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  1. #1
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    Up north, heading south: Iditatour '13.

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    My life as a 9-year-old, at least the big picture, wasn't much different than it is now. &nbsp;I lived to play with my dog, ride my bike, and spend the rest of my waking hours out noodling in the woods. &nbsp;In the past 35 years the fine details may have changed, but those 'big 3' remain inviolate.</div>
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    In those days there were no TV remote controls--you had to get up and change channels manually. &nbsp;Whenever my Dad wanted to see what else was on, he'd yell my name and I'd drop what I was doing and come running. &nbsp;We had an agreement of sorts where under most circumstances I wasn't allowed to run in the house, but if the channel needed changing he and Mom would look (er, listen) the other way as I thundered down the hallway and jumped down both flights of stairs.</div>
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    On one such mission I stood panting by the TV set, deliberately clunking the dial around, when a fuzzy black-and-white image resolved to be a frosty-bearded dog musher working his team up a mountain pass.</div>
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    I plopped down next to the TV and watched, enthralled, through that entire episode of&nbsp;<b style="font-style: italic;">ABC's Wide World of Sports. &nbsp;</b>Though our grumpy labradoodle never saw things in the same light, objecting violently whenever I made motions to harness her to my bike or skateboard, I&nbsp;<i>knew</i>, canine companion or not, that someday I was going to see the&nbsp;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iditarod_Trail" target="_blank">Iditarod</a>.</div>
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    'Someday' started in 1997, when I made my first attempt at riding a 100-mile section of the <a href="http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/ak/aktest/brochures.Par.92153.File.dat/inht_brochure07.pdf" target="_blank">iconic trail</a>. &nbsp;The mushers no longer cracked whips by then, and bicycles were still seen as a curious and harmless novelty.</div>
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    In the ensuing 17 years I've ridden parts of the Iditarod trail on <a href="http://lacemine29.blogspot.com/2008/02/snowbike-timeline.html" target="_blank">many different bikes</a>, with greatly varying objectives, to vastly differing results. &nbsp;My rough calculations say that I've rolled over 6,000 miles just on this trail--on 26" singlespeeds with 2.3" tires, 29" fullies with 2.2"ers, and a whole host of 26" fatbikes with tires ranging from 3" to 5". &nbsp;I've used rim brakes, drum brakes, and disc brakes out there, seen warm, snowy, low-pressure years, endured -60* temperatures, been flattened by 100+ mph winds. &nbsp;I've raced in a sleep-and-calorie deprived blur and toured at a leisurely pace while ingesting local game at every opportunity. &nbsp;Not to mention that whole <a href="http://lacemine29.blogspot.com/2010/12/iditatour-part-one.html" target="_blank">self-supported</a> thing.</div>
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    Despite all of those years on the trail, as of February 2013 I had, somehow, never seen the South Route: the ~300 mile section of the Iditarod that goes overland between Ophir and Shageluk, through its namesake (ghost) town, then up the Yukon River through Anvik, Grayling, and Eagle Island. &nbsp;I'd tried, and failed, to ride this route in 2001, 2007, 2009, and 2011, alternately stopped by an injury, equipment failure, sickness, and once due to the unamused whims of Ma Nature.</div>
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    5th time the charm?</div>
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    Along with <a href="http://www.topofusion.com/diary/2013/03/08/great-alaskan-adventure-aka-iditabunny-part-1/" target="_blank">Scott</a> and Brian, I was surely hoping so.</div>
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    Our adventure started at <a href="http://www.revelatedesigns.com/" target="_blank">Revelate</a>&nbsp;World HQ, where we assembled, tuned, and packed our bikes for departure. &nbsp;</div>
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    We continued our gear-sturbation that night out at Big Lake. &nbsp;Here Scott debates whether it's actually possible to carry too much chocolate.</div>
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    The next morning my friends helped celebrate the start of my 43rd year on this planet, with potentially my all-time-favorite birthday cake.</div>
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    And then we saddled up and rode. &nbsp;Val Vanderbacon joined us for a few miles before turning back and leaving us to plow through freshies on our own.</div>
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    Soft snow and flat light were the conditions du jour. &nbsp;You know you're going to get them at some point--getting them early on makes you wonder how much they'll worsen before improving.</div>
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    The Sleeping Lady makes her first appearance.</div>
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    <i><span style="font-size: large;">"Glad I don't have to ride&nbsp;<b>that</b>&nbsp;thing…"</span></i></div>
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    -thought by all four pictured, simultaneously.</div>
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    Near the confluence of the Big Susitna and Yentna rivers we spotted a wolf loping into the woods. &nbsp;Seemed odd for it to be so close to 'town' and heading even closer.</div>
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    I expected trail conditions to worsen once we hit the river systems, because they always have in the past. &nbsp;Somehow that wasn't the case this night, and we rode easily and quickly up the Yentna as the sun fell and darkness rose.</div>
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    "Scott, meet overflow. &nbsp;Overflow? &nbsp;This is Scott."</div>
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    Dinner and entertaining stories at <a href="http://yentnastation.com/" target="_blank">Yentna</a> bled into an evening spin up the river before throwing out our bags for the night. &nbsp;</div>
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    Temps were in the +20's when we woke--downright balmy--and would stay that way for a few more days.</div>
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    Breaking camp and making breakfast simultaneously. &nbsp;My stove wouldn't burn long enough to melt snow, so Brian and I improvised a cold meal and I spent the morning working through solutions in my head.</div>
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    A not-uncommon sight: Open water on the Yentna. &nbsp;At least it was <a href="http://www.icebike.org/Articles/CompletingCircle.htm" target="_blank">visible</a> this time.</div>
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    Climbing into the Shell Hills.</div>
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    Arriving at Shell Lake Lodge in heavy snow. &nbsp;We stayed long enough for Zoe to feed the boys while I got some quality time with (her golden 'triever) Tanner.</div>
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    Then back into the night for a few hours of riding before stomping out a trench to sleep in.</div>
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    The next morning dawned grey and murky, with continued soft riding. &nbsp;Less than a foot of snow had fallen since we'd started, but very little traffic had been out to help pack it in.</div>
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    Whenever the trail is forced into a natural constriction--like here, passing through a stand of trees--all traffic is forced to use the same path, so it gets packed well and is easy for us to ride.</div>
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    But when the trail is unconstrained--like when crossing lakes, swamps, or meadows, sledneck riders like to fan out and break their own trail. &nbsp;As such all options remain soft and we alternate between riding and walking.</div>
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    The rocky ridge that I've come to know as "3-miles-out" from Finger Lake.</div>
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    Sustenance for the long haul: heavy-on-the-M&amp;M's gorp, plus a man-sized bottle of Mike &amp; Ike's.</div>
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    As bright as it got all day.</div>
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    Information overload.</div>
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    Heading for <a href="http://withinthewild.com/lodges/winterlake/" target="_blank">the barn</a>, at least for a bit.</div>
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    Although he's been coddling us human-powered-types for almost two decades, this was <a href="http://withinthewild.com/about-us/your-hosts/carl-dixon/" target="_blank">Carl's</a> first ride on a fatbike. &nbsp;I think he's got a Nome trip in him. &nbsp;If he could convince <a href="http://withinthewild.com/about-us/your-hosts/kirsten-dixon/" target="_blank">his wife</a> to supply a few weeks' worth of her homemade nutterbutter's, it'd be a walk in the park.</div>
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    We rolled out the backdoor,</div>
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    down the big hill,</div>
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    then out across Red Lake.</div>
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    Up ever-steepening hills and into the dark and deepening snow we rode and pushed, stopping to camp only when Brian and I managed to drag Scott off of his bike late into the night.</div>
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    And our trip was really just beginning.</div>
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    Over the next several days I'll share words and images from our collective trip to McGrath and then my solo continuation on toward Nome.</div>
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    Stay tuned...</div>
    Last edited by mikesee; 02-10-2014 at 08:46 PM.

  2. #2
    mtbr member
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    Seriously dude, you better be saving all these posts to put them together into a book.
    =========================================
    Minnesota Off Road Cyclists www.morcmtb.org

  3. #3
    mtbr member
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    Way to stoke the excitement as this year's race draws near. I'll be participating from my couch as usual. "Heading south"? Hmmmm. Must be a surprise in store.

    Your words and images are a treat, as always. I will definitely stay tuned.
    The older I get the better I was...

  4. #4
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    yay - thanks for the pre-iti stoke! Looking forward to the rest of the story..

  5. #5
    Beware of Doggerel
    Reputation: Adam's Avatar
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    Love your Alaska words and pics. Yesterday, with the wind at my back, I crossed the dismal swamp at a sustained 20mph. It was unreal. The tires buzzed on the frozen snow like a happy baby chainsaw. So fast, Sunshine, hard trail. Zoom!!
    I wanna say I'm sorry for stuff I haven't done yet, things will shortly get completely out of hand --T.M.G.

  6. #6
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    Good stuff.
    As little bike as possible, as silent as possible.
    Latitude: 57º36' Highlands, Scotland

  7. #7
    All Lefty's, all the time Moderator
    Reputation: MendonCycleSmith's Avatar
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    Further proof that I am somehow, just not doing it right yet......

    Thanks, awesome stuff as always.
    This is a Pugs not some carbon wannabee pretzel wagon!!

    - FrostyStruthers



    www.mendoncyclesmith.com

  8. #8
    NMBP
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    Mm, mm, birthday cake!

    Nice photos and write up.
    Riding Fat and still just as fast as I never was.

  9. #9
    This place needs an enema
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    Idita '13: Into the range.

