Alaska News

Part 3: Musher Mike Santos – Iditarod

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-03-11 03:00

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The 2014 Iditarod will easily go down in the books as one of the most memorable. From snow-starved trails to lightning-fast runs, conditions were treacherous for this years field, nearly a third of which have been forced to scratch. Mike Santos is among the many who called it quits in Rohn after a particularly rough stretch after Rainy Pass.

But, for Santos, it’s not about the race, it’s all about the dogs.

Special thanks to Frontier Scientists.

Part 3 of 3.

Categories: Alaska News

Dallas Seavey Takes Iditarod Lead

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-03-11 01:27

Dallas Seavey. Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage.

UPDATE: Dallas Seavey overtakes Aliy Zirkle for the lead, checking out of Safety at 1:16 a.m.

Denali musher Jeff King scratched near Safety at 11:50 Monday evening as he closed in on front-runner Aliy Zirkle – who remains in the checkpoint.

King told race officials he was having difficulty navigating the trail due to severe wind in the area.

2012 Iditarod Champion Dallas Seavey has closed the distance, arriving in Safety at approximately 1:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Last year’s champion, Mitch Seavey currently stands in third place.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Parnell Won’t Pull California Appointee From Pipeline Assessment Board

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-10 20:34

The State Assessment Review Board has a vague and unassuming name. But it has a very specific and very important job – assessing the value of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

The board has come under scrutiny after its chair was dismissed, and now Democrats in the Alaska Senate want Sean Parnell to withdraw the name of one of his board appointees because of residency issues. But APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports that the governor is backing his nominee.

The governor chose Dennis Mandell of Salinas, California, to serve on the State Assessment Review Board earlier this year. The board gets the final say on the value of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline for tax purposes, and appointees require legislative approval because it is a quasi-judicial body.

During a floor speech on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Hollis French said he would not give that approval because he thinks Mandell’s appointment violates Alaska statute.

“It says that a person appointed to a board or commission of state government shall be and have been before the last general election a registered voter in the state,” said French. “Boom! I mean it’s clear.”

The Senate Minority Caucus also sent a letter to the governor calling for Mandell’s withdrawal on Monday, and it comes on the heels of an Anchorage Daily News story highlighting his California residency.

While Mandell could not be reached for comment, his board application notes that he worked for the now-defunct oil company Arco for nearly two decades. He last lived in Alaska 15 years ago, and he is registered as a California voter.

French was emphatic that Mandell’s residency was grounds for withdrawal, acting out what he would do if he were in Parnell’s situation.

FRENCH: ‘Whoops! I appointed a Californian to a board. I’ve got to fix that. I’m going to withdraw the nomination.’”

Sharon Leighow, a spokesperson for the governor, says that Parnell has no intention of pulling Mandell from consideration. In an e-mailed statement, she wrote that the governor is complying with the constitutional requirements for boards and appointments, but she did not address the statutory requirements.

Parnell’s choices for the State Assessment Review Board have also been criticized because his appointees have a background in the oil industry, and they come after the firing of Marty McGee. McGee was a long-time member of the assessment board who consistently advocated for a higher valuation of the pipeline, and he’s accused the Parnell administration of “stacking” the board with oil industry veterans.

In addition to Mandell, the governor appointed Bernard Washington, of Anchorage, to the board. Washington has served as the chief financial officer of Alaska Public Media, the parent company of KSKA, KAKM and the Alaska Public Radio Network, since 2010. Prior to that, he worked for ConocoPhillips.

For his part, Washington doesn’t think that residency should be a factor if a person is otherwise qualified. He believes the State Assessment Review Board should have a diverse makeup, with members who have had experience with the oil industry and members who have worked outside it.

“You get a better discussion because you have different points of view,” said Washington in an interview.

Washington thinks that in the past, the State Assessment Review Board has been influenced by “politics, which shouldn’t enter into it.” He says he would bring a more quantitative approach.

