Ear Lobes, Firewood Etiquette, Burled Arches: A Complicated Sport
“Here,” says Spence, “straight from Alaska, the latest from Rebecca of Snowhook Kennel, ‘our’ team in the 2012 (and many more, we hope) Iditarod Race. For those just tuning in, AJ is her husband and the musher.”
“Where does that word musher come from?” Admin says.
“Five bucks says B. Stover will help us out with that by lunchtime.”
“Since when do we eat lunch?”
Lunch? I open my eyes. I’ve got nothing against lunch. In fact, I’m all for it.
More times than not, the weather on the coast plays a leading role in the race, as we saw on Tuesday where AJ and other teams waited the weather out in Unalakleet before they could move onto Shaktoolik. Usually it’s the weather on the coast, but not always. In 2010 AJ lost part of his ear lobe in a sudden drop in temperature accompanied by a ground blizzard in the first third of the race. Last year, it was warm. AJ stripped to his base layer of fleece and bibs as he ran and pushed the sled up hills to ease the dogs’ load.
As AJ progresses along the coast we may see he and other teams stop for extended periods in the same spot. These spots aren’t checkpoints, but are safety cabins along the trail where shelter and refuge can be found from the elements. It is not uncommon to wait out the weather in one of these safety cabins. Trail etiquette dictates that you replace the firewood you used for the next individual who may stop. And, whether or not it is etiquette, it is common place to sign your name on the walls of the safety cabin—at least the cabin I visited in 2007.
AJ is on the coast headed for Nome, and I am packing to do the same. I will wait out the remainder of the race in Nome so I can be there when the siren sounds, the team runs up Front Street and crosses under the burled arch.
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