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    Moist fat flakes fell intermittently through the night. &nbsp;We woke to a humid, monochromatic world. &nbsp;The only upshot is that wet snow packs easily: trail conditions were surprisingly good as we ascended into the Alaska Range.</div>
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    We rolled up to Puntilla Lake ~midday and set about drying gear and feeding our faces.<br />
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    We took a brief intermission to entertain Stevie's dog (aka He Whom Must Be Obeyed) before we rolled down the hill and across the lake, bound for Rainy Pass proper.<br />
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    Although the trail is rarely steep between Puntilla and the pass, it's never packed hard and mostly uphill, so at best your progress is slow. &nbsp;I was resigned to a slog but cheered because the clouds seemed to be lifting. &nbsp;For the first time in days we might get some views to go with our touring pace.<br />
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    We voiced our exultation, emulating our <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vC8gJ0_9o4M" target="_blank">most recent Youtube hero</a>, as each rise afforded bigger, more inspiring scenery. &nbsp;We also shared our best treats (cheese doodles!) in his honor.<br />
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    Brian might seem to have a game-face on here, and to some extent that was needed. &nbsp;The flat and failing light combined with last night's snow meant that there was no <i>visible</i> trail to follow. &nbsp;We found it with our feet, with the help of the resident fauna (hares and those that eat them don't want to posthole any more than we do…), and often by simply staring beneath our shoes (where the shadows of our bikes fell, creating a rare spot of contrast) to suss out hints. &nbsp;Once on it we lasered our focus to stay there.</div>
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    Tripods were mere hints, more often than not having little to do with the actual trail alignment.<br />
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    Note how much easier it is to see the track within Scott's shadow.</div>
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    Dark enough for lighting made it easier, but still not easy, to spot hints of where the trail might lie.</div>
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    Eventually, just inside the mouth of Pass Creek, we called it good for the night. &nbsp;Trenches were stomped out, snow was melted, meals rehydrated, highlights of the day recounted. &nbsp;Although we hadn't covered many miles we HAD spent a lot of time searching, anxious, focused. &nbsp;That kind of day can be as exhausting as double the miles on a marked/packed trail. &nbsp;</div>
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    Sleep was great until it wasn't. &nbsp;Which is one way of saying that I woke in the wee hours to Jeff Oatley standing over my bag, facetiously suggesting that if we wanted to 'punch up' more of the trail ahead, we oughta hurry.<br />
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    He and the rest of the lead pack were in great spirits, although only Jeff seemed inclined to wake us merely to mess with our heads. &nbsp;With a laugh and a 'stay on the gas!' we bade them all adieu.<br />
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    As the sound of their bikes receded up the valley we rousted ourselves for the day. &nbsp;On a touring pace there was no need to rush into the darkness, but we had the sense to realize that we were awake for good. &nbsp;Might as well make some miles.<br />
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    Working our way up to Rainy Pass lake.<br />
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    Scott firing up the engine with a mouthful of something good.</div>
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    Brian on the final push to the pass.<br />
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    Scott couldn't be Scott without pedaling every last rideable inch.<br />
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    The trail down the backside of the pass was soft, unconsolidated at best. &nbsp;Watching Brian stumble, flail, and fall (while trying to pedal) encouraged me to walk lightly and keep my eyes open for photos.</div>
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    Dropping lower the trail got firmer. &nbsp;Hard to believe we were riding at all in such a place.<br />
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    Pics like these next few go a long way to illustrate the draw of this route.</div>
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    All of this and the sun hadn't yet crested the ridge.<br />
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    We crossed a handful of slide paths, avy debris thick and hard as you'd expect. &nbsp;Despite the natural terrain trap, I know of only one avy fatality here and I've always been amazed at that. <br />
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    Then as now, I'm at a loss for words on how to describe <i>much less process</i> <b>this</b> scene. &nbsp;Huge, wild, indifferent, stunning. <br />
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    There--I tried.</div>
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    We often stood and stared, slackjawed, at the unfolding landscape.<br />
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    (<i>you put your left leg in, you put your left leg out…)</i><br />
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    No matter how many times I pass this way I always feel the same powerful sense of '<i><b>this</b> is where I was meant to be</i>'.</div>
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    Mashed willows = slednecks passed this way. &nbsp;Where a snowmachine leaves a trail in the snow, whether by accident or on purpose, we can ride.<br />
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    By this point I was borderline delirious. &nbsp;The trail surface had been so often solid, so easily ridden, the temps so warm, the scenery and company so good. &nbsp;I encouraged my compadres to stop and take as many pics as they cared to--to savor this as deeply as they could, for they were never likely to experience it in quite this way again.</div>
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    They were enjoying it <i>plenty</i> without my help, but I don't think either of them 'got' how truly special this day, and year, were shaping up to be. &nbsp;What rookie could? <br />
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    Meeting the Mayor and Sheriff of Rohn, and having the time of our lives getting there.</div>
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    Stay tuned...</div>
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  10. #10
    will rant for food
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    Mike I want to reiterate tedsti - have you ever thought about compiling your documentation into a book? It's fascinating.

    It may be 2014, but the great image purge of last year is a reminder that MTBR, like any other dotcom, is susceptible to permanent information loss. And the notion that there's something about the tactile nature of a book that makes things more cerebral.
    Disclaimer: I run Regular Cycles (as of 2016). As a profiteer of the bicycle industry, I am not to be taken very seriously.

  11. #11
    This place needs an enema
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    8,944

    Out of the range.

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    <a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-ybWqmjDzCKg/UvwGjnmNhDI/AAAAAAAAnuE/eJrIsWA1Db0/s1600/4A4B0165.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-ybWqmjDzCKg/UvwGjnmNhDI/AAAAAAAAnuE/eJrIsWA1Db0/s1600/4A4B0165.jpg" /></a></div>
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    Leaving Rohn spirits were <i>high</i>. &nbsp;To this point in the day we'd been immersed in incredible scenery, ridden hardpacked, challenging, <i>type-one</i>-<i>fun</i> trail, re-upped on vittles, high fived the reigning politicos in 'town', and were now headed into the meat of the route with good weather (warm days, cool nights, clear skies) in the forecast.</div>
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    I have this habit, maybe almost a mantra, that I try to bring to mind whenever the scenery is big and mind-blowing. &nbsp;To wit: Look down!</div>
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    Put another way, an amazing scene is the way it is because of the constituent parts. &nbsp;Looking past them at the overall grandeur is easy to do, but means that you miss the details.</div>
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    We shared trail with Billy Koitzsch on his way to Fairbanks via Nome.</div>
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    Trailside tourists were thick on the ground on this day...</div>
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    …which is another way of saying that OE here snapped a few shots of us on the South Fork of the Kusko before skedaddling back into Rohn and leaving us completely alone.</div>
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    When in doubt, let air out. &nbsp;<i>Except</i> when there's no doubt that the trail is firm.</div>
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    BLM, local hunters and trappers, and the collective Idita crews have blazed a veritable highway through the New Burn. &nbsp;</div>
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    Tourists thick in the air on this day too.</div>
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    (Actually, it's OE again. &nbsp;Hey OE!)</div>
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    <a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-F6-J6nsy4zk/UvwGdxtZD-I/AAAAAAAAntU/ppl96BV6IX8/s1600/4A4B0104.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-F6-J6nsy4zk/UvwGdxtZD-I/AAAAAAAAntU/ppl96BV6IX8/s1600/4A4B0104.jpg" /></a></div>
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    I got confused more than once out there, hearing racers and tourists alike referring to this area as the Farewell Burn. &nbsp;The regrowth of <i>that </i>scar has been happening for 30+ years, and has gotten so tall and unruly that it's hard to see it as a burn so much as a juvenile forest. &nbsp;</div>
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    In other words, they aren't the same burn, are in fact many miles apart. &nbsp;The elder burn devastated rolling hills, muskegs, and scrub and just generally made a mess. &nbsp;The newer one flashed through mountainside and river bottoms and, from my selfish perspective, opened up huge vistas of amazing country that we'd been passing through for decades without being able to truly <i>see</i>.</div>
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    Like this...<br />
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    And this…<br />
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    <br />
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    …and this...<br />
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    <a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-gpeAzDz0w04/UvwG1iMysTI/AAAAAAAAnvo/c-28u46Jjgs/s1600/4A4B0452.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-gpeAzDz0w04/UvwG1iMysTI/AAAAAAAAnvo/c-28u46Jjgs/s1600/4A4B0452.jpg" /></a><br />
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    …and this.<br />
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    A wind-polished Post River.<br />
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    <i><b>"Jesus Christ! &nbsp;Look at this joint!"</b></i><br />
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    Billy enjoying his studded tires on some of the ~3 total miles of the route where they made any sense.<br />
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    Post River Glacier. &nbsp;Normally a bit of a mental and physical challenge to find a safe way up while remaining upright, this year we might have dismounted for a quick ~30 seconds of easy walking and then it was back to zipping along.</div>
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    While the entirety of the day was exceptional, while framing the shot below I couldn't help but to think that <i>this right here</i> was what we'd come for.<br />
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    Even if defining 'this' would have been as impossible then as it is right now.</div>
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  12. #12
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    I've been coming by this thread a few times per day, searching for words that would add something beyond what Mike has already said/shown. So far, I've come up empty handed.

    I'll give it another shot.....

    For as long as I've been interested in long distance mountain races and bike touring......I've followed the Iditarod. Back when 100 miles on buff dirt trails seemed like a long way to go......I was dreaming about the route to McGrath. Year after year I said "this winter". A few times I even said it out loud to others.....only to realize that I was only fooling myself thinking I had what it takes. What it takes, in this case, is lots of time...time to study, time to tinker, time to correct mistakes and time to try again. Patience. Diligence. Attention.

    I spent some of that time on the Susitna 100 course. I did it twice before I felt like I had some idea of what it would be like to keep going for another 250 miles......and leave the comfort of the Susitna/Yentna rivers. That year I signed up for the ITI.