“What I’d like to see is have a methodology that’s reproducible, that anybody – any rational person – can follow and understand, ‘Oh, that’s how they got to that number.’ And it makes sense,” said Washington. “Which means the method has longevity — not the value, because the value’s going to change every year depending on the economic circumstances.”

Washington also says he’s still studying the Alaska Supreme Court decision that was issued last month on pipeline valuation, and that he still has some questions on how the pipeline’s maximum capacity factored into its assessment. The Supreme Court ruled that the pipeline was worth $10 billion during the 2006 tax year, rejecting the argument from oil companies that it was worth just $850 million. For every billion dollars the pipeline is worth, municipalities along its route collect about $20 million in property taxes.

In 2013, the State Assessment Review Board determined the pipeline was worth $12 billion, while the Alaska Department of Revenue put the number at $7 billion.

The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to interview both board appointees on Thursday. The Legislature will vote on board appointments on April 11.

Categories: Alaska News

Bill Arming VPSOs Passes House

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-10 17:42

A bill providing funding and support for some Village Public Safety Officers to carry firearms passed unanimously in the house this morning.

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Categories: Alaska News

Officers Shoot, Kill Driver Near Wasilla

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-10 17:42

Alaska State Troopers say a man has been shot and killed in an incident in Wasilla.

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Shortly past 9 p.m. on Sunday, a Trooper and a Wasilla police officer were involved in a shooting on the Seward Meridian Parkway. Trooper reports indicated that Troopers were alerted to an impaired driver, and that the driver of the vehicle failed to stop at the direction of a police officer. The driver of the vehicle was shot and pronounced dead at the scene. A passenger in the vehicle was also shot and sustained non life-threatening injuries. The Trooper and police officer were not injured in the incident.

There are few details available at this time, according to Trooper spokesperson Beth Ipsen.

Investigators from the Alaska Bureau of Investigations and Wasilla Police Department are investigating the incident. The Alaska Bureau of Investigations has assumed the responsibility of lead investigating agency.

Categories: Alaska News

King, Zirkle Leave White Mountain

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-10 17:42

Jeff King. Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks.

Iditarod mushers Jeff King and Aliy Zirkle are on the final stretch into Nome. King left the White Mountain checkpoint after eight hours of mandatory rest at 3:02 this afternoon. Zirkle followed just under an hour later. Dallas Seavey will leave about two hours behind Zirkle and his father Mitch will leave about two hours after that.

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Categories: Alaska News

Fairbanks Coal Ash Health Impacts Under Scrutiny

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-10 17:42

The Alaska Department of Health is looking into possible coal ash health impacts from Aurora Energy’s downtown Fairbanks plant. Coal ash is increasingly coming under scrutiny around the country due to contamination from large scale spills, but the situation in Fairbanks is different.

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Categories: Alaska News

Furie Applies For New Cook Inlet Platform

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-10 17:42

Furie Alaska has submitted an operations plan for a new offshore drilling platform in Cook Inlet. If the project is approved, natural gas production could begin as soon as this fall.

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This is a big project for Furie. They were one of the first companies on the scene at the beginning of the so-called Cook Inlet renaissance in 2010, and brought in the jack-up rig Spartan 151 the next year to drill in the Kitchen Lights Unit. That’s the same part of the Inlet where they hope to plant a new drilling platform, about ten miles north of Boulder Point.

The platform would be the seventeenth operating in Cook Inlet. The oldest of which date back to the mid 1960’s. That was a topic of concern last fall, when industry executives and state officials got together in Anchorage for a work session on what to do with the oldest platforms, and how regulations might change for projects like Furie’s. Mike Munger is the executive director for the Cook Inlet Regional Citizen’s Advisory Council. He said at the time the Council had been sitting on a white paper with recommendations for those aging platforms since 2005. But things have changed since then.

“There’s so many dynamics that’s happening in Cook Inlet, with the new independents coming in and acquiring these legacy assets. So we’re looking at the possibility of the Cook Inlet oil field five years ago versus now, it’s a completely different dynamic. Where that all shakes out as far as dismantlement, restoration and removal and the ultimate fate of these platforms is really up in the air right now.”

