Through late Wednesday evening, John Baker’s progress on the trail had many Iditarod observers scratching their heads.
For much of Wednesday, the Kotzebue musher had held a sizable lead. He had spent only about 6 hours in Takotna – bucking the trend of taking a 24-hour layover there – and then blew through Ophir, resting for only 4 minutes before hitting the trail again for the Cripple checkpoint. Baker seemed to be taking a “rabbit” approach on the trail: leaping ahead of the pack and delaying his 24-hour layover while most mushers were resting. The tactic can be risky, since “rabbit” mushers often lose their substantial lead once they finally take their (mandatory) 24-hour layover. But at least for the moment, Baker had been ahead of everyone else.
But then, something happened. The GPS tracker on John Baker’s sled halted – for hours – on the trail into Cripple. When Baker finally arrived early Thursday morning, his 5-hour lead on Dallas Seavey had been erased; in fact, Baker pulled in 11 minutes behind the younger Seavey.
In Takotna, race reporter Laureli talked about John Baker’s trail progress with Aaron Burmeister. Burmeister is an Iditarod veteran sitting out this year’s race; he explained the deceiving, complex trail into Cripple that delayed Baker’s run on Wednesday. Burmeister also shared why it’s been bittersweet to take a break from the Iditarod in 2010:
Dallas Seavey and John Baker were the first two mushers into the Cripple checkpoint, the half-way point of the race. Seavey arrived with 13 dogs at 1:26am early Thursday morning; Baker arrived at 1:37am with 14 dogs.