    We got schooled by weather. We walked most of the way from Knik to Yentna where I scratched and flew back to Anchorage. All was not lost.....I had made some great friends and met some amazing people. I saw some terrain I hadn't seen before. I developed some new skills. I learned more about myself. But ultimately, I was left wanting. Severely wanting.

    The following fall I mentioned to Mike that I felt like I needed to get back up there. The idea of a tour was mentioned. Perfect. I've never been much of a racer......I "race" to see new places, have memorable experiences and meet great people. I usually succeed.

    Long story short, it was a phenomenal tour. From the moment we left Big Lake it felt like we were given a gift. The temps were favorable, the trail was pretty good and the scenery never let up. By the time we got to Shell Lake lodge I was content. If the rest of the trip was a failure I would've been happy with what I had seen.

    But, that was far from the end of all that we'd be given.

    When we we're riding down the Happy River steps I think Scott and I both couldn't help but remark that "this is like mountain biking!". And it was. I think I even leaned into a few turns through there. I'm certain I did.

    Fast forward a day or soo and we're pedaling up to the pass. Pedaling. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.....hearing story after story about years past replaying in my head. Legends of years prior that I had read a hundred times. Pete travelling over Ptarmigan alone. Mike turning around when the slide danger was just too much to consider. Jeff and others taking turns stomping out a trail in waist deep snow. While all those stories swirled in my head....we pedaled. We stood atop the pass and I couldn't help but feel like we should be quiet....lest we awaken the potential that the landscape could bring.

    The Dalzell Gorge. On that day, it was one of the most amazing places I have ever seen. I'd be lying if I said the descent from the pass to the Tatina wasn't the best descent of my life. Riding into Rohn on the Tatina I again felt like I'd be happy if it ended there. I had seen soo much.......I'd feel rude to ask or expect more.

    Rohn was exactly as I expected. The type of place that words do no justice. Look at the photos. Believe it when I tell you they do the place no justice.

    We left Rohn and I immediately set my sights on the Bear Creek cabin. Not sure what my motivation was or why I was soo set on making it there.....but I was. What that meant was that by the time we got there we had been on the move for 18 or 20 hours. It was a big day but it felt good to put in a hard effort. I felt a little bad for being soo insistent and pushing everyone to get there. I realized the next morning why it was soo important.

    Bacon. Sausage. Stories from the trail that are hard to do justice.

    Oh....and we got to know Harold Ze German a little better.

    I'll leave it there for now as I'm getting a little ahead of the photo show.
    Last edited by donkey; 02-14-2014 at 08:55 AM.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by donkey View Post
    I'll give it another shot.....
    Great words, B. Would love to see summa your pics, too.

  14. #14
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    Coming down.

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    Trail conditions were good--hard and fast. &nbsp;We three tourists found ourselves in the midst of the top 10 or so ITI racers, and, having been racers once or twice, discovered we were motivated to ride fast, hard, and long.<br />
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    Without intending to we put in better than 18 hours, finishing only when Brian clomped his boots onto the porch of the Bear Creek Cabin.<br />
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    Sleep indoors was poor, at best, largely because the Runkel boys beat us to the cabin, claimed the lower shelf of bunk beds, and stoked the woodburner to just a titch under 'nuclear'.<br />
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    When I awoke gasping for fresh air the second time, I dragged my bag outside and slept the rest of the night on the ground. &nbsp;Once I stopped sweating I slept fine.<br />
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    Inadequate rest was a small price to pay for the few hours we spent in the company of PJ and Andrew at the cabin. &nbsp;Hearing their take on all things bush, Iditarod, and Herman ze German (I could never do this one justice) was priceless. &nbsp;The bacon and sausage they shared were nectar-esque, and took the edge off of yesterday's damage to the legs.<br />
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    The miles after Bison Camp passed slowly. &nbsp;I believe this is largely relative, since your mind is still on a high from the visual wonderland of the previous few hundred miles. &nbsp;It simply takes time to come back down to the reality that is the lowlands between here and the finish.<br />
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    Lots to see and enjoy about these miles, you just have to cultivate the right mindframe. &nbsp;I enjoy checking the many handmade traps that line the trail--for both handiwork and game.<br />
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    A never-ending sunset with *hours* of god-light delivered us within striking distance of McGrath, even with significant photogeeking and a few stops to fix flats.<br />
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    One of my favorite quotes from the trip was uttered here by Brian, from his sleeping bag, in response to a question concerning his current state of overall hygiene:<br />
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    Although we spend little time on or in dirt, and the snow couldn't be cleaner, the accumulated sweat and grunge from a ~week of showerless riding and camping is not insubstantial.<br />
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    Morning delivered broken clouds and much colder temps. &nbsp;Finally. &nbsp;The last ~20 miles into McGrath were unceremonious in every way--merely an epilogue of hours that allowed a bit more processing of all that had happened thus far, in preparation for the long solo miles to come.<br />
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    Volumes have been written about the smorgasbord of overwhelmingness that awaits at casa Schneiderheinze in McGrath. &nbsp;To those volumes I can only add that it feels like a party held in <i>your</i> honor, and most of your friends are there to help celebrate.</div>
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  15. #15
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    Thanks for the stunning, vicarious trip up the trail, Mike. I'm eagerly awaiting each installment. Surprised to hear the mention of flats. I have a comparatively paltry number of winter trail miles under my wheels, and never had a flat on snow. Was there a pattern to those your group experienced? Don't recall you mentioning whether you run tube or tubeless in the winter.
    The older I get the better I was...

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by veloborealis View Post
    Thanks for the stunning, vicarious trip up the trail, Mike. I'm eagerly awaiting each installment. Surprised to hear the mention of flats. I have a comparatively paltry number of winter trail miles under my wheels, and never had a flat on snow. Was there a pattern to those your group experienced? Don't recall you mentioning whether you run tube or tubeless in the winter.
    I ran tubeless front and rear until the rear flat mentioned here. Front held the rest of the way to Nome, and on through the summer. As far as I know, it's still holding.

    Brian ran tubes on both ends and I think this was his only flat of the trip. Potentially only fat flat ever.

    Scott ran tubes on this trip, no flats.

    No pattern that we could find--definitely not pinched, we were emphatically not running low psi's when these flats happened. Mine seemed to be accumulated burpage along the beads, such that the beads were no longer fully seated. Constant weepage. Whatever caused it, no amount of pumping up and wiggling the wheel was going to re-seal it. I know because I tried that routine 3 or 4 times before the frequency of needing to pump got too close together. Tubed it there, lasted another ~500 miles (til Tripod Flats, past Kaltag) before that tube died. Replaced that tube and it lasted the rest of the way.

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    Going deep.

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    The Interior. &nbsp;While coastal Alaska is big and bold and virile--all pumped up and ready to kill you with beauty and violence--the Interior is kind of the opposite. &nbsp;It's also big and bold but in much more subtle ways, more amped to kill you softly, slowly: with distance, solitude, time, climatic harshness.</div>
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    It starts slowly--leaving McGrath you have a marked and maintained trail for a few hours over to Takotna. &nbsp;And while this ~20 miles seems unremarkable when mapgeeking, the fact is that it offers some of the best views and best riding within a few hundred miles. &nbsp;A big, rideable climb up Porcupine &nbsp;Ridge gifts the views, then the descent to the Takotna River provides the speed, air, and overall riding thrills. &nbsp;</div>
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    Leaving Takotna you sense that you're starting to get out there a bit. &nbsp;No tracks on the trail since a snowfall ~3 days previous. &nbsp;Gulp.</div>
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    Once you've passed through the ghost town of Ophir you're well and truly 'out there', at least by Alaskan standards, with stunning views of what's to come.</div>
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    I can remember many years ago hearing complaints from some of the old time trail 'purists' when the BLM proposed building shelter cabins along this stretch of trail. &nbsp;I can remember being one of those complaining--with the rationale that this was the most 'out there' stretch of trail left, and to make it feel any less remote would be to somehow diminish what was special about it.</div>
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    And now, years later, I shoveled a drift away from the door of one of these cabins, walked in, started a fire, cooked a meal, then settled in for a comfortable night of sleep. &nbsp;The wind raged outside, the temps fell to -38º, while inside I shuffled around in stocking feet and shirtsleeves while preparing both dinner and breakfast.</div>
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    Not sure how to feel about that now, other than sheepish and thankful.</div>
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    Countless times over the past decade I'd read tales of the South Route, how it was devoid of scenery, featureless and windswept, '<i>miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles</i>'. &nbsp;Largely because of these reports I had come to see it as a necessary evil, a ~200+ mile section of trail to be merely endured.</div>
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    I was flat floored to get stunning alpine views the further I progressed. &nbsp;Perhaps the reports I had read were written on years when the storms raged hard enough as to prevent all views? &nbsp;Dunno.</div>
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    What I *do* know is that the scenery on the South Route was a delight. &nbsp;Far better, more engaging than anything I've seen on my 4 trips up the North Route.</div>
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    A BLM trail crew was somewhere out ahead of me, installing new tripods to mark the route, as well as signs pointing the way to the obvious. &nbsp;Progress comes in many ways.</div>
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    Crisp, clear, cold.</div>
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    No longer used relic of the past, slowly being reclaimed by the earth even as the storms hasten it's demise.</div>
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    Firm trail courtesy of the BLM trail crew.</div>
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    The friendly trail surface can be traced directly to the simple design of a <a href="http://www.northernsledworks.com/Siglin_Sleds.html" target="_blank">Siglin</a> sled. &nbsp;While enjoying the smooth, fast trail and easy riding it afforded, I vowed to hug the man responsible for it if I ever caught up to him.</div>
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    Hours later I got that chance, but upon meeting him (a fur-clad Danish trapper whose powerful stink somehow overwhelmed my own) decided that a firm handshake would do just fine.</div>
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    Crossing this creek the low-angle light caught the surface hoar in just such a way that I was compelled to stop, drop, and get some macros from a belly-on-ice position. &nbsp;Otherwise this one creek crossing of many would never have stuck in my head. &nbsp;Days later I was able to recall it clearly as the temps skyrocketed, prompting reports that those traveling the trail behind were forced to wade balls-deep or even swim across it.</div>
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    Name that critter.</div>
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    Swoopy, if soft.</div>
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    Fluffed up trail. &nbsp;Although it looks rideable it was emphatically not--the surface having been churned and fluffed like so much merengue. &nbsp;Even at 2psi my 5" tires sunk deep and dug themselves deeper, forcing me to walk for hours and hours. &nbsp;Such is life on this trail.</div>
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    I filled those hours with motion, with appreciation for the chance to be out here, away from the world at large, immersed in something bigger and more meaningful than my everyday.</div>
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    And then the light got warm, and warmer. &nbsp;Idle, grateful thoughts were replaced with motion--of hands to camera bag, camera to eye, finger to shutter.</div>
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    Mere moments after the last golden light slid from the sky I rounded a bend, crested a short rise, and looked down a slough at a single lightbulb illuminating a dilapidated cabin, with two hunched figures shuffling around inside...</div>
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  18. #18
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    Mike,
    Terrific as usual - I'm lucky in that I missed this post for the past 6 days and got to read one continuous story for the past 30 minutes. Eagerly await the next installment.

