Episode 4: The Steps

Will and the team are fresh off their rest at Finger Lake, and are ready to tackle the Happy River Steps, one of the major obstacles of the race.

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Onward and Other Directions

Episode 4: The Steps

Hi, everybody. Will here. Thanks for tuning in again for Onward and Other Directions, a podcast where my team of Alaskan huskies and I bring you along for our very first Iditarod in recordings I made along the trail. This is episode four. The team and I have started the race. We traveled over rivers for 80 miles, camping once along the way for four hours. We started our climb into the Alaska range, which is the mountain range that Denali, the tallest peak in North America, is part of and rested at Finger Lake, one of the checkpoints along the route. While the dogs rested, I did chores and vet care and chatted to some fellow mushers.

This recording takes place on the run right after we leave Finger Lake. It’s one of my favorite pieces of audio from the entire race. We’re heading towards the checkpoint of Rainy Pass on a beautiful sunny afternoon. This run contains the infamous Happy River Steps, a series of three sharp drops, which have gained acclaim over the years for many crashes and wipeouts. The Steps were one of the two biggest obstacles on the trail that I’ve been thinking about for years, hoping I would be able to drive through them successfully. As I left the finger Lake checkpoint, I knew my moment of truth with this pretty iconic part of Iditarod lore was approaching fast. This recording starts shortly after the beginning of the run.

All right. Am I recording? It’s hard to see. Oh, yep, looks like I am. So we’re on the run to Rainy Pass, which has the infamous Happy River Steps on it somewhere. I keep thinking the next thing is going to be it and then it’s not, or I don’t think it is anyway. I’m pretty sure not. Anyway, every single time I’m like maybe this is it, which is how I’m feeling right now. Ope, there’s a little whoop-dee-doo. See if we can hang on there.

This could be it. I just carved a new path. It’s a pretty snowy year. So I — in theory, I don’t think it’ll be that bad, except there’s probably going to be a big old trench carved out of it. But um, yeah, I don’t really know. I know the steps are these three big drops. That’s all I really know about it. Uh. And it does look like we’re heading towards downhill. We kind of climbed for a while. We’re in this really beautiful trail that crosses the Alaska range. It’s so cool. It feels like we’re out like in Colorado or something like these really big old cottonwoods. And not pine trees, but spruce trees that are like pretty old and tall, not, not the little scraggly friends. Um. And, yeah, the mountains are really just like right in your face and phenomenal, beautiful. So this is really cool to see.

This is the first part of the trail so far that I have not been on, which is really refreshing. That’s something I’ve discovered this year a lot is that I get really uplifted when I’m getting to go on a new trail. I’ve mushed on a lot of different trails in Alaska. And including the first like 120 miles of the Iditarod trail because of a race that used to go up there to the last checkpoint I was just at, Finger Lake. And so all of that trail I’d been on before and you know, for whatever reason, that’s not as… just doesn’t… it’s not as exciting. And it’s also kind of like…

Wow, the mountains are just so cool. I mean it, the mountains look like the Rockies, too. Like Alaska and mountains are definitely different than the Rockies, which I think feel kind of… I’m not sure if this is geologically correct, but I think it seems like they’re older and more like rocky as you might suspect. And this part of the Alaska range that we’re in looks like that, where you’re seeing like the blue, gray exposed rock kind of coming out underneath the snow or between the snow and the… The edges of them are more worn or something. Anyway, just feels like we’re in an older part of the, of the landscape and yeah, and huge trees and these really beautiful tucked away little valleys and brooks and rivers. This is just so cool. I am in hog heaven right now. This is so cool. I am like a kid in a candy store. My mouth is just like agape when I’m not talking to you.

So yeah, being on this new trail has been awesome. Being on the old trail, on trails I’ve been on before I keep looking for landmarks that I know are there, and so I know to expect them, but I don’t know exactly when to expect them. And it ends up being really, like laborious. And so like I know the Finger Lake checkpoint, I know that it’s on a lake and I just keep thinking every corner we come around is going to be on this lake. And it’s not. That’s kind of what I’m doing here. Like expecting the steps any minute. But also, it’s just I’m surrounded by the most gorgeous scenery, and I have never been here before. So it’s so cool. I’m yeah, I just feel transported to a totally magical world.