No real firm action has been taken since those meetings, and what will happen with this platform when its service life is over isn’t known. The plan simply states that because the design life of the platform is more than 20 years, abandonment options and technology are likely to evolve during that time, and so no exact plans for removal are being made. Last fall, state senator Peter Micciche said those plans should be in place from the start.

“I think for future development, those are agreements that should be made at the beginning. We should understand ultimately who’s going to be responsible and what those expectations are.”

There are two phases to this operation. In the first, the platform goes up, two 16- mile long, 10-inch diameter subsea pipelines will be laid in, leading to a new production facility set to be built in Nikiski. Phase two includes keeping all the stuff in Phase one up and running and also calls for the intermittent use of jack up rigs as more wells are tested and developed. So far, three exploratory wells have been drilled along with one development well. The state Department of Natural Resources is taking comments on the plan until March 28th.

Categories: Alaska News

US Fish & Wildlife Proposes Reintroducing Steller’s Eiders To YK Delta

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-10 17:42

A new effort to help a once healthy population of eiders is using unique methods to try to turn sparse numbers around. Stellers eiders used to be common on parts of the YK Delta coast decades ago. Due to some combination of lead poisoning, predators, and changes of habitat they all but disappeared and were listed as threatened under the federal endangered species act in 1997.

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Since 1970, only 11 nests have been reported the Y-K Delta. As part of the long recovery plan, biologists are taking the early steps of bringing the birds back. Kate Martin is the Eider Recovery Coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We want to start establishing a population of females that would return year after year to produce young,” said Martin.

Bringing back a population is no simple task. Managers are proposing starting with captive bred birds from the Alaska Sea Life Center. They will then learn how to be wild birds.

“One way to do that, which we believe may be the most effective is to actually capture wild hens on the molting grounds, hold them over winter, and bond them with ducklings that are captively bred, and release them as a family group. So that wild hen might teach them what they need to know to be a success bird, how to migrate to appropriate molting areas and appropriate wintering areas,” said Martin.

There are many unknowns about a reintroduction like this. Biologist don’t fully understand how birds determine where to nest. Steller’s eiders from the Russian arctic intermingle with Alaska bound birds during the winter months when they go molt and live in areas along the Alaska Penninsula stretching towards Kodiak.

“One of our uncertainties is how many birds we release on the Y-K Delta will actually return to the YK delta to breed. It’s something we just don’t know until we try, that’s also because we don’t know how apt one female is to return to a place where she was born,” said

A meeting in Bethel will be at the refuge headquarters from 4 to 7 on March 6th. Managers also want to go villages on the central coast area near where the birds would actually be released.

“..[To talk with] people who are closer to areas that we would actually release the birds and talk to them and get input on everything from proposed action to the potential release site any input they would like to give us,” said Martin.

The planning will take a long time. The agency says preparation and methods development will span 3-5 years.

“It’s something we’re committed to trying over several years, it’s going to take that long, it’s a long lived bird, we don’t even expect to see returns of birds for two years after we release them. It’s long term, big, while it’s exciting there’s a lot of pieces to it,” said Martin.

More information on the proposed reintroduction is available here.

Categories: Alaska News

Musher Housing At A Premium In Nome

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-10 17:42

Iditarod teams are expected in Nome tonight, and some mushers still do not have a place to sleep once they get there.

Mushers have long depended on Nome residents to provide them a place to rest after the almost 1,000 mile journey. However, over the last five years, it’s become more difficult to find hosts to house mushers.

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“Nomites seem to be downsizing. We’ve had several of our long-term housing hosts move out of town, and the economy as a whole,” Deborah Menendez, the Iditarod Nome Housing Coordinator, said. We also have a lot of temporary housing being taken up by some of the new enterprises in Nome.”

