I have carried a hand held video camera on the race for years now. Honestly, I don't always think "Gez, this is gorgeous… I need to take a video!" But, I really did try to capture some amazing portions of the Iditarod Trail this year.
There are 13 videos in the ID: AliyCam 2016 Series. This is the last video of the series.
Welcome to the Western Coast of Alaska!
It is often very obvious, that we have arrived on the coast. That's due to: ice and wind.
The ice. The trail transverses many, many miles of ice: ice on the ocean, ice on lagoons, as well as the occasional icy lake or icy river. Sometimes it's rough, sometimes it's smooth… but always ice. Sometimes, I can’t tell one icy water body from another. Especially when the it is semi-covered in snow and the dark of night limits my visibility. But, since I’ve run this route for years, I can usually guess where we are.
The wind. It's unpredictable. You never know when it's going to pick up and blow like the Dickens. Thankfully, the trail markers in this area are drilled into the trail, so that they will hopefully withstand most of the brutal coastal storms.
The trail into Shaktoolik is like no other section on the race. For 15 mies south of village, the trail is on a frozen lagoon that runs parallel to the Bering Sea. There is a very thin strip of land that is a barrier between the lagoon and the ocean. There are occasionally trees and bushes on the thin land mass.
This year, we traveled on the lagoon for just under 2 hours. There were many sections of complete glare ice and the team couldn’t keep their traction. It was the ultimate challenge when a 20 mph wind gust would hit us from the side, blow us across the ice, to the southwest, towards the sea. But, we would inevitably plow into the tiny strip of land protecting us from the sea. Thank you very much! How hard we hit the and mass would depend on the strength of the wind gust. We would gain control when we regained traction on the land. Then we could continue in the general direction of Shaktoolik, slowly making our way back to the marked trail.
Just another day on the Western Coast of Alaska.
I took this video on a section of the lagoon that was snow covered. YAY! So you will see no crashes. You can see the thin piece of land to the left of us. And you can feel the power of the wind gusts every so often. I do remember noticing the wind picking up in force as we neared the village. I also knew that my plan was to not stay in Shaktoolik but to head out onto the frozen ocean directly into that increasing wind.