Skwentna Checkpoint Number 2 by Sanka W. Dog

Skwentna – Checkpoint #2

By Sanka W. Dog

You can’t believe how exciting and noisy it is to have 96 dog teams come through a checkpoint. As the race goes further down the trail, it spreads out but in the early checkpoints of Yentna Station, Skwentna and Finger Lake, all the teams are still pretty close together. I’m lucky to know about this because my handler actually worked at Skwentna as a communications volunteer.

Skwentna has a population of 75 people in the winter and 250 people in the summer. It’s located on the Skwentna River. There aren’t enough children in the community to have a school so the kids who live here are home schooled.

The first team into Skwentna arrived at 20:49 (remember, that’s military time). The workers are waiting down on the frozen river, watching for the light of a headlamp to come around the bend of the river about a half mile away. The team stops under the WELCOME TO SKWENTNA banner where they are greeted by the checker and the communications worker. The dogs are counted and the arrival time is recorded. If the musher is going to stay, s/he parks the team, sets a snow hook at each end of the dogs and then spreads straw out for the dogs to sleep on. The musher collects the drop bags, draws some hot water then return to the team to give them water and take their booties off. Shortly there after, the musher will cook the dogs a nice meaty meal. After the dogs are taken care of, the musher most likely will go up to the cabin for some hot food and rest.

Who are the workers at Skwentna? The checkpoint is located at the home of Joe and Norma Delia. Joe is the postmaster. Iditarod sends 3 communications. The river crew comes in from Tacoma, Washington. The Skwentna Sweeties come from Eagle River, Alaska.

Everybody has a very important role in making the checkpoint work. Two “comms” people send race information up from the river to the cabin where the 3rd comms person sends the information to race headquarters in Anchorage via satellite computer connection. They can also communicate on a fixed cell phone and satellite phone. Pretty high tech! The river crew lays out the straw bales for each team, alphabetizes and organizes the drop bags so mushers can find them easily. They heat river water for the teams. River crew members also park each team (it takes a lot of room and organization to park 96 teams). Two members of the River Crew work as checkers and record official times of arrival. Everybody really loves the Skwentna Sweeties – they provide the hospitality. They cook great meals for all the workers and the mushers.

My handler said that the best part of working the Skwentna checkpoint was to see all the awesome dogs, telling them all “good dog” and petting as many as possible.

When you work a checkpoint, everyone has to work as a team. It’s just like the dogs and musher going down the trail – everyone has to work as a team. Remember the true meaning of TEAM. Together Everyone Achieves More.


48 Comments

  1. I was just wondering if you could answer one question. My question is that: are really good sled dogs born (bloodlines), or are they trained? Thank you, and I hope you get back to me soon. Cameron Haugen, from Willmar, Minnesota.

    Posted by Zuma on March 11, 2008 | Permalink
  2. How is a dog trained to pull a sled.

    Posted by Zuma on March 11, 2008 | Permalink
  3. i was wondering where the mushers usually train for the iditarod race, and if you can give me any interresting facts about the race Lauren

    Posted by Zuma on March 11, 2008 | Permalink
  4. Hi Sanka W. Dog….I am Sanka Puppy the Siberian Husky. Always bark the truth…..I am glad to share my name with you>

    Posted by Zuma on March 12, 2008 | Permalink
  5. This is Logan from Ms.Pollock’s 6th grade class.Our class has been follow the freckings and we are sorry to hear what happened to Lorne.I just wanted to Good Job to everyone who ran in the 2008 Iditarod.
    Your Friend,
    Logan

    Posted by Zuma on March 12, 2008 | Permalink
  6. i think hans gatt will win next year

    Posted by Zuma on March 12, 2008 | Permalink
  7. I can’t wait for the mushers to finish.Ive been following Deedee Jonrowe.i hope she finishes in the top 10! lots of tailwags, Morgan

    Posted by Zuma on March 13, 2008 | Permalink
  8. I HOPE HANS GATT TRYS AGAIN NEXT YEAR AND WINS! I THIMG HANS GATT SHOULD WIN I LIKED HIM I WAS CHERRING FOR HIM Jonny

    Posted by Zuma on March 13, 2008 | Permalink
  9. How are you doing did you see Lance Macy.from Megan

    Posted by Zuma on March 13, 2008 | Permalink
  10. The first musher came in. HARRY!!!!!!!

