From a Musher’s perspective:
The little town is a bit of a hurdle near the end of the race. From high above Golovin, a Musher can look down from the summit of Little McKinley. It is visible from very far off, down and across the frozen bay. The route down to the bay can be treacherous, along a slippery side slope often accompanied by gusty winds. There is a small shelter cabin half way down the mountain. Besides that small shelter, there are no trees, rocks or hummocks to hide from the weather. Once the trail reaches the frozen ocean, the conditions can vary. On ‘easy’ years there is plenty of snow cover on the sea ice and the trail markers show the way across the bay into town. On ‘challenging’ years there is no snow on top of crystal clear and smooth sea ice. Neither the dogs nor Mushers have traction and wind gusts have pushed entire teams miles across the bay to the shoreline on the far side. Dog teams have also stalled out here on the frozen ocean. It can be an intimidating place.
From several miles out on the sea ice, during the day, the colorful village houses stand as contrast to the white winter landscape. During the night, the welcoming glow of “city” lights spreads across the horizon. A dog team gets excited day or night.
Upon reaching Golovin, the race route climbs up off the bay and enters the center of the small town. More often than not, children stand at the spot that Mushers come of the sea ice and greet them. Some Mushers stop, some Mushers don’t. Aliy and Allen always stop. They enjoy the welcome and sign posters, jackets, give hugs and say “Howdy!”
Usually, only minutes later, the teams are ready to go. The route follows the main street through the middle of town. Often there are people, dogs, travelers or perhaps… no one. A few hundred yards later the route turns sharply left, off the street and zigs across a clearing then drops back down onto the sea ice. Golovin is now behind.
Iditarod Mushers do not generally spend any more than the few minutes it takes to travel down Main Street.
Aliy will be in Golovin all day today, Monday, August 28th.