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| Heather Is in McGrath||Mar-09-2007   |
After 6 hours and 15 minutes on the trail, rookie musher Heather Siirtola arrived in McGrath at 6:30 PM AST or 10:30 PM EST. Race logs show Heather's traveling partner, Ellen Halverson, arriving 15 minutes later at 6:45 AST.
The McGrath checkpoint in recent years has been in a house a couple of blocks east of the airport, right on the river. It has become a popular place for mushers to take their mandatory 24-hour layovers because of the excellent facilities there, including a 24-hour kitchen for mushers and staff. Many mushers, like Heather, also ship replacement sleds here because McGrath is served by a major air freight airline and the cost is very cheap. The swapped-out sleds also can easily be shipped back from McGrath.
Halverson has already taken her mandatory 24 hour break but Heather has not. it will be interesting to see if Heather does it here. She is one of seven of the 63 mushers left in the race that have yet to take their 24 hour break.
Heather has not traveled more than 400 miles of the 1150 mile race. Race leader Martin Buser is on the trail between Anvik and Grayling, nearly 225 miles ahead of Heather.
Heathers next two checkpoints are rather close, only 18 miles to Takotna and another 25 to Ophir before she encounters another 90 mile stretch between Ophir and Iditarod Checkpoint. Most mushers only ake 2.5 to 3.5 hours for each of the shorter runs.
| Mushing Duo Back on the Trail||Mar-09-2007   |
Heather & her mushing companion, Ellen Halverson left Nikolai for the next checkpoint at McGrath around 12:15 PM thisafternoon (4:15 EST). This mushing duo stayed in Nikolai for about 10-hours.
Heather unfortunately had to leave one dog in Nikolai so she is down to a total of 10 dogs. Ellen still has 14. Race rules say that you must finish with a minimum of 5 dogs. There are teams out there with fewer dogs than Heather so hopefully this will not cause her problems later on.
The trail to McGrath is a fairly easy (but sometimes deceptive) stretch which always seems to be longer than it is, mainly because it is often so boring and there are so many seemingly identical lakes and river bends. The trail cuts cross-country southwest from Nikolai toward McGrath, running along a series of lakes and swamps interspersed with wooded stretches to Big River. It then runs west down Big River for a few miles to the Kuskokwim River, then down the Kuskokwim to McGrath, with several shortcuts across the bigger oxbow bends.
This run normally takes four and a half to seven hours. It is usually a good stretch to do at night when the dogs will go faster. If you’re running at night or early in the morning and the weather is clear and calm, dress warmly and think about dog coats—it can get quite cold down on the Kuskokwim River for the last half of the leg.
The trail from Nikolai to McGrath crosses many open lakes and swamps for the first 20 miles. When the wind is blowing, these areas can quickly drift in.
At last check the weather in McGrath was zero to 5 above with a wind chill of 25 below. McGrath is considered to be one of the more luxurious stops on the trail with hot showers and a 24-hour kitchen. After 6 days on the trail I am sure a hot shower would feel pretty nice about now.
Musher Eric Rogers is the lone team to remain in Nikolai. It is not certain when, or if he will head to McGrath.
| Bricknell Drops/Heather rests||Mar-09-2007   |
Rookie musher Deborah Bricknell who endured a harrowing 34 hour journey over the past two days decided that was enoungh and dropped out of the race a short while ago. Bricknell was the subject of a major search when she failed to arrive at the Rohn Checkpoint in a reasonable time frame.
Meanwhile Heather, Ellen Halverson and veteran musher 59 year old Eric Rogers are the only teams left at the Nikolai Checkpoint. It seems most teams are resting at Nikolai for 15 to 17 hours. If this hold true for Heather and the rest of them, they would leave Nikolai around 6 PM AST or 10 PM EST.
When they leave Nikolai they will be headed to McGrath. This is a fairly easy (but sometimes deceptive) 54 mile stretch which always seems to be longer than it is, mainly because it is often so boring and there are so many seemingly identical lakes and river bends.
| Heather Arrives in Nikolai||Mar-09-2007   |
Heather and Ellen Halverson arrive in Nikolai at 2:23 AM AST (6:23 EST) today, Friday, March 9th. The trip from Rohn took them about 17 hours.
Nikolai is the first of many Native villages along the Iditarod Trail. There is a village store, restruant and lodging.
Veterans say that if you make it to Nikolai with the team still in high spirits, there is a good chance you'll finsih the race.
The toughest part of the trail is past and the mushers, and more importantly the dogs. have managed to make the mental transition to the long-haul trail mode.
Heather and Ellen will probably rest for several hours before heading out to the next checkpoint at McGrath. This next leg is about 54 miles and should take them about 6-7 hours.
Heather and Ellen are 347 miles from Anchorage and have 784 more miles to go.
Deborah Bricknell, who left Rainy Pass with Heather and Ellen on Wednesday (3-7) but took a wrong turn and got lost, remains resting in Rohn. Another musher, G.B. Jones from Knik, also took the wrong turn from Rainy Pass to Rohn and has scratched from the race. Apparently on of his dogs got loose from its harness and broke free and is now lost on the trail. Jones said he dropped out of the race to try and find his dog.
| Bricknell Arrives in Rohn||Mar-08-2007   |
After 34 hours and 5 minutes from the time she left Rainy Pass, 61 year old rookie musher Deborah Bricknell has finally made it to Rohn.