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Extreme cold on the Iditarod trail met with mixed feelings from volunteers, mushers

By Heather Hintze 8:26 PM March 7, 2017
MANLEY HOT SPRINGS –

Nearly all of this year’s mushers made it to Manley Hot Springs by Tuesday evening. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race checkpoint is likely to be one of the coldest stops along the trail this year.

Temperatures plummeted to more than 30 degrees below zero Tuesday as mushers raced into the checkpoint. Through the frost and the fur, it was hard to tell who was checking in; when temps drop that far below zero, everyone looks a little frozen.

For those from the Lower 48, this kind of cold is a whole new experience.

“It’s breathtaking, is the only way I can describe it,” said Iditarod volunteer Jenny Proby, who’s from Seattle. “If you take a deep breath in, it shocks the system and our eye lashes were freezing shut, which was a little different for me.”

She and other volunteers from the Lower 48 quickly learned layers are the key to thriving in the Interior.

“I made many trips to REI before I came up here,” Proby described her Far North preparations. “Lots of fleece and wool seem to be doing good. Frozen fingers are the hardest to keep warm.”

Rick Gray, another Iditarod volunteer who lives in Manley Hot Springs, has braved the brutal winters for more than three decades.

“This morning, it was cold. I don’t care where you’re from, 40 below is cold,” Gray laughed. “At least it’s not windy, that you can’t prepare for.”

Humans and dogs weren’t the only ones affected by the bitter cold. Monica Whitmire, from Charlotte, North Carolina, came to Alaska hoping to shoot drone video of the teams, but her equipment wouldn’t cooperate with the cold. For her, anything below zero is bone chilling.

“I can’t tell the difference,” she lamented. “I just know it’s crippling.”

The race to Nome is far from over, but volunteers are hoping this cold spell will quickly come to an end. Some mushers said they actually enjoyed the cold run, saying it’s part of the Iditarod experience.

KTVA 11’s Heather Hintze is on the Iditarod Trail to provide live coverage. She can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

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