This weekend Kyle and I took a trip to our district office in Unalakleet, 85 miles south of Koyuk, to take Praxis tests. Our tests weren’t too hard and we really enjoyed the chance to visit with friends from other villages who were also in town. Come Sunday afternoon though, we were ready to head back home. Although we had been scheduled to fly on Frontier Airlines, our school district pilot was heading in the direction of Koyuk and we decided to hop on his plane instead. My, what a good decision!
As we were waiting for the plane, we chatted about the Iditarod. Lance Mackey, who is currently in the lead, made it in to Unalakleet at about 1am on Saturday night. Kyle opened up his laptop to see where Mackey and the other mushers were, “Neat!” he said.
“What?” I asked.
“Well, it looks like the leaders are mushing from Unalakeet to Shaktoolik as we speak.” He explained.
“Wait, so we might see them?” I wondered. As I was saying this I took my camera from my bag and put it into my pocket, just in case.
Well, we saw mushers for sure! Right after takeoff, Doug, our district pilot swooped over the hills surrounding Unalakleet. Strapped in my seat, bundled in all my winter gear, I wondered why we were taking such a circuitous route, Doug usually just flies you straight and fast to your destination. Then I looked down and noticed we were making so many turns because we were following the Iditarod trail! As soon as we realized that we were following the trail our eyes were glued to the window so that we could see the mushers. Doug was flying low, and it was a beautiful, clear sunny day, so we could see everything on the ground clearly. As the first musher came into sight, Doug tilted the wing of the plane down, allowing us an unobstructed view of the mushers. Wow! We could see the little paws of the dogs trotting along the snow. We were so close we could even see the ropes that attach the dogs to the sleds. As we continued on and the second musher was coming into view I really started to realize the scale of this race. Over 1,000 miles, all being pulled by a team of dogs while battling the bitter cold weather, incredible! Last year, we watched Lance Mackey as he came in to Koyuk, but seeing him out on the trail alone with his dogs, gave me a completely different perspective on this race.
On the flight between Unalakleet and Shaktoolik, we saw at least four mushers with their dogs. Doug kept the plane low for the entire flight, allowing us to clearly see each musher as we swooped over him. When we deplaned in Koyuk, Kyle looked at me and said “Wow, that is something we will never get to experience again.” I looked at him, agreed and added, “It’s something most people will never even get to experience at all!”