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Nikolai Roundup: Neff, Swenson, Lindner, (Ramey) Smyth

text by David Dodman; audio by Laureli Kinneen

For Hugh Neff, outcomes on the Iditarod trail are “a matter of fate, timing, and whatever Mother Nature has in store.”

With regards to Mother Nature, at least, Neff and many of his fellow mushers seemed keenly aware of the weather on Tuesday. When he talked with KNOM trail reporter Laureli Kinneen, Neff said the warmer temperatures made running the Iditarod “like being in Hawaii.” He also talked about a few rough patches on the trail, his estimation of Martin Buser’s chances – Neff says they’re good – and even a secret garment that he figured Nome listeners might appreciate:

For Rick Swenson, meanwhile, the relatively good weather may be helping his run after a trail accident Monday that broke his collarbone. Swenson’s a bit hazy on the incident itself, but he remains hopeful that its aftermath won’t deter him from finishing the race. Shrugging off suggestions that he’s exceptionally tough for soldiering on with a broken bone, he explained to Laureli what he can and can’t do on the trail: that is, “as long as the weather’s good.”

For Sonny Lindner, the trail weather is warm: warmer than the temperatures typical to Fairbanks, where he and his dogs train. That means a run/rest schedule built around resting when it’s warmest, and thankfully, his arrival into Nikolai – at 10:29am Tuesday morning – fit the bill:

The warmer Tuesday temperatures also meant a good time to rest for Ramey Smyth’s team, which arrived Tuesday at 11:20am into Nikolai. Smyth (pronounced like “Smith”) brought a full string of 16 dogs into the checkpoint, although – in light of some digestive issues and the “toll” of the trail – he didn’t expect to hang on to all 16 forever:

As of late Tuesday night, Hugh Neff is in 4th position; he departed McGrath at 8:06pm with 13 dogs. Sonny Lindner and Ramey Smyth left Nikolai almost concurrently – at 4:24 and then 4:27pm – in 14th and 15th position, respectively. Lindner has 13 dogs, Smyth, 16. Rick Swenson is in 20th position; he left Nikolai at 5:57pm with 13 dogs.