Mendez says about 10 percent of mushers book hotel rooms and a few rent houses, but those are usually veteran racers with large sponsors. The rest of the competitors depend on host families. While many Nome residents are willing to open their homes, some charge up to $150 a night per person for floor space. But Mendez only coordinates with hosts offering free housing.

“Well it’s extremely expensive just to get to the start of the race, especially the rookies,” Mendez said.

And the rookies are the mushers hit hardest by the housing crunch. While veterans have established a reputation and relationships in town—some staying with the same host family for decades— rookies are unknowns without a foothold in the community. And this year, even veterans are having a hard time finding a place to stay. Five veterans and four rookies still do not have a room to sleep in once they arrive.

Menendez says Nome has never failed to house a musher. Once the first teams cross the finish line, people get excited, word of mouth spreads, and the housing shortage closes. But this year, mushers are approaching faster than ever before, complicating the problem.

“It’s been a fast trail, so whereas we would expect a lot of the mushers typically to come in later in the week—Wednesday, Thursday, Friday,” she said. “Those mushers may be coming in sooner. And that’s the issue that we’re seeing this year.”

Hosting a musher, Menendez says, comes with perks like hearing race details and stories from the trail as well as forming relationships spanning the state, the country and the world.

Menendez says families and individuals who open their homes often show great hospitality to mushers, providing home-cooked meals and transportation. Despite the current housing deficit, Menedez remains optimistic that every musher will have a place to stay this year.

“Nome always comes through,” Mendez said. “We have never failed to house musher that needed housing. And that’s only through the generosity of the Nome residents.”

Menendez says Iditarod officials are expecting the first mushers into Nome between one and two o’ clock tomorrow morning.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: March 10, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-10 17:11

Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

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Dems Take Issue With State Assessment Review Board Candidate

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Democrats in the Alaska Senate want Gov. Sean Parnell to withdraw the name of one of his board appointees, because of residency issues.

Bill Arming VPSOs Passes House

Zachariah Hughes, KNOM – Nome

A bill providing funding and support for some Village Public Safety Officers to carry firearms passed unanimously in the house this morning.

King, Zirkle Leave White Mountain

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

Iditarod mushers Jeff King and Aliy Zirkle are on the final stretch into Nome. King left the White Mountain checkpoint after eight hours of mandatory rest at 3:02 this afternoon. Zirkle followed just under an hour later. Dallas Seavey will leave about two hours behind Zirkle and his father Mitch will leave about two hours after that.

Officers Shoot, Kill Driver Near Wasilla

The Associated Press

Alaska State Troopers say a man has been shot and killed in an incident  in Wasilla.

Shortly past 9 p.m. on Sunday, a Trooper and a Wasilla police officer were involved in a shooting on the Seward Meridian Parkway. Trooper reports indicated that Troopers were alerted to an impaired driver, and that the driver of the vehicle failed to stop at the direction of a police officer. The driver of the vehicle was shot and pronounced dead at the scene. A passenger in the vehicle was also shot and sustained non life-threatening injuries. The Trooper and police officer were not injured in the incident.

There are few details available at this time, according to Trooper spokesperson Beth Ipsen.

Investigators from the Alaska Bureau of Investigations and Wasilla Police Department are investigating the incident. The Alaska Bureau of Investigations has assumed the responsibility of lead investigating agency.

Sarah Palin, Superstar, Rocks Conservative Faithful

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

Sarah Palin fired up thousands of conservative activists who came to hear her give the closing speech of the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, D.C. this weekend. Palin hasn’t held elected office since she resigned as Alaska governor in 2009. But,at this gathering of 11,000, she was an A-list star.

Furie Applies For New Cook Inlet Platform

Shaylon Cochran, KDLL – Kenai

Furie Alaska has submitted an operations plan for a new offshore drilling platform in Cook Inlet. If the project is approved, natural gas production could begin as soon as this fall.

Fairbanks Coal Ash Health Impacts Under Scrutiny

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Alaska Department of Health is looking into possible coal ash health impacts from Aurora Energy’s downtown Fairbanks plant. Coal ash is increasingly coming under scrutiny around the country due to contamination from large scale spills, but the situation in Fairbanks is different.

