In the photos above, we're airborne over McGrath and Laura flashing her dazzling smile as we cruise along in Iditarod Air Force Pilot Jerry Wortley's Cessna 180!
It's only a 10-minute flight over to the Takotna checkpoint, though it takes the mushers a lot longer to cover this 18-mile stretch between McGrath and Takotna. The pilots have skis on their planes so they're able to land on snow and ice. Here we are getting ready to land on the Takotna River. Then we walked up the riverbank and were immersed in Iditarod activities. This little village of 46 people pulls together and really supports the Iditarod. Mushers are greeted with warm water for their dogs, hot showers, fires burning in barrels and world-class homemade cooking and pies. It's no wonder why most all mushers take their mandatory layover in Takotna. This allowed plenty of musher-gawking and photo opportunities for the Llewellyn sisters.
The Takotna River transformed into a runway and aircraft parking area.
Me posing next to a dog team that had just pulled into Takotna, and the resting area for the puppies (Martin Buser and DeeDee Jonrowe's teams)
Laura posing with 2nd place finisher Ramy Smith. He arrived into Takotna in 20-something position. He ended up pushing his way up to 2nd place winner of the Iditarod. Was Laura his good luck charm? I think yes.
This was one of our sneaky strategic photos: Laura pretending to pose for the camera while I pretended to take a picture when really we snuck a photo of famed mushers Dallas Seavey, Mitch Seavey, and Jamacian musher Newton Marshall sitting around shooting the breeze.
I loved this chalkboard - little reminders to wake the mushers up. What a great system! Wake Martin Buser up at 2:00 am (I wonder if he was fussy), and wake Paul Johnson up at 9:00 p.m. - he can be found in the old church, in the front row of the inner room.
Laura and Rosie relaxing in the back of the airplane. Rosie was a dropped dog from one of the teams that we brought back with us in the airplane to the drop dog hub in McGrath. Rosie was a real sweetheart and took a liking to Laura. The pup wasn't feeling well, but was a good sport about the ride in the small airplane.