continued from: http://seansalach.blogspot.com/2009/12/09-alaska-ultrasport-rainy-pass-attack.html
We slept like babies that night. It was my first real bivy of the trip and it alleviated a lot of my fears. I was warm. I slept well. I didn’t get buried in an avalanche or falling snow and I didn’t get trampled by a moose. In the months leading up to the race, that had actually been a developing fear of mine. It reached the level of nightmare inducing paranoia in the weeks proceeding the race. I had been granted a late start one Wednesday at work, and on Tuesday night I rode my bike out just beyond the little Susitna river with camping gear. It was my first experience riding out in the winter to camp. I found a good spot, stomped it out, set up my tent, and faffed about for a bit because I wasn’t tired.
I was still sweaty when I crawled into my bag, and fell asleep shivering. I would wake up startled at every sound, in fear that it was a moose that didn’t see the tent and was about to trample me in my sleep. After a few relatively peaceful hours of sleep without shivering, I heard the loud sound of a moose tromping through snow. It got closer and I could hear it breathing right outside the tent. Then it happened, the moose started kicking the tent, and upon finding a soft, warm body inside, began trampling me, pounding my chest repeatedly as I helplessly tried to fend off it’s legs with my arms. I woke in a panic, throwing the bag off of me and charging out of the tent as quickly as I could to see a peaceful night with nary a moose track in sight. I crawled back into the tent and laid there, sleepless, listening to the distant drone of the generator at the pump station on Ayershire Rd, a couple of miles away. I finally crawled out of the tent and started packing up at first light. It was the worst night of sleep while camping that I’ve ever had. A totally irrational fear that I couldn’t shake. Having Roger and George nearby must’ve helped calm my nerves, because I fell asleep fast and stayed fast asleep through the night.
Upon waking on our mattress of snow above Pass Creek that morning, I found the other two still sound asleep. I walked around a little bit to check out the conditions further down the ‘trail’ It was easy enough to spot the tracks of the other racers that had come through. Finally Roger, then George woke, and I walked up with him to retrieve his bike. He was feeling much better, and looking forward to the opportunity to collect himself and rest in Rohn. We walked around as we ate our breakfasts, simply out of habit. It was really unnecessary as it was actually kind of warm out.
The days travels started with foot trampled singletrack that gave us all a bit of trouble.
I had walked on ahead a bit when I first spotted it. My eyes lit up and I yelled “Trail!!”! I jumped on my bike and was able to coast down 20’ or so of set in snowmachine trail, and was excited enough that I rode over the low log crossing on the trail before stopping and waiting to get photos of the other two as they found it.
I wasn’t entirely rideable trail, but it was trail, and we pushed on together for another mile or so. Finally it had firmed up enough and I gave riding a shot, with fantastic results. It was firm and fun. The first real rideable trail I had seen in nearly 4 days.
After a mile or two of riding ahead, stopping and waiting only to see Roger show up before George, I was baffled, and a bit frustrated. George was on Endomorphs on 100mm rims, which gave him a whole lot more float than me. He should have been at least right with me, and unquestionably ahead of Roger. Exhaustion and the trail were really taking their toll on George at this point, and he was stopping constantly to faff about with his GPS or Spot, or readjusting his gear. I’ve been in the same position and done the same, I know what it’s like. You get to the point that any distraction is a good excuse to stop and not move forward. When George finally caught up, with good trail beneath our feet and probably less than 5 miles of downhill riding to Rohn, we called it, and decided it was time to split up. I wanted to ride, Roger wanted to get a move on, and we all felt that George, while near the end of his rope, was on good enough trail that he could make it to Rohn on his own without issue.
I pedaled away, thrilled to be on the bike again, enamored with the scenery and in love with the super fun trail the Iditarod trail crew had laid out for us. Alright, so they laid it out for the dogs, but they got it done in time for us, and I certainly appreciated that..
The trail criss-crossed the creek, occasionally on Ice, occasionally on bridges the crew had built by hand out of branches and snow. It was fun and fast and dumped me out onto the Tatina River all too soon.
From there it was fun ride on a wide, flat, frozen and windswept expanse of ice and gravel for a while untill climbing up off the river and through the woods to the wonderful Rohn checkpoint. I had made it, and I knew the rest of the ‘race’ would be a piece of cake. My new goal was to make it to McGrath before the official 10 day cutoff time for the race. I pulled in off the airstrip and asked the first person I saw where the smelly biker’s tent was. I spoke to I believe her name was Dee(?), who asked if I had seen her trail crew on the way in. I was a bit baffled, as I had seen no one.
At the Ultrasport tent, I was treated wonderfully by Rob, who seemed to go out of his way to help me out and provide me with whatever I needed. He was supposed to fly out a day or two earlier, and was planning on taking the tent down later in the day. I dried some of my clothes, ate some food, and let Rob know that I intended to make a charge for Nikolai after at most an hour of rest.
As I was walking toward the outhouse, the ‘trail crew’ rolled in. I couldn’t figure out where they had come from. The outhouse was something else. A divided double seater with styrofoam insulation as seats. It was the warmest, most comfortable toilet seat I have ever had the pleasure of sitting on. Whoever was responsible for installing it is an angel and a true hero and will forever be in my fondest thoughts.
I let Rob know about Roger’s sled malfunction, and that he might need some help mending it well enough to survive the burn, and about Georges condition. He headed out on snowmachine to check on them and make sure they were both alright. I met another volunteer(Scottish?), who’s name might have been Dave, who had done the race a few years earlier, and had some cool stories to tell. Sorry if I got your name wrong!
Before I took off, wouldn’t you know it, but Roger arrived! He had met Rob on the trail, and explained that the trail crew coming through had turned the good trail to sugar. I felt horrible for George and really hoped that he had made it to the river before they passed him.
I had carried an empty 50oz camelback with me specifically for the burn, as there was no promise of water till Nikolai. With that and all my bottles full, and my food stores replenished from my drop bag, I bid farewell to Roger and headed out into the Farewell hills.
with the above, stitched panorama, you can click on it to see a bigger version on my Flickr account, as you can with all the other photos here as well.
Rohn to bivy: http://seansalach.blogspot.com/2009/12/09-alaska-ultrasport-rohn-to-first-bivy.html