Thursday, April 3, 2008
Part 3 Ruby to Unalakleet
Day 13, 14 Ruby
We arrived in Ruby at 2:00 am and went to the Iditarod checkpoint where we sat in a corner and napped a little bit until it was later in the morning to go to Moose Camp B&B. Their checkpoint in Ruby is the community center and we were told by a local that we were welcome to step inside for a while.
Some of the top mushers were there including Martin Buser and Zach Steer, our neighbor near Eureka. Martin Buser actually gave us some of his food he had sent out to Ruby he didn't need, smoked Salmon, swiss chocolate, roast beef, good stuff! Thanks Martin!
After learning from Dan our race director it had taken the leaders 32 hours from Ruby to Galena on the Yukon River which is used by villagers and often a packed highway I was devastated that the bike pushing was to continue on the Yukon River as well.
A decision was made quickly and Bill and I were in agreement that the smartest thing was to wait and give the trail some time to set up and for temperatures hopefully to cool down to more normal temperatures for this time of the year.
We took 2 days in Ruby doing chores and eating lots of good food at the B&B. We went to the laundrymat to put our clothes and gear in the dryer. We figured we had accumulated about 6 to 7 pounds of moisture in our boots, sleeping bag and down parkas in those wet and warm conditions before Ruby.
We heard the same evening that it had taken Rok only 8 hours to Galena, but we had booked the room then and decided to give it another day despite the good news.
We spent a whole day visiting with Paul Claus a famous Alaska glacier pilot and I listened to Jeremiah that had done a 4 year motorcycle odyssee in South America.
Day 15 Ruby to Galena 58 miles
We left Ruby at about 5:00 am and found the first 4-5 miles of trail drifted in. Not again!
Then the trail was hard packed all the way to Galena where we arrived 7 hours and 45 minutes later.
It was Bill’s 55th birthday and we had a burger and coke at Archie’s Inn before settling in for the night at Sweetsir’s B&B which we had to ourselves and the owner had brought over baked salmon, potatoes and salad, Bill’s birthday dinner.
Day 16 Galena to Nulato 50 miles
It was about 20 degrees when we left and light snow. The trails were soft again, so letting air our of the tires would be something we would be doing for one third of the entire trail to Nome.
Granny gear, at times cutting 2 inches deep, but we were riding because we were tired of pushing.
This section is where we saw the most locals on snow machines. Most of them were visiting relatives in an other village and there was a Potlatch tonight in Nulato.
With every snow machine passing us the trail got worse and more churned up, especially when two future Irondoggers past us and then another young kid with a paddle track snow machine and his girlfriend on the back seat trying to impress her. Out here it is not a hot new car but a fast new paddle track snow machine that guys ride to impress girls.
A local couple stopped and chatted with us for about half an hour, then we told them that we really needed to move again. About 5 miles from Nulato the young kid had busted a the belt on the snow machine and they both had walked into Nulato. From here on we could ride again, soft but it was rideable.
When we got into Nulato at sunset, we had just missed the potlatch, but the school’s gym here was also the Iditarod checkpoint and there was still a handful of mushers there and the Iditarod volunteers had saved us some food from the potlatch and our box with food and supplies was there too.
We settled in a corner of the gym and got a good night’s sleep.
Day 17 Nulato to Tripot Flat BLM shelter cabin 71 miles
In Don’s trail notes it says
“ This is another run on the Yukon on a well- traveled snow machine highway.”
Well, it wasn’t a highway, the Yukon River this year was actually a single snow machine wide trail and soft for most of the 130 miles of Iditarod Trail on the Yukon River.
We made good time and arrived in Kaltag after 36 miles in the early afternoon. We had been mostly in light snow and bad visibility on the Yukon River since Galena and it was really pleasant just before Kaltag when the sun came out. We picked up our box at the post office and made another one of our delicious dehydrated meals that we have had every day twice since McGrath. We had added 600 calories with butter powder to those to bring the total calorie count up to about 1000 per meal and they tasted delicious.
After stopping for about 2 hours in Kaltag we felt really good and started over the Kaltag Portage towards Unalakleet, the first Eskimo village on the Bering Coast.
This route has been used by the Natives for hundreds if not thousands of years and is a connection between the lower Yukon and the Eskimo people. It is the transition from the Interior to the Bering Sea Coast. We made really good time despite some soft trails again and some windblown sections arriving at the Tripod Flat BLM shelter cabin before dark. We built a nice wood fire and settled in for the night.
Day 18 Tripot Flat cabin to Unalakleet 50 miles
There was a huge amount of snow on the trail here the outhouse at the cabin had a big hood of snow on top. Parts of the trail the sides of the trail were over my handlebars. Truly amazing.
Temperature was -5 F when we left the cabin.
We had some of the best riding that day from Tripod Flat cabin to Old Woman cabin which is 15 miles and we covered those in just under 2 hours. The Iditarod Trail sweeps were there, 4 snow machines, we stopped and snacked then headed on to Unalakleet. We saw two of the most beautiful coastal dog sprint teams out training. Those dogs have a lot more hair than the modern Iditarod dogs that wear little coats often at temperatures under 0 F.
In Unalakleet we went to Piece on Earth Pizza place and had the largest Pizza with everything on it and 3 Cokes each.