Roving checkpoint of Cripple
Pilots flying the Iditarod Trail are now calling the Cripple checkpoint "wolf kill" to avoid anyone getting lost. That's because the halfway checkpoint, which moves locations nearly every northern race, took a big jump in 2000. Instead of being about 60 miles north of the checkpoint at Ophir, the new location of "Cripple" lies about 80 to 90 miles north - about halfway to the Yukon River village of Ruby. Anyone flying to the location of the historic Cripple checkpoint - theoretically located near the site of a former gold-rush boom town of the same name - wouldn't find anything except empty wilderness. Officially, mushers may still be going through "Cripple," but they're bedding down at "Wolf Kill," little more than a frozen swamp good for landing airplanes.
Good, old ideas never die
An old idea is back in force in the Iditarod this year - the toggle. Wooden toggles were once used to connect the harnesses of sled dogs to the gangline, but they eventually gave way to stronger brass snaps. The brass snaps, however, ice up. Mushers have been freezing their hands for years to thaw snaps so they could unhook dogs. Now, many are returning to the toggle - in the form of an almost indestructible plastic disc or T. The plastic toggles are strong, don't ice up, and best of all, can be unhooked even with a mittened hand.
The race is on
The stiff competition in this year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has caught the attention of many mushers. Jon Little of Kasilof and Linwood Fiedler of Willow, both of whom expected to be in the top-20 or better this year, pulled into Ophir in 25th and 26th place on Thursday. "I guess we're racing for 25th," a surprised Fiedler said. Little said that if that was the case they better get going because "there's a $250 difference. I checked."
Gallea third to scratch
Cindy Gallea of Minnesota became the third musher to scratch from the Iditarod, dropping out of the race in McGrath. She finished the 1998 race in 48th place.