Snow was falling, the temperature was perfect, and the sounds of dogs barking and howling filled the air. The stage was set for the Re-Start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and it doesn’t get much better than this!
As I arrived at the Willow Community Center, I could feel the excitement, but also that today was more serious. It was “go time” for these mushers, and they were ready for the long journey ahead. Some mushers had family surrounding them and were enjoying their company, some were talking with handlers, but all were focused on the race.
This year there was a change at the beginning of the race. Instead of starting on the Willow Lake, the start was at the top of the hill leading down to the lake. The move was necessary because of the effects of the earthquake on Willow Lake. I overheard many spectators saying how they liked this change because it gave them more opportunities to see the mushers leaving the starting line.
I again had the pleasure of being a dog handler. I handled for Emily Maxwell and Michi Konno, both running their second Iditarod. It was beautiful to see and hear the appreciation these mushers had for the volunteers. Both Emily and Michi spent time thanking each handler for their help before we left the waiting area and at the starting line.
As the last musher left Willow, I had a sense of excitement and sadness. I am excited to be following these mushers for the next few weeks along the trail to Nome, but sad that this day has ended. It was an excellent experience, and I wanted it to last much longer.
With all the mushers out of Willow, the journey begins along the trail. The first stop for these mushers is Yentna Station. Yentna is 53 miles from Willow, and most mushers will make it by this evening. The checkpoint is at Yentna Station Roadhouse the home of Dan and Jean Gabryszack. Follow your favorite mushers along the trail at Iditarod.com.
The Northern Lights have been a spectacular sight to see this week. As the mushers head to Nome, they will be able to experience, first hand, this beauty. For an English/Language Arts lesson on the Northern Lights click below!