It is one of those things that takes you back to a time or place. Maybe it is the smell of your grandmother’s basement. Maybe it is a song that makes you remember a certain summer. There is something about this time of year. I get the feeling when I look out the windows in the morning and I am able to see the mountains. The feeling comes again in the evening when the kennel is still light after dinner. I feel it when I am filling the stove in the morning. It is the extended daylight. It is the feeling of the snow under my feet, much harder than it is mid-winter, from the warmth of the sun heating it in the day, the cold of the night freezing it like concrete. All of these moments give me a feeling, a glimpse of a memory. It sends me to a different time and place. It makes me feel Iditarod.
Mike says that I write too much about the weather, about the light. But it is such a huge part of my existence. Along with longer periods of day, the sun is making its way high enough into the sky to reach over the mountains. The return of the direct sunlight gives me the feeling of walking out of a matinee movie and feeling surprised by the light. I almost think it is like the Wizard of Oz when everything suddenly turns to color. You do not realize the way that the colors have been muted by the low light. I feel as though I have held my head tucked into my coat for the last month. Hunkered down against the cold and the wind, I have also blocked out the view of the world and I feel uplifted by the ability to look up and out.
We are in the final push to the Iditarod race. The dogs are in shape. The supplies are packed. Now it is just a waiting game, a series of final steps including vet checks, dropping off supplies, and making reservations. The Iditarod race made the decision this week to move the official start of the race to Fairbanks. This change took me by surprise. As you may remember the Iditarod has a ceremonial starts and a “real” re-start. The ceremonial start is always in Anchorage, but two times historically the restart has taken place in Fairbanks. This has been because of low snowfall or insufficient freezing of the rivers that the race trail follows. However, this year has been nice and cold, and we have plenty of snow, so I was not expecting a discussion of restarting in Fairbanks. However, it turns out that the snow north of the Alaska Range has been limited. There is not even 8 inches of snow in Rainy Pass, which is not enough to land airplanes, let alone run a dog team safely.
The change of race route alters where the first half of race goes. This will change the length of the runs between checkpoints and hence what supplies will be needed for each checkpoint. When the change of the race was announced, Mike and Thomas went back to redo the drop bags of supplies that will be sent to the different checkpoints. Regardless of the change of route, the race will cover 1000 miles and end in Nome. Each choice has its own challenges and each is epic in its own right.
Time marches on in the kennel. The puppies from the summer have started to run in harness. The firewood stacks are dwindling. This last week was Max’s 4th birthday. I look back at photos from the year he was born. I think about all of the dogs I have known and how old they would be now.
Having made our way through the darkness, I look forward to sharing the excitement of the Iditarod. I anticipate that frequent updates will follow as we sprint to the race start and subsequently rush into spring. Remember that Mike will be sharing insights from the trail. Feel free to sign up for emails on our Guestbook.
Until next time, I hope you are having as much fun with your dogs as we are with ours.
Mike, Caitlin, and Max