Sunday, March 13, 2011

Iditarod 2011: John Baker Continues To Lead

Editor's Note: John Baker is a friend of the Daily Bosco. A life long Dog Sled racer from Kotzebue Alaska he and his team of wonderful dogs have finished in the top five in the biggest and most famous dog sled race, The Iditarod in Alaska several times. As of 5:32 PM PST Sun. March 13 he and his team had a commanding lead late in the 2011 Iditarod Classic. Here is the latest (an account from observer Bruce Lee) on their attempt at finishing first in the Classic for the first time in their career...a lifelong goal.

The Race up the coast

I jumped up ahead of the leaders and am now in the checkpoint of Shaktoolik. On the flight over from Unalakleet I flew over John Baker working his way over the Blueberry Hills. His team was moving at a fast clip, as fast as any I’ve seen travel through that section. He was using his ski poles to help his dogs out. Although there is a strong group behind him, John seems to have established a cushion of time that with the strength of his team, he might be able to maintain.

The teams behind him all seemed to be focused on giving their dogs the maximum amount of rest possible at this point in the race. I am a little surprised that some teams seem to be dropping off the pace rather than try to cut down on John’s time cushion. The two mushers who seem to be most aggressively chasing him are Hans Gatt and Rayme Smyth.

As I flew into Shakloolik the whole run up the coast was laid out ahead of us on this clear blue sky day. From the plane we could see Little Mountain, White Mountain and all the way West to Cape Nome. Weather doesn’t seem slowing any of the front runners.

Standing here on the beach in Shaktoolik about 2 miles out you can see the blue of the ocean water. Between the open water and the beach are pressure ridges where the ice has been cracked and shoved forming ridges ten feet in the air but the trail looks smooth. Many feel that the Bering Sea coast is one of the most beautiful sections of the Iditarod trail. It’s certainly living up to that reputation right now.

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