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Musher deals with devastating news on the trail

By Heather Hintze 11:02 PM March 17, 2017
NOME –

Iditarod competitors were allowed to carry and use cell phones for the first time during the race.

For one musher a call home didn’t go as planned.

Minnesota musher Gunnar Johnson was at the Galena checkpoint when he caught up with our KTVA crew. He was enjoying life off of the grid.

“Since I started the race I haven’t had any cell service, I haven’t had any Wi-Fi,” he told Dave Goldman. “I’m living the wireless life and it’s refreshing. I feel a little bad I haven’t been able to call my wife, but other than that the cell phone was completely worthless.”

Johnson’s cell phone was buried in his bag, so Goldman let Johnson borrow his phone so he could check in at home.

“Hey, it’s Gunnar from Galena,” he said when his wife answered.

A few minutes into the phone call Johnson got some devastating news.

“Oh Ingrid, I’m so sorry. Your dad was a wonderful person.”

His father-in-law passed away unexpectedly, just hours before the restart four days earlier.

“That’s not the phone call I wanted,” Johnson said.

Johnson pushed through, finishing the race where his wife met him under the Burled Arch.

“You’ve got the toughness of the race, but finding that would was devastating. That shook me,” Johnson said. “I had to reevaluate where I was and double down and say this is about finishing the race.”

His wife Ingrid said she wasn’t sure whether she should tell him.

“I didn’t want to hide it from him and I didn’t want to mess up his race. My dad was really excited and really proud of Gunnar and absolutely wanted him to run the race,” she said at the finish line.

Being reunited in Nome, Johnson and his family can now get through the loss together.

KTVA 11’s Heather Hintze can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

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