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Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Chilly good-bye: Diary, days 18-21

SNOWMOBILING — The last leg of their adventure following the Iditarod Sled Dog Race started smoothly as Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane left Nome, Alaska, to run back 250 miles to return a borrowed snowmobile at Unalakleet.

But the biggest adventure of the trip that would total nearly 1,400 miles was on its way.
 
The first day was a sweet 106 miles to a cozy cabin, and the next day another swift 125 miles in cold, clear weather.
 
Then the blizzard hit. Bob got stuck in a whiteout. Josh fell through a snowbridge and soaked his feet in a creek.
 
Read on for the details and photos on how they holed up and survived thelast day and night of their irondogging trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Last leg of Trip: Diary, days 16-17

SNOWMOBILING — After celebrating their 1,100-mile snowmobile trip on the Iditarod Trail behind the Iditarod Sled Dog Race at two post-event banquets with dog mushers in Nome, Bob Jones and Josh Rindal are getting back in the saddle for a two-day, 250-mile trip backtracking to Unalakleet to return a borrowed snowmobile.

The video (above) is a clip from Tuesday's KHQ-TV interview regarding my blog on the intrepid irondoggers.

It's just one more leg of their adventure: two more days of traveling in bitter cold and camping in drafty trail cabins. Are they about done in?  No.  Jones said he wishes he could be starting all over.

“Spring makes fantastic snowmobiling in Alaska,” he said, “Even at 20 below.”

Read on for Jones's Iditarod diary for days 16-17.

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Nome Sweet Nome! Diary, day 15

SNOWMOBILING — After 15 days of mostly below-zero temperatures and 1,100 miles of Iditarod Trail that did-in one of their snowmobiles, Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane finally arrived in Nome, Alaska, on Sunday afternoon — in time to celebrate with the sled dog mushers at their race-end bandquet.

They had to negotiate a  notoriously dangerous stretch of wind-blown ice and scoot into town running on fumes for lack of fuel, but ohhhh what a reception:  They got in the food line to a winner's banquet of prime rib, halibut and a dog sled full of fresh strawberries, for starters.

But while Bob and Josh recuperate a day or two in Nome, their expedition isn't quite over.  Click “continue reading” as Jones explains in his Diary and photos.

Also: click here to see a photo gallery of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Cold overlooked along Iditarod Trail

Septuagenarian Bob Jones of Kettle Falls has chiseled into the frozen culture of arctic Alaska as he's snowmobiled 1,000 miles along the Iditarod Trail.  His diary and photos have been a highlight of my blog for two weeks.

Here's one of Jones's many observations from icy remote villages as he pushed through bitter temperatures:

“Cold weather is never a conversation topic among Alaska villagers. When it drops to 30 below, they just put on another layer of clothing and go about their business.”

Of course, it might be different if Alaska villagers had to come up with something quick to say on an  elevator lift to their office.

See Bob Jones's Diary and photos, days 1-6.

See Diary and photos for days 7-10.

See Diary and photos for days 11-12.

See Diary and photos for days 13-14.

See Nome Sweet Nome: Diary and photos for Day 15.

See Diary and photos for days 16-17.

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Diary, days 13-14

SNOWMOBILING — “I'm too tired to even look at pictures,” snowmobiler Bob Jones said in an email from the tiny village of Golovin on the Iditarod Trail. (Additional photos will come later and be posted here.)   He'd just put in an 11-hour  day that extended well into the night to reach a place where he and Josh Rindal could get out of the cold for a few hours of sleep before continuing their 1,000-mile journey to Nome following the Iditarod Trail.

Despite a fierce cold and a major breakdown that forced them to find a snowmobile to borrow, Jones, from Kettle Falls, and Rindal, from Spokane, have an outside chance of making the Mushers Banquet in Nome tonight (March 18) — if they can make the last 90 brutal miles in one day.

“It will be a cold ride, just like today's was,” Jones reported. “It's -9º and breeze outside as I write this from the library at the Golovin school.  It's about +70º in here and my sleeping bag is only about 5 feet away on a pad on the floor.”

Then he crashed and slept like a bear in winter… until early the next morning when he filed his diary for two days (click continued reading below) and offered these additional updates:

Mileage: Nearly 1,000 miles so far out of a total trip that will reach about 1,300 miles if they return to Unalakleet as planned.

He had one final thought about his cozy quarters on the library floor before heading out in the bitter cold for another long day: “This is a beautiful school. Probably costs more on a cost-of-heat-per-kid basis than anywhere in the Lower 48!”

I replied to Jones noting that he was an ironman model for people older than 70. “I wonder what all the other septuagenarians in Kettle Falls are doing today?” I poked.

“Being more intelligent!” he replied.

Click “continue reading” to see Jone's Iditarod diary and photos.

Also: click here to see a continuously updated photo gallery of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Diary, days 11-12

SNOWMOBILING — Chilled but not chilled out, Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane contginued their snowmobile trek along the Iditarod Trail even though the Iditarod sled dog race is is over and the winners have packed up for home.

“Zero degrees here last night with nary a cloud in the sky.  The most perfect day for traveling imaginable,” Jones said, indicating he was happy to still be on the trail.

“The sun is getting some power and sometimes we can feel the heat through our thick clothing.

“Machines are running fine and things are going great!”

On days 11 and 12  they continued to enjoy hospitality from natives with only a few stressful encounters with deep snow in the arctic cold.

Read on for more of Jones's diary and photos.

Also: click here to see a continuously updated photo gallery of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Diary, days 7-10

SNOWMOBILING — As fate would have it, the real adventure began 70 miles from any assistance behind the racers in the Iditarod sled dog race. As the temperature plunged to minus 32 degrees — nearly 60 degrees colder than the day they started out following the Iditarod Trail — snowmobilers Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane faced some arctic cruelness:

  • The starter on Bob's snowmobile was falling apart.
  • A clunking noise was developing in Josh's snowmobile.
  • A friend died in McGrath and the town had to unite to dig a grave in the frozen ground.
  • Fuel was $7.15 a gallon in McGrath.
  • Bob and Josh had to drive over a dead moose in the trail.
  • And then Josh's snowmobile developed problems that threatened to end the 1,000-mile expedition.

Click “continue reading” to see how the two ingenious adventurers saved their butts by hooking on to something a fisherman left behind in a remote BLM cabin.

Also: click here to see a continuously updated photo gallery of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Diary, days 1-6, plus links for entire trip

SNOWMOBILING — Snowmobiler Bob Jones, 72, of Kettle Falls was in Alaska this winter, once again following the annual Iditarod sled dog race with his son-in-law, Josh Rindal, who works at Fairchild Air Force Base.

We followed Jones's diary of ups and downs from the arduous trip on the Iditarod Trail as he reached several personal milestones:

  • — His 100th Alaska visit.
  • — A total of more than 20,000 miles following the 950- to 1,100-mile race from Anchorage to Nome.

Here's a wrapup story about Jones and his love-hate relationship with snowmobiles, but read on to follow his journey day by day.

Jones, a colorful guy with a gift for gab, is a familiar face in the remote villages along the race’s two routes since he began following the event by snowmobile in 1995.

“The first year, eight snowmobiles followed the route, and my Washington group had four,” he said. “One year, I was the only one doing the whole thing.”

He tows a trailer with gear for camping in bitter cold. Sometimes he stays in roadhouses.

“The villagers all know me and like me because I only stay a day, have a good time and leave,” he said.

Live the arctic life with with Jones by clicking “continue reading” for the first six days of diary posts from the Iditarod Trail, followed by links for Bob's take on the rest of the trip.

Also, click here to see a photo gallery of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.