The Transition Weeks: And I Remember the Iditarod

JDR will show up soon with a great post about Alex Smith, and I predict he’ll illustrate it with a pic of the fine QB defiantly appearing before the cameras wearing a black SF Giants hat.

Spring training’s going fine — couple of injuries, but a lot of impressive play, too.  Pence’s first hit today apparently cracked some boards in the OF wall.  Etc.

Meanwhile, the Iditarod started yesterday.  I saw that race begin in 1991, on either 3rd or 4th Street in Anchorage.  Actually, the downtown start was ceremonial.  The racers and their dog teams headed out to some place 40 miles away, on the edge of the wilderness, for the real start.  Check it out.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iditarod_Trail_Sled_Dog_Race

In 1975 I stumbled across one of the Iditarod way stations in late March (or, maybe, early April).  I was working at a remote lodge with about half a dozen other guys, felling trees and getting the place ready for the fishing season.  We received a message (via the AM country station’s “bush pipeline” feature, broadcast at dinner time every night)  that the owners had flown a bunch of lumber to the airstrip near Skwentna.  They didn’t dare try to land on our river, the Talachulitna, because the ice was getting thin.  For the same reason, we didn’t want to take the snowmobiles to Skwentna during the day.  We had to leave at midnight, when the temperature dropped well below freezing, and then try to get back before noon.

Yes, the moon was full, the snow was white, and Crazy Jack and I were full of brandy.  He was a local hunting guide who knew the way.  We stopped at a small abandoned log cabin on the Iditarod Trail.  It wasn’t a checkpoint, but some sort of in-between spot.  Inside we found a case of beer.  Initially, we were delighted.  Then we both realized at the same moment that the bottles were full of ice.  Obviously, we were both still full of brandy.  We roared on up the snow-covered river.

About dawn, when we got to Skwentna, a hunting guide friend of Jack’s, who lived in a two-room log cabin, woke his family and invited us to breakfast.  After we ate, Jack and I went outside to help the host’s eight-year-old daughter feed the dogs who helped her run her trap line.  We found two  huskies huddled together in the snow, under a tarp.  Those strong dogs got very excited as Jack and I took axes to the frozen moose shanks and knocked off big chunks of meat for them to eat.  The little eight-year-old girl laughed with delight as her dogs enjoyed their meal.

The trip back to our lodge with the lumber piled up on trailers we pulled with the snowmobiles wasn’t so much fun.  In fact it was 20 miles of pretty scary sledding over melting snow and ice.  But we got it done.  And I developed a tremendous respect for the racers and their teams who brave the 1,100+ wilderness miles of the Iditarod.

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25 Responses to The Transition Weeks: And I Remember the Iditarod

  1. Chico says:

    Great post.. I knew you spent some time in Alaska but not to this extent. I really enjoyed reading this, especially since I’m a person who is interested in other people’s life experiences, opinions, other cultures, etc.. I’ll definitely give it a look.. The way you wrote it puts the images in my mind, like any good author does. Well done!

    I’d love to hear more about your experiences traveling through the US.. You’ve shared brief, fascinating personal stories – one about traveling through Texas which shut us up one night when we were bagging on Texas for political reasons.. I wish I wrote as well as you. Hell, all the thoughts and experiences are in most of our heads, its the way we present them in type that I have huge problems with but I’m working on it. I’ll never get there, but I’ll keep trying.

    I will say it again, Belt is going to have a very good year. Crawford, too. Go Giants!

    • xoot says:

      Belt and Crawford are vets on the current squad and they seem to be enjoying their starter status. You may be right about both of them stepping up this year.

      As to writing, I spend half my time at work writing. I learned a few things, eventually.

  2. mailorderwife says:

    Love this story! I was never really interested in Alaska until a friend moved there about a month ago. She went from living near Cleveland to — yes — a log cabin near Anchorage. Your story made her own initial observations of Alaskan living come to life! Thanks :>

    My husband and I were at a Staples Center sports pub last night. The TV above out booth had the Braves/Tiggers game on, and Doug Fister was getting rocked. Good times!

    • xoot says:

      A month ago? Wow, talk about jumping in. She’ll be so happy in May. Early spring, in the birch forests, the fiddle ferns sprout. Saute them right and they’re better than asparagus; then later in the summer, the amanita muscaria pop up. Whole different sort of meal there.

      • mailorderwife says:

        She kept asking me about tornadoes and other east coast thingies, and I had to tell her about living in the Pac Rim. I think her main concern was a tsunami, ya know? But I think the greater concern is that she lives in a log cabin that has been propped up on logs, so there is no foundation in the ground. Maybe that is safe? She also mentioned bears. Is that a big worry there? I mean, other than for the bears running away from Sarah Palin’s AK47.

        • xoot says:

          As to bears, depends exactly where she is. Once you’re in the bush, they’re around you. Black bears used to smell dinner cooking and hustle up to look in the windows of our lodge. I saw grizzly tracks in the mud by the river, too, but never met one of those big guys. You pretty much need to have guns if you’re way out there. And I’m not sure you’d have a real log cabin if it had a foundation. 🙂

          • mailorderwife says:

            Learn so many things. She seems to be surrounded by trees. Looked like one of those cabins you see on the way to Tahoe. Also didn’t know about the log thing, so thanks :> Maybe she should put extra steaks on the grill when bbq’ing just to feed Smokey.

  3. mailorderwife says:

    49ers reportedly cut ties with David Akers.

  4. Chico says:

    Once again, Belt is tearing it up!

  5. mailorderwife says:

    You hate LA? Me too! Here’s a good reason why.

  6. unca_chuck says:

    You’ve done some crazy shot in yer time, Xoot.

  7. xoot says:

    From Henry S’s tweets (as expanded by sulia):

    “Hey, Ryan Theriot, if you’re reading this Tweet, first of all, thanks for the follow. Second, if you can’t find the playing time you’re looking for elsewhere and want your old role back, you might want to give the #sfgiants a call. The competition for your old job has not exactly been inspired. Maybe you’ll have better options elsewhere, but Hunter Pence still wants to know what you’re wearing tomorrow. “

  8. mailorderwife says:

    I have a new blog that I’m writing for work purposes. It’s more film/tv/culture/hate LA related. Come visit at http://suburbandeath.tumblr.com. Thanks!

  9. shaman138 says:

    It’s looking really good for Real Madrid to take the Champions League right now. They may or may not do it, but Chelsea is gone, Manchester Poo is gone, and Barca is about to be gone, and Real Madrid’s window to win it is wide open right now. Woo hoo!

  10. JDR says:

    This is just beautiful. I hope Bochy uses the DH every time they play now, just to fuck with Gibson’s head.
    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/03/05/kirk-gibson-explains-heated-exchange-with-dusty-baker/

  11. JDR says:

    Smith post up. Also hatching a plot for another Giants post with a special “guest blogger”…

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