The treacherous trail conditions this year have taken their toll on mushers and dogs. 12 teams have scratched so far. Mushers hit the ground, sleds turned upside down, and dogs were sliding down steep slopes. Then again 57 teams are still in the race, some on record pace.
The bad luck of some gave us the opportunity to talk to mushers and listen to their story. Jim Lanier, 73, has run the Iditarod sixteen times! He always finished. Not this year. After a bad fall in the Steps he decided to scratch at Puntilla Lake. Scratched and bruised he spent two days with us, taking care of his dogs and himself. While he was boiling water on the ice and preparing food for his dogs I tried to pry information from him about his motivation. It was a clear morning. At 9 o’clock the temperature was about 10 degrees, but with a 10 knot breeze out of the North, it was admirable how this man worked the stove, filled the bowls with a hot mix of kibbles, fat and water placing the food in front of every dog with loving care, enticing them to eat.
“Why do you want to come back next year? What is your motivation?”
“Same as yours. Why do you spend the winter here.”
“Well, I am not really sure.”
So much for that. I guess the race is an adventure, raising and training dogs is a lifestyle. Once exposed to it and catching the bug you are hooked.
Interested in reading more about Jim first hand? He has written “Beyond Ophir“, confessions of an Iditarod musher, an Alaskan odyssey.
Musher, dogs, and sleds are being air lifted back to Anchorage in the coming days. It will be a long trip home.