Longtime Bethel musher Pete Kaiser surmises it’s become more difficult for some in smaller, rural communities to manage an Iditarod-caliber team. “It’s really not a hobby or anything else, it’s a lifestyle, and it requires my time 365 days a year. And when you have other things going on like family and kids, you kind of need a job to support this job. It gets very complicated.”
Takotna or Ophir? (Pie or Privacy?) Where Iditarod Mushers Choose to “24” is Often a Question of Personal Choice.
Camaraderie and comfort or quiet and privacy? Comparing the Takotna and Ophir checkpoints shows that personal preferences for mushers differ when it comes to where to take Iditarod’s mandatory, 24-hour layover.
“The musher gets beat up more than the dogs do,” Iditarod rookie Andy Pohl said Wednesday in the McGrath checkpoint, where both he and veteran musher Allen Moore were resting their young teams for different reasons.
Mitch Seavey arrived first to Takotna checkpoint in a light snow Tuesday night. Seavey was in a good mood and unusually talkative as he declared his 24 hour rest. He frequently uses Takotna for his 24, and parked his team in a preferred spot tucked just behind the community center.
With continued snowfall making the trail soft and slow, some Iditarod mushers elected to take their 24 hour layovers at McGrath in the hopes that the trail would improve during their mandatory day’s rest. The long rest can be an opportunity for teams to “regroup,” as Ryan Redington described.
“Better safe than sorry,” Iditarod musher Jim Lanier says about bringing heavy-duty protective equipment for the unpredictable, sometimes dangerous miles of rough trail from Rohn to Nikolai.
“Rookie of the Year would be nice,” Jessie Holmes says, “but really, my focus is to run this dog team to the level of their capabilities.” Among Holmes’ challenges will be competing rookie Matt Hall, 2017 Yukon Quest champ.
On the streets of downtown Anchorage on Saturday was the usual throng of dog handlers, mushers, and race fans, there to see the annual Ceremonial Start of the Iditarod. New this year was the presence of a protest group from PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which opposes the race.
After bib #1 was dedicated to this year’s honorary musher, the late Joe Redington, Jr., Cody Strathe and all the other 66 registered mushers drew numbers from a traditional mukluk boot during Thursday night’s mushers banquet in Anchorage. Strathe will be the first musher to leave Willow Sunday afternoon.