Iditarod 39 came to a close Sunday, when 50-year old Ellen Halverson and her 9 remaining dogs made their way under the Burled Arch on Front Street in Nome. She recieved the Red Lantern award, given to the last musher to arrive in Nome. Per tradition, Ellen extinguished the Widow's Flame, signifying all mushers and their dogs were safely off the Iditarod Trail. I think she also won some money and other good stuff for getting last place.
This was my 3rd year volunteering at the McGrath checkpoint, and this was by far the most fun I've had yet. Having Laura here played a big part in that. I think back to before the race when I told another volunteers that my sister was coming up to help out. She said, "Really? Is that a good idea? Do you think you might get in a fight? One year there were 2 sisters helping and they fought the whole time. It was just terrible." I replied, "Umm... maybe if we were little kids again we'd get into a fight or 10, but not now. She's my best friend, and we make a good team." Sure enough I proved her wrong! We were a dynamic duo. Laura got off the airplane and jumped right into volunteer duties. She had to learn 1oo people's names along with strange-sounding checkpoints like Nikolai, Shageluk, Takotna, and so on. She handled it all with grace and ease. She was a hard little worker - it's that Montana upbringing.
One of the pilots paid us a very nice compliment that summed it all up nicely. He told me, "You and your sister are a lot of fun to watch. You work really well together. You're obviously close and you respect each other." And he wasn't drinking when he said that, so I know he was sincere.
And in addition to Laura - Nicole, Al, John, and all the Iditarod Air Force Pilots were a lot of fun and hard workers. Team McGrath rocked!