Iditarod mushers, volunteers flip for Unalakleet's sourdough pancakes
Former Iditarod musher Miedy Johnson's last Iditarod race was in 2010. Soon after, Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race officials asked Johnson if he would help out with the Unalakleet checkpoint. In 2011, Johnson traded his dog harness for a spatula.
"I said, 'I could do sourdough and bacon,'" he said. "I've been doing it since."
Johnson says he came up with the idea to make the Unalakleet checkpoint a little more inviting.
"Before you'd come in and the mushers are sleeping or someone will bring a plate for a musher," Johnson said. "So then you are watching a musher eat and they'd try to keep everyone quiet."
Johnson didn't care for the silence. He started making and serving sourdough pancakes inside the checkpoint headquarters. Each year, the popularity grows.
"Friends and I start up our sourdough starter a good week and a half before," Johnson said. "Native corporation helps out with a lot of the other stuff like eggs, Tang and coffee, cups, plates. All the sourdough starter is done by people in the community."
When given the chance, mushers like current leader Nic Petit will stop for a quick flapjack.
"Here's some meat," Petit said. "Do you mind how much I eat?"
After sitting down with his plate, Petit described his traverse into Unalakleet with his eye still on the prize.
"You saw my mark," Petit said. "The water spots are new. So, Joar left hours after me? So it must have been Pete."
Petit looked at the leaderboard and musher times, trying to calculate his lead over fellow mushers Peter Kaiser, Joar Leifseth Ulsom and Jessie Royer. He finished his breakfast and soon returned to the trail.
That's the environment and atmosphere Johnson had envisioned in 2011.
"Everyone is welcome," Johnson said. "No one is turned away. If kids want to come and eat, they eat. If community members come, we feed them. Mushers, visitors, media, everyone."
Johnson estimates he'll go through 50 gallons of pancake batter and a couple hundred pounds of bacon during this year's Iditarod.
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