McGrath and Ophir Checkpoints
We boarded a commercial flight to the village of McGrath, 400 miles north of Anchorage, as it's
a logistical hub for the Iditarod. This twin engine Saab aircraft performed nicely through the
white-out snow storm in which we found ourselves. The temperature here is comfortable, about +20F.
I like the spirit of Pen Air, depicting Alaskan wildlife on their airplanes.
We were stuck in McGrath for just over 24 hours due to the inability to fly
small planes in the snow storm. Veterinarians Jean Dieden and Turner Lewis
enjoy a moment together as we wait out the storm. Cabin fever is setting in ...
It looks like Turner's lucky day - he's in no hurry for the storm to let up (!)
Turner's luck just ran out ... cabin fever is running rampant through
the checkpoint. Time to get us out of here! C'mon sunshine!
Finally, we have the Ophir airstrip in sight. When we land, a 2-mile snow machine ride gets us to the checkpoint.
We pass the "parking lot" on the river, about 100 yards from the checkpoint, where small
planes belonging to volunteers remain parked for the duration of time the checkpoint is open.
We have arrived at the checkpoint where the temperature is still very mild (+25F) due to overcast skies and snow.
Martin Buser is the first musher into Ophir, where he stays for his 24-hour layover.
I was very surprised to see Martin just let his dogs loose in the checkpoint. Many dogs
will take off running if they ever discover they're loose. Martin simply called their names
and they all came back to take their place on the line that held them during their 24-hour stay.
The media is all over the first musher into any checkpoint as they concentrate on the leaders.
Rick Swenson arrives in camp and discusses the race with Martin Buser as the volunteers look on.
Somehow I managed to get Martin and Rick to pose with me for a picture. These guys are
amazingly tolerant for as tired as they must be, since we're about 440 miles into the race.
DeeDee Jonrowe arrives in Ophir for a brief stay. She's very popular and
most of the checkpoint comes out to greet her and to snap a picture or two.
Off she goes!
Click for Ophir part 2
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