    Posted by Zuma on March 13, 2008 | Permalink
  11. Hi Zuma,I was wondering,do you look forward to the Iditarod? Jessica

    Hello Jessica, Yes, every year, I really look forward to the Iditarod. It is so much fun to see my fur friends headed down the trail. I am so proud when the teams begin to arrive in Nome.

    Lots of Tail Wags, Zuma

    Posted by Zuma on March 13, 2008 | Permalink
  12. Dear Sanka,
    You must be a really cool dog.What is your favorite color?Do you like answering peoples questions?You are cute to!

    your new friend,
    Mikeala

    Posted by Zuma on March 13, 2008 | Permalink
  13. Can you answer this? How do dogs know what to do and where to go Ali

    Posted by Zuma on March 13, 2008 | Permalink
  14. Is it fun to be on the trail? Mathew

    Posted by Zuma on March 13, 2008 | Permalink
  15. How hard is it to train dogs?

    Posted by Zuma on March 13, 2008 | Permalink
  16. How old do the dogs have to be before they race in the Iditarod?

    Posted by Zuma on March 13, 2008 | Permalink
  17. What is it like pulling a sled? is your musher heavy? Rain dog

    Posted by Zuma on March 13, 2008 | Permalink
  18. Gon’t you just hate Lance mackey for tricking Jeff king? Rain Dog

    Posted by Zuma on March 13, 2008 | Permalink
  19. IT WAS VERY SNEAKY THAT LANCE MACKEY SNUCK OUT TO BEAT JEFF KING. Jonny

    Posted by Zuma on March 13, 2008 | Permalink
  20. I bet it really hard to tran dogs. and what kind of dogs do you have.i would like to pet a dog.

    Posted by Zuma on March 13, 2008 | Permalink
  21. Dear Zuma and Pals,

    OUr class has been studying the Iditarod. We discussed ethics and fairness. Do you feel the way Lance Mackey won the race was fair? Do you feel it was sneaky?

    Mrs. Marshall’s fourth grade class

    Dear Class,
    There isn’t any rule against doing what Lance did. A few night’s earlier, Jeff King slept on top of Lance’s boots, so that he was sure to wake up when Lance got ready to leave the checkpoint. If you went back and studied the race and the history, you’d learn that lots of mushers have enjoyed playing tricks on each other, sneaking out, or saying that they were taking their ‘24 hour’ break, and changing their mind when other mushers went to sleep, and heading out on the trail… ALl of that is part of the race and all of the mushers know all about that! As Jeff King said himself, he was responsible for his choices to sleep….. when he did… Lots of Tail Wags, Zuma

    Posted by Zuma on March 13, 2008 | Permalink
  22. Dear Zuma,
    hey Zuma! I have a question for you. Do you think that there should of been more
    checkpoints with mandetory stops, because if there was Jeff could of just go into White Mountain and go right out and he would of probably won the Iditarod, but at first I was root’n for Lance and then Dede then Jeff and last Ed Stielstra!! So the actual question is do you think that there should of been more checkpoints with mandetory stops.
    scincerily,
    martin

    Hello Martin,
    There is a rules committee that meets and helps make suggestions about the rules. One thing to remember, it is kind of hard to have more checkpoints when you are in the middle of Alaska and there aren’t any villages. These are great ideas and thoughts to spend time brainstorming about!
    Lots of Tail Wags,
    Zuma

    Posted by Zuma on March 13, 2008 | Permalink
  23. My guy is jeff deeter he is in Stlaktoolik he is doing good. Mathe

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  24. Why did Art Church Jr scratch from the race?

    sincerely,
    Benjamin

    Hello Benjamin, When mushers scratch from the race, there is a press release about it that is put on the Press and Media tab at the website.
    You can read all about each musher that scratches and you can read about other things that are happening at the race.
    Lots of Tail Wags,
    Zuma

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  25. Hey Zuma,
    I was just wondering, were you in the 2008 Iditarod race??? please write back
    from, Daniella connecticut

