Thursday, March 19, 2015

Nous sommes Alaskiwi!

Simon and Chris and the whole Alaskiwi Team are back! 

They returned very early yesterday morning after a flight out of Unalakleet to Anchorage, where Joanne and Dale left the dog truck for them. Not only did they have to pack up and fly, dogs and all, they had to drive hundreds of miles to get home. 

Although Nome was the original goal, a time crunch forced them to call it quits at Unalakleet: clients from the lower 48 are expected soon for a trip to Tolovana Hot Springs beginning Sunday, and the Alaskiwis knew they needed a few days rest before this next adventure. The Iditarod racers finally caught them on the trail around Old Woman Mountain, but they actually landed in Unalakleet ahead of this year’s winner (Dallas Seavey).

Besides having to deal with the race, they had other problems:  it had warmed up before they started, so the trail was soft and deep most of the way. On their second day, they ran into a blizzard at Minto:  Chris said it was like “nails driving into your face.” There was unrelenting windchill most of the way on the Yukon, and a gale off the Bering Sea greeted them at Unalakleet. They had thought about turning around a few times, but they pushed on in spite of their difficulties. Along the way they met some kind folks who offered shelter and campfire wood, and made instant friends of children in villages who apparently had never tasted a Gummy Bear.

Like the mushers of old, they ran small teams of big-boned, thick-furred dogs, and had no pit stops with hot meals and hot water for the dogs’ food ready for them, but had to brew it the old fashioned way, on the trail. This of course took time, and as the racers got closer, spectators sometimes confused them with Iditarod mushers, and sometimes people scorned them when it was discovered they were not in the race but were simply exploring the trail at their own pace purely for the adventure. 

Last night the two boys looked tired but were otherwise their usual cheerful selves. Chris had a bit of windburn on his face, but he said it was nice to be able to feel sensation in his toes again. Smokey and Porky were pretty low-key, dozing by the fire and gassing up a storm in the living room; only Lassie seemed to have her usual bouncy joie de vivre.  But they are all heroes in my book, and I think I can speak for everyone when I say: Je suis Alaskiwi!

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