US Fish & Wildlife Proposes Reintroducing Steller’s Eiders To YK Delta

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

A new effort to help a once healthy population of eiders is using unique methods to try to turn sparse numbers around. Stellers eiders used to be common on parts of the YK Delta coast decades ago. Due to some combination of lead poisoning, predators, and changes of habitat they all but disappeared and were listed as threatened under the federal endangered species act in 1997.

Musher Housing At A Premium In Nome

Anna MacArthur, KNOM – Nome

Iditarod teams are expected in Nome tonight, and some mushers still do not have a place to sleep once they get here.

Categories: Alaska News

Sarah Palin, Superstar, Rocks Conservative Faithful

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-10 15:38

William Temple, one of 11,000 attendees of CPAC, came dressed as a Revolutionary War officer. CPAC is said to be the largest annual gathering of American conservatives.

Sarah Palin fired up thousands of conservative activists who came to hear her give the closing speech of the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, D.C. this weekend.

Palin hasn’t held elected office since she resigned as Alaska governor in 2009. But at this gathering of 11,000, she was an A-list star. The wind-up included a video montage of her greatest hits and tributes, and an introduction by NRA Executive Director Chris Cox.

“Does anybody here love Sarah Palin?” Cox asked, getting a loud cheer. “Now, if I walked out there and asked 100 of you why you love Sarah Palin, I’d probably get 100 different answers.”

He suggest a few but barely mentioned her stint as governor of Alaska. Even her run for the vice-presidency, which first put her on the national stage, is not her claim to fame now. Instead, the introduction focused on her superstar clout, her ability to raise the profile of far-right candidates like Ted Cruz of Texas, who says he owes his seat in the U.S. Senate to her. Her celebrity, and how she uses it, is itself celebrated.

Then Palin took the stage, and for 45 minutes, she slammed President Obama and all he stands for, as well as mainstream Republican members of Congress who she says ran from the fight. The crowd rose to its feet over and over. Some fans, too far away to see the stage clearly, took pictures of the room’s video monitors  when her face came  on the live feed.

Way in the back, one hand waved a tri-corner hat in approval. William Temple, of Brunswick, Georgia, came dressed head to toe as a solder from the Revolutionary War.

“I LOVE Sarah Palin,” he gushed. Temple admitted he had an ulterior motive for coming to the gathering. He wants Palin to sign the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag he carried into the convention center on an 8-foot flag pole. He’s been trying for years.

“They spirit her out of the room every time I get close. They secrete her out of the room. And I understand that. But yes I desperately need her signature on my Tea Party flag,” he said.

Chelsey Riehl, a student from Grand Rapids, Michigan, says she appreciates Palin’s frankness, her lack of filter.

“I think she definitely has more passion than other people and doesn’t really hold back on her opinion. And I think that’s part of the reason why some people do look down on her, but why so many other people really enjoy her as well,” Riehl said.

But Palin’s speech left Anna Chapman of Columbia, South Carolina, skeptical. Chapman says it was funny, in a late-night comedy kind of way.

“I don’t think she made a whole lot of sense, though. I’m going to be honest. I love her. I think she’s a good role model, a good face for the Republican Party. But I just think she sounded a little too kooky,” Chapman said.

Judging by the crowd reaction, it seems hers was minority view.

Categories: Alaska News

Sarah Palin Speaks At Conservative Political Action Conference

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-10 12:09

Former Gov. Sarah Palin whipped up thousands of the faithful this weekend, as the closing speaker of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, near Washington, D.C.

Palin’s 45-minute speech was part rallying cry, part stand-up comedy as she landed one zinger after another.

“I love coming back here because there are always so many young people, or, as you’re know by the folks across the river, ‘ObamaCare suckers,’” she said.

She scoffed at Democrats and President Obama, but she also lobbed harsh words at the mainstream Republicans in Congress. She says they betrayed the Tea Party voters who won them seats in 2010. She also says she’s optimistic about the election this fall.

