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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Jona's Reflections

Monday, 3/8/2004 - Trail Notes

20 F, overcast

Friday, Saturday and Sunday were whirlwind of activities and adventures which I'll write up as soon as I have some extra time.

After pulling an all nighter Saturday night we got a welcomed 6 hours of rest Sunday night. Monday started at 5:00 a.m. with several inches of new snow and still snowing. Paul Claus picked us up at 7:00 a.m. and we went to Palmer where Paul keeps his de Havillan Turbo Otter. We met the Anchorage Daily news reporter Joel and Mark and Independent cinematographer Dan, our traveling companions for the day. We loaded the plane and waited for the weather to clear. It finally cleared enough to fly out at 12:00 It was still overcast and snowing but we were able to climb out of it. We picked up a visual sighting of the race trail in approaching shell lake. We also had a "Sundog" - a reflection of the sun in the moisture in the clouds. The peaks of Denali and Foreaker were visible floating above the cloud banks and our speed over the ground increased to 160 mph.

We reached the Finger Lake checkpoint at 12:45 p.m. and made a quick stop to see what was happening. Ellie was in at 9:20 a.m. and was resting inside. Her 16 dogs and the rest of the teams there were lolling in the brilliant sunshine. Wayne Curtis and Karen Ramstead along with other teams were resting.

We took off to get the Anchorage Daily News (ADN) reporters to Rainy Pass - Puntilla Lake to make their reports. We followed the Happy River through the gorge and were able to see a number of teams wending their way along the trail. As the elevation increased the spruce trees decrease in quantity and size. The surrounding peaks protrude like balding domes above a fringe of hair.

We landed at 2:30. This check point is really crowed with dog teams. It seems like Finger Lake would usually look on day 2 of the race. The teams are really moving faster than normal.

Ryan Redington was already here and was really sick - maybe a touch of food poisoning. As at Finger Lake, the teams were taking full advantage of the sun's warmth.

Paul dropped us and the plane's load of gear and returned for more people and gear. We set up camp near the outbound trail and started moving the mountain of gear.

As I write this I'm sitting and watching the teams heading out for the night. Headlamps ready and warming bundled for what looks to be a clear, cold night.

Ellie arrived about 7:00 p.m. and looked tired and a bit frustrated. I hope she'll get a good few hours of sleep. I think she's worried about Dalzell gorge and attempting it at night. Maybe she'll opt for a try in day light.

We've pitched our tents beside the outbound trail so we can hear the teams passing on the way out.

Jeff Schultz, race photographer, was up at the crowded lodge with a big gang of race followers enjoying some welcomed warmth after an icy cold day snowmachining Rainy Pass and back for pictures. I'm on my way back to our "Artic Oven" tents and dinner.


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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
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