Runaway Iditarod dog team reunited with British musher Franklin

Thursday morning update:

It appears Kim Franklin has been given the go-ahead by race officials to continue down the trail. Official Iditarod standings show Franklin left the Nikolai checkpoint at 7:15 a.m. Thursday with 12 dogs.

According to Iditarod standings, she dropped one dog before continuing on toward McGrath.

Original story:

NIKOLAI -- After a long night spent walking the Iditarod trail and worrying about her lost dog team, Iditarod musher Kim Franklin was reunited with her team Wednesday afternoon and appeared to be back on the trail and headed to Nikolai.

Once the 50-year-old rookie from the United Kingdom reaches that checkpoint, officials will make sure she has all of her dogs and a veterinarian will examine them for injuries.

If everything checks out, Franklin's race is expected to continue, said the man who leased Franklin a dog team and helped her train.

"Well, what a fiasco that was," a relieved Dean Osmar of Clam Gulch said Wednesday afternoon after learning that Franklin and the dogs were on the move — some 17 hours after Franklin's team got loose on the trail between the Rohn and Nikolai checkpoints.

Osmar, the 1984 Iditarod champion, said he spoke to race marshal Mark Nordman early Wednesday afternoon.

"He says, 'I think all is good,' " Osmar said.

Until Franklin reaches Nikolai and can tell the tale herself, here's Osmar's version of what happened:

About an hour or two after leaving Rohn at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Franklin's team of 13 dogs – still hitched to the sled -- got loose. Maybe Franklin hit something and was tossed from the sled, Osmar speculated, or maybe she got off the sled to sort out a tangle or lead the team through open water.

Whatever happened, it left Franklin with no dogs, no sled and diminishing daylight.

"She starts walking," Osmar said. "I think she walked for hours. I think she actually walked past the team."

He thinks mushers trailing Franklin also passed the loose team, which Osmar thinks ran by itself for about 10 miles before going off the trail and into the woods and stopping. Franklin's GPS tracking device was with the sled, and for hours it showed the team had stopped.

Meanwhile, Franklin caught a ride with a snowmachiner during the night.

"They come to a cabin with a stove, and she's all wet and scared to death," Osmar said. "She doesn't know if the dogs got tangled up, if they got in a fight (or) if the wolves got them. She's just panicked but can't do anything. …There's a lot of stuff that can happen, and none of it's good."

By morning, the Iditarod was searching for the team by helicopter. Osmar wasn't sure whether Franklin or someone else found the team, but "somehow Kim gets a ride back down the trail and she got with her team again," he said, although one of the 13 dogs had managed to get loose from the gangline.

"One of the dogs chewed itself out and was out on a walkabout," Osmar said. He said Nordman told him that "as far as he knows, the loose dog is back with team."

None of the other dogs broke free of the sled, Osmar said.

"That was another fear: I saw the sled there for all those hours (on the GPS tracker) and I thought maybe the gangline broke and the dogs are free," he said.

Race rules prohibit mushers from accepting help from nonmushers, but there's an exception when a team gets loose.

"If there's a lost dog team, you can procure help in any way; either from another musher or motorized help," race judge Jim Davis said in Nikolai.

This isn't the first time Franklin has lost dogs on the trail. In the 2008 Iditarod — her first attempt to make it to Nome — Franklin's dog team got into a tangle between Rainy Pass and Rohn. By the time she sorted it out, dogs had chewed the lines connecting her two lead dogs to the team.

The leaders ran back to the previous checkpoint, and Franklin mushed on to get help. She was withdrawn from the race in Rohn.

Before leaving the Rohn checkpoint Tuesday, Franklin said she got more emotional than she anticipated by surpassing the distance she went in her previous Iditarod.

"I'm really pleased to get here," she said.

Reporter Tegan Hanlon contributed to this report.