photo courtesy Eric Parsons
Mike's trip is underway as of about noon today. Eric Parsons of Epic Designs was kind enough to drop Mike off at Knik Lake, the same spot the Iditarod Trail Invitational starts. He tagged along for the first 10 miles to Burma road with Mike, snapping some pictures that I'll include in these updates as Mike rolls along.
Eric reports that temps were in the "high teens with overcast skies borderline on snowing lightly." So far it looks like he's experiencing somewhat better trail conditions that the racers did Sunday. He's making better time and seems to be cruising right along.
I've set up a SPOT tracking page that is updated every 15 minutes (the minimum interval allowed by SPOT) with Mike's position. I'll get it on the sidebar, but for now the link is:
The blue dots are race checkpoints. Of course Mike won't be utilizing any of the checkpoints, but they are still useful for reference, and they give the total mileage along the route, as well. There are two riders (red dots) right now on the map -- Mike and Billy Koitzsch. (You can click on any of the dots to see what it is)
Right now you can see that Mike is at the confluence of the Yentna and Susitna rivers, about 35 miles in. Racers ran into heavy snow drifts starting at Flathorn Lake, so Mike had been considering taking a different trail that cuts off near the Little Susitna river. It looks like he didn't take it, meaning the trail ahead must have looked reasonable to him.
I want to take a minute to describe what it is that Mike is attempting, and my awe at the whole prospect. This is his third attempt at a 100% unsupported traversal of the 1100 mile Iditarod Trail from Knik to Nome. 100% unsupported means exactly that -- he is completely on his own. He is carrying all necessary gear, fuel and food for some 23 days on the trail. No warm buildings, no hot meals at the lodges, no filling up bottles in the sink. He's either got it now or will do without. To those that know Mike, he takes this unsupported credo very seriously. He won't so much as accept a frozen gummy bear from someone he might meet out on the trail.
Think about that for a minute. 23 days outdoors. In back-country Alaska. In subfreezing temps. 23 days of carried food without so much as a bonus taste treat.
It's pretty hard for me to get my head around. I'm no stranger to traveling and camping by bike, but there are always towns to limp into and recharge at. I can't tell you how much you depend on towns, how much a humongous meal and a night on a bed can revitalize tired muscles and psyches. Even on the Iditarod Trail there are quite a few lodges with rooms for rent and burgers ready to throw on the grill. But Mike is passing all this up and will just keep... riding.
It's pretty hard to imagine.
Last year Mike made it to Unalakleet at mile 721 on the trail. He just finished telling the story of that ride (scroll down an entry or two to read how and why his ride ended there). In 2007 he rode with a trailer and got snowed and stormed out of every attempt to cross Rainy Pass.
Since Mike won't be entering any buildings he has no way of communicating with us, or us with him. All we've got is his SPOT unit, faithfully sending tracking signals of his whereabouts.
I'll be following along, shooting for at least one post per day. I've got some info on the gear he's carrying and some other insights to share along the way. Other than that I'll see what I can glean from the SPOT data and try to come up with some interesting maps and charts. I'm looking forward to it.
For now, I hope Mike is making the transition from 'civilization mode' to 'wilderness mode' (not so easy to do sometimes) and is finding a good groove. As of 7:43 pm AK time, he's still rolling (well past sunset) which is a good indication that he might be doing just that.