A second musher has scratched from this year's race, long time fan favorite DeeDee Jonrowe, leaving 65 teams on the trail. 64 year old Jonrowe had previously announced she would retire after this year's Iditarod, which was her 36th time off the start. But by the time she reached Rainy Pass, she knew it was time to start the retirement party early. Her dogs looked great, but she was concerned about her own ability to continue and care for them properly. A wise decision from a seasoned professional and Seeing Double wishes her and her dogs all the best.
As is often the case, the back of the field is often dominated by rookies with this year is no exception. Currently, 7 of the last 10 teams are rookies, with Tara Cicatello - the current red lantern - checked into Rohn. This gives our field a spread of nearly 120 miles.
After mushers cross the Alaska Range and depart from Rohn, they are officially in what is referred to as the Interior of Alaska. Mountains like that have a big influence on weather, and mushers can expect the pattern to change on this side of the range with colder temps, more wind, and higher chances of snow. Although the section of trail between Rohn and Nikolai is reasonably flat compared to what they just faced, it is also home to the Farewell Burn and Buffalo tunnels. The Burn is a recovering forest fire area, and there are actual buffalo in the so-called tunnels. It can be rougher trail plagued by lighter snow, icy tussocks, and even frozen buffalo hoof prints just waiting to sprain a dog's wrist. Sections of trail further from The Burn reportedly had some open water to navigate and more ample snow. But while the snow base is some of the best the Iditarod trail has had in years, it is mushy and soft, reminiscent of mashed potatoes. Some speculate these snow conditions will eliminate the chance of a new record time finish as it keeps teams moving much more slowly.
This just in from Jack, our Dropped Dog Correspondent ~ I have learned the 2nd dog Anna dropped in Rainy Pass was John, who presented with a cough and sore wrists. Jack has John back at the kennel now, and while he will be on antibiotics for 10 days to clear up the cough, he should be back to 100% in no time flat. Jack also filled me in that the weather really turned west of the Alaska Range, "grounding planes and messing with mushers, trail breakers and logistics." Portions of western Alaska were expected to get 8-12 inches of snow and experience 30-50mph winds. Sounds like things are even more interesting for the mushers and their dogs out on the trail than I had even thought.
Here are a few photos I dug up online that help show what the twins have seen out on the trail so far. Just remember, while a picture may be worth a thousand words, seeing it in real life can render one speechless. Click on the gallery for more info on each picture's location.