  19. #19
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    Guess that critter: porcupine, based on the waddling trough. Hard to get a sense of scale with that photo though.

  20. #20
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    Pause.

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    Iditarod, Alaska. &nbsp;Population: 0.</div>
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    It wasn't always this way.</div>
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    A hub of gold mining activity and speculation at the turn of the last century, the <i>town</i> of Iditarod was home to 700 people while the <i>mining district</i>&nbsp;somehow swelled to include a rumored 10,000 souls at the height of the rush. &nbsp;Iditarod proper boasted a tramway, school, firehall, three lumber companies, four hotels, nine saloons and one very, very busy brothel.</div>
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    As I drop down onto the slough I'm not that interested in the history of the place. &nbsp;I want to now what's happening here <i>NOW--</i>specifically, where can a guy lay his head for the night?</div>
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    I'm met by Bob and Jim, two longtime volunteers for the sled dog race. &nbsp;They take me in to their home away from home--a two room cabin that they've rigged with electricity, lights, coffee maker, and FM radio, all courtesy of a teeny Honda generator. They feed me a hot meal, offer a bed indoors, and explain that while the trail <i>into </i>town may have been good, there is not yet a trail <i>out</i> of town. &nbsp;Though plans were made for a team of snowmachines to break trail over from Shageluk, wires were crossed or plans simply feel through, and the trail, for at least the next few days, ends here.</div>
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    This turn of events is a blessing in disguise, allowing me to spend time in one place--<i>this place</i>--without worrying about burning daylight or making miles. &nbsp;The only direction I can ride, for now, is back the way I came.</div>
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    I earn my feed and shelter by helping with various construction projects, by schlepping dog food from the airstrip to the makeshift checkpoint, by completing any menial task that Jim or Bob need done. &nbsp;Along the way I learn a bit about the history of the place, and a LOT about what it takes to turn it into an ephemeral, functional, comfortable dog race checkpoint every two years.</div>
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    On the second day of vacation the 'comms guys' show up, somehow creating not just a local phone line direct (via satellite uplink) to Anchorage, but a wi-fi hotspot. &nbsp;I look on in wonder as all present whip out smartphones to text loved ones elsewhere.</div>
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    On the third day the real zoo happens--vets and race officials arrive and heaps of busywork appears with them. &nbsp;We all pitch in to get it done. &nbsp;Although I've breezed into and out of dog race checkpoints a handful of times through the years, those were always in villages where infrastructure existed--buildings, tools, people, power, supplies. &nbsp;Everything is flown in here via single engine planes, schlepped from the snowy airstrip on a sled or your back, assembled inside of or next to a single remnant cabin, then flown back out days later. &nbsp;This 'town' won't likely see another visitor until the race comes back two years later.</div>
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    Of note this afternoon: a minor 'dinging' of one airplane, with zero injuries and, apparently, no real cause for alarm.</div>
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    Moments after the crash it's back to business as usual: Getting this place ready for dozens of dog teams and drivers to breeze in and out, or to stay for a day and rest.</div>
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    <i>"See that pile over there? &nbsp;Bring it over here."</i></div>
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    The law happened to be flying over, saw an upside-down aircraft in the snow, then dropped in to see what was what.</div>
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    At sundown on the third day a team of snowmachines roared into town: The Trailbreakers. &nbsp;They planned to eat, drink, and sleep the night, then head toward the Yukon in the morning. &nbsp;A trail to follow west meant that my vacation here was at an end.</div>
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  21. #21
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    awesome. Thanks so much for this great story telling.

  22. #22
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    Thanks for the great imagery and storyline!!!

  23. #23
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    Bah, now you have gone and made me want to go all the way to Nome

    Thanks for taking the time to post the photos and story!
    Last edited by spruceboy; 02-19-2014 at 08:05 PM.

  24. #24
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    Great job with this Mike. More than once you've captured the *feel* of the Iditarod Trail better than anybody else can. I think a big part of that is the amount of time you've spent out there moving slowly over it. Or not moving at all. The other part being, obviously, a good eye for both the big and small picture. When I see some of your pics it gives me chills. I actually experience the emotion that went with being in that spot. There. Where you took the picture. And seeing what you saw. But maybe not exactly the way you saw it. Pretty incredible.

    That said, this is my public apology to Scott and Brian for waking them from what I'm guessing was a beautiful nights sleep near Rainy. I'm really sorry about that. You guys have got to understand that if there was any to have only harrassed the hell out of Mike at whatever-in-the-morning I would have gladly done that and let you both sleep. I've come to *know* that Mike needs my harrassment lest he slip into full-on retro-grouch bike demi-goddery. I can't let that happen...(Plus, he dishes a fair bit of it my way too.)

    I probably should have just stolen his chain like I had originally planned...

    But seriously Mike, thank you.

  25. #25
    This place needs an enema
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    Quote Originally Posted by joatley View Post
    I probably should have just stolen his chain like I had originally planned...
    omfg. woulda been brilliant. missed opportunity...

  26. #26
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    Really...that wouldn't have been over the line?? Damn...I can never tell where those lines are. Cus' on the one hand I'm thinking "This is gonna be awesome!!" But on the other hand I'm thinking "I wonder if Mike is gonna think its funny or just be really pissed that he was to walk the next 150 miles?"

  27. #27
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    ...of perfect trail.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by joatley View Post
    ...of perfect trail.
    The simple mental image of that is funny as hell...
    The older I get the better I was...

  29. #29
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    Ak a.d.d.

    <div style="text-align: center;">
    For those whom are too busy and/or inattentive to read the explanatory verbiage on each of these AK posts, <i>here:</i><br />
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    Will resume posting words and still pics in a day or so. &nbsp;Several days left to go in the retelling of this'n.</div>
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  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by joatley View Post
    Really...that wouldn't have been over the line?? Damn...I can never tell where those lines are. Cus' on the one hand I'm thinking "This is gonna be awesome!!" But on the other hand I'm thinking "I wonder if Mike is gonna think its funny or just be really pissed that he was to walk the next 150 miles?"
    I was thinking it'd be hanging from a willow branch 1/4 mile up the trail. Or on top of the pass. Beyond that, yeah--totally uncool…

    Note to self: No more quick links in chains...

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    Resume.

