Iditarod begins with Redington Jr. out front

After Sunday's restart of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Willow, when racing begins in earnest, Ray Redington Jr. of Wasilla made it first through the first two checkpoints in the famed 975-mile race to Nome.

Redington Jr., the first musher out, checked into Skwentna, 72 miles down the trail from Willow, with his 16-dog team at 8:45 p.m.

He was followed into the checkpoint 14 minutes later by Jim Lanier, the 71-year-old retired pathologist from Chugiak who has completed the Iditarod in all five decades it has been contested.

Those were the first two of six mushers who made it to Skwentna by 10 p.m. Also in were Jodi Bailey, William Pinkham, DeeDee Jonrowe and Kelley Griffin. Of those six, only Griffin, with 14 dogs, had fewer than 16.

They were the only two mushers into that checkpoint as of 10 p.m., according to the official race website. Both appeared to be taking a break in Skwent

All but two of the 66 mushers in the field of The Last Great Race had made it into Yentna Station, the first checkpoint, 42 miles from Willow, as of shortly after 8 p.m.

The field also includes the winners of the five previous Iditarods -- John Baker won last year's race and Lance Mackey won four consecutive races before that.

The Iditarod began with its customary and ceremonial 11-mile leg through Anchorage, a leg that is basically touring for mushers, who are greeted all along that stretch by fans. Actual racing began Sunday, but even that included some modest jockeying for position and rhythm after mushers left the carnival-like atmosphere at the restart in Willow in two-minute intervals.

Ahead of the mushers was nearly 1,000 miles of remote landscapes and unpredictable weather.

Anchorage Daily News