Once out of town you've got this waiting for you.
Generally pretty buff trail (weather dependent) due to the amount of traffic surrounding the dog sleds.
Remnants of old trap lines are common along this section.
You can sometimes be right in the thick of it. Dallas Seavey and team stop for a rest break.
There will be a lot of overhead traffic with planes and helicopters following the front runners, as well as a lot of spectators back and forth (giving plenty of space to teams and ITI racers alike) but can churn up the trail a bit giving soft conditions. Choose your cabins wisely - Tripod Flat becomes a bit of a party zone with the airstrip just out front - a popular destination for sledspotters!
However, you can find sanity at Old Woman Cabin. Well laid out and homely.
Old Woman Mtn behind you. Lots of glaciation going on around this section, a few tussocks, but not really bothersome.
Mile markers to Unalakleet help.
Doggy nuggets are a good source of fresh intel, but not reknowned for their nutrition value.
Even better when they are frozen.
They move some significant sized machinery along the frozen Unalakleet River, so don't be too offput by the cracks.
Well worth the stop and refuel. TIP: send your drop here instead of the post office.
...and treat yourself to one of these. You WILL lose lung capacity on the hills later stuffing this in!
...and your bags will swell with the load of a drop too. If you skip a Shaktoolik drop, this is what you'll be relying on for the sea ice crossing to Koyuk.
Check out the muscle beach in town too - a local lad was a solid performer in American Ninja Warrior.
Push on up the trail along some hills and bumps, very picturesque.
Foothills BLM cabin is a good spot. Not much timber for the fire, given its an easy stop for dog teams and general trail traffic.
The trail hops along the ridgelines for a while, on a clear day the views are special.
You'll only have the dog teams and your shadow for company.
Looking over the coastline towards Shaktoolik.
Yep, it's nice. For the moment. Then you turn a corner and onto the ice and encounter the force of the wind, in an area they call 'the blowholes'. Temps plummet and wind increases significantly. You contemplate just digging a hole and dying in it.
A temperature inverted Mordor.
I'm smiling, no I really am.
You got your ice, drifted trail, strong wind, all the fun things.
This was Shaktoolik. Then they moved it a bit further along the beach to get a slightly better view of the coast. Location, location.
Don't put off the inevitable - you gotta head out into the 'Shaktoolik Hills'
They have a national forest preserve.
...and loads of interesting sastrugi.
Just gotta soak in the atmosphere.
...and the seemingly endless vista as you contemplate life and the eventual sea ice crossing.
Woof! Keep an eye and an ear out for these guys. Give them the trail, make no movements and acknowledge the musher quietly so you don't confuse the dogs.
Reindeer Cove and the orange safety cabin.
Your last vestige of protection before the sea ice crossing.
Lots of history on these walls!
Fire fills the sky.
Take your time to prep your food refuels for the sea ice - it certainly pays off. You don't want to fussing around without your headgear on for too long.
Beak made from a large plaster helps a lot.
Personal insurance for your race? Are you kidding, with cracks in the sea ice like this? Hahhahahahaha (this is what your insurance broker will say to you)
Mushers don't always mush, sometimes it's as simple as playing fetch.
Somebody's gonna have a bad time without their sleeping bag...
The luxury of the Koyuk school is well received.
Go time from the school early and you'll have a great day.
Then the real temps kick in...
Kwik river cabin.
Descent into Elim.
Elim Iditarod dog sled CP. Remember the rules about Iditarod checkpoints and your code of behaviour.
Two routes out of Elim - overland and the sea ice. Sea ice is fab if it's not a jumble mess.
Another cabin as soon as you leave the ice, before you begin the climbs up to Little McKinley.
Stay hydrated people!
...and rest your contact bits often.
At the base of the descent.
More sea ice.
The kids love the visitors to Golovin. The dog teams don't stop here so be sure to stop and say hi, brighten their days and sign their jackets.
Hospitality is everywhere. One of the teachers gave me a bag of fresh baked cookies to enjoy with the sunset over Golovin bay.
John and Joanna Wasillies place on the river at White Mountain. Stay the night, break early.
Follow the marked trail.
An odd thing to savour - real food. Thanks Joanna!
Hands up if you're a Star Wars fan?
First glimpse of the sea indicates the last of the hills.
'Radio' cabin at the bottom of the Topkok hills. Top shelf accom.
Lagoon ice. You can see the sea grass frozen under it.
Tommy Johnsons cabin.
Can have some more blowhole action here.
Huge variety of fishing camps and holiday houses.
Nome council road around Nome headland can be glaciated.
Take the time on the point to look back over the last 1000 odd miles and reflect on all the good times and the bad.
Because this is what you came here for!
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a race to prepare for...