Iditarod 2007 - Anchorage to Ophir

We begin Iditarod 2007 at the "publicity" race start in downtown Anchorage,
Alaska. Tourists, locals, and the media are all here to participate in the
festivities. The "real" start of the race begins the following day at the
edge of the wilderness outside of Anchorage. After the race was underway, I
took a commercial flight to the village of McGrath, about 400 miles north
of Anchorage. In McGrath, I picked up another flight with the "Iditarod Air
Force", an all-volunteer group of local bush pilots who provide most of the
day-to-day transportation along the Iditarod Trail. The short distance
(43 miles) from McGrath to the checkpoint of Ophir, took about 30 minutes.
We begin at the race start ...

The dogs are lined up, calmed down, and moved toward the starting line.

Many vendors line the streets on "start day" including this one, selling furs.

Many colorful characters also line the streets on race day!

This single engine Cessna Caravan will carry 10 of
us and all our luggage from Anchorage to McGrath.

Approaching the village of McGrath, 400 miles into the race and a major hub
for Iditarod flight logistics.

The Iditarod Air Force pilots remove their engine cowl covers to prepare for
the day's flights from McGrath to various checkpoints in the interior
along the Iditarod Trail.

Chief Pilot John Norris warms up his Cessna 180,
on wheel-skis, as he prepares to take off.

I'm ready to go ... all I need is a pilot.

Welcome to Ophir! This checkpoint is privately owned by the Forsgren family
and was my first checkpoint during my first year as an Iditarod volunteer,
in 1989. Returning 18 years later, some things were exactly the same as I
had remembered and some were completely new. Dick Forsgren has now retired,
passing the checkpoint on to his son, Keith. Keith and his son, Kyle, now
run the checkpoint, true to the Forsgren style, featuring tremendous
hospitality, superb gourmet dining, and a fun, yet productive experience.

The first thing to do is to set up our ham radio station,
including the antennas, which are raised using a handy slingshot.

Chopping firewood is part of the community effort,
as everybody has to contribute to the checkpoint.

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