“In this awakening, eyes are open, we’re stronger now, we’re wiser now, and God knows, we are hungry and there aren’t enough low-information voters in the country to save the other side this time, if we don’t retreat,” she said.

Palin isn’t just a political figure these days but also a reality show celebrity. To the audience at this conference, her star never fell. When she referred to the 2016 presidential race, the crowd started chanting.

“I should have, I didn’t get to run this morning, I was so busy man. I did some hot yoga,” Palin said as the crowd shouted, “Run, Sarah, run.”

Her new show starts next month on the Sportsman Channel. It’s called “Amazing America,” a name she teased into her speech.

Categories: Alaska News

Jeff King Maintains Lead Into White Mountain

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-10 11:03

Jeff King waves to fans as he leaves Willow at the beginning of the 42nd Iditarod. Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage.

After taking the lead from Aliy Zirkle early Monday morning, Jeff King has extended his Iditarod lead to nearly an hour, rolling into White Mountain at 7:02 a.m.

Zirkle checked into White Mountain at 7:59 a.m. with 11 dogs to King’s 12.

2012 champion Dallas Seavey round out the top-3, arriving in White Mountain at 9:48 a.m.

Martin Buser, Mitch Seavey, Sonny Lindner, and Joar Leifseth Ulsom are all approaching White Mountain.

Categories: Alaska News

Uneven, Icy, Snow-Free Trail Challenges Iditarod Teams on Their Way to Koyuk

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-10 10:26

Mushers were met with an unforgiving trail as they pushed up the coast from Unalakleet to Koyuk, Sunday.  They battled wind, miles of glare ice and more snow free trail.

They’re also battling extreme fatigue and grappling with how best to cut rest and maintain speed as they close in on Nome.

The blinding sun was no match for a biting wind as Aliy Zirkle‘s team did it’s best to navigate a road into Koyuk that is completely covered in smooth, thick ice.

Zirkle says she and her dog team slid and stumbled all the way from Unalakleet.

“There were a lot of holes they could have stepped in and they stepped in so I don’t know if we were a little off our game or something,” Zirkle said.

She says her sled tipped over multiple times.

“And your wheel dogs get it worse because your sled goes all the way over and hits a snow berm and flips,” she said.

There’s very little loose snow on the trail north along the coast, so dogs are having a hard time with hydration. Zirkle says their noses are rubbed raw.

Under the blaring sun, Aliy Zirkle tries to steer her team into Koyuk on an extremely icy road.Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks.

“They’re having a hard time dipping snow. That’s what they do to stay hydrated,” she said. “The snow is so hard a crusty that they’re dipping and they’re cutting their noses so you have to stop periodically to let them eat snow in spots where the snow is good.”

Zirkle pulled at her chin as she looked over her team.  Her main leader, Quito is a little sore.

“Oh we’re good, our speed is just going to go down,” she said. “I just have to rub her down.  I don’t think she’s out I just think she’s sore.”

As she repacked her sled and cook a hot meal for her team, Zirkle taunted Jeff King who was parked about 10 feet away.

Zirkle: “Jeff you speedy demon!”

King: “What demon…. I thought you said did you see the demon?”

King came in to the checkpoint right on Zirkle’s heels.  He very well may have seen a demon as he tried to steer his team across the uneven, icy, snow free trail.

“There were moments it was reminiscent of the gorge and riding my brake and my leg was tired from pushing my brake so hard,” King said. “It’s not my idea of fun mushing at all.  It’s hard, hard, hard, hard surface and it’s not that smooth.  It’s uneven and hard.”

A lead dog named Barnum was having a tough time finding his footing, so King switched him out for a dog named Skeeter.  She’s a go-to leader King says he’s been saving for days.

“You have to let the dogs make some of the decisions and they made a decisions that encouraged me to switch Barnum and Skeeter and she was just dead on perfect find scratch marks where we needed to go and maneuvering,” King said.

