The Monday after the start of the Iditarod – this year, March 5 – most of our guests will start the day in Talkeetna. If you’ve never been to Talkeetna, it is one of our most favorite places in Alaska. The town is located at the confluence of the Susitna, Talkeetna and Chulitna rivers, and is known as the jumping-off point for mountain climbers who are headed to the Alaska Range to climb Mt. McKinley (and other massive peaks in the area). Climbers get to the mountains by air taxi, so Talkeetna airport is a rather busy place twelve months of the year.
Our guests will start the day pretty early, and head down to the airport, where they will head out to the checkpoints in the foothills of the Alaska Range. We try to get out guests to Rainy Pass checkpoint, which is the last checkpoint before the Alaska Range… but with the pace of the race and the weather, you may end up at one of the other checkpoints, such as Skwentna. The goal is to get there as the leaders pass through, and since this is less than 24 hours after the restart of the race, the mushers are still quite close together, but the fastest teams have moved to the front of the pack.
One of the big advantages of heading out to the more remote checkpoints is that unlike the experience in Anchorage and Willow, there are few spectators on the trail, so this is the Iditarod’s version of court-side seats and locker room passes all rolled into one. Our guests will have the opportunity to get fantastic photos and experience life on the trail firsthand. In fact, the photos in this post were all taken by one of our guests… so these are an accurate representation of what you can expect to see and experience along the way.
There is a lot of strategy and gamesmanship that goes on during the race, and visiting the checkpoints is a great way to see some of that going on firsthand. Weather, trail conditions and competition affect the decisions mushers make on the trail, such as whether to take a break at a checkpoint, or to pass on through. Later in the race there are mandatory layovers. Some are fixed, and others are at the musher’s discretion, so deciding when to take your mandatory layover could be a matter of luck, or a matter of strategy.
Our guests will spend about a half day on the trail. The pilot of your plane will guide you through the various checkpoints, with the goal of getting you to the front of the pack as they race through.
In the afternoon you’ll return by air taxi to Talkeetna. Depending on how we have arranged your package, some guests will overnight again in Talkeetna, while others will depart in the evening for either Anchorage or Fairbanks.
Our next post will talk about the middle portion of the race, and some of the various activities and destinations that we include in our packages.
If you’re interested in having us arrange your Iditarod package, give us a call at (877) 692-5275 or +19073342888. Or you can go to our website and complete our form, and we’ll get back to you!