How does the Iditarod Trail get established? Is it something that can be traveled all year? Who maintains it? Is it groomed? What makes it possible for people to actually travel the Iditarod Trail, weather it be human powered or dog powered?
I think people are mislead with the word "trail", cause a lot of it, a lot of the time, does not exist. Well, OK, it exist's but under heaps of snow and not human powered friendly in any way.
|Michael Schoder dragging trail near Shell Lake.|
|A local checking out Bison Camp. This particular year this gentleman left just after we did and broke through all the drifted snow.|
Going beyond McGrath to Nome puts you onto a big chunk of trail that only gets traveled by the Iron Dog so when leaving McGrath you are relying on trail from 2 weeks ago which may or may not still be there. This is when you start to figure out when the Iditarod Trail Breakers are coming through. This is a group of snowmobiles that go out to manicure a trail for the dog teams. They generally have about 6 machines that are working the trail safe for the dog teams. They often pull some sort of drag, cut out down fall/brush, and are marking the trail with reflective lath so the mushers know where to go. As a racer if you are waiting for these guys to come through, the trail must be pretty bad of not be there at all. On the South route of the Iditarod it is very common to wait for these guys and are often the first ones through all year, depending on timing it can be just a day or it can be 5 days. Plan accordingly, remember when one leaves McGrath it is over 2 hundred + miles in very remote terrain with nothing but your food drop sitting in the middle of the trail somewhere before hitting the Yukon River.
|Burlap bags filled with racers food drops. It is nice to know who planned on making it but unfortunately did not, more food for the folks that do.|
|Iditarod Trail breakers in Iditarod. We sat here for 2+ days on our way to Nome as there was zero trail ahead of us.|
|Martin traps all over the place...|
When you hit the Yukon River you will start to pass through more Villages, they vary in distance but are roughly about 50 miles from one another. You can't rely on inter village travel cause if they don't have a reason to go to another village they don't. Fuel is very expensive on the interior so they don't just cruise around. Some villages have more supplies then others or have more dependable flights which will create more traffic to that particular village.
|Amazing athletes to watch come by...|
With Iditarod Trail Breakers on course this means The Iditarod Sled Dog Race got off which is one week after the Ultra Sport, and if you are someone going to Nome they will catch you. This is another great time to look forward to some trail traffic. You will end up traveling amungst the dogs on the remainder of the route to Nome. This is an exciting time on the trail, villagers engaged, spectating, and that is all that is talked about. This is one of the most exciting times in these Villages all year. With 50-100 people in some villages and a couple hundred in a bigger village there is not whole lot of excitment. The sad thing is it only lasts a couple of weeks and I will say that is true with the trail. Once the dog race raps up the trail gets snowed in deeper, traffic becomes less, wind blows it over to look like the rest of the landscape and you would never of known of all the snowmobiles, humans and dogs that have been through till next year.
|Pete Swenson has also become our friend on the trail. Here he is offering us Spam and Pop. He was proud of Tracey till he found out she don't eat meat...|