Out of Rohn


The checkpoint of Rohn is just gorgeous--if it wasn’t smack dab in the middle of nowhere, you might want to live there–it’s set in a shaggy old forest of big spruce trees and mature birch with very little in the way of underbrush to keep you from easily parking your team and moving about. Once you leave the checkpoint, you travel for barely a hundred yards before emerging from the woods and dropping onto a wide expanse of river bottom and delta country–slick, glare ice and bands of exposed gravel bar for as far as your headlamp can shine…and reflectors going everywhere.

You blast out of the woods and go skating across this treacherous surface like a shot from a cannon, and if you’re the first driver over this stretch, there is no “trail” for your leaders to follow–you have to (quickly) make sense out of this jumble of markers dating from the mid seventies to the present day–keeping in mind that most leaders are trained to follow your headlamp beam under these circumstances, and if you’re pointing your light the wrong way while trying to figure this riddle out, it’s a good bet that your team is thinking about blasting that way, too, and if they are, you’d best start praying that your brake tines are the sharp kind.

Do I need to tell that if you’re driving a powerful team over this surface, one that is strong enough to pull a 1-ton truck from a ditch, that your heart is in your throat, that your pulse is exploding against your eardrums and you can’t breathe properly for those minutes it takes to reach the far shore?

No, I think you get it.

And you do reach the far shore, a narrow cut in an ominous forest, forest so tight and thick that you couldn’t get off the trail if your life depended on it–the entrance to the Buffalo Tunnels.

It is here where things become truly interesting.

It is through this country that Lance Mackey now leads the Iditarod.

Thanks for tuning in–more to follow…

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5 Responses to “Out of Rohn”

  1. go baby Go… I want more Jason…lol

  2. Michael DeMarco Reply March 7, 2011 at 21:54

    The section between Rohn and Nikolai is a game changer. A lot can happen very quickly in the dark. This is one of those critical sections that go along way to determining who wins the race. The old trail we ran in 1978 broke over to Farewell then right through the heart of the Farewell burn. The burn was in the summer of 1977 and the trail through the burn was barely cut through just a couple days before the race. It was a nightmare. My “dark night of the soul.” You learn a lot about yourself. Thirty three years later I’m still working with it.

    • Great comment, Michael–“dark night of the soul” is pure poetic gold! Thanks for the historical perspective–when I wrote my novel Ballad of the Northland I was seriously channeling those “early” years.

  3. I know Rachael said of her rookie run (and every run thereafter) “Forget Happy River Steps, forget the Gorge….the trail out of Rohn…..WHOA!!!!”

  4. wow !

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