In any event, the twins covered this section of trail in seven and a half hours overnight, arriving with their dog teams just after 5am Sunday morning. They rested in checkpoint for about 6 hours, and hit the trail late Sunday morning out of Nulato for Kaltag. They were out in 43rd and 44th places. It's just shy of 50 miles to Kaltag, considered the last checkpoint on the Yukon River. This checkpoint also marks the end of the 'northern route', so if you've run the Iditarod before, the rest of the way is familiar territory. It wouldn't surprise me to see the twins stop briefly in Kaltag and then camp just west of it at Tripod Cabin, but even the best Iditarod plans are subject to change. Whether they stay or run through, Kaltag will mark race mile 629, leaving about 346 miles to Nome.
Kristy and Anna's dog teams have stabilized over the last several checkpoints. Kristy hasn't dropped a dog since McGrath, where she pulled out with 11 furry friends in front of her sled. Anna hasn't dropped anyone since Cripple, where she pulled out with 10 amazing canine athletes. The report from Aaron, our dropped dog correspondent, back at the kennel is that all of the dropped dogs are doing just fine. Turns out Anna dropped Beaker in Nikolai due to muscle cramping, and as I guessed, Delta was the dropped dog in Takotna with a sore shoulder. At this point, we're just waiting for an update on the dog Anna dropped in Cripple (currently on the way to Anchorage, courtesy of the Iditarod Air Force), and we'll have all of Seeing Double's furry teammates from this year either still out on the trail or cheering them on from the kennel.
Back at the front of the race pack, the miles are ripping by under the leaders' runners. The first 4 teams are out of Shaktoolik, race mile 754, leaving them only about 220 miles to the finish. The race is on along the coast. Even the most experienced mushers will see some new trail, though, as this time the sea ice mandates some scenic overland detours in the miles ahead. There are a total of 77 mushers out on the trail now, with one more team having scratched (bringing that total to 8 of the original 85). The back of the pack has five teams making their way from Cripple to Ruby... there are now more miles between the leaders and laggards than the leaders have to the finish.
Update on the tragic incident that took the life of Jeff King's dog, Nash: a 26 year old man has been arrested and faces two counts of third-degree assault, one count of reckless endangerment, one count of reckless driving, and five counts of fifth-degree criminal mischief. Too lenient as far as I'm concerned, but at least he's not out there able to hurt anyone else.
Even with the exhaustion and single-mindedness that comes from over 6 days and 20 hours on the trail, I'm sure most mushers find their thoughts drifting to King, Zirkle, the dogs the were injured, and Nash, the dog that was lost. RIP, Nash. We're thinking of you too.