Friday, March 5, 2010
Night on Rainy
It looks like Mike stopped for the night at a point just below Rainy Pass. It appears he moved fairly steadily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and covered about 20-30 miles of ground (This is just a rough guess. Scott is probably better at interpreting distance based on the map.) Either way, that's a brutal grind of a pace, probably a fair amount of pushing if not entirely pushing over soft and wind-drifted trail. The SPOT dot shows him about a mile from the pass, at 3,200 feet the highest elevation on the Iditarod Trail. And it's not the most hospitable place to camp. Arctic winds from the Interior funnel up the narrow canyon and blast the open tundra. It's more than 1,000 feet above timberline, so there's nowhere to hide from the wind or cold. If the weather turns or temperatures suddenly plummet, it can feel as violently exposed as a high ridge on Denali.
On Friday, Mike will head down the Dalzell Gorge toward the Kuskokwim River Valley. Reports of trail conditions on the Dalzell indicated there is a lot of open water in Pass Creek and snow bridges on the verge of collapse. Of course, 20-30 ITI racers have gone through there already, so the stomped-out trail is probably fairly stable. It may even be rideable.
This long, gradual roll over a geographical weakness in the Alaska Range is definitely one of the most spectacular and scenic sections of the Iditarod Trail. Even if you're pushing a 145-pound bike, there are few better places to do it.