March 12 began the Sky Trek from Unalakleet to Nome for the Winner’s and Expeditions guests. Here are some pictures of smiling faces of happy people doing amazing things. The weather was clear, windy in Koyuk and not so windy in Elim. We enjoyed lunch at the checkpoint in Koyuk but not much time there. Expedition, and middle trek guests Terry and Tracye and guides enjoyed switching to a twin engine Navajo to trek the trail to Nome. A mess up in UNK left Scooter flying aboard the mail plane. Oh my! Guide Zac joined the mail plane in Koyuk and Scooter joined us in the Navajo.Winner’s Trekkers joined the STA pilot/guides aboard the Cessna’s. Never a dull moment and what the heck would an adventure be without some unknown circumstances to excite our minds. Scooter was amazing. We all spent time in Koyuk and Elim and flew the trail to Nome. More images and stories from Elim coming soon.
Thursday March 9th the Sky Trekking Alaska aircraft, pilot/guides and 8 guests (and a hitch hiking Moose named McGuire) departed McGrath to follow the trail to Ruby, the first Yukon River checkpoint on the Northern Route of the Iditarod Trail. Weather conditions were cool and clear with some hazy conditions between Cripple and Ruby. The flights were smooth and there were plenty of mushers to see along the way. Following the Iditarod trail from the air is very exciting. It’s always fun to fly wing to wing within our team of 3 planes to get awesome pictures of people enjoying the ride! Around each twist and turn another musher makes their way to the destination, Nome. There were about six teams getting close to Ruby so we knew we’d have a lot of action while at the checkpoint. Because we were packed to move to the lodging location of Galena we chose to land on the runway at Ruby. Here we were greeted by friendly locals to give us a ride to the village. It’s located downhill about a mile away. Loaded in trucks, and on a snowmachine we were quickly in the village. The view on the drive down was spectacular. McGuire the Moose rode atop the pickup with guides Ryan and Bill in the back with our picnic baskets. I think the moose enjoyed being at the top of the heap!
While in Ruby we viewed and spoke with many top mushers, DeeDee Jonrow, Mitch Seevey, Lance Mackey, Dallas Seavey, and Ryan Reddington to name a few. Some were particularly happy to be on the Yukon and resting for 8 hours (mushers must rest at some checkpoint for 8 hours on the Yukon River, but many choose Ruby because it’s so nice.) others were quite tired at this point. It is a long run between Cripple and Ruby. The Sky Trekking pilot/guides prepared a delicious lunch and were lucky to dine indoors at the checkpoint. Children were busy meeting McGuire and asking questions of where he came from and where he was going. McGuire just kept a strait face and was friendly.
After a busy day in Ruby we departed along the Yukon River watching mushers along the way to Galena. Once in Galena we split the group into two locations for the overnight. We enjoyed a home cooked meal and some chose to visit the checkpoint after dinner.
March 10th was a mushing day with Veteran musher John Korta for the Middle Trekkers and one Expedition trekker who just couldn’t resist another opportunity to go for a ride. In fact, John Korta has a dog in his team that if a Border Collie mix and Expedition Trekker Eileen enjoyed seeing “her type of favorite dog” running wild in the team. This dog was a veteran of John Korta’s Iditarod team several years prior. Martin and Rohn Buser arrived early in the morning before breakfast. We were all very happy to see our friends as they tended to their dogs, ate some food and re supplied before departing just hours later. In fact we were very fortunate to chat with both Martin and Rohn and watch them depart one after the other. By coincidence we got a video of Rohn as he mushed past the airport leaving Galena hours later. The Buser boys had many circumstances that were not in their favor but “as always” they were happy, enthusiastic and taking excellent care of their dogs and doing the very best with what Mother Nature was dealing them.
Pilot Bill and a group of guests chose to depart a little earlier than the rest of the group and visited the checkpoint of Nulato where they had a great time. The remaining 5 guests departed Galena later in the day with Lori, Tim and Ryan for Kaltag to see John Baker, Aliy Zerkle, Mitch and Dallas Seavey, Aaron Burmeister, and Jeff King. Aliy left while we were there and that was a highlight. The dogs looked great and the weather was perfect.
Continuing on to Unalakleet we viewed the trail to the Bering Sea coast and landed in Unalakleet (village base of ERA Airlines famous pilot Jim Tweeto of “Flying Wild Alaska”) around 6pm. Greg was there to pick us up and we arrived at Maggie’s Sleep Inn soon after. Dinner was provided by Peace on Earth. Guests and pilot/guides enjoyed a good nights sleep in our warm and toasty rooms at the Inn.
