If we hop in the way-back machine for a sec, we can catch Mary Helwig, the 71st and final musher into Nome, on Saturday March 19th, arriving a little before midnight with 11 dogs in harness. Her last place finish was still captured in 13 days 8 hours and change. And she made it to Nome with time to spare before Sunday's banquet, allowing her to accept the Red Lantern award in person, which in past years wasn't always the case.
The twins also attended the banquet and then caught a flight back to Anchorage and Knik, where unpacking and dog care awaited. After a few days getting settled in, I managed to coax a race recap out of Kristy, which we'll get to in just a moment. And eventually we'll get Anna and Kristy's Twins' Eye View trail pics uploaded to Flickr (watch for a notice on the home page).
Before I bid you adieu in the final blog of Iditarod 2016, I have to of course thank everyone for following the twins along the trail. I'll keep blogging as long as they keep running, so I look forward to helping guide you down the trail next year. I think I would write this blog even if mom was the only reader, but knowing there are so many more than that really makes it worthwhile. Thanks for supporting the twins while enduring my self-proclaimed eloquent prose. :)
From Anna and Kristy ~ thanks so much to everyone for cheering us on! We can't wait to see everyone out on the trail again next year. To that end, special thanks to those making donations, both before and during the race. It's amazing to pull into Nome and see our nest egg for next year's entry fees is already started.
And without further ado, I will leave you with Kristy's recap.
Adieu until next year.
Or A'don't... It's your trail. Mush it.
As Kat alluded to in some of the blogs, we did not entirely stick to our initial plan in this year's race. Several circumstances lead to the changes that made our race outcome the way it was.
To deal with our 2 hour start differential, I cut 20 minutes from all our rests up to Rainy Pass while Anna added 20 minutes. This is the smallest amount of rest we felt comfortable adding and subtracting, especially for my team. Adding rest is always easier than taking.
Anna suffered a devastating blow losing Rooster in Finger Lake. He is her best leader. She didn't let it get to her until she dropped another leader, Precious, in Rainy Pass along with Bodie, a seasoned veteran and powerhouse. By Rainy Pass I had dropped 2 dogs and Anna 3. We weren't concerned about our team numbers...yet.
At the top of Rainy Pass we ran into a creek of running water as wide as your standard 2 lane highway with an icy island in the center. This would be our second open water crossing.
The first was in route to Skwentna. I was so impressed with my leaders, Beatris and Mary Lou, who dove right into the black running water, which was well over their heads, dragging the team and I safely to the other side. My boots got wet and the water was mid way up my thigh, but my feet stayed dry. We weren't in the water for longer than 8 seconds.
The creek crossing atop the gorge was a different story. Anytime you encounter a team of barking dogs, that means that they aren't moving and would really much rather be. It was night time as we coasted down the mountain to a sharp right hand turn. We saw a flurry of headlamps accompanied by vocal impatient dogs barking and echoing throughout the canyon. I could only watch and try to keep my team from inching forward as Anna negotiated the troublesome water crossing. She helped two other teams and united 2 loose dogs with their owners before she got her team across. After what felt like an hour, it was my turn to challenge the creek.
Dogs hate open water in the wintertime, especially moving water. By the time I had made it to the island in the center of the creek, a traffic jam of mushers waited their turn. With the help of the musher behind me who shoveled my sled into the water as I drug my dogs across, we made it. I then proceeded to cross the creek 8 times to help other mushers across.
My feet were soaked. My pants frozen. Anna the same.
There was no way I could run through Rohn. The dogs were also in need of some TLC for their feet. Our plans had to change to accommodate this added rest stop. After a few hours in Rohn, we were able to unzip our bibs and pry off our frozen boots. New, dry liners would be waiting for us in Nicholai, a good 70 miles away.
We camped in the heat of the day after a rough ride through the snowless burn. Although much better than 2014, it was still dusty, dry, fast and bumpy.
We took our 24 hour mandatory in Takotna. This is where we felt we needed to get off the throttle so to say. I left Takotna with 11 dogs, Anna with 10. We weren't even half way and we dropped 11 dogs between the two of us. Why so many dropped dogs? We credit this to our record low snow levels this season. We figure we put too many hard miles on the dogs, running them on ice and little to no snow for most of the year. It seemed like any little injury we had earlier in the year came back to haunt us. A wrist here, a shoulder there.
The weather this year was just about perfect, the coldest we saw was -22 F and the winds were of no real concern. Some days we seemed to be more worried about the heat than anything else. In fact, it was the heat that forced us to camp on our way to Cripple, another unplanned rest.
The incredibly talented and competitive field of mushers kept up a fast pace, making it difficult to make up for added rest. Anna and I stayed positive and took care of our small teams, making the most of the wonderful journey.
Once we left the Yukon River, we stayed at Old Woman's Cabin Cabin on our way to Unalakleet. We wrote a note and signed the guest book as always, then headed for the coast.
Shaktoolik greeted us with its usual icy and windy greeting along with some of the most beautiful Arouras we have ever seen. We parked on the beach beside the open ocean where a fox came to visit us and clean up leftover snacks from previous teams. Here the moon, looking much like a wedge of an orange, hung low in the night sky reflecting on the ocean like a mirror.
The dogs motored across the sea ice and into Koyuk, at this point in the race they are definitely what we call 'trail hard'. They are used to the long runs and short rests, as is the musher.
Once we arrived in Elim we knew we would be finishing in Nome in less than 24 hours. After our 8 hour mandatory in White Mountain it was Nomeward bound.
We arrived in Nome early in the morning greeted by many friends and fans. We didn't run the race we planned but we had a great time and learned a lot. As always we will strive to do better next year and have a great time doing it!
Thanks again for all of your support!
Kristy & Anna