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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Jimmy P was up early making breakfast for the trailbreakers, and knowing that they were moving had everyone else up early too.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Outside it was warm, humid, downright wet, and smelled more of late April than early March.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Billy Koitszch walking some newly broken trail.</span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Down into the valley then up onto The Big Ridge. &nbsp;I haven't mapgeeked hard enough to find out the actual name of this feature, but all whom referred to it did so in hushed tones, based (best I could tell) on the ferocity of the storms that often rake it. &nbsp;No storms greeted us this day--overcast, warm, calm.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Bob Ostrom assuming the position a few minutes back.</span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">The only places that The Trail is marked this heavily are those with frequent ground blizzards. &nbsp;I mouthed a quiet 'thank you' for good visibility and easy, if slow, travel.</span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">I stopped an hour or so after dark at an empty shelter cabin. &nbsp;Kindled a fire, melted snow to hydrate a meal and fill my reservoir, then crashed out. &nbsp;Woke to take a leak and the place was overflowing with people--inside and out. &nbsp;Easily 15 bodies had arrived while I snoozed. &nbsp;Huh.</span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">It took an extra minute to step over and around them to get out the door. &nbsp;While admiring the stars and relieving my bladder, it occurred that the night had sharpened enough to allow the trail to set up hard. &nbsp;Even though my body wanted nothing more than to climb back in the bag and sleep, I knew that once that horde inside got moving, the trail would be shredded and I'd be back to walking.</span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">&nbsp; I enjoyed a few hours of cloudless, windless, lightless pre-sunrise riding on the way to Shageluk.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Never having been there before, it took an extra few minutes (and several wrong turns) to find the Post Office for my resupply. &nbsp;Freshies on the bike and in the belly had me smiling as I rolled down the slough out of town.</span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">That smile was replaced by a tolerant grimace as I alternately walked, pushed, carried, and only occasionally rode. &nbsp;There was a firm base underneath, but the top layer of snow had been whipped to a drifted froth and was a rarely able to be ridden.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Dumping off of a quaint, winding wooded trail and onto the Yukon can only be described as shocking. &nbsp;</span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Andy Heading put it best way-back-when:&nbsp;</span><br />
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    <i><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">"That's not a river, that's an ocean!"</span></i><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Low ceiling, high humidity, and temps hovering right at freezing had most of the pilots grounded. &nbsp;I kind of like it that way--it's a lot more peaceful on the trail. &nbsp;</span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">With the impending arrival of the dog race leaders, and with clients paying to see the race *from the air*, the pilots seemed, at best, stressed.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Nuclear headwinds and intermittent snow were my constant companions all the way up to Grayling that night. &nbsp;Good sleep and an even better meal in the school there had me energized for the next reach up to Eagle Island.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Alas, the weather didn't cooperate. &nbsp;Maybe 90 minutes up the river from Grayling it started to *rain*, and would continue to do so through the day.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Rain is not a common occurrence in Interior AK in winter. &nbsp;As such, it isn't an eventuality that one plans heavily for. &nbsp;Which is one way of saying that long before sundown I was soaked through, a consequence of choosing breathable and windproof clothing over waterproof stuff that makes no sense at sub freezing temps. &nbsp;</span><br />
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    <a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-HGFIUWunfWw/UwUENc-i36I/AAAAAAAAn-M/zoOzCt22YOo/s1600/4A4B1403.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-HGFIUWunfWw/UwUENc-i36I/AAAAAAAAn-M/zoOzCt22YOo/s1600/4A4B1403.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">I walked into the evening, looking for overhung river banks that might provide shelter at least from direct rain.</span><br />
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    <a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-5p8-1DtZa0s/UwUEOYTBX6I/AAAAAAAAn-U/JDn5Gexny8M/s1600/4A4B1410.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-5p8-1DtZa0s/UwUEOYTBX6I/AAAAAAAAn-U/JDn5Gexny8M/s1600/4A4B1410.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Throughout the day I saw not a single structure worthy of the name--nothing where I might build a fire to dry out. &nbsp;Lacking a better idea, I kept walking.</span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Late that afternoon I heard what sounded like canine yipping. &nbsp;I stopped pushing and calmed my breath to confirm.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">What I originally suspected to be a pack of wolves turned out to be the leader of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.</span></div>
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    <a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8sew1wbR6hE/UwUEP0-n_OI/AAAAAAAAn-k/jwDsRssAu0U/s1600/4A4B1418.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8sew1wbR6hE/UwUEP0-n_OI/AAAAAAAAn-k/jwDsRssAu0U/s1600/4A4B1418.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Martin Buser motored past with his ever-present cheeky grin, pressed a baggie of cashews into my hand as he did, then was gone around a bend.</span><br />
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    <a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-VXcJ7sFfE6M/UwUERFScMZI/AAAAAAAAn-s/EfIzgjBNP5g/s1600/4A4B1435.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-VXcJ7sFfE6M/UwUERFScMZI/AAAAAAAAn-s/EfIzgjBNP5g/s1600/4A4B1435.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Although at this point Martin had a comfortable 5-hours-plus lead, he was shadowed by this fella: A cameraman tasked with providing shots of the race leader. &nbsp;I suspect that the mushers run so much at night partially to get a little peace from the media.</span><br />
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    <a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-3kuDjAQKn3Y/UwUER9lJSFI/AAAAAAAAn-0/J3QDAZWjBD0/s1600/4A4B1439.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-3kuDjAQKn3Y/UwUER9lJSFI/AAAAAAAAn-0/J3QDAZWjBD0/s1600/4A4B1439.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">The paddle-track equipped machine obliterated any semblance of a trail platform, leaving me no choice but to high-step it through unconsolidated and barely frozen soup.</span><br />
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    <a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-_fqv953K9C8/UwUES645mGI/AAAAAAAAn-8/LkTkhbON6V8/s1600/4A4B1440.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-_fqv953K9C8/UwUES645mGI/AAAAAAAAn-8/LkTkhbON6V8/s1600/4A4B1440.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">I hunkered down for ~3 hours under a crumbling, dripping, overhung section of riverbank that night. &nbsp;When my bag became so soaked that it clung tightly to my already sopping clothing, I had no choice but to get up and *move* to stay warm.</span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Knowing that the Iditarod checkpoint of Eagle Island was something like 20 miles ahead, I set my sights on it and planned to hover over a woodburner for as long as it took to dry things out. &nbsp;With another 60 shelter-less miles to go from there to Kaltag, I didn't see any choice. &nbsp;Going into another night with no survival gear seemed stupid.</span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">The trouble with that plan is that there was simply no room at the inn. &nbsp;Eagle Island is a checkpoint in name only--consisting of a handful of tents and those in place to serve the mushers--not random tourists like me. &nbsp;When I arrived I was greeted by a polite but firm checker explaining that "<i>I have nothing to offer you</i>". &nbsp;Uncertain what he meant and not willing to simply give up, I pressed: "<i>I don't need food, just want to dry out some gear before moving on.</i>"</span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">He shook his head, sympathetic but unwavering, "<i>We're already standing room only inside--there's not even room for me to go back in</i>".</span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Ah.</span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">He pointed me toward a hole in the river ice to fill my water, then I walked on in ever-deepening slush, slop, and overflow.</span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">For the next 60 miles to Kaltag, this is as good as it got:</span><br />
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    <a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-mCwemkUaNKA/UwUEUNcVhPI/AAAAAAAAn_E/ZkKPJs1Fzo8/s1600/4A4B1444.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-mCwemkUaNKA/UwUEUNcVhPI/AAAAAAAAn_E/ZkKPJs1Fzo8/s1600/4A4B1444.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Needing badly to arrive at shelter before stopping, I removed breaks from my agenda, kept myself hepped up on an assortment of Trader Joes chocolate, walked when I had to and adopted the mantra, "<i>If your knees *don't* hurt, you're doing it wrong</i>" when riding.</span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">The day was long and often frustrating, just *this close* to rideable for miles on end. &nbsp;In the last ~10 miles before Kaltag, just after dark, the trail firmed up and I was able to ride somewhat easily up the river, along the bank, then up the ramp into town.</span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Completely exhausted and mildly euphoric, I found the school and crashed out on a tumbling mat, happy to be someplace with a heat source.</span><br />
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  32. #32
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    Thanks as always for sharing your story and images Mike, headed to Rohn in the morning for much needed time in that part of my home. Hope to see you north again before too long, be happy, healthy and warm.

    OE

  33. #33
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    Portaging.

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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Stiff, sore, and bleary-eyed is how I woke in Kaltag.</span></div>
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    <a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-x2jAWzBSLUg/UwqqtmpiyqI/AAAAAAAAoBE/XadJmMbs1Vo/s1600/4A4B1452.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-x2jAWzBSLUg/UwqqtmpiyqI/AAAAAAAAoBE/XadJmMbs1Vo/s1600/4A4B1452.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Ambling over to the head and back out to my pile of stuff I met a few people whom felt similarly. &nbsp;The trail, and weather, had worked us pretty good.</span></div>
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    <a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-TOg6ugWA2aw/UwqqwCJwNVI/AAAAAAAAoBU/H6j8kfWcoIA/s1600/4A4B1461.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-TOg6ugWA2aw/UwqqwCJwNVI/AAAAAAAAoBU/H6j8kfWcoIA/s1600/4A4B1461.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">I tend to err on the side of leisure when touring, and the previous few days had been anything but. &nbsp;Now that I'd left the Yukon and would be traveling on more oft-used trails, I vowed to resume a more leisurely pace.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">The mood around town was festive, as you'd expect at this time of year. &nbsp;School is out across the state during Iditarod, thus the kids are out playing in the snow, harassing mushers for autographs (or permission to pet dogs), even insisting that random bike riders come home for dinner.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">After a few casual hours soaking in all that Kaltag had on offer, I hit the trail. &nbsp;Didn't make it far before all sorts of things, <i>details</i>, clamored for my attention. &nbsp;And since the previous few days I'd paid not enough attention to those details, today I made it up to them.</span></div>
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    <a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-2_XifhhazVw/Uwqq6qgIzOI/AAAAAAAAoCk/RmhcHAPC94E/s1600/4A4B1571.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-2_XifhhazVw/Uwqq6qgIzOI/AAAAAAAAoCk/RmhcHAPC94E/s1600/4A4B1571.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Somewhere past Tripod Flats it really hit me that my childhood dream--to see <i>all</i> of The Trail--had finally come to fruition<i>.</i></span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">I rode slowly, stopped often for snacks, pics, or just to stand and be. &nbsp;On one such break I took a handful of pics of my bike. &nbsp;Portraits, almost--the kind of pics you take so that you can post an ad and sell something. &nbsp;While framing this'n I composed a version of that ad, chuckling to myself:</span></div>
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    <i><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">Snoots for sale. &nbsp;Full ti, fat wheels, fuel cell chassis, yada</span><br style="color: #222222; text-align: start;" /><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">yada. &nbsp;Highly experienced machine. &nbsp;Dog**** patina should come off</span><br style="color: #222222; text-align: start;" /><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">with a pressure washer. &nbsp;Oily residue on seat tube and rear triangle</span><br style="color: #222222; text-align: start;" /><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">may be permanent. &nbsp;Will deliver to Nome in a few days.</span></span></i></div>
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    <a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-HVgB-0hOpWM/Uwqq34OhnGI/AAAAAAAAoCM/mrMhXT0rxs4/s1600/4A4B1548.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-HVgB-0hOpWM/Uwqq34OhnGI/AAAAAAAAoCM/mrMhXT0rxs4/s1600/4A4B1548.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">On another such break I sat down on a burlap bag--trash left by a musher in too big of a hurry to bother--and made an ad hoc list:</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">-17 years I've been riding on and obsessing over this trail. &nbsp;A veritable</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">&nbsp;lifetime.</span></span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><span style="background-color: white;"><br style="color: #222222; text-align: start;" /></span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">-More than 6000 miles ridden just on the Iditarod. &nbsp;And climbing!</span></span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><span style="background-color: white;"><br style="color: #222222; text-align: start;" /></span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">-South Route, North Route, self-supported, trailers, skinny wheels,&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">fat wheels, single speeds, drum brakes, rim brakes, disc brakes,&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">etc... &nbsp;I've gotten to see and be a part of a lot of history, and a lot of change.</span></span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">-Warm and rainy years, cold, high pressure years, deep, deep snow&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">years. &nbsp;And always the wind.</span></span></div>
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    <a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-hJx1E9JHT2U/Uwqq5faf_FI/AAAAAAAAoCc/Vezf51RPez4/s1600/4A4B1560.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-hJx1E9JHT2U/Uwqq5faf_FI/AAAAAAAAoCc/Vezf51RPez4/s1600/4A4B1560.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><span style="background-color: white; text-align: start;"><span style="color: #222222;">While roller-coastering through some snowmachine&nbsp;whoop-de-doos this realization smacked me between the eyes:</span></span></span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><span style="background-color: white; text-align: start;"><span style="color: #222222;">I'm a few hundred miles from the end of this trail, and although my goal is&nbsp;</span></span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">certainly Nome I could easily, happily call it 'good' now that the big&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">river (i.e. the South Route) is done. &nbsp;When I started down this path as a boy&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">watching crazed dogs and whip-wielding mushers on TV</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">, I had no idea how all consuming it would, or could, become. &nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">The goal was only ever to see the 'whole Iditarod', and <i>now that I've&nbsp;</i></span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;"><i>been on every inch of both north and south routes </i><b>the job is done</b>.</span></span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><span style="background-color: white;"><br style="color: #222222; text-align: start;" /></span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">All that's left is a 'parade lap' up the coast and to Nome.</span></span></div>
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    <i><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">"Mmmmph! &nbsp;MMMMMPH!"</span></i></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Finding yourself mid-pack amongst the Iditarod racers means you're gonna have a lot of company.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Creative storage opportunities continued to present themselves on the Snoots.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Flat. &nbsp;Drat. &nbsp;Backtracked to a shelter cabin and fixed it slowly, patiently, while taking story with the neat guy that already had fire going when I arrived.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Overcast gave way to god-light about an hour before dark thirty. &nbsp;Thankfully I was there, with camera, to notice.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Yet more company. &nbsp;I like this kind.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">My pace dropped dramatically after dark, yet somehow I didn't feel like stopping just yet. &nbsp;Too much to see and speculate on to shut 'er down so soon.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Curiosity killed the ___.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">I crashed out in the Old Woman cabin for a few hours, sleeping poorly due to all of the commotion inside. &nbsp;By now I should know *much* better, but when it's late and I'm both tired and hungry it's too easy to duck in when shelter presents itself.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">While melting snow I perused the guestbook, alternately smiling and fighting back nostalgic tears at some of the entries therein.</span></div>
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  34. #34
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
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    8,944

