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Early Rough Iditarod Trail Could Mean Change of Plans for Some Teams

Credit Emily Schwing / KUAC
Mitch Seavey looks over his dog team in the middle of the night before moving on through McGrath.

McGrath, AK - In the aftermath of Tuesday’s rough run through the Dalzell Gorge and into Nikolai, many Iditarod mushers have had to act fast to change their race plans. 

It was a late night in McGrath as mushers trickled in to the eighth checkpoint on the trail. A bruised and battered Hans Gatt was in good spirits, but he says rough runs have affected his game plan.
“I’m a little bit behind, but we’ll see after the 24 what’s going.” Mushers must stop for 24 hours before they get off the Yukon River in Kaltag, roughly 630 miles into the race.  Many have a rough plan for where they will stop, but Gatt hadn’t yet decided by McGrath, 300 miles in.  He said he wasn't sure if he would take his mandatory rest in Takotna, the next stop.  It can get busy as teams pile in for a long rest.  Some will stop up the line in Ophir.  That will be a new move for Paul Gebhardt, who says he is looking for a change of pace after 16 previous Iditarods. “I’ve never done this before, so I thought I just try and push it a little bit farther up the trail," he says.

Gebhardt wants to break his runs up differently. After Takotna, the run between Ophir and Cripple is one of the longest, so a well-rested team will likely fare better. He says where he takes his 24 hour rest really isn’t up to him. “It doesn’t depend on if I get sleep between now and then or not. That doesn’t matter.  It’s all about what the dog team looks like.” 

But others are determined to follow their plans to a tee. An energetic dog team literally dragged two-time champ Robert Sorlie through McGrath, their tails wagging as they flew by. “I’m on schedule,” he said befre the dogs took off.

Mitch Seavey’s dogs weren’t nearly as boisterous, but they were certainly alert as he took off for parts beyond. e says he hasn't had to adjust his plan at all.  "Same as I wrote it down," he says.

The next stretch of trail through the interior will provide a bit of a respite from the rough-going route as teams drop on to the Kuskokwim and cover some river miles into Takotna.