Monday, March 5, 2012

Iditarod leaders already into Rainy Pass

Hugh Neff leaves Willow Lake Sunday
Neff currently sits in second place.
Even with the heavy snow levels, the trail has not seemed to slow the leaders of the Last Great Race. Last minute changes to the trail - oh, yeah, the Steps were put back in - and the snow fall from Saturday did not seem to detour or change musher strategy. The top thirty are in Rainy Pass, with a dozen more on the horizon.

Saturday the decision was announced that the dreaded Happy River Steps were being reinstated. Earlier this year they had decided to take a trail that went around the steps to get onto Happy River, but it was determined that with all of the new snow that the trail saw in the last part of February, that the new trail was no longer considered safe for the dogs. some mushers were happy, others were just determined to get through safely.

All those worries seem to be for naught. Most of the veteran mushers are saying the Steps were the easiest/best they've ever seen. It seems the plus side of having the amount of snow that the trail has gotten was good for something, it created a buffer. So far there are no reports of major damage or injury. One crisis seemingly averted this year.

Moose were another worry in the weeks leading up to the race. Reports of mushers training their dogs last month were almost daily about a moose running into the team. Jr. Iditarod first and second place finishers, Conway Seavey and Ben Lyons, tangled with a moose just fifteen miles from the finish line (which is the start of the Iditarod). Zoya Denure's team was attacked and injured the night before the ceremonial start, with one dog - Demon - injured enough that he almost didn't make race day. Demon is sore, but fine, and is running with Denure's team.

Moose were also in several parts of the Ceremonial trail in Anchorage on Saturday. Tudor Crossing had a bull moose come into the trail and laydown. No amount of coaxing by the trail guards could get him to move and it took the Anchorage Police Department's Iditarod Patrol (snowmachines) to convince him to head back into the woods.

There's still plenty of trail, and danger lurks when we all least expect it, but it seems, for now, our worry up to race day was for naught.

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