We hung around in Dawson quite a long time after Rob had gone, clearing the camp, relaxing and deciding when was the right time to head down the trail to Pelly Crossing. The knowledge of being able to stay in a hotel bed versus sleeping on the floor in the gym at Pelly was a pretty strong argument for the extra night in Dawson. Once Rob had left we took a fairly slow time to get up to the camp and dismantle the “ex- tent” and its rope and wood support structure, to untie the ropes, to separate the “blades” from the ice that we had used to secure them so that the dogs’ drop lines could be secured. Then came the monumental tasks of packing all this stuff back into the truck and picking up and bagging nine bales of straw.
My one most clear observation of this year’s race is the way we have worked well together. That has applied as much when we were building the camp in Dawson as much as when we broke it down. Consequently we were away from the camp and able to take an afternoon off doing laundry but, sure enough, we decided to stay that extra night in Dawson and leave Monday.
It meant we got ourselves out and onto the road pretty early on Monday but in addition to an extra night of proper sleep Sunday night had brought a heavy fall of new snow. This made the drive from Dawson to Pelly “interesting”. In the picture below Louise’s car is directly in front of us but it is invisible in the spin drift off the back of the car.
Others were far more difficult for lack of sleep but this journey was probably the most difficult of the race for weather.
It is fair to say that the journey through the next two checkpoints and McCabe Creek dog drop were fairly unremarkable. Skits had developed a light injury that was watched through Pelly and McCabe and eventually resulted in him being dropped into our care in Carmacks to make sure he is fit for Iditarod.
That aside the only thing to note is that the weather was getting steadily warmer.
Throughout the first half of the race there had been much mocking of weather forecasts that promised that it would warm up from the -40c we had been living with in the first week. The promised warm up never seemed to come.
However with the snow in Dawson we finally started to see an easing of the temperature and as we went from Pelly to McCabe the temperature rose to be in single figures below freezing. This had worsened some overflow coming into McCabe just before the checkpoint where mushers were finding that they and their teams had to wade through 30 cm of water on the creek coming in to the checkpoint.
One remarkable thing to note in the photo above is that most of the dogs are looking at me, lay in the snow with the camera (thinking there’s another idiot like Julien Schroder). However the two young dogs in swing are looking to their right. This is H and Bennie who are running their first Quest. There are horses in the field on the right but the other dogs have all seen them before and remember them – H and Bennie are fascinated seeing them for the first time.
In a strange repeat of 2016 as we sat in McCabe Creek we watched the temperature rise to 0c while the team was in.
However the warming of the weather didn’t interfere with the plan and like in Pelly the team left McCabe on time and as planned.
In Carmacks Rob finally decided to drop Skits but this aside there was little remarkable. He ran in behind Dave Dalton, literally only 5 minutes after him and he had been travelling in that position for most of the journey from McCabe but he was unaware of the fact that they had been so close.
With Skits being dropped in Carmacks though there is the opportunity to talk about the handler’s role a little more. Skits was essentially dropped as a precaution to make sure that a minor foot injury didn’t prevent him from travelling to Iditarod. What happens when a dog is dropped is the paperwork is completed and the dog passes into the care of the handlers. This is where our role becomes important and we work with the vet to make sure that the dog gets the right treatment and then that we administer any appropriate medication once we have left the checkpoint.
With Skits’ swollen toe vets Jerry and John applied some cold compress treatment in the vets room – see below. Then he had a short course of medication to take down any residual swelling which was provided with clear instructions from the vets as to when and how much to administer. This is where handling turns from routine to interesting. The vets though make it pretty easy for the handlers!
So we left Carmacks with Skits. Rob left with twelve other happy dogs. And so on to Braeburn. We were now looking at the easy run in to the end of the race…….
Except of course we weren’t.