Skwentna prepares for Iditarod teams
The tiny town of Skwentna is getting ready for the first 2018 Iditarod mushers to arrive. It's the second checkpoint along this year's trail.
More than thirty volunteers have been working since Saturday to prepare a path for the teams along the Skwentna River. It's a place for the mushers to stop, feed their dogs and themselves, as supporters gather and vets inspect the pups.
It's a carefully coordinated effort to ensure the teams get what they need quickly and the mushers can keep moving.
"We may have as many as thirty teams parked here at one time," said Roger Phillips, who has coordinated logistics at the checkpoint for the last seven years.
Mushers can choose to spend the night in Skwentna or continue on the trail, camping along the way.
"Temperatures play a huge role in what mushers decide to do here at the checkpoint," Phillips explained. "If we have a warm day, or a warm forecast, the mushers have a tendency to want to pass through here, pick up their supplies and run through the night. Because the dogs are good and cool and they perform well and then they rest the dogs during the heat of the day so that the dogs don't overheat or overexert themselves."
Whether they choose to stay or go, every musher gets a warm welcome.
Flags mark the way to the checkpoint, and mushers are greeted by live music, a banner, bonfires, and fresh "musher stew" -- prepared by a group of seven women known as the "Skwentna Sweeties," the recipe for which is kept secret.
"We're kind of the glue that holds the whole shebang together," said one of the "sweeties," nicknamed "Mamma Sass." "We just take care of everybody."
The checkpoint draws families from around Alaska and volunteers from out of state. Most agree, it's their love for the dogs, that bring them together.
“First thing that fascinated me is the musher can set his brake and stop the sled and the dogs have a tendency to just lay down and eat a little bit of snow, and as the musher's getting out the food and so forth the dogs are, they’re jumping up and licking him on the face and everybody gets their love," Phillips said.
The first musher is expected to pass through the area just after 8 p.m. Sunday.