    Coasting.

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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">A bluebird morning greeted everyone along the trail, and although I cannot speak for my fellow travelers, *I* knew today was going to be an exceptional day for travel.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">It always is.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">I briefly chatted with a group of slednecks over from Galena for the weekend. &nbsp;Interesting how the concept of the roadtrip is the same in AK, but the execution and fine details are so different.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">The last ~two hours into Unalakleet were delightful: hardpacked trail, not enough wind to matter, and sun on my back. &nbsp;I've waited out storms here in the past and it's a great place to do exactly that. &nbsp;The lack of any sort of storm had me positively jonesing to&nbsp;<i>ride</i>. &nbsp;After all of the downtime in the Interior and slogging on the Yukon, it was finally time.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Not so fast. &nbsp;Despite the fact that I'd shipped a box of food and camera batts here over 4 weeks before, the P.O. peeps couldn't locate it. &nbsp;After some halfhearted searching on their part succeeded only in wasting time, I rolled down to the AC and re-upped on ~2 days of cheap junk food. &nbsp;Peanut butter cups and Mike &amp; Ike's featured prominently. &nbsp;I narrowly avoided the jalapeño chicken corn dogs (what could go wrong?!) in the hotbox near the checkout.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">On the coast, finally.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Appearances can be deceiving: it doesn't snow much in or around Unk, but it blows like hell often. &nbsp;Drifts in the lee of, um,&nbsp;</span><i style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">everything</i><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">&nbsp;are common, while bare spots on the windward sides are the norm.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Friendly local with interesting stories to share. &nbsp;Tires in his truck bed just arrived from Amazon. &nbsp;</span><i style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">"Free shipping--ha!"</i></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">After too much time spent&nbsp;</span><i style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">not</i><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">&nbsp;riding on a day that seemed so perfect for doing just that, I finally escaped the gravitational pull of Unk and headed for the Blueberry Hills.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Even when you're not looking directly at it, the influence of Besboro can be seen and felt constantly. &nbsp;Just a giant hostile, otherworldly, alien-looking rock sticking up outta the sea. &nbsp;I've vacillated between wanting to set foot on it and not countless times. &nbsp;Currently standing pat at 'not'. &nbsp;Scares the hell outta me for some reason.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Egavik River under there somewhere. &nbsp;Looks like not much, but the well-tended fish camp at the mouth says otherwise.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">My last trip through here featured the most intense bonk I'll ever be a part of, such that I had difficulty removing my bike from the trail tread before falling asleep next to it. &nbsp;Riding wasn't on the agenda then--I was happy just to remain awake and ~upright the bulk of that day. &nbsp;Today couldn't have been more different. &nbsp;I had energy to not only ride but to borderline fly up some of the hills. &nbsp;Traction and float were non-issues, meaning determination and a little skill were enough to ride pretty much everything. &nbsp;After the 3rd or 4th summit I dropped all the way back to the coast in time to say sayonara to daylight.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">A few hours later I found a recently constructed (and empty of occupants) shelter cabin with a commanding view of, well, this:</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">And that pretty much put the finishing touches on an incredible day.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">I woke deep in the night with hopes of photogeeking the aurora, but they'd already come and gone or simply never made an appearance.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Morning. &nbsp;Bluebird, again--after the red skies dissipated.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Minutes up the trail I got yet another stellar view looking north to Shaktoolik. &nbsp;As I shot this one I wondered what the conspicuous white towers were, not remembering them from previous trips through.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Right where you exit the hills and arrive at the coast this teeny little derelict cabin sits. &nbsp;Only once in my travels along the trail have I ever considered using it, but on that day I *needed* it. &nbsp;During the '02 race to Nome a constant need for low tire pressures had nearly killed my rear tire by this point. &nbsp;I borrowed a needle and thread from a Swiss snowmachiner and spent ~2 hours, sitting on a mangy polar bear hide, sewing the biggest holes in my tire ~shut. &nbsp;During those hours a tempest raged outside, knocking riders off of sleds and even tipping some of the sleds over. &nbsp;At sunset it was like someone flipped a switch and the wind just fizzled out. &nbsp;Riding the next 10 miles into Shaktoolik felt like crossing a DMZ just minutes after cease-fire had been declared. &nbsp;A real gift, and not one to be taken for granted.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">You have to wonder if the bullet holes happened before or after it crashed.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Looking back over a rock-hard trail at Old Shaktoolik.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Turns out the white towers are windmills. &nbsp;Nice to see them there, in one of the windiest places I've ever been. &nbsp;Curious they weren't there decades ago--the wind sure was.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">When you live off the road system and your trash only gets taken out ~once a year, the dump can hold some pretty good finds.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Bummed musher with a young team that refused to cross the sea ice. &nbsp;Heading back to Shak to scratch.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Somewhere in this pic the land ends and the sea ice begins. &nbsp;Hard to tell exactly where the transition happens, and more or less irrelevant. &nbsp;Squint real hard and spot a bright orange cabin just to the right of Little Mountain. &nbsp;If ever you travel this way, it's a great place to plot strategy or nap a bit while waiting out a blow. &nbsp;The trail *always* goes right to it before heading out onto the ice. &nbsp;From there you'll not touch land again for ~40ish miles to Koyuk.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Looking back at Little Mountain, with a&nbsp;</span><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fata_Morgana_(mirage)" style="background-color: white; color: #888888; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; text-decoration: none;" target="_blank">fata morgana</a><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">&nbsp;of Besboro lifting itself above the horizon.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">A few hours later, again looking back.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Getting the picture? &nbsp;Other than minor variances in the surface (like this pressure ridge, below) not much changes on the ice.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Not to say that the riding conditions don't vary, just that external stimuli taper off dramatically.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">This trip across the ice went down as easily as any I've done. &nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Clear skies, -15º</span><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">, and not enough wind to matter. &nbsp;I</span><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">&nbsp;saw not one human, plane, sled, or dog team in&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">the whole 7 hours out. &nbsp;Quietest place I've ever been. &nbsp;10th time on&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">this trip I thought that.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Put another way, I traveled something like 7 miles an hour, for 7 hours, with moderate effort and no real breaks.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Notice anything in that last sentence?</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">First time I actually paid attention to&nbsp;<i>speed&nbsp;</i>on this trip. &nbsp;OK maybe the second--after the Yukon.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">In the meat of the sea ice crossing you can't see land, which had the effect of turning my attention inward. &nbsp;I had time to think, and nothing to distract me from it.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">After I lost interest in racing this route, I needed something to fill the writ-large&nbsp;void that was left. &nbsp;Around that time, Kathi Merchant clued me into the South Pole&nbsp;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Pole_Traverse" style="color: #888888; text-decoration: none;" target="_blank">traverse</a>, and it's no longer a secret that I spent several years intensely focused on achieving that goal. &nbsp;Some part of the attraction was the promise of priority--of being first to ride a bicycle from the coast to Pole. &nbsp;But I really just wanted to see the Antarctic continent from the saddle of my bike, preferably with a camera in hand.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">My&nbsp;<a href="http://lacemine29.blogspot.com/2010/12/iditatour-part-one.html" style="color: #888888; text-decoration: none;" target="_blank">self-supported</a>&nbsp;traverse to Nome was one enormous step toward achieving that goal. &nbsp;In all the years of research, prep, and planning that I did to get ready, I learned that the views down south were likely to disappoint: Once you leave the coast, with few exceptions, you're looking at flat and white from horizon to horizon.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Where am I going with this?</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: arial; text-align: start;">Time spent on the Yukon and again crossing the sea ice was enough for&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: arial; text-align: start;">me, in an honest moment, to realize that I had zero real interest in&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: arial; text-align: start;">heading down south. &nbsp;Just two days of monotony (one and a half on the big river, half of one here on the ice) and nothing fun or even&nbsp;</span><span style="text-align: start;"><span style="font-family: arial;">enjoyable about the riding was overwhelming. &nbsp;I travel by bike to be able to see and document what's next--to explore and&nbsp;learn about my surroundings by simple, direct immersion. &nbsp;</span></span></div>
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    <span style="text-align: start;"><span style="font-family: arial;">The Iditarod Trail has that sort of thing in spades--there is something new around every corner. &nbsp;There are actually corners.</span></span></div>
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    <span style="text-align: start;"><span style="font-family: arial;"><br /></span></span></div>
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    <span style="text-align: start;"><span style="font-family: arial;">In Antartica the route would be flat, straight, monotonous, sterile.</span></span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: arial; text-align: start;">No need to torture&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: arial; text-align: start;">myself by committing to it for 3+ weeks.</span></div>
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    <span style="text-align: start;"><span style="font-family: arial;">Somewhere out there on the ice of Norton Sound, metronomically ticking out miles while caring less and less about them, my South Pole dream died.</span></span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">More fatas approaching Koyuk.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Hours later I was across, into Koyuk, celebrating spring with friends old and new in a town I've always had a soft spot for.</span></div>
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  35. #35
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    8,944

