March, it turns out, gets pretty boring after the Iditarod ends. It’s officially spring now (happy Spring!), a change which brought about 12.5 hours of daily sunlight (even more, if you count dawn to dusk), a full super moon (closest moon to the Earth for the past 20 or something years), and a clean shaven boyfriend (after he muttered something about “seasonal facial hair” and disappeared into the bathroom for thirty minutes).
I’m sure you’ve all been eagerly awaiting my next Idita-gram. Or perhaps you took matters into your own hands and spent some quality time on the Iditarod site or the Alaska Daily News site. If so, you already know all about how this was a sensational Iditarod, with an unprecedented top lead pack of ten-fifteen mushers sticking close together well into the long second-half stretch up the Yukon River, ending in a last-day sprint between the two veteran but never-champions: John Baker, an Inupiaq Alaskan native from Kotzebue and Ramey Smyth, son of veterans Bud Symth and Lolly Medley and brother to Cim Smyth (who placed 21st this year). Baker won, followed one hour later by Smyth.
But you already knew that. (Or you do now, anyway.) I put more highlights as a postscript, just in case you’re already thinking, “Good Heavens, child, enough about the Iditarod already!”
In the meantime, here’s a quick recap of other end-of-winter (ha) events that happened around here:
We attended the Miners’ and Trappers’ Ball as part of the closing events of the annual Fur Rondy week-long celebration. I’ve now seen the word a million times and it still drives me crazy that they abbreviated “Rendezvous” with a “y.” But other than that, the events of that closing weekend were pretty fun. (Well, ok, the “Running of the Reindeer” was pretty stupid – a bunch of very cold, costumed college-age kids running behind some very bored, very tame reindeer. And reindeer aren’t even native to Alaska – that would be caribou, folks.)
Chester did enter one of the beard and moustache competitions, but believe me when I tell you that he wasn’t even close in length or style to some of the other beards we saw there (and don’t even get me started on the moustaches). We did go in costume, him as a 1930s railroad man (hooray! A use for his Christmas-present sweater vest, and I didn’t even have to lengthen it!) and me as, I guess, a 1930s school teacher. Yes, I wore one of my regular dresses and just did my hair differently. Thanks for asking.
We also bottled up our beer, which I’ll report more on once it’s not too green to try. (St. Patty’s day notwithstanding, I mean figuratively green, as in, “new.”) And we were lucky enough to stop by the Millennium Hotel in Anchorage just as a small bush plane arrived with a load of dropped dogs from the trail. We were allowed to pet them, which they (the dogs) loved – until someone came around with food. Then they weren’t interested in us anymore.
And … we went ice fishing! But more on that next time.
PS: The Idita-gram addendum
Allen Moore earned this year’s Sportsmanship award for his life-saving halt to rescue another (hypothermic and semi-conscious) musher. He got her walking again, hitched her dogs to his sled, and took her in to the next checkpoint. And then he went on to finish the race, still in the top 30.
Rick Swenson won the Most Inspirational award (voted on by his fellow mushers) after he broke his collarbone during one of the first few legs of the trip but decided to carry on regardless. He’s 61.
Dee Dee Jonrowe (my favorite) finished in 12th place, even after first losing the trail and then later spending time with caught beneath the weight of her flipped sled. Her GPS also stopped working after she (and her sled) fell into some freezing-cold river overflow – it was hard to tell from the brief checkpoint updates whether this was also when she was trapped, or not.
(If you think these highlights from her run are abnormal, check out this somewhat-melodramaticly-soundtracked video from the official site.)
Six of the other top thirty finishers women as well, and if you look at this year’s Junior Iditarod mushers, more than half the finishers there were female. That's a lot of female mushers about to come up through the ranks. Perhaps it actually is as they say, “Alaska: where men are men and women win the Iditarod.”
Here’s one more thing else they say about the Iditarod:
In 1978 there was a similar, though much, much closer, sprint to the finish. Dick Mackey (father of current crowd-favorite Lance Mackey) and Rick Swenson (yes, he of this year’s broken collarbone) were within seconds of each other coming down the finish chute in Nome. Both men were exhausted, overheated, and running alongside their dogs (to lighten the weight of the sled). Mackey’s lead dog crossed the finish line first, and then Mackey collapsed. Swenson’s lead dog crossed just one second after Mackey’s, but his whole team made it across first. So, who won?
The race marshal in charge of making the decision hemmed, hawed, and finally came up with this official statement: “Well, they don’t take pictures of a horse’s ass.” And so the championship went to Dick Mackey.
And for those of you who were wondering why I didn’t drive to see the finish at Nome, it wasn’t because it would be a road of over 1,000 miles. It’s because there is no road to Nome. (Yet.)