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Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 17

Josh Rindal of Spokane comes by a unique rock uplift on the Iditarod Trail with Little McKinley in the background. Rindal and Bob Jones of Kettle Falls were snowmobiling 1,400-miles along the route of Alaska's famous Iditarod Sled Dog Race in March 2014. (Robert Jones)
Josh Rindal of Spokane comes by a unique rock uplift on the Iditarod Trail with Little McKinley in the background. Rindal and Bob Jones of Kettle Falls were snowmobiling 1,400-miles along the route of Alaska's famous Iditarod Sled Dog 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 17 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 17:  (March 16, 2014) Sunday

Golovin Library to Nome, 0º at 10 a.m.

Last night we camped at the school at Golovin, was the first real wireless opportunity I have had since leaving Anchorage!  Two things that limit civilization on the Iditarod Trail are:  1.  Wireless internet with enough power to work.  And, 2, real CREAM for one’s coffee.  We have had neither for our entire journey.

When Josh and I were in the native store in Elim yeserday, I had spotted a quart of genuine Darigold half and half in the cooler.  I drank the whole thing in 3 big gulps!

We awoke in Golovin to what would be a most gorgeous day on the trail:  The sun had returned to a dark blue sky, and about 6-inches of fresh snow covered the trail.   There was some wind to deal with, but it was mostly from our backs.

We rode out of Golovin and flew to White Mountain across a smooth-as-silk Golovin Bay.  I got my machine up to 55mph at times, but thought it better to run along at a steady 35-40mph.  We came around the big rock cliff and got our first sight of White Mountain.  We had made the 18 miles in just 30 minutes.

We didn’t have any reason to stop, so we proceeded right on by.

The trail follows the Fish River for 5 miles before turning inland.   We came to a big cow moose standing in the trail, and she moved off to let us pass.  This moose was the first game animal we had seen on the trip.

The trail over the Topkok Hills and down onto the beach of Norton Sound leading to Nome was a dream ride.  The country and the weather were both gorgeous, and snow conditions were second to none.  We virtually flew along to the Topkok Shelter Cabin.  The stiff side-wind from the interior to the sea was a minor inconvenience.

The run along the coast had been a nightmare for the mushers, as the entire country was nothing less than one giant patch of glare ice for the 45 miles into Nome.  But the snow of the past two days totally changed conditions for Josh and I.  We had to be a little careful of the polished ice lying just below our snow layer as we flew along.

We rode into the abandoned Safety, the final checkpoint of the trail, with only 22 miles left to go.  The trail leaves the coast at this point and takes an inland route up and over Cape Nome and into town.  From the top of the Cape we could see the glistening buildings of our final destination on the distant horizen.  It was a beautiful sight:  Up the beach and straight-ahead lay Nome.  To our left lay the vastness of the frozen sea to the south, with it’s great, blue-black leads of open sea.  And to our right lay the high hills and peaks of the interior Seward Peninsula.

The streets of Nome were totally covered in packed snow, and Josh and I knew where we were going:   The Aurora Inn would be our home for the next two nights.

The same desk clerk, from prior years, handed me our keys when we walked in.  They had been expecting us!

We parked our machines and tow sleds outside and adjacent to the the back door.  Our room was on the ground floor and it was damn close.  It didn’t take long to move in with my laptop, camera gear, shaving kit and some fresh clothes.  We were there!

Our goal had been to arrive in Nome in time to attend the Musher’s Banquet, which always begins at 4pm on the Sunday following the race.  Nome is unique in many ways, and one of those unique features is a place called the Recreation Hall.  This great building will seat 1400 people, and the Musher’s Banquet is always a packed house.  One of Anchorage’s finest hotels provides and food, and the iditarod Volunters make sure everything is in order.  Josh and I planned to arrive at 6pm so we could get right in the food line!

We usually ride our machines out to the Rec Hall, but this year we took an $8 cab ride instead.  Nome probably has the finest taxi service on earth!  Three cab companies provide neat-instant service at great rates.

We got there just in time to dish up prime rib, shrimp, a great salad, some great twice-baked spuds and found ourselves a couple of seats.  The 6pm action on the big stage began just as we began to eat.  Perfect timing!

All the various musher’s awards were presented, and the the mushers who had made it to Nome were introduced in order from last to first.  It was a lot of fun to hear their varying and interesting ‘tales of the trail’.  And we saw many of the checkers and the mushers whom we had crossed paths with at vaious places on the trail from Willow to Nome.  Many of these people serve in more than one checkpoint each year.  The checkpoint at Rohn was especially well-represented at the banquet.

By 10pm things were winding down, so Josh and I took a cab back to the Aurora.  It didn’t take long lie down.

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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