To contunue with the story of Iditarod 2012 from Anchorage to McGrath with Expedition Trekkers and Middle Trekkers. With 3 Expedition guests and an added 5 Middle Trekkers Sky Trekking Alaska’s pilot/guides set out from Wasilla after a weather delay because of snow conditions in the Alaska Range and beyond. We launched from Wasilla Airport around 1 PM. Then our task was to accomplish a whole entire day of activities in 1/2 a day. Here we go! We had a gorgeous flight through Rainy Pass flying the Iditarod Trail over checkpoints Skwentna, Finger Lake, Rainy Pass and Rohn. As we passed over Rohn an Iditarod volunteer came on the radio and asked if we would be landing, we said no we were heading on. Their comment was that the mushers had all left and they were 2 days ahead of schedule for cleaning up the checkpoint! That means the mushers in this race are getting faster than ever and more equalized. Great opportunities were presented for aerial photography. The pilots of course loved the nice weather. As we flew from Rohn towards Nikolai we hit a squall line of snow showers with lowering conditions. As we continued along the river to Nikolai we were blessed with improving conditions after Nikolai. We landed in McGrath to unload luggage and departed soon after along the Iditarod Trail to the friendly village of Takotna. Takotna is a favorite place for mushers to take their 24 hour mandatory rest, and that was obvious when we arrived. Guests enjoyed seeing the dogs and mushers as they rested in the late afternoon sun, walking around tending to dogs, eating well deserved meals and catching as much sleep as possible. The twins Anna and Kristy Berrington arrived while we were there which was pretty exciting to see these two lovely ladies doing what they love to do. Lori, Ryan, Bill and Tim prepared a field lunch of yummy soup and fresh bread with chocolate brownies for desert. Bill and Tim had the luxury of landing on the NEW AIRSTRIP! Cool dudes! As we had used up most of our day at this point we headed back to McGrath for dinner and overnight accomodations. Landing in McGrath about 6;45 pm we quickly loaded up in Sweet Pea’s Dodge truck and dined on Prime Rib and garlic mashed potatoes with salad in her and Manzy’s lovely home. Guests split into two groups at two different locations for the overnight. Lance Mackey and several other mushers were taking their 24 hour mandatory stop here so a couple guests spent time in the checkpoint after dinner. The Northern Lights were spectacular!
March 8th was a fly out day to the Ophir and Cripple checkpoints. Martin and Rohn Buser left as we were arriving in Ophir and we had the opportunity to see Braxton Peterson resting there. He was cheerful and appreciative to be running the race. There were about 6 teams resting there. It’s a very unique checkpoint with a historic mining cabin located along the Innoko River nestled in spruce and birch trees. We had the opportunity to get some physical exercise by walking the path from the airport. It was a beautiful day and the walk invigorating. After making it back to the planes the pilot/guides prepared a Tailgate lunch (Airplane tail) of hot moose stew with bread and cookies to finish. Then we flew on to the checkpoint of Cripple located about 75 air miles form McGrath out in the middle of no where. REMOTE Alaska. We arrived just in time to see Jeff King come in. Daylight was growing slim so we departed back to McGrath and missed seeing Lance Mackey arrive just minutes later. He told us later he saw us departing….
Back in McGrath we spent the evening telling stories and enjoying another fabulous meal together.
Loving the soup with Martha’s favorite Hot Sauce from Panama
The 2012 Iditarod Sled Dog Race started March 2 this year. We had five participants during the first 4 days of the race. They were from Switzerland, Maryland, Illinois, and Brazil. As a bonus we picked up guests on Friday to attend a special event at 4 time Champion Martin Buser’s Happy Trails Kennels, where Martin and Kathy host a Celebration Open House at the kennels. Spirits were high and the day was fantastic. Great food and friends. We saw past Sky Trekking guests who returned for the Celebratory Start in Anchorage. Saturday was the start of the race in downtown Anchorage. One guest was lucky to be an Idita-Rider with Martin Buser, she had a smile you could see a mile. Weather conditions Saturday were snowy with low ceilings and visibilities all day. After a fabulous lunch at the Glacier Brewhouse guests loaded up for the scenic drive to Wasilla and a special event on Seymore Lake. We call them “Hanger Parties”, since Alaska is a place with thousands of pilots a typical home is called a Hanger/House. We dined on local flavors prepared by Jayne Koskovich and were entertained by her husband Mike. Cilla and Mike presented an informative slide presentation detailing the Iditarod Sled Dog Race from behind the scenes. After a fine meal guests continued to Big Lake and Happy Trails B&B – Home to MArtin and Kathy Buser. Thsi woul dbe our base of operations for the following 3 days. Martin is so talented he puts in a ski strip for us to land and take off in our planes right form the B&B. Super Cool! SUnday we attended and volunteered for the ReStart in Willow, the weather was gorgeous so we took advantage of this and upon completion of all the teams departing pilots Tim and Bill flew guests for a breathtaking flight around Mt McKinley. They returned to Happy Trails for dinner adn relaxation. Day 3 was supposed to be a fly out day and weather again gave us a run for our money. We re arranged our schedule and went Dog Sledding from Happy Trails, all guests driving their own teams to Dog Camp and a bon fire lunch. Returening to HT for a lovely dinner prepared by Lodge owner Lia Talvi. The weather Day 4 which we decided to make our second fly out activity was inclement in the morning but by mid day we launchedand flew through Rainy Pass along the Iditarod Trail watching the mushers. Pilot’s Tim and Bill landed in Nockolai for a short visit with mushers who were resting there. Because the day was shortened by weather the pilot’s headed back through the pass to land at HT just before dark. We enjoyed our final nights celebration dinner with awards for everyone. A great meal prepared and served by Lia Talvi of Port Ashton Lodge in Prince William Sound! Yippee, we are living the dream.
Check out this incredible Video produced by our wonderful French guest Gilles Henry. Published on You Tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?xXP1YiuNdpO&feature=youtube_gdata_player Thank you GIlles for a spectacular production! We loved having you with us on the Iditarod Trail in 2011 and again in 2012!