by Joe Runyan
The Iditarod Trail--Where it All Happens
Many mushers opt to satisfy the rules requirement to take their mandatory eight-hour Yukon rest at Grayling. The checkers, who are traditionally residents of the community, note the time of arrival and make it a point to tell the mushers when they are allowed to leave.
Usually, the sled is packed and the team booted for the trail about 10 minutes ahead of schedule. One of the volunteers at the checkpoint can help the musher get his team out of its resting place and back on the road in front of the old community hall. Usually, the sled is packed and the team booted for the trail about 10 minutes ahead of schedule. One of the volunteers at the checkpoint can help the musher get his team out of its resting place and back on the road in front of the old community hall. the checker's watch to turn eight hours. No one wants to waste time unnecessarily, so the team leaves Grayling promptly.
The community hall is about 100 yards from a slip that takes the team back down on the Yukon. Going from the calm and protected village checkpoint and then dropping 30 or 40 vertical feet back onto the river is like falling into the ice cream freezers at the supermarket. It is always colder on the Yukon, for reasons we have already discussed. The smart mushers know that and dress warm before they depart.
Ben Stamm, 58, was born on December 8, 1946. He is a veteran musher who has been racing for four years, from his home in Argyle, Wisconsin. Ben is a seasonal construction worker who enjoys running his dogs around farmer's fields, down bike and snowmobile trails.
Ben notes his most significant achievement, during the 2004 race he finished in 43rd place, while learning to overcome sleep deprivation. "My goal is to run as far as I can and as fast as I can and keep my dogs happy," he said. Ben uses X-back harnesses and a Hans Gatt sled.
"My team's greatest strength is that we raised all of our dogs from puppies and our ability to communicate with them. Their greatest weakness is not having the right terrain and weather conditions for training. We don't get a lot of snow in our area," he said.
Barb Cooey, while a volunteer at Grayling, will be wearing special mittens and overboots obtained to help her stay warm.