If you’ve looked at the Current Standings page, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that Jeff has jumped up a number of spots since yesterday. Our good friend Virgil stopped into the office this afternoon and was so excited to share his story of scrolling down the list of mushers looking for Jeff – only to not find him!?! So he scrolled back up – and there he was in sixth! Yee Haw!
Despite that jump in standings, the reality is that we will have no clue where Jeff is actually at in the standings until teams complete their 24 hour breaks. The two minute start differentials are also made up on a musher’s 24 hour break. Previous race leader Mitch Seavey, and other top teams, will wrap up his 24 hour rest around midnight, when he will head to Ophir where Jeff and team are currently resting after a nice run from McGrath. Jeff bypassed Takotna this morning staying only 10 minutes, then making the 23 mile run to Ophir in three hours arriving at 13:39. While we don’t know what his exact plan is, Alex has become pretty good at anticipating Jeff’s moves. He thinks Jeff will rest in Ophir for about six hours, and pull out at approximately 19:40. All of this “what’s Jeff’s going to do” sure keeps us on our toes!
A night run to make the 80 mile trek to Iditarod would ensure that Jeff and the team are traveling in cooler temperatures than what we’ve been seeing during the daytime, but the weather forecast isn’t looking all that great. There is a Winter Weather Advisory for the portion of the trail that Jeff will be traveling, and 1 – 3″ more snow is expected, along with wind gusts up to 40 mph. The section of trail from Ophir to Iditarod is pretty desolate, and a section known as the Beaver Flats is completely exposed – even in decent weather can be known for whiteouts and severe wind. From Iditarod’s trail descriptions by Don Bowers, Jr., “Whether you’re on the northern or southern route, this is your last vestige of civilization for a very long while. The trip from here to Cripple and on to Ruby (or down to Iditarod and over to Shageluk and Anvik) is arguably the longest, emptiest, loneliest stretch of trail on the race, and the checkpoints at Cripple or Iditarod are basically nothing but tent camps in otherwise uninhabited locations.”
Three teams are running the trail from Ophir to Iditarod at this time: current race leader, Joar Liefseth Ulsom, and Lars Monson – both of Norway, and Larry Daugherty. It’s doubtable that we will hear any kind of trail report on that section for a while, let alone before Jeff departs for Iditarod. This could end up being a long 80 mile run, so you can bet that our crew will be closely watching the tracker tonight – or at least checking his progress when we get woken up to let a dog out.
With the weather being what it has been during this race, we’re seeing a bit of a shortage in videos and photos. Fear not however, we found exactly three photos of Jeff and the team today via KTVA that were taken at the Takotna checkpoint. They show Swenson and Kenmore in lead, and Jeff with his parka on, with only a ballcap – so it couldn’t have been that cold. Click here to check out those three, and some other fun ones from Takotna! Iditarod.com also features their “Daily Race Photos” by Official Race Photographer Jeff Schultz – we’ve featured one of Jeff’s photos above. These are always worth checking out for some great scenes of all things Iditarod!
Ophir fun fact: Population 0 — Now a ghost town, it took its name in 1908 from a nearby placer creek, one of a dozen streams in Alaska to be named by Bible-reading prospectors, for the lost country of Ophir, the source of King Solomon’s gold. Many items and artifacts still remain untouched. The checkpoint is at Dick and Audra Forsgren’s cabin.
Zig update: Ellen reports that the swelling on Zig’s wrist is gone, and she is no longer favoring it. Yay! A big thanks to Ellen & Ryan for taking care of the Warrior Princess.
Stay tuned… we’ve got a long way to go!