Segment 3: Lack of sleep leads to instability, then madness, but ultimate redemption.
We made Rohn around noon, thus completing the route from Puntilla Lake to Rohn in something like eleven hours. I remember Lindsay telling me that in 2012, that segment of the trail had taken him twenty-eight hours, walking in deep snow almost the whole way in 20 below with high head winds. We were in good spirits, but we were dog-tired, fatigued at the cellular level, and thus hoping for a good three-hour nap, but it was not to be as it was Happy Hour when we arrived in busy, bustling, downtown Rohn.
Rohn is comprised on one cabin. The cabin is maintained by the BLM in conjunction with the Iditarod Race organization. Apart for the small, but very cool cabin, there is a nice “fully equipped” outhouse, and a packed down landing strip for ski-equipped small airplanes (Note to self: I’d love to somewhat get my family up there to stay for a week as it truly is a wonderful spot). Yet the place was rockin’ with airplanes landing and taking off, dropping off massive supplies for the big upcoming dog race. The cabin was occupied by a number of Iditarod volunteers, all scurrying around getting the mountain of supplies of straw, dog, food, fuel, etc., ready for the mushers and dogs to arrive in a few days. Many of the volunteers were from northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin; all presumably eager to speak with folks different from whom they had been talking with since they had flown in a couple dayz prior to our arrival.
In any event, on sleeping or even staying in repose, I gave up and thus, with cheerful resignation, went out into the warm sunshine and engaged in fun, lively conversations with several of the volunteers.
I doubt we stayed in Rohn for more than two, maybe three hours. As stated above, we were tired, actually we were more than just tired, we were getting really really fatigued as we had been on the go for well over three dayz. In Lindsay’s much more accurate account of the race, he states, “I would estimate that we had laid down for about ten hours and I had slept for maybe five.” Consequently, we knew it would take a mammoth effort to get to Nikolai which was ninety more miles down the trail, but there stands a BLM cabin approximately fifty miles from Rohn and so that would be our goal. The idea was to push it to get to the cabin, get a good three hours of sleep, and then push it onward to Nikolai (for a quick resupply of water) and then to the finish line in McGrath. It was looking like, given our pace, the good weather, and relatively solid track that we would be able to make McGrath in less than 4.5 dayz. Our weary but encouraged hearts soared as we left Rohn…As it turned out we did not make the goal of 4 dayz and twelve hours, but we were not that far off as we ultimately arrived in McGrath just two hours and some change beyond the goal. The fact that we did come so close to achieving this goal was due in part to the good trail conditions, but is also indicative of Lindsay’s ability to bring to fruition a well conceived plan-of-action.
Immediately upon leaving Rohn, it became obvious to us that we were entering into a distinct geographical region that receives drastically less snow than on the other side of the pass. I suppose the moist air from the Pacific deposits the all the precipitation on eastern side of the mountain range. On the eastern side the snow was many meters deep, so deep that we saw little if any signs of wild life. On this side, the interior, we crossed lakes and rivers that were completely devoid of snow and then crossed what the locals call, Farewell Burn, which is a huge swath of charred forest. Here we saw evidence of abundant wildlife, with lots of moose, wolf, lynx, and an assortment of other critter tracks. We also saw evidence of trapping, right next to the trail (presumably so the brave trapper would not have to take more than a step from his snowmachine to check his traps), which made my blood boil, but I won’t get into that here. As stated above, there was little snow and on long sections there was no snow at all, only dirt. I remember thinking, “How in the hell do the dogs pull musher and sled across this part of the trail?”
....a steep ascent, but luckily no ice to contend with...Picture a dog team heading up this????
.....we would ride for 30 minutes or so and then one of us would simply fall off the bike....