Monday, March 8, 2010

A Doggone Good Weekend

Another Iditarod sled dog race is on the move to Nome, Alaska, and another Monday-after has arrived during which time I try to recover from a weekend of hiking, writing, and photographing team after team of incredible athletes. Whew.

Complicating matters is the interesting Ceremonial vs. Official starts to the race; one on Saturday so all the fans can meet and greet mushers, take pictures, and enjoy a big block party on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage. The Official "Restart" takes place on Sunday up in Willow, Alaska, on a frozen Willow Lake where the stakes are high, tensions are higher, and the teams just want to get the heck away from the hubbub of the media and hoardes. This year I got to attend both.

On Saturday, the fam packed up and drove a short distance to Campbell Creek Science Center, a group to which I belong as a board member, and watched the start from their fab indoor/outdoor facility. Bear and his friend Cady played in the trees, making imaginary forts and houses among the spruce boughs while the grownups watched teams silently slide by. Only a little snow fell and temps were rather mild, making the day a pleasant one. The Center offered snacks, crafts, and a bunch of information on the race itself, and we really enjoyed talking with the crowds of people.

On Sunday, I trailed along with Salmonberry Tours to the Restart. SBT is a contingent of great women who have taken a small tour company to new heights with their attention to detail, friendly faces, and incredibly accommodating style. We arrived shortly afte 9 a.m. to prepare a tent for 30 incoming guests and to set up a delicious spread of food. Bear and Yukon decided to stay home for this one, a good idea since this day is less about kids and more about the race.

The sun was shining, the wind was down, and we had a prime spot for an assault to the senses as chili bubbled on our stove, dogs shrieked and yelped, and teams streaked past on their way to a long, tough journey ahead. Denali silently stood sentry from an aloof distance to the North through all the commotion, and I wonder if she (the mountain) was a bit disgusted by the hooplah.

I visited with many of the Salmonberry guests, most of whom were from far, far away. The trip to see the Iditarod was a dream come true for many; including a 70 year-old woman from Florida. She said the Discovery channel was the closest she'd ever been to a sled dog before this trip, and it was "magical".

Sure is. Sometimes we need other people to remind us of our good fortune.

You can follow the 2010 Iditarod sled dog race through the link above for; daily updates will be posted and interesting facts about the race. Look for Zack Steer, our friend from Sheep Mountain Lodge, to be a real contender this year to champ Lance Mackey.

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