Aliy Zirkle came into the Unalakleet checkpoint at daybreak on a very cold Sunday morning, with frost hanging from her neck warmer, eyelashes and eyebrows.
The Two Rivers, Alaska musher was first to Unalakleet, the first checkpoint on the Norton Sound coast (which the Iditarod trail follows all the way to the finish line in Nome). As the first musher there, Zirkle won the coveted Wells Fargo Gold Coast Award, with nuggets of the yellow stuff mined from the Nome area.
That wasn’t all that greeted Zirkle at the Unalakleet checkpoint; also there were members of the musher’s family, including husband and fellow musher Allen Moore, an Iditarod veteran.
With KNOM’s Laureli Kinneen, Zirkle described the long journey from Kaltag to Unalakleet as “grinding”:
Aliy Zirkle was third out of the Unalakleet checkpoint; she departed at 1:01pm Sunday afternoon with 12 dogs. (Interviews with Aaron Burmeister and Dallas Seavey – who departed Unalakleet first and second, respectively – will be posted very shortly.)