With gear checks complete, dogs harnessed and mushers dressed the Jr. Iditarod is underway. Fifteen mushers are in the field with 6 being veterans and 9 being rookies. The race was moved up to Cantwell to avoid overflow in the Knik/Willow area. The race will be a stage race with two days of sixty-four mile out and back runs.
The weather is beautiful by human standards if not a little warm by canine standards. The temperature at the start line located 3 miles east of Cantwell was 23 degrees. The sky was cloudy, and the dogs are happy about that. Winds were very light at 3 miles an hour blowing from the ESE. For the rest of the day, the temperature will continue to rise into the low 30’s and the wind will increase to 10 mph. Clouds may break to allow “partly sunny.”
Highway 8, otherwise known as the Denali Highway, follows the path of least resistance from Cantwell to Paxson avoiding the steepest climbs but the trail isn’t flat by any means. Cantwell has an elevation of 2,190. Maclaren Summit, 100 miles east of Cantwell rises to 4,086. The run out has some ups and downs but it’s predominately up hill. The inbound run is predominately downhill unless you’re trying to pass the musher in front of you.
Judging by the average speeds of the mushers, the trail was fast and friendly. Tori Boulding in bib #4 averaged 10.8 MPH, bib #5 Morgan Martens 11.2, bib #15 Hannah Wappett 11.2, bib #9 Emily Robinson 11.2, bib #5 Kristal Hanson 11.2, bib #12 Ellen Redington 10.6, bib #6 Makenna Venderhoof 10.2, bib #8 Katie Henry 10.1, bib #2 Eva Robinson 9.5, bib #10 James Shawcroft 9.8, bib #7 Tietje Paveglio 10.3, bib #14 Jace Cogdill 10.0, bib #13 Bristol Huffman 9.4, bib #16 Sawyer Brown 8.7 and bib #3 Joachim Labrecque 8.3.
In mid-February eight of the Jr, Iditarod mushers participated in the Willow Jr 100 – Emily Robinson, defending Champion Kristal Hanson, James Shawcroft, Ellen Redington, Teitje Paveglio, Sawyer Brown, Eva Robinson and Tori Boulding who claimed Willow Jr gold.
The start for stage II will be at 8:00 on Sunday morning. The start order will be based on run time from the prior day with the fastest teams going out first. GPS tracker is free at jriditarod.com. There are great videos of the Saturday start posted on the Jr. Iditarod Facebook page.