The Ophir Checkpoint - Part I

The back of the main cabin at Ophir, with dog food stacked for the
arriving dog teams and snow machines ready for checkpoint chores.

This is the "communications shack" during the Iditarod. In real life
it's a working sauna but during the race it's the 63-square-foot home
and communications headquarters for two ham operators providing comms
services for the race.

Gas cans and the generator decorate our front yard at the sauna ... er,
the communications center.

The "heating system" inside the sauna. After filling the stove with
wood, the trick is to adjust the damper to keep the temperature in a
normal range. My comms partner and I determined that the temp varies
about 10 degrees (F) per foot. With a 7-foot ceiling height, when the
temperature is 70 degrees at the ceiling, it's zero on the drafty floor!

My comms partner, Mike, volunteered for the "floor bed" since he had a
real Alaska-winter sleeping bag. If the fire ever went out (yes, it did),
the temperature on the floor quickly dropped below zero. If it got out of
control, the temperature could go as high as 116 degrees (yes, it did!).

During one of the times when we had things under control, Tracy,
one of our trail veterinarians, stopped in to talk to another checkpoint.
Volunteers often pick up nicknames and Tracy's was "High Speed", due to
her boundless energy.

People at home (California) always ask about the temperature extremes while
on the Iditarod Trail. Here, in the interior, it gets quite cold, compared
to the milder temperatures nearer the coastlines. The coldest it got during
my stay in Ophir was -30F. There was no wind so it was cold, calm, and quiet,
well ... until the dog teams arrived, that is!

This is as warm as it ever got in Ophir, +22F,
during the warmth of the midday sun (!)

Ray, our chef extraordinaire, is shown in his "kitchen", just a corner
in the main cabin, a single room measuring about 20 X 20 feet. Ray
provided unbelievable cuisine during our five day stay in Ophir. A
checkpoint favorite is always Turkey Tuesday, when Ray prepares a full
turkey dinner with all the trimmings, from a wood-burning stove! Other
favorites include the sourdough pancakes for breakfast and home made
soup every day for lunch. The Iditarod sends out "trail food" for the
volunteers but ... well ... as much as we appreciate their efforts and
enthusiasm ... we just don't do trail food in Ophir!

The "kitchen" corner, just to the left of the stove. The cabinet on the
left is where you might expect to find a sink. However, there is no
running water in the cabin, making the dishwashing chore quite challenging,
especially after one of Ray's gourmet dinners!

At night the volunteers make their own entertainment, as bars, movie
theaters, museums and the opera are a little scarce in Ophir.
(Thanks to Jim Psiones for this photo).

Tracy, one of our long-suffering trail veterinarians, and some
old, gray geezer enjoy an after-dinner beverage.
(Thanks to Jim Psiones for this photo).

Click for Ophir part 2

Return to top level