Trail conditions were good--hard and fast. We three tourists found ourselves in the midst of the top 10 or so ITI racers, and, having been racers once or twice, discovered we were motivated to ride fast, hard, and long.
Without intending to we put in better than 18 hours, finishing only when Brian clomped his boots onto the porch of the Bear Creek Cabin.
Sleep indoors was poor, at best, largely because the Runkel boys beat us to the cabin, claimed the lower shelf of bunk beds, and stoked the woodburner to just a titch under 'nuclear'.
When I awoke gasping for fresh air the second time, I dragged my bag outside and slept the rest of the night on the ground. Once I stopped sweating I slept fine.
Inadequate rest was a small price to pay for the few hours we spent in the company of PJ and Andrew at the cabin. Hearing their take on all things bush, Iditarod, and Herman ze German (I could never do this one justice) was priceless. The bacon and sausage they shared were nectar-esque, and took the edge off of yesterday's damage to the legs.
The miles after Bison Camp passed slowly. I believe this is largely relative, since your mind is still on a high from the visual wonderland of the previous few hundred miles. It simply takes time to come back down to the reality that is the lowlands between here and the finish.
Lots to see and enjoy about these miles, you just have to cultivate the right mindframe. I enjoy checking the many handmade traps that line the trail--for both handiwork and game.
There are still grandiose views to be had--you typically have to look back to get 'em.
A never-ending sunset with *hours* of god-light delivered us within striking distance of McGrath, even with significant photogeeking and a few stops to fix flats.
One of my favorite quotes from the trip was uttered here by Brian, from his sleeping bag, in response to a question concerning his current state of overall hygiene:
Although we spend little time on or in dirt, and the snow couldn't be cleaner, the accumulated sweat and grunge from a ~week of showerless riding and camping is not insubstantial.
Morning delivered broken clouds and much colder temps. Finally. The last ~20 miles into McGrath were unceremonious in every way--merely an epilogue of hours that allowed a bit more processing of all that had happened thus far, in preparation for the long solo miles to come.
Volumes have been written about the smorgasbord of overwhelmingness that awaits at casa Schneiderheinze in McGrath. To those volumes I can only add that it feels like a party held in your honor, and most of your friends are there to help celebrate.