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Anticipating the Southern Route: Ray Redington, Jr. and Sven Haltmann

text by David Dodman; audio by Laureli Kinneen

When asked his views on mushing past Iditarod (the checkpoint), Ray Redington, Jr. remembered a saying of the “old timers.” “If the wind isn’t blowing directly in your face,” Ray said, “you’re going the wrong way.”

On Thursday and Friday, many of this year’s mushers may sympathize with Redington’s proverb.

Even if the winds aren’t too fierce, the trail ahead is known for being challenging. It’s a section of trail (the southern route) that’s only used in odd-numbered years. (The southern trail goes from Ophir to Kaltag by way of Iditarod, Shageluk, Anvik, Grayling and Eagle Island; in even-numbered years, the northern trail runs from Ophir to Kaltag in a completely different route, with stops in Cripple, Ruby, Galena, and Nulato.)

KNOM trail reporter Laureli Kinneen caught up with Ray Redington, Jr. in Takotna, where he said he felt satisfied about his run thus far. He noted that the southern trail, while a bit longer than the northern (by about 20 miles), actually feels “a lot longer,” perhaps because it offers fewer convenient opportunities to rest.

He also talked about the troubles he’s experienced with his sit-down sled and made a point to wish his daughter a Happy Birthday:

In Takotna, Sven Haltmann also talked about strong winds on the southern route: although unlike Redington, Haltmann’s actually hoping for them.

Haltmann says he trains his team to be “very tough,” and while he doesn’t like strong winds, per se, he’s thinking that some of the lead teams would like them even less. For Haltmann, inclement weather on the trail past Iditarod could be a chance to catch up to the race leaders, to reduce the advantage of faster (but perhaps not hardier) teams.

In his interview with Laureli, Haltmann also talked about the health of his dogs, the difficulties of the warmer weather recently, and a few crashes he’s experienced on the trail (none of them major), including one “encounter” with a tree:

As of 9:30pm Thursday, Ray Redington, Jr. is in 7th position; he departed the Iditarod checkpoint at 6:59pm with 12 dogs. Sven Haltmann is in 20th position, resting in Iditarod with 15 dogs; he arrived there at 7:30pm. Both mushers have already taken their mandatory 24-hour layovers.