It’s another beautiful day, which is nice, but it is also hot and sunny. We… So I wanted to leave the checkpoint of Finger Lake at noon. And we ended up leaving a little after one because… And actually I was right on course to leave right at one, but Miss Ophelia decided to be a jerk and go after poor Zenny. Ophelia is in heat, and she’s already kind of a crank. So yeah, when she’s in heat, she becomes extra cranky. And for whatever reason, I mean, Zenny’s not an innocent angel, either. Zenny likes to instigate things. And then it… then she’s sad when it doesn’t, like work out very well for her because people don’t like to put up with it. But um, and by people, I mean dogs. Yeah, Ophelia, for whatever reason, was not happy. So Zenny has a little puncture mark on the top of her head. So the vets were able to help me patch it up. It was really tiny, nothing major, but that held me up for probably another 20 minutes.

And then once we got going, it was kind of another putz putz putz, oh, this, that. I had Belle and Aurora in lead, but Belle has been leading the whole way so far, and I think she’s kind of hitting a little bit of a mental wall. So she was kind of like, all over the place. So I put Rey up there and I had to pee because I decided I didn’t want to wet my pants going down the Happy River Steps. And so and then this, and then somebody got tangled, and you know, so it’s like a bunch of stops, we’re finally kind of moving now. Of course, I have to pee again. But ya know, I had my chance. I mean, I did pee, but like, I’m guessing it’s just nerves. As a trans guy, who has not had bottom surgery — and I’m not really interested in it either — but unfortunately, that means I am, you know, stuck with the traditionally female gendered method of going to the bathroom, which is honestly a big pain in the ass when you’re a musher, because yeah, layers and trying to hold a team of dogs and… It’s a pain. So I shouldn’t talk about this anymore. It’s just making me have to go to the bathroom more. So we should talk about the mountains.

Right now we’re mushing on what looks like a little, maybe like a little slough. And there’s borders of spruce trees all around us. And there’s some hills that are nearby that are pretty significant hills, like I would say probably bigger than anything we have in Fairbanks. And I mean, even just from the level I’m at, I’m… They’re, I’m sure, way above sea level. Oh, I should see what our elevation is. But those trees, those hills have nice, nice trees on them like more deciduous trees. And I’m sure it’s just gorgeous here in the fall too. I think I had said that there are some there were some cottonwoods at the beginning of this route, which was kind of cool. Right now our elevation. Looks like we’ve done a little bit of a climb already. So our elevation is 1,164 feet. And I’m sure we will… nope, 1,165. So it’ll be interesting to see what, how that changes on the Steps. It’s cool because this GPS gives me like a little track so you can kind see the elevation route as we’ve gone. Not very… some little hills, but nothing as, so far nothing as steep as like the Copper Basin or yeah I guess steep is the right word. Part, there’s one way you on the Copper Basin is really steep, and one way you go on the Copper Basin, it’s the same summit but it just takes a really long time to gain the elevation, so it’s kind of like obviously not as steep, but it takes a long time to get up to the top, so.

SCS. I don’t know what there’s trail marker that says SCS, but I don’t know what that means. Could be a club, so in theory there used to be a sign out here on the trail — I think it’s right before the steps — that said watch your ass, and I really wish that sign but I… The… My understanding is that that sign is gone. I could be wrong. Maybe somebody put it back or made a new one but if it’s not here, I wish it was here so that I would know when to watch my ass. I was thinking maybe SCS stood for something like that but I can’t think of what it would be.