    Well blow me down.

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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">16 hours spent in Koyuk waiting for the P.O. to open allowed ample opportunity to rest, socialize with the mushers and checkers, mend some gear, even time to get online and book a flight outta Nome. &nbsp;This last is a critical detail: At Iditarod time all outgoing flights are full well in advance. &nbsp;Sneaking onto one last-minute simply doesn't happen.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">So I took a long look at the weather forecasts, made some educated guesses about what the trail might be like (based on what it had <i>been </i>like), gave myself what felt like a reasonable buffer in case something changed, then went ahead and booked a flight.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">In an odd twist, First Class tickets cost less than coach. &nbsp;<i>What the hell&nbsp;</i>I thought, <i>I'm worth it...</i></span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Chores done I rolled back onto the ice and skirted the coastline heading west. &nbsp;Getting over the Isaac's Point headland was work, punctuated by nearly getting creamed by a sledneck in a blind corner. &nbsp;Before I got too riled up about our near-miss I realized that I'd probably been descending *at least* as fast as he'd been climbing, and as such deserved half the blame.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Nice to have such good trail conditions to cause 'problems' like that.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">I poked my head into the Kwik River shelter cabin, found it a bit out of sorts, then spent ~30 minutes paying it forward. &nbsp;I've been stuck here in ground blizzards and know how nice it is to find dry kindling and wood stacked inside, and the drift shoveled away from the door allowing easy access with numb fingers. &nbsp;</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Moments after leaving the cabin the trail changed course, heading more WSW, and with that change the wind had instantly filled in the trail tread.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">At least it was a nice day for a walk.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Moses Point aka Old Elim. &nbsp;Must be good fishing still.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">As the afternoon wore on the wind increased. &nbsp;The walking never got any harder, nor did the routefinding. &nbsp;You just had to be patient and unwind the miles a step at a time.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">At roughly dark thirty I reached a recently bladed road and was able to motor the last ~mile into Elim. &nbsp;Hordes of kids greeted me, all outside playing and laughing in the twilight.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><i>(Remember when kids played outside?!)</i></span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Although the volunteers at the Elim checkpoint were gracious and kind and funny, doing everything they could to entice me to stay the night there, I had a sense that the wind was only going to increase and as such I was going to need extra time to get to Nome.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">So I wolfed some leftover pizza then excused myself for a few night miles.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">The trail out of Elim vanished immediately, blown completely in since the last musher passed ~40 minutes before. &nbsp;But it was well marked and I simply walked a few miles til the Walla Walla shelter cabin came into view in the wee hours.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Later I woke to pee, and the first thing my barely-open eyes focused on was the window. &nbsp;</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Figuring I could catch up on sleep in June, I chose to burn a few hours out under the influence of the aurora.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">In the morning I woke to the&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">jingling</span><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">&nbsp;of dog harnesses, then breakfasted while learning from Mike. &nbsp;He's mushing because he enjoys it, and lives in </span><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akiak,_Alaska" style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">a place</a><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"> where it makes some sense, but he also uses it as a platform to advocate for&nbsp;</span><a href="http://iditarod.com/race/2013/mushers/89-Mike-Williams-Sr/" style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;" target="_blank">sobriety</a><span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Watching his dogs pull him out of sight was the first time my attention fully collected on the ripping ground blizzard outside the door.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">The shot below was taken out the window of the cabin, looking up at Mount Kwiniuk several miles away. &nbsp;That plume is a few miles long, and the taller tendrils at right are a few hundred feet high...</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Having been in exactly this spot in exactly these conditions before, I had zero illusions about what awaited. &nbsp;</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">As I collected gear and loaded the bike, I dressed myself not for the big climb up Little McKinley but instead for the 100+ mph winds that awaited near the top. &nbsp; &nbsp;</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Loading the bike in the lee of the cabin caused me to giggle with nervous anticipation: Even sheltered as I was the wind knocked me around with ease.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">I went back inside for one last look around, and to have a little talk with myself. &nbsp;13 years ago nearly to the day, I left this cabin and walked blithely up this hill into an ever worsening tempest, figuring when it started to get really bad I'd just layer up.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Things worsened so fast I never got the chance to do that, and found myself in a tenuous position--hypothermic and unable to move to get warm. &nbsp;If I ever finish writing my damn book I'll share that story in detail.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">I wondered if I'd learned anything from that experience? &nbsp;Or in the ensuing decade+? &nbsp;</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">The climb starts innocuously enough--you work away from the coast and slowly out of&nbsp;treeline. &nbsp; Winds were less than 60mph here--I couldn't pedal through it (couldn't keep the bike on the trail) but walking was fine.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">As I was leaving the last stand of spindly trees a gust caught me leaning, knocked me to the ground. &nbsp;It pressed harder and harder on my back, squeezing me against the snow. &nbsp;I waited 3, 5, 8 breaths for it to lull, then stood and levered the bike back up. &nbsp;</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Before I could resume motion a snowmachine appeared out of the drift, stopping inches from my front tire. &nbsp;The rider opened his shield and leaned right up next to my ear, then shouted to be heard<i>, "You're about to head into some really bad ****!"</i></span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">I wondered how much worse it would get, but conversation was nigh-on impossible so I didn't ask for details.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">I leaned over and grabbed his helmet, shouting back into his ear,<i> "I know--but thanks for the warning."</i></span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">His eyes got real wide and he shook his head slowly as I resumed pushing up.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Wind does the darnedest things with dog****.</span></div>
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    <a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/M23F--nRZNK-HwmPg4KaFaJ12wDjHmMri_n2hKwEfoI?feat=embedwebsite" ><img src="https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-KUyVh8sI50c/UxC9b31K-fI/AAAAAAAAoRo/u_hXYRkqrB4/s1600/4A4B2487.jpg" /></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Once out of the trees it's go-time. &nbsp;You can't stop to fiddle, pee, adjust, or eat, you just have to keep going. &nbsp;The concept of 'trail' across the top of McKinley is different: Because the wind blows so often and with such force there is no loose snow left, merely a scoured surface not unlike styrofoam. &nbsp;You do what you can to follow the markers that haven't blown away, but your course is dictated by the wind. &nbsp;</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">About here I stopped trying to photogeek--my hands would be numb before I could get the camera unholstered.</span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; text-align: start;"><span style="color: #222222; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">I expected (and hoped) that as I topped out and started down I'd find some sort of protected hollow that I could pause and collect&nbsp;myself in. &nbsp;That never happened. &nbsp;In fact the wind just kept getting stronger and stronger, pushing the bike (with both brakes on) faster than I could run (<i>looong</i> loping strides) along with it. &nbsp;Repeatedly I'd stumble and augur in, then lay still for a moment, letting my&nbsp;heart rate come down a bit but also pausing just long enough to convince myself that I still had some semblance of control of the situation.</span></span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><span style="background-color: white; text-align: start;"><span style="color: #222222;">I was as prepared as I knew how to be but things just&nbsp;</span></span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">kept escalating and there was no way out but to keep moving deeper&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">into it. &nbsp;I haven't been ragdolled like that since my college football&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">player/neanderthal roommate tossed me around 20+ years ago. &nbsp;Really memorable&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">experiences, both of them.</span></span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">About the time that my adrenal gland had been slapped empty I bottomed out onto Golovnin Bay, then fought the now-quartering wind for a few clicks into Golovin. &nbsp;Knowing that there were friendlies in White Mountain I rolled right through town, wanting to make it ~18 more miles before shutting it down for the night.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">I was less than 1 minute out of Golovin when I got knocked down the first time. &nbsp;I stood and levered the bike up against the wind, started pushing again, got flattened again. &nbsp;While attempting to lever the bike up after the third one, I heard a mechanical screaming and cringed--reflexively assuming I was about to get plowed by a snowmachine. &nbsp;Instead it was an ATV, and the man driving it knew I was there. &nbsp;He jumped off and shouted at me, "<i>I don't think you should go. &nbsp;It's gonna get worse the farther you get. &nbsp;Come stay with us--my Mom just&nbsp;threw a pork chop in a pan for you."</i></span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">I'll always wonder if he was genuinely concerned or just gambling on what a sucker I am for pig.</span></div>
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  36. #36
    mtbr member
    Reputation: veloborealis's Avatar
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    I was enjoying another scenic photo spin (from the comfort of my computer and couch) through the great frozen north, when the shot of your weathered (windburned?) face shocked me back into the reality of your undertaking. I live up here and know these conditions firsthand. I don't go out in them. If it were anyone but you (and a scant few others) I would call you foolhardy, but instead I'll extend my awe and respect. Fabulous series, Mike!