    Hello,
    No, I am not a mushing dog and I am not a racer. I am a writer and a reporter. You can read about me at Zuma, Who am I?
    Lots of Tail Wags,
    Zuma

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  26. Dear Zuma,
    1.Do you ever think about mushing?
    2.Do you have any puppies and how
    many do you have?

    from Constance

    I think about mushing every single day, not that I will be pulling a sled, but I love to learn more about it. I am single and enjoying my career as a writer.
    Lots of Tail Wags,
    Zuma

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  27. Do you like all of the comments the kids have been sending you? Do you have a good time reading the comments? How many years have you been doing this?
    from Sylver

    We do like all the comments we are getting. Thanks! We are very busy, but your comments are important so we get to them as soon as we can. The K-9 Reporters.

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  28. Dear Zuma & her helpers,
    Are you aware of why Lance Mackey dropped some of his dogs? Do you know any of Lance’s dogs or what his dogs’ names are? Well, Please write back soon!
    Your human friend,
    Morgan P.S.

    If you know of any stories about anything funny that has happend to Lance Mackey & Kjetil Backen ( something funny that they have done to each other ) please tell me. Thanks!!!! Doggy Kisses!!!!

    Thanks for your comment.

    Race rules allow for mushers to drop (or leave) dogs at checkpoints. They are left there for many kinds of reasons, like tired paws or maybe just needing some rest. We don’t have the names of the dogs that are left at the checkpoints, that information is recorded by the veterinarians. Veterinarians are at each checkpoint. They examine the dogs that arrive and leave, they take care of dogs that are ‘dropped’, and they dedicate their life’s work to keeping dogs healthy. Being a vet on the trail is very important work. The musher’s family or veterinarians are notified when the dogs are sent to Anchorage so that they can go and pick the dog up and take it home.

    A good place to read about fun things going on in the race is at Jon Little’s blog. Jon is on the trail observing and writing, so he has lots of stories. You can click on the stories at the front page of the website.
    The K-9 Reporters

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  29. I haven’t studied the race much, but my older sister, Morgan has studied the Iditarod in Mrs. Marshall’s 4th grade class. (thats the class my sister Morgan is in)
    I have a few questins:
    1) Do you think there should be more checkpoints in the race?
    2) How many miles are in the race?
    3) Have you ever been in a dog sled race?

    By!
    Andrew C.

    Hello Andrew. I have seen the race. I live in Alaska. You can read all about the race trail at the Learn About section of the website. Our map shows you about how many miles the trail is. We’ve always said that the race is about 1,000 miles and added 49 on the end of the number, for a 1049 because of being the 49th state. There aren’t roads so it was very hard in the early days to know exactly how long the trail was and since the exact length always depends on the exact trail each year, the length of the race changes slightly. The K-9 Reporters

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  30. My musher is Paul Gebhardt,do you think he did a good job in the race?
    Sincerely,
    Troy

    I think when a musher finishes the race in Nome, they’d done a great job getting there!

    Lots of Tail Wags, Zuma

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  31. THIS WAS MY FAVORITEIST IDITAROD EVER:)

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  32. Dear Zuma,
    Will you tell me more about what Lance Mackey did to Jeff King??????

    Lance beat Jeff to the finish line, which is the goal of mushers who want to win. Lance followed the rules. When Jeff was sleeping at a checkpoint, Lance left before Jeff woke up. That isn’t breaking any rules. It is ok to be not tell other mushers you are leaving. Lots of Tail Wags, Zuma

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  33. WOW I CANNOT BELIEVE LANCE MACKEY WOULD TRICK JEFF KING AND SNEAK OUT. THAT WASNT NICE!

    Remember, this is a race. The mushers are in a competition. Mushers don’t wake each other up at any checkpoint along the way and say they are leaving. Every musher is responsible for their own schedules and it isn’t up to one musher to wake up others or to tell them what they are going to do. This is a race. The spirit of Iditarod and past races have lots of stories about things like this. Lots of Tail Wags, Zuma

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  34. What are the names of Robert Bundtzen’s
    leader dogs?
    sinerly
    Ben

    Hello Ben,
    Sorry, we don’t have the names of lead dogs. The mushers don’t report the names to us, but the veterinarians have the names of the dogs in their records.