Now we’re popping onto kind of a new causeway, maybe like an open field. Yeah, we’re kind of in the base of those rolling hills and right behind that is just peak after peak. So we are going through a Big Valley, I guess. I, I guess this is, I would assume this is Rainy Pass, like all of this and then the, the lodge that we’re going to is Rainy Pass Lodge, but I’m not 100% sure if that’s the case. I wonder if it’s often rainy here. I wonder how accessible this is in the summer, because it’s really cool. But I could also see it being pretty limited, because I, we’re definitely crossing a lot of water and a lot of Alaska has a lot of bogs and marshes or… what they called… not swamps, but we call them swamps sometimes. Anyway, sloughs maybe, but yeah, so it, it can be really difficult to cross those areas in the summer. So behind our house, we have a big slough. And in the winter, that’s our trail actually like our mushing trail. But in the summer, it’s… You, you try to walk it at your own risk, you’re definitely like, I think the definition of a bog is that it’s like floating peat moss or organic material on top of like a body of water, which is what that is out there. I don’t know what the difference between a slough and a bog is. But whatever. One of those things is what’s behind your house. Or both of those things, maybe, if they’re the same. Just biding my time till you can hear me yelling and screaming as we go down the Steps.

I do feel like this is the first time I’m sort of registering that this is the Iditarod, or that this is feeling like that, just with this awesome beauty and a different, different landscape for me. But last night, when it got dark, I did suddenly just, like kind of have this moment of terror where I was like, Oh, no, I have to be alone with myself. I don’t really… I don’t mind being alone, but I’d prefer to be alone with other people. Which is something that I think my family does, we tend to all be in the same house but doing our own thing, but it’s kind of like very comforting and that my poor spouse Shawn has yet to fully grasp the why of it. I think they understand the existence of that desire, but not they don’t really relate to that. But being alone by myself is very difficult for me. I… I…

One time when I was living in Minnesota and I was working in the city, I wanted to get out into nature. I really missed mushing, of course, but I, I just decided I had a three day weekend which was really rare at my job and I decided to go up to the, the area by Lake Superior, like kind of, I guess by Duluth. That would be a point that people would know. So it’s by Duluth, but I think it’s a state park called Jacob State Park. Er, yeah. And I got a little cabin there and I brought my dog and you know, I was just gonna, I like brought my guitar and stuff to make a fire, and you know, I was just gonna go camping and spend some time there.

It was the most uncomfortable thing. It was like being trapped with somebody who you know, but you only talk to in regards to work and outside of work, you hate them. Yeah, sorry. I mean, a big part of my mission is to help people deal with mental health stuff. And yeah, that feeling is definitely part of my mental health… battle? Journey? Not sure a good phrase for it. And I try not to talk too much about that, particularly with like, the word hate. That’s such a strong word, and it doesn’t give any room for grace, I think. But I do have a really hard time basically, like coexisting with myself. I do feel like I’ve gotten to a point of, like, tolerance, and it definitely feels like there’s sort of two entities or, or more than one entity tolerating each other within me. I, not like a multiple personality type of thing, but just these sort of distinct sides and polarized values and thought patterns and whatnot. So that’s something I struggle with and when I have to be alone, especially in nature, where there’s like, nothing to distract me, so you know, no Netflix. Oh, I’m guessing we’re gonna come up to the steps because there’s a bunch of people here filming things.

[To others, Will] Hi, folks. Thanks. Will.

Some people having a fire in the mountains. I would do that. I don’t think, I thought those were the film people. There’s like a film crew who follows us around, but that was not them, I don’t think. Although they did film me on their phone. My image will be everywhere now.

Yeah, so anyway, self dislike, let’s call it, is something I struggle with and in nature, I cannot distract myself. Particularly when there’s long stretches of time where I’m not, you know, trying to like, invent or solve a puzzle or whatever. And yeah, that’s the definition of mushing. It’s long stretches of time where you’re not like, you can’t do anything but stand there and be with yourself and be with the dogs.

Now, podcasts and music and stuff like makes that, you know, it makes it possible to kind of step away from the being present thing but lately, this year especially, I have been kind of not as interested in listening to podcasts, or another thing I used to do is call people on the phone. And so I definitely would use that to distract myself, and I haven’t been doing that as much this year. I’ve been more desirous to be present with the dogs, I guess. I’m not really thinking about it that way. I just am like content to not be listening to music and be going down the trail and watching the dogs and not, not kind of like, not over complicating it but also not, not spending a lot of time like going in circles in my head about what I’m doing. Like why I’m doing it or not, like, despite me talking about it right now. But yeah, so this year, I think, I guess I would call that like an improvement.