    And the dog**** pic was a hoot.
    The older I get the better I was...

  37. #37
    is buachail foighneach me
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    Awesome stuff, Mike! Looking forward to the last leg!

  38. #38
    This place needs an enema
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    No place like Golovin. Or Nome.

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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">The evening I spent in Golovin, in the company of the Punguk's, was among the most memorable of any I've spent in Alaska. &nbsp;Or anywhere else. &nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">Walter plucked me from the storm and brought me inside. &nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">Kathy made sure I had plenty to eat and drink. &nbsp;Tommy talked ceaselessly and for hours about hunting, fishing, war, intra-village communications, and every other subject that seemed dear to him.</span></span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">Tommy's hearing isn't as great as it could be, meaning all I had to do was sit back and listen (maybe an&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">occasional nod of recognition) to the way things used to be, as well&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">as why they are the way they are <i>now</i>. &nbsp;He flitted back and forth between past and&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">present, describing Golovin and White Mountain in the 50's, learning to hunt,&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">fish, trap, and skin, occasionally whipping out his cell phone to share&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">pictures of friends and family outside.</span></span><br />
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">I stayed up hours later than I should have, enraptured with this gift of a glimpse into the way things used to be in this very place. &nbsp;Squint real hard and it doesn't look much different on the surface. &nbsp;The most obvious change? &nbsp;Snowmachines are faster, better able to take you deeper before breaking down and leaving you with an even longer walk home.</span></span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">The wind hadn't abated much by morning, but at least now I could see. </span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Sastrugified puppy prints.</span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">White Mountain sits on a hillside with some protection provided by both topography and trees. &nbsp;It always feels good, warm somehow, to arrive here. &nbsp;Even in a wind, even if you don't enter a building.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Knowing the wind was waiting for me in the hills, I didn't stay long.</span><br />
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    <a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-STVG9k2YVg0/UxDXyWbr1QI/AAAAAAAAoUk/w-sLLiHsJV0/s1600/4A4B2593.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-STVG9k2YVg0/UxDXyWbr1QI/AAAAAAAAoUk/w-sLLiHsJV0/s1600/4A4B2593.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Trails are marked for the dog race with orange-topped lath, which doesn't last very long. &nbsp;Typically the locals begin to 'harvest' it minutes after the last musher leaves their village. &nbsp;Tripods are much more common, as they are much more resistant to being blown down, over, or away. &nbsp;The tripods through the Topkok Hills and along the coast to Nome are built closer to structures, and <i>closer together</i>, than anywhere else along the trail, testament to the frequency and force of the local wind.</span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">The Topkok's aren't big but they <i>are </i>steep, especially with tired legs.</span><br />
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    <a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ZfRgGkHkMuU/UxDX0FXUZEI/AAAAAAAAoU0/1548DTGl94w/s1600/4A4B2611.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ZfRgGkHkMuU/UxDX0FXUZEI/AAAAAAAAoU0/1548DTGl94w/s1600/4A4B2611.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">One of the few times on the trip where I legitimately envied those on snowmachines, and particularly their ability to throttle up to skip/surf across overflowed creeks.</span><br />
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    <a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-l2G1-amy0K0/UxDX1Crp90I/AAAAAAAAoU8/PcFLbY4kgAU/s1600/4A4B2626.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-l2G1-amy0K0/UxDX1Crp90I/AAAAAAAAoU8/PcFLbY4kgAU/s1600/4A4B2626.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">I've never been seriously tempted to dig into this A-frame for shelter, largely because it seems like such an uninviting place to stop and then have to restart from.</span></div>
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    <a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-LB9sZePEVpE/UxDX1-8NTVI/AAAAAAAAoVE/oocadt5YxuA/s1600/4A4B2629.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-LB9sZePEVpE/UxDX1-8NTVI/AAAAAAAAoVE/oocadt5YxuA/s1600/4A4B2629.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Clouds billowing offshore signal your proximity to the coast. &nbsp;This was the last hill before descending back to sea level for the final time.</span><br />
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    <a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ar-bbCeFJGs/UxDX2vtc-TI/AAAAAAAAoVM/Vw7t7ErEglU/s1600/4A4B2634.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ar-bbCeFJGs/UxDX2vtc-TI/AAAAAAAAoVM/Vw7t7ErEglU/s1600/4A4B2634.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">If it's ~100 miles to get to Nome from Golovin, the trail is already&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">drifting over, my flight out is in 24 hours, and a 'major wind event'&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">is already happening (and forecast to increase), how long will it take&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">me to get there?</span></span><br />
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">The answer, of course, was "<i>two fistfuls of Trader Joe's peanut butter cups, three of Mike&nbsp;</i></span><i><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">&amp; Ike's, a smattering of deep fried onions smunched into a wad of&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">eskimo fry bread, all washed down with two Pepsi's, a Coke, and a&nbsp;</span></i><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;"><i>Sprite.</i>"</span></span><br />
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    <a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-3_wmwl7-z94/UxDX3TfxfZI/AAAAAAAAoVU/pK0eDHjtSYo/s1600/4A4B2645.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-3_wmwl7-z94/UxDX3TfxfZI/AAAAAAAAoVU/pK0eDHjtSYo/s1600/4A4B2645.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Nomeite Phil Hosfstetter woke in the wee hours, checked my SPOT beacon status, then dressed and drove a handful of miles out to greet me where the trail meets pavement. &nbsp;I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thrilled to be greeted. &nbsp;Little things mean a lot in the middle of a storm in the dark of night. </span><br />
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    <div style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; color: black; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: center; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px;">
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">I followed Phil home and slept briefly on his couch before waking to share toys, stories, smiles, and blueberry pancakes with his lovely wife and beautiful, funny, gregarious kids.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Epilogue to follow.</span></div>

  39. #39
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
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    8,944

    Idita-epilogue.

    <div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;">
    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">As I reclined comfortably in my first-class seat, fizzy beverage in hand, looking down from 30,000' at the country I'd just spent 3 weeks toiling across, the thought process rolling through my brain went something like this:</span></div>
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    <a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-QVwu_ulr5GA/Ux_DSYbcXYI/AAAAAAAAoXg/EgCp_AaBzT8/s1600/4A4B2681.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-QVwu_ulr5GA/Ux_DSYbcXYI/AAAAAAAAoXg/EgCp_AaBzT8/s1600/4A4B2681.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">I'm pretty sure I'm done Idita-ing. &nbsp;There are <i><b>lots</b></i> of enjoyable sections&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">of The Trail that I would love to see and experience again, but given what a gamble it&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">is with weather and trail conditions, as well as how much $$$$ goes&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">into just trying, I feel like I've seen what I need to see. &nbsp;4 complete trips to Nome, 5 as far as Unk, 7 to McGrath. &nbsp;</span></span></div>
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    <span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Enough.</span></span></div>
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    <a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-vhH1Mc_So5o/Ux_DTbjC9ZI/AAAAAAAAoXo/pW8BGx7xNoQ/s1600/4A4B2689.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-vhH1Mc_So5o/Ux_DTbjC9ZI/AAAAAAAAoXo/pW8BGx7xNoQ/s1600/4A4B2689.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">That, and there's a lotta&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">this big wide world I haven't seen yet, and that doesn't smell like&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: white; color: #222222; text-align: start;">diesel fuel and dog****. &nbsp;</span></span></div>
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    <a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-_dHyxJf6o9w/Ux_DUI7W2hI/AAAAAAAAoXw/WmFjjTGn7vs/s1600/4A4B2700.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-_dHyxJf6o9w/Ux_DUI7W2hI/AAAAAAAAoXw/WmFjjTGn7vs/s1600/4A4B2700.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">I <i>did </i>have a wild-hair type idea while slogging from Iditarod to Shageluk at .2mph: Why not organize a relay of sorts to see just how fast the Iditarod Trail can be done under human power? &nbsp;</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Inspired by the Serum Run way back when, we'd assemble 15 or 20 past/present racers, let them choose the section they want to ride, have Red Bull foot the bill and film it, and be able to ride fast and light across one of the most incredible backcountry routes on this planet. &nbsp;Across the whole damn state of Alaska.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Over the course of a day-and-a-half of postholing I imagined then addressed each of the attendant parts of such an undertaking.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Then an opportunistic badass named&nbsp;<a href="http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20140305/iditarod-invitational-cyclist-rides-fat-tired-bike-mind-boggling-race-record">Jeff Oatley</a> crushed the living hell out of the course this year, going faster than anyone ever imagined possible with course conditions that were, honestly, unimaginable. &nbsp;10 freaking days.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">I believe that right there is the answer to '<i>how fast can it be done</i>'. &nbsp;I don't believe anyone will come within 4 or even 5 days of that pace again--at least not in my lifetime.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">So that answered that.</span></div>
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    <a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-1iwFTSXsjfg/Ux_DWCLqbFI/AAAAAAAAoYA/2EFLM4Gw-Sw/s1600/4A4B2716.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-1iwFTSXsjfg/Ux_DWCLqbFI/AAAAAAAAoYA/2EFLM4Gw-Sw/s1600/4A4B2716.jpg" /></span></a></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">If someone&nbsp;<i>else&nbsp;</i>gets a wild hair to organize such a relay, I'll throw my hat in for Elim to Golovin.</span></div>
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    <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">You can reach me here.</span></div>
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