The leaders in the 2018 Iditarod have already come and gone through McGrath, but as KNOM’s Davis Hovey reports, some mushers elected to take their 24 hour layovers at the checkpoint due to weather conditions.
The snow was continuing to fall just before 7:30pm when Mitch Seavey pulled into McGrath. Seavey was the first musher to arrive into the Iditarod school district community on Tuesday and was presented with the Spirit of Alaska Award by PenAir Chief Executive Officer Danny Seybert.
Seybert explained that the colorful piece of art features 16 dogs and one musher all wrapped up into one spirit traveling along the trail:
Seybert: “Congratulations, here’s the Spirit of Alaska award.”
Seavey: “Thank you.”
Seybert: “See, we knew you were going to win again this year, so I did it a little bit different, so, now you have a slightly different one to hang on your wall.”
Seavey: “Well, thank you.”
Seavey was one of 12 mushers to reach McGrath before the end of the day Tuesday, although the 2017 champ didn’t linger at the checkpoint overlapping the Kuskokwim and Takotna rivers.
“I’m going to declare my 24, but I’m not sure I’m going to take it.”
Another award-winner of the day was Ryan Redington, who was first to reach Nikolai and receive a pair of handmade beaver fur mittens.
Redington was one of several mushers to declare their intent to stay overnight in McGrath. As the competitor from Wasilla was preparing food for his dogs, Redington explained that staying wasn’t his original plan:
“I didn’t want to 24 here, but the trail has been soft, so I’m going to 24 here and just try to regroup. Hopefully, the trail will set up.”
Redington came in behind Nicolas Petit and Wade Marrs, but before Aaron Burmeister, who all declared their 24-hour layover would be in McGrath. Though they are not obligated to stay for a full day, Nome’s Burmeister says the fresh, non-packed snow on the trail forced his hand:
“I originally planned to camp halfway from Nikolai to McGrath on the trail and go through McGrath to Ophir, but once I got out there and saw how deep the snow was — and it wasn’t packing and that if I did camp and 20 teams would pass me while I was camping, then the trail would probably fall apart further — I figured it would be smart to come straight directly to McGrath and take a break here.”
According to Weather Underground, more snow is in the forecast for Wednesday night, with a 90% chance of precipitation in the next checkpoint, Takotna. Joar Leifseth Ulsom, who arrived into McGrath second behind Mitch Seavey, decided not to wait on the weather and was back on the trail to Takotna around 11pm.
Image at top: Nikolai and checkpoint from the air. Photo: Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media.