But it also means that, it definitely also means that when it started getting dark last night on the first night of the Iditarod, I realized that I was going to be alone. And in this case, my, you know, my race plan had me camping in the, you know, relative middle of nowhere and again, there’s like snow machines going by and planes and other mushers going down the trail, but definitely different than being in a checkpoint where you’re right next to another musher, and you guys chat, and it’s, that’s a lot more sociable. So I was like, dreading this camping last night. I guess. Luckily, it wasn’t too existential because I didn’t really have time for it to be I was trying really hard to be on my clock for hours. And I think I relatively succeeded.

Alright, now I’m convinced this is it. I feel like I recognize the trees here from some videos and slides I’ve seen. Mm, I don’t know, maybe not. But yeah, the camp actually was kinda a nice tonight. I actually slept and I was really warm. Even though it did drop down to zero. I’ve slept in my sleeping bag before. And it’s been like real cold. Okay, pretty sure this is it. Yeah. Easy. Nice and easy. Nice and easy. We’re going down this big trench. Okay, that has to have been one of them. So I’m gonna guess there’s gonna be a couple more. I mean, I think I think I said this already, but since it’s such a high snow year, it’s like, not as bad as it definitely, I’m sure it can be. Because you, I think one of them at least you can just kind of fall right off. That wasn’t too bad. It’s definitely trenched out and it’s gonna be a pain in the ass to get back up. So we have to go back up this stuff this year, because you know, we’re coming back. So the, the hills get trenched out by the, by brakes. And so there’s just like, I mean, as you can imagine this deep, basically like 20 inch wide trench that your sled hopefully slots right into, because if it doesn’t, then you got one runner up on the edge and you’re basically going down, like kind of sideways, and when you’re in that trench, you don’t have much for your brake to grab onto.

Now we’re in this, we’re going through kind of like this small winding trail that’s in the bottom of a really tiny little. What would you call this? I don’t know, kind of like a little valley or gorge or something? Seems like it’s probably following a riverbed. So I guess maybe this might be the Happy River. I also don’t know what the Happy River of Happier River Steps is. Oh, I just had somebody behind me. The dogs were barking. This would be an annoying place to pass.

My impression was that these were close together. So maybe that was not one of them. I don’t know.

All I want is the Watch Your Ass sign.

Okay, seems like we’re coming up on maybe another drop, so. Yeah, this is definitely some kind of a drop. Doesn’t look very steep right now. But maybe famous last words. I think this is, I think this might be… Easy, nice and easy. Nice and easy. Nice and easy. In the trench. This cannot be, so beautiful. Nice and easy. So I train the dogs to try to go really slow down hills. Not, not for my sake. I mean, you know, that’s nice. But the big thing is, you know, have you ever run downhill? Like it’s a good way to twist an ankle, and the dogs are just totally free fall, run as fast as they can. And that’s a good way for them to get a, you know, wrist injuries or shoulder injuries. So we try to go really easy on the hills, and they’re really good at that, actually they’ll… as long as I have some resistance on the brake, they will actually walk down the hill, which is pretty great, so.

I feel like this is gonna be like what they say about porn. You can’t define it, but you know it when you see it. Like I feel like I’m gonna look back at those two drops. I just did and be like, “Oh, those were not it,” but I think I will know when it’s done because I don’t know if they’ll have it now but sometimes they keep an Iditarod Insider, the video people, crew at the bottom of, I would assume, the last one. So that would be helpful.

