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Photos: Flying home from Iditarod

Mitch Seavey, 53, and his team ride across Cape Nome about 20 miles from the Iditarod finish line. Seavey won the race March 12.
Burke Mees photo
The engine was warm but inside the cockpit the pilot needed beaver mittens to fly the plane.
Burke Mees photo
After the Iditarod race, Alaska Dispatch's team flew to Little Diomede, an Alaska Native community clinging to the edge of a Bering Strait island. In the backdrop is Big Diomede, a Russian island on the other side of the International Dateline.
Burke Mees photo
Alaska Dispatch's team landed on Cape Nome to watch Mitch Seavey and Aliy Zirkle battle to the Iditarod finish line March 12.
Burke Mees photo
Spectators watch dog teams cross the sea ice along Norton Sound during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Burke Mees photo
Flying the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is an experience that leaves the pilot wiser, as well as humbled.
Burke Mees photo
Alice Rogoff

The trip west had been bursting with activity and a sense of anticipation. The race felt different each time the terrain and climate changed, and that frenetic quality drove our timetables.

With the race over, the trip back east made the country below seem almost desolate by comparison. No dog teams to look for; race checkpoints already taken down; even the Iditarod Air Force pilots' radio frequency had gone silent.

But getting home, flying east across Alaska, was as challenging as some of our flying legs last week. The story of the weather on our return flight was all about the wind, which was persistently strong, and constantly on our nose. During the climbout from Nome we briefly saw a groundspeed of 25 knots. Along many places, snowmachines could have passed us by. We saw a lot of 60-knot groundspeeds, and it was only when we got into the Yukon River valley that we could find better winds close to the surface. Down at less than 1,000 feet it was pretty bumpy, but we could eek out 80-90 knots of groundspeed there.

It was uncanny how the wind stayed exactly on our nose throughout the entire flight.

Full story: Unanticipated adventures on way home from Iditarod