Congrats to all 7 rookies that joined a very exclusive club this year!
Not an hour an a half after Jed, the 29th and final finisher arrived in Nome as this year's Red Lantern. Veteran Jason Mackey, brother of Iditarod legend and this year's honorary musher Lance Mackey, pulled under the burled arch just after 5pm AKST after 12 days, 2 hours, 3 minutes and 7 seconds out on the Iditarod Trail. He extinguished the Widow's Lantern, which is always left burning in the traditional fashion until the last musher and his or her dogs are safely off the trail. Jason travelled the trail this year with the ashes of both his mother and his brother Lance, so I'm sure it was an emotional journey that I'm so happy to see him successfully finish.
And with that, the 51st Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race was complete.
Of course mushers are still caring for their dogs, making arrangements to fly them all home. Kristy and Anna got that all taken care of Saturday afternoon and received confirmation they're all safely and happily settled back at the kennel in Knik. And then there is the banquet this evening, Sunday March 19th. In past years, the banquet has been held when teams were still out on the trail! Organizers weren't being mean - but they also have to make sure those who have already finished can get the dogs and themselves home and back to other responsibilities. So I'm glad every finisher is able to attend, eat some good food, share some stories, celebrate award winners and take a minute to reflect on what they and their dogs just accomplished.
I did get to chat with the twins for a bit Sunday afternoon, and they both sounded great! They confirmed all the dogs were now back at the kennel, but said that before they left, you couldn't tell the dogs had just pulled a sled 998 miles across Alaska! All the dogs were "eating like pigs", playing with each other or lounging in the sunshine. I've witnessed my sisters take a couple of days to recover from a marathon. The fact that these canine athletes recover as quickly as they do from something 38 times longer is a testament to how much they're just born for it.
Kristy and Anna also confirmed the specific dogs that made it ALL THE WAY on their respective teams.
For Kristy, her eight dogs at the finish were Cassie, Wilbur, Rampage, Havoc, Ruckus, Bulleit, Mayhem, and 2Chains. Kristy was particularly proud of Wilbur and Rampage, two key leaders throughout the race. The pups she returned home along the way (for minor ailments ranging from just seeming tired to a bit of hind leg soreness or diarrhea) included Andy, Bogus, Papa Doc (or PD), Tesla, Joker, and Portau Prince (or Prince/Princeton). Each and every dog is doing great and will get just as excited to see a harness and go for a run this week as they did 10 days or 10 months ago!
For Anna, she crossed the finish line with 9 canine athletes, including Zwicklebeir, Drax, Hannah, Randy, Kevin, Margot, Susie, Rocky, and Astro. She was so proud of all of the dogs that travelled the trail with her this year! But she was most proud of the dogs that made it all the way to Nome for the first time. Zwicks, Hannah, and Margot were all Iditarod rookies, and Astro and Kevin had seen part of the trail before but not Nome. That experience is huge for these amazing dogs! Those dogs she returned home early (for minor issues similar to Kristy) included Yondu, Chaos, Fog, Forrest, and Diego. They're all doing great and will be names we'll see again out on the trail.
Aside from the dog updates and final notes, the twins also shared a fair amount from the trail. They talked about the glowing moonlight the first few nights, and the amazing aurora later. I've never, EVER heard them gush about the Gorge before, but to hear them say it, it was beautiful and amazing. To hear them say that just made me smile. Kristy commented that there was actually no open water crossings the whole race, and they were well prepared with the little rain they saw, having packed a tarp, extra dog coats, and extra fleece dog blankets. There was good snow in "all the scary spots". Mike's welding job was just the trick for their brake modifications, and they were really happy with how well they worked, along with their new race sleds.
It sounds like having fewer teams on the trail this year was beneficial, keeping checkpoints less crowded and the trail in far better condition. They said all the snow and water bridges they encountered were in good repair, so kudos to the Iditarod trail sweeps! They were happy to bring some mail to a kind lady in one of the villages that had lost her husband not terribly long ago and grateful for a warm welcome in Takotna. They were thrilled to get pizza in Unalakleet from a kind teacher and her class, so much, in fact, that they got to share pizza with others that happened to be in checkpoint! They even got some cookies when they went through Golovin when folks from the area came out to cheer them on.
They talked about various sections of trail... moguls out of Ophir; fast, icy trail from Iditarod that had them fishtailing on their dog sleds; using their athletic ability to help power sleds up hills into Shaktoolik. The coldest they saw was -36F on the way to Eagle Island. A former Seeing Double dog was adopted after retiring from racing, and after living out many more happy years, went over the Rainbow Bridge. They had Uno's ashes with them and sprinkled them at Tripod Cabin, a little dog spirit to look after the dogs on the trail, much like Susan Butcher's ashes at Old Woman Cabin see to the mushers.
Not long after that, they saw some of the only shooting stars they saw the entire race.
They also saw some amazing aurora, sometimes directly overhead. And I learned a new descriptor for snow - velcro. The kind that gets blown at you and is just wet enough to stick to anything and everything it encounters. They had this out of Shageluk.
The twins did get a little minor frostbite on their faces from colder, windier stretches later in the race, but otherwise seemed none the worse for wear. They're anxious to gather with their fellow mushers and Iditarod folk at the banquet and then head on back to the kennel and their dogs!
Anna and Kristy will be out on the trail again in a few days once they're home, and even have one more race (a spring-fling version of the ACE Race) around April 4th. But it's time for this Mad Blogger to say adieu.
On behalf of Seeing Double, thank you to everyone that made the Iditarod possible! Race officials and organizers, volunteers and veterinarians. The Iditarod Air Force and Trail Crew. Race Sponsors!! Villagers extending kindness in checkpoints. Seeing Double's own sponsors, family, and friends. Kristy's husband, Andy, and close kennel friend, Aaron. Courtney, this year's Returned Dog Correspondent caring for things back at the kennel. Everyone that read this blog, bought some merch, liked an Instagram post, or supported the race through an Iditarod Insider subscription.
You all keep this tradition, this amazing test of endurance, this bond between human and Alaska Husky, going strong.
And speaking of the Alaska Husky ~ thanks most of all to the amazing, adorable, unequivocal canine athletes, for which none of this would be worthwhile or possible.
Be kind - to yourself, others, and animals. Be well. And be sure to come on back next year!
This has been Kat ~ Anna and Kristy's "not-a-twin" sister and Mad Blogger while they're out on the Iditarod Trail. It's been fun, but Otis and I have gotta run!
These Pups went all the way!!!
* Iditarod individual finisher count was obtained by this Mad Blogger by counting up the number of rookies that finished the Iditarod each year (with all mushers the first year in 1973 obviously rookies as well). While believed to be accurate, this tally could be subject to human error. Mount Everest summit information from haexpeditions.com with using data from The Himalayan Database.