    Lots of Tail Wags, Zuma

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  35. how much does a DOG COST?

    Different kinds of dogs cost different amounts. It also depends on who the parents of the dog for sale are or what the dog has done, the number of races it has been in or what kind of a racer it is. The K-9 Reporters

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  36. Have you ever thought about being in the Iditarod? If you were how would you feel if it was a blizzard ?

    from
    Monte

    I am not a racing dog, so I really haven’t thought about it. If I were in a blizzard, I’d be nice and warm because I have a natural fur coat that I wear every day! BUT, humans and canines (who aren’t racing) don’t need to be out in storms of any kind.
    Lots of Tail Wags, Zuma

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  37. Have you ever mushed the Iditarod?

    Sincerely,
    Alex

    I am not a racer, I am a writer. Lots of Tail Wags, Zuma

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  38. Do you like all of the comments the kids have been sending you? Do you have a good time reading the comments? How many years have you been doing this?
    from Sylver

    We enjoy getting comments. Thanks. I’ve been answering comments at this job for several years. Lots of Tail Wags, Zuma

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  39. Hi Zuma its me Heather again!
    I was just wondering, How old are you? Well I just wanted to ask you that!
    Your penpal,
    Heather

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  40. lance mackey won 2 years in a row!!!!

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  41. Hi Zuma,
    I was just wondering have you ever mushed before? If you have, did you like it? love karla

    I have pulled a sled for fun but I am not a racer. I am a writer. Lots of Tail Wags, Zuma

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  42. Did Lance Mackey really trick Jeff King?? WHat did he do?? My class is wondering.

    DearZuma,
    Do you think that the rules should be changed mandating 1hr rests at all chekpoints so there are no tricks?
    Sincerly,
    Nick

    I don’t think the rules should be changed to give 1 hour rests at all checkpoints. There is no rule that says racers have to wake each other up before leaving. This is a race and a competition. Lots of Tail Wags, Zuma

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  43. that is great that you are a reporter. Were you ever in a dog race or were you just a reporter all your famous life??? please anwser my question. Thanks!!!
    from your good friend,daniella from Connecticut

    None of the K-9 reporters are racers.
    Lots of Tail Wags, Zuma

    Posted by Zuma on March 14, 2008 | Permalink
  44. I have been following Sue Allen everyday at school!The Iditarod is so interesting to follow!Can’t wait until she finishes,Meghan

    Posted by Zuma on March 15, 2008 | Permalink
  45. Dear Zuma,
    Do you know if the other mushers receive
    awards for finishing or do they only
    get a prize for finishing first?
    Sincerly,
    Mia
    .

    Dear zuma,
    What are some of the awards the mushers get?

    From,
    dylan

    Hello Dylan. Hello Mia.
    There is a long list of awards that mushers can get. You can view the list on the website in the media packet. At the front page of the website, click Press and Media. Then click Media Guide. The list is on page 19. The awards are given out at the Nome Banquet, which is always held on the Sunday after the finish of the race. The K-9 Reporters

    Posted by Zuma on March 15, 2008 | Permalink
  46. Hello Zuma,
    I was just wondering why did Deedee loose her
    dogs 20 years ago?
    Richard

    Hello Richard, I am not sure about the event you are talking about, I’d need more information. Zuma

    Posted by Zuma on March 15, 2008 | Permalink
  47. There is a Jr. iditarod and there is an iditarod but why isn`t there a rookie iditarod for the people who are new to the iditarod Jr. iditarod but aren`t ready for the iditarod.
    scincerely
    martin

    The mushers race in lots of smaller races before they are qualified to run in Iditarod.
    The K-9 Reporters

    Posted by Zuma on March 15, 2008 | Permalink
  48. why did jeff kings dog drop out of the race in Rohn(rone)?

    Hello. We don’t put information on the website that tells why each dog is left at checkpoints with veterinarians. Most stay behind because they have a little injury or because they are tired. Our veterinarian staff examine the dogs at each checkpoint. Lots of Tail Wags, Zuma

    Posted by brianna on March 26, 2009 | Permalink

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