You know, I just going down this trail, depending on what it all ends up looking like I, I feel like if I didn’t know about these famous steps, it wouldn’t, I would just be going down this trail like it’s… I wish it was something that you didn’t know about til after you were done. And then people would be like, oh, yeah, those drops. Oh, that was wild, right? You didn’t hear about it in advance. Anticipation is such a anxiety-producing thing. I don’t feel anxious, but I feel… Hm, what’s the word? I guess I feel like compulsive or something like I just want to know. It’s fine. I just want to know what the, if we’re done with that part of the trail, and then I can just relax and enjoy the rest, so I guess it sounds like I’m anxious. Don’t feel anxious. I guess I’m used to a different kind of an anxious feeling. Now that I’m telling myself I’m anxious, I am feeling slightly anxious, but I decided I don’t need to feel anxious. Maybe that’ll be famous last words. I’m shocked at how calm I’ve felt through this whole thing, the, the start day and everything. I just thought I’d be absolutely out of my mind, but I think that I was so stressed out the two weeks before, trying to finish building my sled that the start day felt really easy and nice. Darnit. I saw some snow I thought could be the Watch Your Ass sign.

I think I learned about that sign when I was a kid and Martin showed us a slideshow of his Iditarod. And it had that sign on it. And I think, I bet that that as kids we were like, haha, that’s so funny. So really, I guess stuck with me. But I mean also useful, like good instructions, right? Something exciting is happening. Pretty sure it’s some birds. It’s springtime. Birds are flitting around, picking up things. I don’t know if they’re building nests or right, what right now but they’re doing something. They’re very active. They’re tweeting. Tweet tweet! You’re welcome for demonstrating that.

I think the dogs are enjoying this trail, too. It’s pretty wind-y and they like that. Lots of new things to see around every single corner and I bet lots of cool smells with all the trees. We’re, right now we’re kind of we’re winding through a bunch of really old tall spruce trees, like old spruce, I, I guess this would be white spruce. I don’t know. I’m not a tree doctor, or whatever. That would be a tree-entist. But I do like trees, and these trees are very pretty.

Good dogs. We’re gonna come up on the Steps at some point.

In the Iditarod Insider videos, they, they always do a, I guess a documentary each year or whatever. And there’s a guy who narrates all of them. And he’s got a very like… “In a world” voice. [Dramatically] “The Happy River Steps, three winding drops in consecutive order that have taken out many a sled.” [Normally] Like I think they tried to make it extra dramatic if they can.

And definitely people have been pretty seriously injured here. Rick Swenson, I think it was Rick Swenson probably like a decade ago by now, fell down. It was a really, I think it was really a slow snow year and he came down the steps and like bounced off of a couple trees like a ping pong ball, and it was, they filmed it, and it was. Yeah, he broke his ribs and he continued. He finished Iditarod, which is just wild, but yeah, there’s definitely potential to get hurt.

I do kind of wish — this is maybe the first time I really cared about this — but I do kind of wish I was wearing a helmet maybe, because I’m not, one, I’ve decided it’s pretty hot. It’s like 27 degrees, so I decided not to wear my parka. And the one downside about that. So the upside is I have a lot more kind of like maneuverability, which is good. The downside is I don’t have the padding, so that is definitely a con. But hopefully I won’t eat scat. So we’ll see. At least there seems like there’s a lot of snow to fall on. I will try to avoid falling on trees.

A few weeks back, before the Copper Basin, I did a run where I ended up getting kind of lost and I had to come back down a trail that is not a good idea to come down and, in order to get home, and it has a lot switchbacks, so going downhill on switchbacks. I mean, I think you can kind of imagine it can be pretty tricky. It can take some pretty good driving, but even the best driving can get pretty slammed by switchbacks, which I think that that, the steps are supposed to have switchbacks. I don’t know. Anyway.

So yeah, I headed down this trail that I knew was gonna be a bad idea. I had the whole team. I decided to try to just like make it happen. Okay. Okay, now I think this is a Step. Maybe this is either the first one or the last one. Anyway, on that particular adventure… Easy, easy, nice and easy. There you go. Good. Nice and easy. Nice and easy. This is definitely one of them, because I’ve seen footage of it. So maybe that was the first one and then we’re coming around another corner. Anyway on that other switchback at home, the very first one, I went around a corner and the sled just flew out and I, man, I slammed into a tree and let go the sled because my body slammed into a tree. Basically, I caught the tree around my stomach, which was better than the head, but. Anyway, hopefully I’m not jinxing myself, because we’re definitely going down again. Nice and easy. Woohoo! Easy. Oh, good dogs. Oh, oh, did we get a little tangle?

