The dust has cleared and the smoke settled down


The race ended yesterday in high drama for the front runners, and over the last few days of their amazing journey along the coast of the Bering Sea my writing focused entirely on their heroic efforts, struggling to capture the true poetry of their adventure.

Of course I know that there is a lot more to the Iditarod than who lands in the top five in Nome–when John Baker was pulling onto Front Street, the current Red Lantern holder Ellen Halverson was looking for Kaltag, and in between these two teams was a whole mess of dog mushing being done–still is.

Several days before this year’s race began, I ran two stories titled Very Upsetting & Restructuring the Hierarchy–the point of both being that I thought that this was going to be a “funny” year in terms of what was going to happen to the competition on the miles between Anchorage and Nome–and I could not have been more right. Just look at the top fifteen finishing teams–not a single former champion in the group. John Baker, not only the first Inupiat Eskimo to ever champion the event, but also the fastest driver to ever attempt it in the first place.

Just turn your attention to the list of scratched/withdrawn mushers–not only is it lengthy, the sheer quality of  most of names on that list is nothing short of staggering. Melissa Owens, out with a bum ankle in Rainy Pass. Early race favorite Paul Gebhardt out with a shattered team at Nikolai. Mitch Seavey accidentally severs his finger from its mooring trying to open a bale of hay at Ophir, a maneuver he’s managed literally thousands of times before without mishap. Robert Buntzen, hunkered down on the merciless ice of Norton Sound for almost thirty hours because of a team that simply did not want to continue–he finally got them moving, limped into Koyuk and wisely called it a day. The list goes on, but the point that I take home from this is that the Iditarod flat out gobbles up good teams & drivers like trail snacks, and this just makes the drivers who got to Nome successfully all the more impressive.

There are still dogs out on the trail, and it’s going to take them a few days to complete their journey–I’ll stick with them on this blog until they do. Starting tonight, I’ll begin a series of posts examining that portion of the race.

Thanks for tuning in–more to follow…

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4 Responses to “The dust has cleared and the smoke settled down”

  1. Marlene Phillips-Daniels Reply March 16, 2011 at 11:37

    Thanks Jason, There’s been very little of the stories of the happenings on the trail—-seems like just bloggers like yourself, Kevin. Why is it, do you suppose that the powers that be cannot accept that there are fans worldwide that want to know about ALL of the mushers—-even after the winner is in. While following the “new” race with all of the electronics, I always get my scrapbook out [the one I kept when I was teaching and my kids were involved in the race]. WOW the stories we could get online WITH PICTURES !!. Wonderful stories, personal stories.
    Thank goodness, now, for the bloggers tell tell the real story instead of just the GameBoy game of the Trackers.
    Thank you for staying with all of the mushers.

    • Well, to some extent I, too, am guilty of covering the front runners almost too heavily–but I agree, it is very important to remember that there are more than just 3-5 mushers competing any given year! I’ll be continuing to write about these guys & gals until its officially “over”! Who is this “Kevin” you mentioned?

  2. I’ve appreciated your insightful comments on the ITC Facebook page, and will enjoy following your Blog.

  3. Thanks Jason for remembering The Rest of The Pack As Don Bowers,(RIP) would say, “The Back of the Pack” For those who have not read his book, it is a Great read.

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