Ruth Moody will be giving a free vocal workshop this Sunday at the AB Hall in Skagway. This...
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Alaska and Yukon Headlines
Several inches of fresh snow coat Anchorage roadways and that’s causing problems for drivers.
Jennifer Castro is a spokesperson for the Anchorage Police Department. She says police have been responding to accidents since early this morning.
“A lot of the accidents started up around 5 a.m. this morning and as of 11:30 this morning we’ve responded to 71 accidents, five accidents with injuries and 29 vehicles in distress. Now there isn’t just one area that we’re seeing to be a really bad, bad area. These accidents are occurring all over Anchorage,” Castro said. ”The best advice that we offer to people is to just go slow and anticipate adding in some more time to get wherever you need to go.”
Forecasters expect snow to continue falling overnight with around six inches total accumulation.
Nikolai is one possible stop for Iditarod mushers to take their mandatory 24-hour rests, and some did just that after pulling into the Kuskokwim River community on Tuesday.March 5, 2014
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s rough run through the Dalzell Gorge and into Nikolai, many Iditarod mushers have had to act fast to change their race plans.
It was a late night in McGrath as mushers trickled in to the eighth checkpoint on the trail. A bruised and battered Hans Gatt was in good spirits, but he says rough runs have affected his game plan.
“I’m a little bit behind, but we’ll see after the 24 what’s going,” he said.
Mushers must stop for 24 hours before they get off the Yukon River in Kaltag, roughly 630 miles into the race. Many have a rough plan for where they will stop, but Gatt hadn’t yet decided by McGrath, 300 miles in.
Schwing: “Are you going to 24 in Takotna?”
Burmeister: “ I don’t know yet.”
Takotna is the next stop. It can get busy as teams pile in for a long rest. Some will stop up the line in Ophir. That will be a new move for Paul Gebhardt, who says he is looking for a change of pace after 16 previous Iditarods.
“I’ve never done this before, so I thought I just try and push it a little bit farther up the trail,” he said.
Gebhardt wants to break his runs up differently. After Takotna, the run between Ophir and Cripple is one of the longest, so a well-rested team will likely fare better. He says where he takes his 24 hour rest really isn’t up to him.
“It doesn’t depend on if I get sleep between now and then or not. That doesn’t matter,” Gebhardt said. “It’s all about what the dog team looks like.”
But others are determined to follow their plans to a tee.
An energetic dog team literally dragged two-time champ Robert Sorlie through McGrath, their tails wagging as they flew by.
“I’m on schedule,” he said.
Mitch Seavey’s dogs weren’t nearly as boisterous, but they were certainly alert as he took off for parts beyond.
Schwing: “Have you had to adjust your plan at all?”
Seavey: “Nope. Same as I wrote it down.”
The next stretch of trail through the Interior will provide a bit of a respite from the rough-going route as teams drop on to the Kuskokwim and cover some river miles into Takotna.
The Iditarod trail continued to claim victims through Tuesday. Reports of everything from broken ankles to broken hands came filtering back from Rohn and Nikolai.
It will take a combination of resilience and persistence for mushers to keep moving down the trail.
Before mushers ever left Willow, four-time champion Jeff King predicted more than a few teams would never make it past Nikolai.
“There will be some race ending circumstances for some of the teams early in the race,” he said.
King was correct. Reports from Rohn include stories of a broken hand, a broken ankle, and numerous tales of broken and battered sleds. But none of that has stopped Aliy Zirkle.
“It will take a little bit, it will take a broken limb for me to get out of this race, which I can’t, I won’t say won’t happen,” Zirkle said.
Her team seemed nearly unscathed as they passed quickly through McGrath. In fact they really didn’t want to stop at all. They pulled hard as Zirkle put her full weight on the sled brake. They let her stay only long enough to sign out of the check point.
Sonny Lindner arrived first in McGrath, chased by a bright red helicopter. He says the trail was smooth and soft compared to what teams battled earlier in the day.
“I like this trail better than yesterday’s,” Lindner said.
That’s because there is actually snow on the trail into McGrath. Lindner says it’s purely luck that kept his sled together and his body intact.
“Most of that trail, there was no control, you just had to try and hang on and not hit anything big,” he said.
But Lindner says communication with his team did break down a little bit.
“Every time you say ‘easy,’ usually in fall training you do it in fall training to mean ‘slow down,’ but there ‘easy’ meant ‘hey the sled’s going to hit you at 80 miles an hour now, so you better get out of the way, so now they’ll hear it and want to take off,” Lindner said.
He says it will be another day or two before he knows what kind of effect a rough trail had on his team.
“We’ve got to look them over and see after running them over that stuff in the gorge and everything. I’m sure some soreness is going to show up….right there,” Lindner said.
He points to his own right knee and laughs. He admits his dogs are far more resilient than his 64-year-old body.
Even if they did make it past Nikolai, there are other mushers showing plenty of signs of wear and tear. Hans Gatt came into McGrath looking tired. He stayed only long enough to drop his snow hook and run down the street for a drop bag. Despite the jog, he’s in pain. He hit his head somewhere along the trail and is now taking ibuprofen for a sore neck.
“It’s just stopping 16 dogs with my head, you know didn’t help,” Gatt said.
Aaron Burmeister also winced as he dropped his hook and tried to pound it into the snow with his foot. He couldn’t hold his barking, jumping dogs by himself.
He reportedly has a torn ACL, so he can’t put his full weight on the brake. He didn’t say much as he blew through McGrath.
Schwing: “Are you feeling alright Aaron?”
Burmeister: “Oh, I’ll be alright.”
Burmeister took a few minutes to limp down his line of barking, jumping dogs and look them over before he eased himself back on the runners, grit his teeth and dropped down onto the Kuskokwim River.
Mushers are required to take a 24-hour rest somewhere along the trail before they get off the Yukon River in Kaltag. Many stop in Takotna, but a few might lay over early in McGrath depending on the state of their bodies and their equipment. Still others may opt to stop in smaller, quieter checkpoints like Ophir and Cripple.
The snowless, rocky Iditarod trail into Nikolai was hard on teams and their sleds, and 12 teams have withdrawn or scratched as the race enters its third day.March 5, 2014
Sonny Lindner took the lead in the 2014 Iditarod early Wednesday morning and was heading towards Cripple. He left Ophir almost two hours ahead of Aaron Burmeister. Lindner was racing with 16 dogs. Burmeister had 13 dogs.
Nicolas Petit was in third. Jeff King and Joar Leifseth Ulsom trailed Petit. All three were in Ophir at 6:00 a.m.
Martin Buser and Kelly Maixner were two mushers who had taken their required 24-hour break by Wednesday morning and were out of Nikolai.
Katherine Keith continued to lead the rookie field. She had reached Tokotna Wednesday morning.