The biggest question these days is: "Are you ready?"
We should be. With Iditarod only one week out, there's really not much more to be done. Most of the race preparation has happened over the last few weeks, months and even years. Allen and Aliy turned in their Food Drops on February 11th. In total, Aliy sent 1,633 pounds and Allen sent 1,550 pounds of dog food, gear and personal items. These bags are labeled with a musher's name and a checkpoint name. The Iditarod Air Force as well as commercial airlines will haul all of these supplies out to the trail starting this week.
There are 19 checkpoints that are "resupply" points this year. It is at these checkpoints that the teams can pick up more dog food, fuel and straw bedding for the dogs. Some mushers might choose to stop and stay at all 19 checkpoints. Usually there is parking for the dog team, dog water available and perhaps even a warm spot for a musher to get some rest. But, not all mushers choose to stay in checkpoints. They are understandably very busy places with noise and commotion. Depending on a team's race strategy, they may "go through" a checkpoint and camp outside of the commotion. This requires planning however because the team will most likely still need to resupply.
The Iditarod Trail follows the "southern route" this year. The Iditarod race route leaves the starting line in Willow and heads west. The dog teams begin to travel away from South Central Alaska. River travel gives way to occasional hills and soon encounters the magnificent Alaska Range Mountains. The teams climb through the range and over a mountain pass as they continue north and west. They arrive at the headwaters of the Kuskokwim River drainage and follow the valley west. After passing through several villages, the trail heads north into the rolling hills. It turns west and follows the traditional route through the ghost town of Iditarod. The teams still head west until they reach the Yukon River and make a sharp turn upriver (or north.) They follow the mighty Yukon for nearly 200 hundred miles until the village of Kaltag. The teams get off the river and follow the ancient trade route and 90-mile portage trail over to the Bering Sea. After reaching the western coast, the trail once again turns north. It follows the coastline - occasionally travel on the frozen ocean - for the remaining 275 miles to the finish.
One week out... we better be ready!