2004 Iditarod Sketch Pad

Jon & Jona Van Zyle's exclusive sketches, stories from the trail

Lighting the way
2004 Iditarod Poster
Jon Jona Van Zyle
Jon & Jona Van Zyle
Sneaking Out
2004 Mush Poster

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Main Page Meet Jon & Jona Introduction Bootie Call Drop Bag Delivery Day Vet Check Jr. Iditarod
3/7 Iditarod Restart 3/8 Trail Notes 3/9 Rohn to Takotna 3/10 Takotna a.m. 3/10 Takotna p.m.
3/11 Takotna 3/14 Unalakleet 3/15-16 Unalakleet 3/16 Unalakleet
3/17 Unalakleet to Nome 3/19 Nome 3/20 Nome Finish Line Group Photo
Jona's Reflections

Tuesday, March 16 - Unalakleet

10 Intermittent Snow squalls windy, windy, windy!

Today Paul had some problems with the prop blades, so while he worked on solving that, we had a little more free time in Unalakleet. With the heavy snow squalls and gusty wind it might not have been the day to fly anyway.

Ellie has been traveling with her other rookie friends Scott Allen and Noah Burmeister and the gang was preparing to head out.

SnowWe watched Ellie depart Unalakleet at a good clip, but Scott’s team balked at leaving the checkpoint. Joel and Olga Oyounick offered to drive Donna, Logan and me along the road to see Ellie head out of town. We found her waiting on the Kouwegok River just under the bridge. Her dogs were bouncing and barking and anxious to get going out. She was waiting for Scott, not knowing his problem. Finally she couldn’t hold them any longer and let her team lope. As she left we could see Scott’s team finally start to move. We drove along toward the airport runway strip, past a huge Osprey nest atop a telephone pole. The Oyounicks said that the Osprey pair returns every year to nest.

Ellie swept past the airstrip and headed up the coast. Scott passed a good 15 minutes later, his team was starting to warm up to the run. Ellie has had fast runs if you check some of her times, but she’s resting much longer than she had planned at the checkpoints. I think partly because she’s young and needs more sleep and partly because she’s not used to running alone and is enjoying sharing the adventure with her fellow travelers. I think she’s doing just fine and her dogs look really good. Best of all, she’s having an excellent adventure.

Poor Rick Mackey was quarantined to sleep in his sled at the Unalakleet checkpoint because he was quite ill with the dreaded Norwalk virus from McGrath. To add insult to injury, the epidemiologist also requested a stool sample. He is feeling much better now, I’m happy to report.

We had a lovely dinner with the magistrate of Unalakleet, Heidi Erickson and her family. Heidi’s two-story home overlooks Norton Sound. Her living room, kitchen and dining room windows all face the sound with mesmerizing views.

Heidi prepared fresh crab dip and caribou stew for dinner. For dessert, her sister-in-law, Deborah Erickson, baked blueberry pies from last fall’s bounty of berries.

After dinner we had a wild ride back to our campsite by snowmachine. Jon was driving and Logan and I bounced around in the sled. I was holding Logan and balancing Donna’s computer, one of Deborah’s blueberry pies, a tub of Cool Whip and a bag of Heidi’s home made dinner rolls. I had Logan and the other important baggage under a caribou hide to protect them from the ice thrown up from the machine tracks. We passed two teams on their way into town. Our ride was uneventful, but covered in caribou hair and the pie took a tumble, which didn’t stop anyone from a late night snack or breakfast treat.

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For more information about Ellie and her home at Ultima Thule Lodge you can visit their web site at www.ultimathulelodge.com

More information about Ellie Claus can be found on the Iditarod web site www.iditarod.com

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2004 Jon & Jona Van Zyle
All material in the Iditarod Sketch Pad remain the property of Jon & Jona Van Zyle and may not be reproduced in any manner.