Last year, our White Pine Group's Outings Chair, Barb Cooey, flew to Alaska at this time of year and served as a volunteer at Iditarod Race headquarters in Anchorage answering school children's questions emailed to Zurna, the Iditarod Husky, and other duties such as packing gear boxes for checkpoint workers and learning to handle a powerful husky on a leash. She applied as a volunteer again this year and knowing that ham radio operators have agood chance of getting a position at a checkpoint out on the trail, she studied with the local ham radio club and passed the operator's test in August. And, she DID get an assignment this year for the Grayling Checkpoint on the frozen Yukon River, but will not have to do ham radio communication. She will be a regular volunteer with duties such as dragging bales of hay to be bedding for the many teams that may layover there as one of the optional locations for a required 8-hour layover for all the mushers while on the Yukon Riyer section. Volunteers will care for the dog teams while the mushers rest.
Also, last year we featured native lowan musher, Mike Jaynes, who as a rookie finished an excellent 25th; and a Wisconsin rookie musher, Glenn Lockwood, from near Madison who received the Red Lantern Award given to the last place finisher as a symbol of "stick-to-itiveness".
This year we will follow the progress of native lowan and former Iowa University wrestler, rookie musher Matt Anderson, now living in Pinedale, WY; and Ben Stamm from Argyle, Wl, only about 50 miles from Dubuque. Ben was the first musher from Wisconsin to finish the Iditarod and has done so twice. Barb flew for Anchorage from Chicago on March 4, and after a couple of days of orientation there she will be flown to Grayling to prepare the area for the arrival of the mushers and to assist them when they do arrive. The official start of the race from Willow was also on the afternoon of March 4.
Some websites offer all sorts of information about the race and racers: http://www.iditarod.com/ and http://www.cabelasiditarod.com/ provide free coverage of race progress and other details and special interest reports. Checking the weather forecast for Grayling for Wednesday, March 7, the expected high temperature was 5 below with the nighttime low was expected to reach 30 below. It was to warm upon Friday to 10 above and only 15 below.
The following are some examples of details provided on the websites:
There are 27 checkpoints on this year's route, including the finish In Nome. Among the bigger checkpoints is Unalakleet (population 714). Some checkpoints are put in only for the race. Rohn and Iditarod, for instance, have no permanent residents. Most of stops, however, are in villages that usually have a small store, phone service and limited lodging.
Ophir to Iditarod: 90 miles
Iditarod to Shageluk: 65 miles
Shageluk to Anvik: 25 miles
Anvik to Grayling: 18 miles
Grayling to Eagle Island: 60 miles
Eagle Island to Kaltag: 70miles
Kaltag to Unalakleet: 90 miles
The approximate distance for the 2007 trail is 1112 miles, although it is always "officially" referred to as 1049 miles in honor of Alaska, being the 49th state to enter into the Union. The exact distance varies each year, due to variations caused by seasonal conditions.