Okay, that was definitely one of them. I mean, I don’t know how they’re distinguishing these. That was much more of a straight up and down. I’m guessing this is the more tricky one. Yeah, that you could just fall off the edge of. Whoo. Yeah. Nice and easy, guys. Hey. Easy. Easy. There you go. Good. Well, we’re walking it. Nice and easy. Hey, nice and easy. There you go.

I mean, this is like a lot of fun for dogs. Flying down the hills. That’s gonna suck to go up. Here we have a switchback. Speak of the devil. Which you get a whip your sled around the corner and hopefully don’t fly off the hill. There you go. Nice and easy. Nice and easy. Easy. Easy. Nice and easy. Nice and easy. Ope, had a little tree to avoid. Maybe that was the first one? Heck if I know. That was definitely a bigger one. That one that we went down was 100% one of them, though, because I’ve seen a lot of footage of that. Oh, here we go.

Easy easy, easy, easy. Easy. Easy. Easy. Whoa, whoa. You know it was actually doing pretty good, except one of the snow hooks got… Whoa. Good dogs.

I think this is where they usually camp out. Nobody came here to fill me so rude. One of the snow hooks got caught underneath the sled, which is no bueno because… [The dogs start whining because they’ve stopped moving forward while Will looks for the snow hook.] Where is that snow hook. Huh. Okay. It’s buried itself… oh, there it is. Okay. Just move the sled over. The dogs are ready for more.

Alright, good dogs. So one of my snow hooks bounced out and went underneath the sled. Which obviously is not ideal. I’m insulted that they weren’t here to film me. Um.

Whoohoo! Good dogs. Whoohoo.

Yeah, if you have a snow hook so the snow hooks are our little anchors that, so they’re not little but, are anchors that you, they’re claws that you stomp into the snow, and it holds the team back. It’s pretty amazing. They’re very strong. Also very sharp. Oh cool. We’re going by some open water here. Beautiful. Anyway obviously if that goes under the sled, I mean you can imagine, like it’s connected by a rope to the team in the front. As you could probably guess, there’s a lot of, there is a lot of ways that could get tangled. Speaking of tangles, Miss Marnie’s neck line came undone. Whoa, good dogs! You guys did good. Oh, good job, you guys. Professionals. Yeah, oh, good dogs.

We’re definitely gonna be pushing the sled up the hill on that last one. Alright. These guys don’t want to take a break. It’s good that this valley is a little bit more shaded, because we’re not really getting beaten down by the sun.

Good! Did you guys have fun? Did you like that? Was that fun? Oh, it was? It was? Oh yeah. Good job. Oh, you want some more? Okay. Oops, don’t go over there. [Dogs yipping and crying excitedly] Sundance, your neck line always comes undone, doesn’t it? Yeah. You’re Miss Tangle Tangle. No, now you’re stuck there. That’s the side you’re gonna go on. That’s the side you’re gonna stay on. Come here. Let’s see if that works better. Good job, you guys. Oh, happy dogs. Happy dogs. Happy hot dogs. Oh, you want some more, Annie? You want some more? They’re hot but happy. And the sled is still apparently in one piece. By all accounts. You guys ready? Alright. Next stop is the Rainy Pass checkpoint.

Wow. Super beautiful. Wonder if I can take a picture while I’m recording. I think I can. Surely I must be able to. Oops.

Beautiful. I see someone camped here. Wow cool. Man, this is so stud. Alright, let’s see. See how far we’ve gone so far. I think it’s supposed to have been 35 miles to Rainy Pass. I’m guessing we’ve only gone like 15 miles? 12 miles? We went up and then we went down. 10 miles. Yeah. I think that’s what they, that’s where they said the steps were. I guess I wrote that down but didn’t realize what it meant. I just wrote 10 miles after Rainy Pass. I didn’t really have a good description for myself. Oh.

