Just like kids who are ready to return to school after winter break, Newton Marshall left McGrath with a team of happy dogs who were ready to hit the trail. Being lazy in a checkpoint is fine for a little while but they’d rather by running. Newton gave his dogs soup, packed his cooker and dog dishes then set about putting coats and booties on the dogs before putting his own parka on and being lead out of the checkpoint. As Newton’s mentor and coach, Lance Mackey has undoubtedly shared lots of small tricks that make a big difference. Do you know what a shoe horn is? Well, Newton was using a bootie horn to slide booties onto 56 paws. Just as the shoehorn is inserted into the heel of the shoe to make the human foot slide into a shoe easier, Newton inserted a half circle of plastic into the bootie to allow the dog’s paws to slide in easier. The horn was attached to his wrist by a short piece of wire and elastic band making it easy to pull the horn out of the bootie as he was fastening the Velcro strip. It didn’t take him long to get all the booties in place, a task made more efficient with the ingenious little bootie horn. While doing his pre-departure chores, Newton asked what the temperature was. One of the spectators checked the thermometer outside the checkpoint and reported a reading of 8 degrees.
Linwood Fiedler scratched at McGrath. That’s always a tough decision for a musher. His focus over the past year has been to rebuild his racing team and things were looking great for him in the early stages of the race. Fiedler was first into Skwentna arriving at 20:28. But by the time he’d reached McGrath he had dropped 5 dogs and felt that continuing to Nome would not be in the best interest of the remaining dogs. He and his team flew back to Anchorage on the PenAir caravan. His handler’s and family were waiting to greet them. Fiedler has made the trip to Nome 15 out of his 18 attempts. He place 2nd in 2001 being first to McGrath and first to Ruby he completed the race in 10 days, 2 hours and 58 minutes. Fiedler is a recipient of the Humanitarian Award and the Sportsmanship Award in previous races. Linwood has been a great neighbor to Lynda Plettner. A couple of years ago, Plettner was running a local race when she became drastically ill. She was airlifted, from the checkpoint to an Anchorage hospital and had surgery. While she recovered, Linwood trained her team so they would be ready for the Iditarod.
The Iditarod Trail, especially the Dalzell Gorge is not always a forgiving trail. Pat Moon crashed suffering a concussion that resulted in him scratching from the race. Celeste Davis is sporting a pair of black eyes from a similar encounter with a tree in the Gorge. She said it looks quite a bit worse than it feels but she’d prefer not to run into anything in the near future. Davis has great faith in her leaders but for some reason, when they hear the scratching of the brake they seem to pull harder and run faster. Her cries of easy, Easy, EASY seem to go unheard. She said that they just don’t understand that “I’m trying to slow us down and keep everybody in one piece.” Davis, who was in great spirits, left McGrath mid-morning with an eager team of 14 dogs.