One of the highest honors in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race -- the award for the musher who took outstanding care of his dogs while remaining competitive on the trail -- went to Whitehorse musher Sebastian Schnuelle on Sunday night in Nome.
Mushers gathered for the annual banquet that marks the end of another 1,000-mile race, swapping stories before scattering to their dog yards for another year.
Schnuelle, winner of the Alaska Airlines Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award, placed seventh this year and finished with 13 of his starting 16 dogs.
Maple, one of champion Lance Mackey's leaders, took home the City of Nome Lolly Medley Golden Harness Award for outstanding lead dog.
Belgian musher Sam Deltour was the Horizon Lines Most Improved musher, placing 41st in his second Iditarod. Deltour improved his time by a full day over this rookie run in 2008, when he finished 60th.
Other award winners, according to Iditarod organizers, included:
Pen Air Spirit of Alaska Award
-- Jeff King, Denali Park
GCI Dorothy G. Page Halfway Award
-- Dallas Seavey, Seward
Rookie of the Year
-- Dan Kaduce, Chatanika
Fred Meyer Sportsmanship Award
-- Ray Redington Jr., Wasilla
ExxonMobil Mushers Choice Award
-- Jim Lanier, Chugiak
Northern Air Cargo Herbie Nayokpuk Memorial Award
-- William "Middie" Johnson, Unalakleet
Jonrowe's mom keeps her 'downs' in perspective
A day after her March 15 cancer surgery in Anchorage, 81-year-old Peggy Stout was back following her daughter DeeDee Jonrowe's race progress online.
"I saw one little clip on the (Iditarod Insider) and she said her race was kind of like life -- you have your ups and down, and when you're down, all you can do is keep going and hope for a better situation next year," said Stout, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a modified radical mastectomy. The family learned soon before the race that Stout's surgery would be scheduled during the Iditarod.
Jonrowe, who has finished as high as second place, was the 22nd musher to arrive in Nome this year. She had already dropped half her team by the time she left the Cripple checkpoint midway through the race.
"You don't let your downs get you down," Peggy said, paraphrasing her daughter. "That's kind of our motto right now."
A hole in the hand
Think of Karen Ramstead when you pull on gloves or crack your knuckles today.
The Perryvale, Alberta, musher is off to a doctor's appointment to inspect the left hand she impaled on a black spruce branch less than two weeks before the Iditarod. With the hand red and infected, Ramstead scratched this year in McGrath. While she has a full range of motion, she's guessing there's still some tree branch in there as a hard lump has formed above the wound, Ramstead said in a phone interview Sunday.
"It kind of looks like a little alien's about to burst out of it," she said.
Ramstead posted a photo of the injury on her Facebook page, if you're adventurous. (Some advice: Leave it be. It's grosser than you think.)
Meantime, here's a palate- cleansing image to think of:
The 45-year-old musher -- who has started nine Iditarods and finished four -- runs with a team of purebred Siberian huskies. The handsome, bushy-tailed dogs are the kind people imagine when they think of mushing, rather than the mixed breeds that now dominate the sport.
On her Web site, Ramstead's kennel motto is "pretty sled dogs," and some members of the team compete for beauty as well as brawn. Three, Ramstead said, are Canadian champion show dogs: Dasher, Crunchy and Q.
"I believe in an older-style, tougher, trail-hardened dog than a lot of those guys do," she said.