Interesting. We’re crossing a weird bridge. Like not a bridge, but like a, almost like a dam someone made? Like a. I don’t know. I don’t know what to think about that. If that’s a people made thing or it just happened. Oh, now we’ve gotta run up some hills. Alright, well. I guess you’re going to get to hear– Oh, the dogs are really excited. I might not have to run up. They’re enjoying the beauty as much as I am. Oh, here we go. I guess we get to go down this on the way back. This will be the anti-Steps. There are some helpful markers that say don’t go off the trail. Oh, it says SCS again. I wonder what that means.

Alright, let’s go, guys. Up, up, up. Let’s go. Let’s go. Alright. Alright. We’re going up a pretty good little hill here. I’m running in my mushing boots. Alright. Alright. [Will whistles to the dogs]

So we have a rule. There’s no stopping on hills. Alright. Up up up. Let’s go. Otherwise, they will stop when things slow down. So we don’t stop.

The worst part about running with the sled is your arms get really tired. Because you have to like hold the sled back or hold yourself up to the sled. And it’s like really unnatural. So previously, I’ve set up something where I can basically connect myself with a like a skijor belt and then just lean back. That works so much better. And I had hoped to have that this year, but I ran out of time. But this hill will be over soon. Famous last words.

That’ll be fun to go down, but not as, I don’t think as intense as the ones we just got done with. Good dogs. It looks like this is a road, maybe, and that’s what that bridge thing looked like, like somebody made a road. How weird, though, cause I don’t know where it would go to. I guess maybe it’s for Rainy Pass Lodge? I’m not sure. Or it could be a trail system? Could be for BLM, I guess. It’s very wide, though. It feels like we’re on like a dirt road.

Huh. Apparently we are not supposed to go that way. Gee. Good. Good dogs. Ugh. More hills. Gee. Good. We’re overdressed for this. Then again, so are the dogs.

Yeah sorry you’re listening to this, I, I’m going to turn it off as soon as I can spare a hand, I guess. Oh, good dogs. Easy there. Good dogs. Good dogs.

There’s an airplane. I’m guessing coming or going from either Rainy Pass or McGrath. I am… Probably Rainy Pass. So it’s pretty popular for tourists to go up there and spectate the race. Trying to decide if I, if I want to stay in Rainy Pass, or if I want to try to push on. The idea in pushing on being to try to hit the gorge, which is the next and probably, teah, one of, the next big obstacle before, to hit that before it gets dark. But I might be pushing. I don’t know. I’m not sure how far it is until that. I guess my plan is I’ll ask at the checkpoint and then make my decision based on the time.

If I do stay I’m only going to stay for a couple hours because it’ll be better to… I mean if it’s too late for me to get to the gorge by daylight, then it’s going to be too late no matter what time I leave at, because it’s, I mean it’s gonna be dark when I do it, no matter what, but if it is early enough, then maybe it’s worth going. Otherwise, I will stay at Rainy Pass for like, probably just a couple hours and then try to take advantage of running in the night time. My goal had been to get to Rainy Pass by like three or four when it was the hottest but yeah, that ship definitely sailed.

We are off that road and onto more of a trail again and winding through the woods, so. You’re stuck with me for just a little while longer until I know what’s coming around the corner. So we should see what time it is. It might be time to give the dogs a snack. Pretty soon.

Nala, come on. Nala and Ophelia are both trying to chase a squirrel up a tree. Goofballs.

So I’m getting to the phone so I can turn the recording off before I say the closing words. So wise. So yeah, well thanks for, thanks for hanging out. Glad we could do the Steps together. Alright. Onward.

If you enjoyed this episode of Onward and Other Directions, tell your friends. There are miles to go before we sleep and plenty of episodes ahead. To see pictures from this section of trail, access a transcript of the episode, and to see the social media updates the ATAO away team was sending to buddies at this part of the race. Visit ATAO kennel.com. That’s ATAOKENNEL dot com. See you next time on Onward and Other Directions. The next part of the trail ahead is another major obstacle, the Dalzell Gorge, which I end up running in the dark. See you there. Onward.

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Will loves dog mushing, boxing, writing, and hiking. He spends his off time reading as much as possible and going to the movies.
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