Fasten your seatbelts ladies and gentleman; this is going to be a rough ride. If you’re prone to motion sickness, we highly advise that you get off the roller coaster now. I, personally, am taking Dramamine intravenously for this one.
Got to Pinedale last night and saw single digits, which was quite an adjustment from the weather in Lander. It was 4 degrees Fahrenheit when we woke this morning and it was 18 degrees by the time we got to the parking lot; perfect weather for running dogs. We ran out of the Green River Trail head and did a lollipop back to the parking lot. We were glad to see this trail choice as the alternative trail that historically runs out of town along the highway is less than appealing for many reasons. Just prior to the start it started to snow fairly hard and you could see visibility might be an issue. The trail was claimed to be 38 miles; however, by GPS it is a true 43 miler.
We chose to go with 11 dogs based on what we heard. Everyone was happy and healthy and we felt good about the choice. The team was led again by Sik Sik and Spike and supported by Pepper, Spit, Perry, Harlon, Kaloof, Stella, Sedona, Rocky and Nessa. Since we had the fastest time on the Lander leg we left last out of Pinedale and had quite an exciting start. We had the entire team hooked up and they sent an ATV to come hook the team so they could drive us across the semi-icy parking lot to the chute. I was up front holding the leaders and the next thing I know I felt the release and the dogs are running. I start booking it and thinking, “Holy crap this ATV driver is nuts!” I looked back to see Bruce dragging on his side barely holding the sled and people diving in to grab the gang line. It all happened so fast, but felt like slow motion. I was screaming, “WHOA, WHOA!” as if that would help?!?!? Turns out the ATV driver hooked up to our quick release on the truck and not the sled. So as if once wasn’t enough, they hooked the snow hook to the rope on the ATV for a 2nd attempt and the team literally busted the rope. Once again, everyone dove, Bruce drug and I yelled, “WHOA, WHOA!” All of us involved were a little shaky and gun shy by now and damn if it didn’t happen again. I had a mild panic attack as I envisioned the team taking off without Bruce and the team being DQ’d.
Finally, we got them to the chute. Bruce was extremely nervous today, which isn’t his nature. He was overwhelmed by the number of people rooting for him and it brought a huge pressure that was very emotional. He wanted so badly to show that Lander wasn’t just a fluke and that this team truly deserved to be up there. I felt for him and understood to a degree without all the pressure. I just told him, “Just go have fun and run those dogs just like they’ve been trained to run; don’t worry about the rest.”
So the team took off like a flash and probably within a mile out of our sight the race changed. Conditions were “brutal” as several mushers described. This was exactly what we had feared given the fact that our team was never able to get on snow until the Christmas holiday. The majority of the trail had about 3 inches of loose snow on it and was very soft and slow. At least 20 miles of the trail was windblown and drifted over. Bruce said that even being the last team there were many times he could not tell where the trail was and could not see where other teams had passed. If not for markers periodically and the dogs smelling the trail, he would not have been able to find the trail. To add to the agony there were hellacious winds today; uneducated guess 60-70 mph. Immediately after he left the chute, he started having issues with a point dog that was just not there. It caused him to stop several times to untangle him from his tug. This turned out to be a 25 mile ordeal. In the end he had two other dogs slack off putting a lot of pressure on the rest of the team. They made their way in and you could see that the lack of snow legs for this stuff had taken its toll. On the upside, the team all checked out healthy and ate and drank like machines.
We had relished our brief moment of having the yellow bib and realized that we would be turning it over at the banquet. Nonetheless, it was still a glorious feeling; took everything not to wear it to bed!! LOL don’t worry Bud, didn’t happen!! I did wonder though what would happen if we lost the bib prior to the banquet? Could you then technically keep it forever? Okay, just a thought! Buddy smoked everyone today with an awesome run and the yellow bib was well deserved. Congrats to the Streeper crew on an impressive run.
Al’s team had a nice run today and handled the conditions very well. As a matter of fact, they looked great coming across the finish line and they were all happy and healthy. Today his team was led by Daisy and Houndy; supported by Donut, Petrus, Cora, Checker, Epson, Prince, Blackie and Grey.
Not a whole lot of news from the trail, but there sure was a lot of position shifting today as can be seen in the results. Buddy gained some time on everyone, but everyone is still very, very close.
The driver’s meeting tonight indicated that Big Piney will be a slug fest. They shortened the trail to 36 miles and they received 40 inches of new snow within the past week. There was no trail put in until recently and it is windblown and drifted in many places. It is very unlikely that the base will be set. The trail crew told everyone to stay alert because there were many hazards out there that could get you in trouble; we’ve certainly seen this before. Oh Joy! Stay tuned.
PS. No photos today; glove-delete-button-malfunction! For those following, Ryan Redington had on the Penguin hat today; wonder what he has in store for us tomorrow!!