Friday was another early morning. The kids had proven they could get ready quickly, so I let them sleep in until 4:15. (They weren’t overly thankful… hee hee.) I had told them to pack breakfast and lunch, but I intentionally didn’t “make them” be responsible. I figured failing to pack good food would have its own consequences. (I had overnight oats for breakfast.)
I swung by Race Central, where the radio guys had been up for unknown hours. I gave them some enthusiasm before heading out to Salt Creek in the dark. We used our ‘mandatory headlamp’ to navigate our way to the checkpoint. Here we were greeted by twinkling Christmas lights, and 2 sleepy radio guys.
The kids had the routine down now, and I trusted TBear to call in many of the mushers. Some of the 100-milers were returning, so we had activity before the normal time of 1pm. The snow groomer came by, and we got to check out his ride.
We shook the snow off the fence, and stood it back up where needed, but otherwise we just repeated Thursday’s activities, where the teams come out and return on their 31-mile journey. We had some ggorgeous sun in the morning, but by afternoon a gentle snow started to fall with big, heavy flakes. When our shift ended around 2pm, we didn’t hang around long, but took our tired selves home.
Once more I rousted the kids just after 4 AM. Cold cereal was their breakfast of choice and (for TBear) it was also a lunch. After the race, we made a list of improvements for next year. Preparing better meals was on it!
Typically, the final 200-mile racers finish by daylight, so I had scheduled my fencing helper to be there in the morning. I checked on the mushers and told him to wait until 8. He was on time, but the last musher wasn’t, so we ended up re-installing some fence at the last minute, as he had gone straight to work.
We couldn’t break camp until the last musher came through, so there were several folks waiting on that, including the sleep-deprived trail crew. The kids and I tried to stay quiet, as they slept for an hour or so, then I started to pack any little thing we wouldn’t need. The checkpoint has 3 boxes of supplies that contain many conveniences like instant coffee/cocoa/cider drinks, salt/pepper, kettle, pots/pan, dishes, etc. In addition there are clipboards, lists, and forms for all kinds of stuff; like the gasoline form for the extra fuel onsite.
By 10 AM, we were able to get serious, and start breaking everything down. My goal was to take everything out in one pickup load, which required some planning. We placed concrete piers & sandbags on bottom, barricade legs on the sides, and long boards up on my lumber rack. In the middle we layered all the other stuff. Posts, poles, wall tent, stove, hundreds of yards of fencing, generator, gas can, garbage, etc.
Search and Rescue was on duty until that musher reached the finish, so they helped us haul gear from the checkpoint back to the parking lot. At one point, I had to stop tearing down to relay some radio traffic using the truck’s radio. All this stuff had 4 places it was stored, so I also tried to pack it that way. The fencing, poles, and boxes went to a storage unit, the tent & stove went to a house, borrowed piers went to the ski area, an the wooden barricades went to someone’s barn. (As I write this, it’s Monday night, I’ve burned a whole tank of diesel, and I still have stuff to deliver.)
After unloading, I got ready for the banquet and had a little time to spare, so I lay down. Apparently, I slept for an hour or so, because next thing I knew, it was time to go. We got a babysitter for the 3 younger kids, and I was looking forward to having Queen Marie be our designated driver.
I would strongly urge every volunteer to attend. For me, this is when all the hard work pays off. The sense of community is almost overwhelming, and I found myself with a perma-grin on the whole night. Queen Marie got her pullover signed by all the mushers, the food was excellent as always, and I got to pick the brain of a musher regarding our fencing.
There were silent auction items, and after the awards a few live auction items were sold for the race too. Many mushers graciously returned their prize checks to the race. One related that, “it’s cheaper than a vet bill, and your dogs get looked over by a whole team of expert vets!” Many touching & fun stories were shared, and hugs were plentiful too!
Sunday I had to drive the kids home, so I asked them a few things. TBear’s memorable moment was when our motion sensor went off, and we were all rushing out of the tent to see the incoming musher. He had forgotten his clipboard and turned around to retrieve it. Not knowing this, I ducked through the tent door and head-butted him right in the nose! It was a pretty good crash, and I’m surprised that no injury resulted. For Queen Marie, it was getting musher signatures.
The kids’ “Favorite Thing” about the race were meeting cool people, watching the dog teams go by, and getting to call things in over the radio. Their least favorite thing was dealing with fencing, and the slippery tent door. (As the floor receeds by snow melting, the entrance becomes a slope of icy death. I fell victim only once, but my radio was clipped to my collar and gave me a fat, bloody lip.)
Next year, they plan to be better prepared with gear, food, water, etc. Queen Marie may even get her amateur radio license too! We all enjoyed ourselves, and plan to back again. Hope you enjoyed my account, and if you have any questions, or want to get involved, feel free to reach out.