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Kotzebue’s own – John Baker and Katherine Keith – in Nikolai

That John Baker’s team got to Nikolai with “nothing broken” certainly counts as both a relief and an accomplishment for any musher in this 2014 Iditarod.

Among competitors, Iditarod volunteers, and race onlookers, the talk in these early days of the race never seems to drift far from the trail – specifically, how challenging it’s been this year, especially with the sparsity of snowfall that, in many places, has left the trail as completely bare dirt. Not good.

On the run to Nikolai, as the 2012 Iditarod champ told KNOM’s Laureli Kinneen, his team “took our time and made the most of” the poor trail conditions, although Baker also noted that he’s “way ahead” of the record-setting pace that he set two years ago.

 

Katherine Keith, a handler from John Baker’s kennel who is running the Iditarod for the first time this year, told Laureli that she was “absolutely happy” to be in Nikolai.

Reaching the checkpoint, in Keith’s words, was a goal to aspire to – especially after breaking parts of her sled soon after departing the Rohn checkpoint early Tuesday morning.

For Keith, as for, seemingly, many other mushers this year, the trail is one of the toughest they’ve seen. It’s even tougher, she told KNOM, than the also-challenging Kuskokwim 300 trail she experienced this January.

Hear Katherine Keith in Nikolai:

 

As of Tuesday night, John Baker is in 14th position; he arrived into McGrath at 10:06pm with a full string of 16 dogs. Katherine Keith – currently the lead rookie, in 17th position – departed Nikolai at 5:32pm with 13 dogs.

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