UPDATE 6:15 AM TUESDAY:
While Monday’s trail bosses Martin Buser and Matt Failor remained stationed in Rohn, some familiar faces emerged as new leaders along the Farewell Burn overnight to begin the third day of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
It appears as though Aaron Burmeister has taken the role as the rabbit of a giant pack of drivers that have left Rohn and are headed to Nikolai, a tiny village nestled on the banks of the South Fork Kuskokwim River.
Among those trying to hunt down the 36-year-old from Nome are two smaller groups of racers. One is made of two Fairbanks mushers, Lance Mackey and Ally Zirkle, as well as Paul Gebhardt of Kasilof. Behind them are two packs of two: Fairbanks’ Sonny Lindner and Willow’s Justin Savidis, and Sterling’s Mitch Seavey and Wasilla’s Jason Mackey.
According to the Iditarod’s GPS trackers, Burmeister is 8 to 10 miles in front of Mackey, Zirkle and Gebhardt.
Between the checkpoints of Rohn and Nikolai, Burmeister and his followers are facing an 80-mile stretch of flat trail that beelines across nasty tussocks, bare gravel bars and the dead-tree remnants of one of Alaska’s biggest wildfires. This terrain is what people sometimes just call “The Burn” — and some years it is aptly named.
In good years, the Farewell Burn offers up a snowy highway across frozen lakes, through willow patches and alongside the remnants of a forest that burned decades ago. In bad years, it can be 80 miles of slippery ice, dusty gravel and sled-busting stumps.
Race marshal Mark Nordman reported there are stretches of windblown trail outside of Rohn with little or no snow, which isn’t anything unusual for that region of Alaska, and glare ice along the lakes.
“Otherwise it’s good snow all the way,” he said.
As of 6:15 this morning, 35 mushers have left Rohn and are headed to Nikolai, 17 mushers are in Rohn keeping Buser and Failor company while they finish their mandatory 24-hour layover, three are heading up and over Rainy Pass, and the remaining nine are still at the Rainy Pass checkpoint at Puntilla Lake.
Headed home: Anchorage’s Scott Janssen on Monday night became the first musher to scratch in the 41st running of the Iditarod. The Mushing Mortician called it quits at the Rainy Pass checkpoint out of concern for his dogs and their performance.
The 51-year-old who owns funeral homes in the Anchorage Bowl was racing in his third Iditarod. Last year he finished 38th and the previous year 42nd.