on their list of things to do, leave without seeing Denali. Such a clear viewing day is actually such a blessing. Once again we had a wonderful opportunity to experience Alaska and the breath-taking sight of Denali all day long from so many different perspectives just added to our awesome day!