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Tuesday, 3/9/2004 - Rohn to Takotna
Grey, windy and snow. My guess -20F degrees. The snow squeaks and crunches when you walk and your nose hairs feels frosted.
Paul was worried about the weather catching us in Rainy Pass, so Jon and I flew out with Dan and the ADN guys and Ellie's younger brother, Jay, and sister, Logan.
Donna Claus, her laptop and our digital camera, to photograph Jon's art, are still weathered in Anchorage. I'll continue writing and hope to find a computer and operator to transmit my stories.
We flew toward Rohn. We couldn't fly over Rainy Pass because of terrible conditions so Paul took us through Ptarmigan Pass and Hell's Gate. It was turbulent and the winds tossed and buffeted our small plane. Everyone looked a little queasy. We circled Rohn seeing a team on its way out. There were several teams camped at the checkpoint but Paul felt we had to push on and stay ahead of the weather. We continued on to Nikolai flying over the Buffalo trails-Burn area. It looked like good snow cover and the mushers said it was the best it's been in years.
We landed at Nikolai in biting cold winds. Several teams were huddled in straw next to snow berms. We recognized Charlie Boulding's team by the color yellow, the Norwegian team by flag, and Doug Swingley's team by the media crowd.
Jon spent time living in Nikolai many years ago, so he had many old friends to greet. We visited the school and looked at the mural he painted. His style is still the same but the years have refined, and experience improved, his art.
Kjetil Backen and his trusty sidekick Ingva (sorry about the spelling) were resting at the school, but starting to think about leaving for McGrath.
Jeff King and Martin Buser flew through Nikolai and probably camped along the trail.
While we were there we watched Ramy Brooks arrive, with his mom, Roxy Wright, there to meet him. Aaron Burmeister came in and his dogs looked really good, with exception of one he planned to drop. His team looked sleek and laughing with tails wagging. On the other hand, most of the dogs and mushers looked cold, windblown and tired.
The winds were increasing and Paul was anxious to leave. Mark Nordman, Race Marshall, caught us and asked Paul if he could fly a sled back to Nikolai for Jim Lanier and pick up a sled in McGrath for Rick Swenson who is stuck in Rohn with a totaled sled.
Paul flew us to Takotna, where there was food and shelter, since our tents and food are stormed in at Puntilla Lake. Ellie plans to take her 24hr. here in Takotna so we plan to stay here.
Paul took off again and headed back to McGrath to refuel and pick-up the Swenson sled, then on to Nikolai to deliver Jim Lanier's sled. He tried to land in Rohn but said it was "scary tear your wings off windy" with minimal visibility, so he just returned to Takotna.
It's about 7:00 P.M. Alaska time. Rumor has is it that Jeff King, Martin Buser, and Charlie Boulding are hanging out in McGrath.
Ingva and a big Norwegian contingent of blond-rosy cheeked-jovial students are filling the checkpoint. Jeff Schultz and more race officials keep pouring in. The Excitement continues to build and the joint's jumpin'.
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
©2004 Jon & Jona Van Zyle
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