This 5 a.m. self portrait of us driving to town to deliver food drops sums up so much. After weeks of stress and late night meat cutting sessions on the band saw, Cole Iditarod drop bags are finally away. At least we hope (more on that in a minute).
First, the putting the drops together was a bit of a challenge and not in the way we thought they would be. Compared to packing for the Yukon Quest, packing for Iditarod was quite easy. Mostly because there are so many more checkpoints in Iditarod and they are so much closer together, so you basically just end up sending out about the same amount of stuff to every location, with the exception of the places you could end up taking the 24-hours of mandatory rest. These 24-hour bags are a little bigger. For Quest, there were such long distances between checkpoints, and so many camping trips, that a lot of careful consideration had to be given to the drops to ensure you weren’t carry too much that it would slow your progress or hold the team back, but you also had to be sure if the weather turned terrible and you got stuck somewhere, you wouldn’t run out of supplies.
Instead of the logistics being the problem this year, it was the weather that was the real challenge. For some reason the temperatures soared to the mid 40′sF about two weeks ago, and they are still there. This made cutting meat difficult since the meat gets really wet and sticky at these temperatures, and it must be bagged up quickly once cut so it doesn’t freeze into a big lump. Also, since so much of this frozen meat was in the freezer, we kept waiting for it too cool off so we could pack it and leave it out. It’s tough to pack all the meat and other supplies into the drop bags, and get them ALL back into the freezers. We just don’t have that much freezers space.
Since it never cooled off, we ended up packing everything the night before the drops were due and more early the next morning. We had to fit all the drops into one truck (which was way tough due to weight and volume) and then drive into town to meet a friend of ours by 7 a.m. who had volunteered to drive the drops to Anchorage since we both had to work the day they were due. There, we transfered everything to his trailer, along with the supplies of another musher he was helping too, and then he and his wife got on the road.
Unfortunately it was raining the the temperatures were still in the 40′s so we were very concerned our meat could thaw on the three hours drive up. Little did we know the trip would take way longer than three hours. With the warming trend, a giant avalanche occurred in one of the sections along the way that had earlier in the year received heavy snowfalls. This slide dumped a slab of snow across the highway that was 50 feet thick by 600 feet in length. Once set, avalanche snow is like concrete.
It was the only road to Anchorage and our food drops were stuck on the wrong side of it. For more than 7 hours, road crews cleared the snow, and late last night our food drops finally made it to their destination, but now we are worried they may not be with everyone else’s so other problems with “lost bags” could still occur down the trail. It would be terrible for Cole to get to checkpoint and not have food to resupply the dogs. Hopefully it will all work out, and none of the food thawed too much that it will spoil. Then there is the burden of paying to have all this food mailed out, which despite our $4,000 entry fee for the race, still falls on us, but since our fooddrops got to the airport so late last night, Our driver didn’t know who to leave the check with, so now we are still trying to figure out how to get this resolved.
We also are apparently having problems with some of our paper work, but this problem doesn’t seem to be exclusive to us. Getting information as an Iditarod rookie, so far, has been a bit like getting blood from a stone. The woman overseeing the communication between the Iditarod and the mushers seems to be in WAY over her head. The day before some vital paper work was due, she sent out an email to roughly 60 people who hadn’t turned it in yet. I’m sure they, like us, had no idea it still was due.
All this stress comes on top of going to work all day long and still running the team all night long to get them ready for the race, and still planning other facets of the race such as making fighlts for us and the dogs to get home, so needless to say, we aren’t having much fun right now.
Hopefully the race itself will run smoother than the pre-race planning and requirements, because right now we’re feeling like this will be our last Iditarod and we haven’t even run the thing yet. Also, keep your fingers crossed for snow and cooler temperatures because if something doesn’t change soon, it may be a 1,000 mile swim to Nome, if the race even happens.
Meat cut into bite-sized pieces for the dogs. Joseph spent roughly two weeks cutting more than 1,000 pounds of meat at night, after work.
While Joseph cut, Cole was counting and bagging the pieces.
With so much work, we really appreciated the extra hands of several friends. From L to R, Emilie, Cole, Jenny and Shaynee. Some other friends help out too, but weren’t always around when the camera was. Thanks Laurie and Kate for painting the bags for us and also helping bag meat.
Cole packing meat the day before the race and hoping it will stay frozen in the 40F degree temperatures.
The drop bad Cole hopes she sees, for more reasons than one, the way things have been going.