No doubt he has stopped to talk a bit. Here is what he wrote last year:
Sharon and Dick are the caretakers of the Rainy Pass Lodge and although we're really just acquaintances who've met along the trail they seem like lifelong friends. I wouldn't dream of passing through without stopping for a spell. Dick is not to be found but Sharon comes out and shares the highlights of the winter so far. These two live a lifestyle that many would kill to hear firsthand tales of and few could ever commit to, and time passes quickly as she shares some of the latest. It seems that their children have upped the pressure on her and Dick (who are in their 70's although you'd never know it to look at them) to leave this utopia behind and reenter society to be closer to help 'should something go wrong'. I don't even need to ask if the kids that are leading this charge have visited Sharon and Dick out here. If they had they'd be clamoring to move back in with the 'rents instead of trying to force their own fears and anxieties onto two people who've truly found their place in the world. Most of us (raises hand) would give limbs to have the opportunity to live this peacefully and contentedly right up until the moment that we keel over into a drift on our way back from the outhouse.
After Puntilla the Iditarod Trail quickly climbs above treeline, which is a mere 2200' or so that far north. Shelter can be hard to come by, but the scenery is 'pretty OK' as Mike would say.
That pic was taken by Mike last year, working his way up the Happy River Valley, towards Rainy Pass. He writes last year that it was here that he did his first extended Idita-pushing, but that he didn't care because of the place he gets to do the pushing in. I'm sure he has been looking forward to this section, with its alpine scenery and otherworldly barren landscape.
It's still not clear what kind of shape the trail is in. The good news is that over twenty racers have made it to Rohn, on the other side of the pass. But others are still crossing it, and it has taken everyone a considerable amount of time. It remains to be seen how Mike fares with his Snoots-pig-of-a-bike. In 2007 he never made it over the pass. We don't know how much food (and fuel?) he may have dropped, but it's still safe to assume his bike is heavy enough that major portaging requires removing panniers from the bike and taking multiple trips. He has his setup such that this process is about as fast as it could possibly be (literally only a couple minutes to remove and reattach), but it's still not a fast way to travel.
Tomorrow should be interesting to watch. In 2008 it only took him about half a day to reach the pass (where he bivied) from Puntilla.
Speaking of 2008, here's a fun little video comparing '08 (red) and '09 (cyan) trips.
Sorry about the jerkiness at the start. It was smooth when I made the video, but somewhere along the way something got a little funky. It's pretty clear that he's behind last year's pace, but remember conditions were primo last year. It's fun to see where he camped each night.