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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 3

Two cyclists on fat bikes pause at Rainy Pass on the Iditarod Trail. They were traveling in February from Anchorage to Point Hope, a distance of about 1200 miles. The sign was installed by Josh Rindal and Bob Jones of Kettle Falls, who were snowmobiling 1,400-miles along the route of Alaska's famous race in March 2014. (Robert Jones)
Two cyclists on fat bikes pause at Rainy Pass on the Iditarod Trail. They were traveling in February from Anchorage to Point Hope, a distance of about 1200 miles. The sign was installed by Josh Rindal and Bob Jones of Kettle Falls, who were snowmobiling 1,400-miles along the route of Alaska's famous race in March 2014. (Robert Jones)

SNOWMOBILING -- Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip -- which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click "continue reading" to see Jones's diary from Day 3 of their 22-day, 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Day 3:  (March 2, 2014) Sunday  

Rainy Pass Lodge to Puntilla Lake cabin, +7º

It was warm, dry and quiet in our little log shack last night.  We had the company of two of the Perrin’s Iditarod working crew.  Josh and I had the two cots in the main room.  I kept the barrel on super low, and the cabin stayed a perfect sleeping temperature with about 3 sticks of wood for the night.

We walked to the lodge for an 8:30am breakfast of French toast and bacon under gorgeous clear, blue skies.  This is going to be a fantastic day to be at Puntilla Lake and onto Rainy Pass.

Two of the Trailbreakers from the Iditarod came in and told horror story after horrow story of the ‘terrible’ trail ahead………From what they said there is a lot of hard, frozen bare ground with rocks, stumps and tundra hummocks aplenty.  50 miles of it!

I worked on the diary and fooled around the lodge most of the morning.  Josh got the machines fueled up.  They took 8 gallons total @$9.00/gal = $72.00.

It was too nice being at Rainy Pass Lodge to get into a hurry leaving, so we delayed until lunch was ready.  We ate, packed up, and rode out onto Puntilla Lake at exactly 1pm.  We knew we only had to run up the the pass itself, and we hoped the little ass-out cabin wouldn’t be in too tough a shape.  In 2012 we had to shovel snow out of the cabin and then patch a whole bunch of holes before we could get the stove to do it’s job.

This year the cabin was in excellent shape.  Instead of snow we had rodent poop to contend with, but a good broom made short work of that.  There was plenty of wood and a good, tight barrel stove.

We left the cabin after determining it was ready to spend a night in, and rode right up into Rainy Pass itself.  The distance from Rainy Pass Lake to the pass is only one mile.  The trail from Puntilla to here was, by far, the best I have ever seen it:  Flat and hard.  There was none of the normal drifting across the top of the world flats, and we didn’t hit a single rock or a piece of bare ground all the way to the pass.

We looked over the Iron Dog Trail as it led off into the sunset towards Hell’s Gate on the South Kuskokwim, and it hadn’t had any snow on it since that race.  The whole country was set up nice and firm, and you could ride a snowmobile anywhere.  We talked about going that route to avoid the ice conditions in the Dalzell Gorge.  We would decide our actual route in the morning.

We got into the pass in the bright sunshine and got out all our tools.  In minutes, two snow machines showed up, the only ones we had seen today.  It was two of the guys who always camp at the bottom of the Dalzell to watch the race go by.  They camp there, and after the race they ride up and down the Tatina River.  They are always fun to have a quick visit with.  They had nice thoughts on our sign in the pass.

We found a good place with what appeared to be solid rock and chose that place to re-mount our Rainy Pass sign as they rode off.

We had all the right tools, and I had had a base made up at Kaiser’s Welding in Kettle Falls for the job.  We drilled 4 deep holes with a hammer drill, leveled the base up, and drove 4 rock anchors into the stone.  Two of the rock anchors were 16-inches long, so we really got a good purchase with them.

Red Loctite on all the threads and a heavy-duty wrench got all the attachments in place and as tight as we could make them.  The torpedoe level showed perfect when we were all done, and when we set the sign into the base it was about as straight as it could have been done.  The last phase was to attach a Seahawks flag to the pole. 

I had thought about getting our sign properly anchored in Rainy Pass for two long years, and today it was done!  Josh and I gave a couple of high-5’s, loaded up our tools and got ready to head back down to the little cabin.

At almost that exact time, two people whom we met at Rainy Pass Lodge last night showed up on their fat-tire bycicles.  They are headed from Anchorage to Point Hope, some 1200 miles across the Arctic.  They are going to have a fantastic journey!  They said that the thought of riding that far is quite overwelming.  But they just take it one day at a time.   We got them and their bikes under the sign and got some great photos in the sunlight.  They headed off for Rohn while Jose and I headed back towards our cabin.  They loved that sign!

We met another couple on snow machines.  A guy and his wife were headed for a guides cabin on the Dalzell.  We had a nice chat with them too.  So, this day turned out to be as good as it could get:  A half-day at Rainy Pass Lodge.  A classic 18-mile ride over a fantastic trail to the physical pass.  We had the right tools and the perfect base to permanently remount our Rainy Pass sign.  We found our little camp for the night to be in excellent condition.  And we saw six very interesting travelers along the way.

It doesn’t get any better than that!

We moved our gear into the cabin and got a nice fire going.  Dinner was quick and easy, and, as we sit in this warm little cabin, writing in our diaries, we can hear the wind howling outside.  I can’t imagine any place I would rather be than right here!




Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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