King believes his team has the kind of speed all mushers are looking for right now, but he will have to fend off fast teams coming from behind.  Late in the afternoon, Dallas Seavey’s dogs trotted across the ice into Koyuk. He made a big move back in Unalakleet.  His is the only team that didn’t rest in that checkpoint.

Jeff King’s wheel dogs take a break in Koyuk.Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks.

“You don’t always exactly have it planned,” Seavey said. “You just have to be a little bit of an opportunist, keep your eyes open and set those things up. You have to put yourself into position, so I was working on that one from Takotna.”

But, as a stiff, cold wind blew through the dog yard, Seavey told the race judge he made a big mistake in Shaktoolik.

“I made a huge mistake when I left there,” he said. “I planned to stay four, and daylight savings time … I laid down, got up bootied and left on three… oh well, they did great.  These dogs handle even my mistakes.  That’s pretty impressive.”

An extra hour of rest may not have been necessary. Sonny Lindner’s team came in just after Seavey with wagging tails and perky ears.  The musher himself looked a little bleary-eyed.

“I always like when Dallas goes by though,” Lindner said. “Running, ski poling, full blast. I needed to see something moving.”

Teams were warned in Koyuk about some logistical changes in Elim. An elder in that village passed away last week, so the checkpoint has been moved and there are few volunteers to help.

Once they reach White Mountain, teams will rest for a mandatory eight hours before they push on for Safety and the burled arch in Nome.

Categories: Alaska News

King Takes Iditarod Lead from Zirkle; Dallas Seavey Bolts into Third

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-10 06:47

Dallas Seavey – Photo by Patrick Yack – Alaska Public Media

Jeff King overtook Aliy Zirkle early Monday morning in the 2014 Iditarod. King took off from Elim about 1 a.m. and Zirkle, who had battled King and Martin Buser for the lead, left less than 10 minutes later.

Dallas Seavey, who won two years ago, jumped into third place and was out of Elim about 2:52 this morning. While Zirkle, and King had spent more than an hour in Elim, Seavey was in and out of the checkpoint in minutes.

As of early Monday morning, the leaders looked liked this:

King. Zirkle. Dallas Seavey.

Mitch Seavey had passed Buser. Sonny Lindner was racing right behind Buser.

All were out of Elim.

Categories: Alaska News

Zirkle Maintains First in Iditarod; King, Buser in Pursuit on Sunday

APRN Alaska News - Sun, 2014-03-09 11:02

Aliy Zirkle maintained her lead in the 2014 Iditarod Sunday, leaving Shaktoolik about 7:12 a.m. She was fighting off challenges from former champions Jeff King and Martin Buser who followed her out of Shaktoolik on Sunday morning.

Behind King and Buser are Sonny Lindner, Aaron Burmeister and the 2012 champion, Dallas Seavey. That trio is also out of Shaktoolik.

Zirkle was racing with 11 dogs. King and Buser had 12 in their teams. Lindner had 13 dogs in his team. Burmeister had 10 and Dallas Seavey had nine.

Last year’s winner, Mitch Seavey, was in Shaktoolik on Sunday morning and in 7th place.

Abbie West continued to lead the rookie field. She was racing towards Unalakleet on Sunday morning.

Categories: Alaska News

Iditarod Teams Reach Bering Sea Coast

APRN Alaska News - Sun, 2014-03-09 10:00

Teams running at the front of the pack have reached the Bering Sea Coast at Unalakleet.  Despite a rough trail, teams are still on record pace as they continue to make their way for Nome.

Once they reach the coast, mushers have to decide how best to cut rest and maintain speed.  Jeff King says it’s a mix of offense and defense.

“If there are people in front of me we’ll call it defense, if I catch them, we’ll call it offense,” King said.

King took his mandatory 24-hour rest later than most other teams.  He followed that shortly after with a mandatory eight hour layover along the Yukon River, so he says his team has plenty in the tank.

“I can tell when my dogs are not tired,” he said.

Kings team jumped in harness as they pulled into the checkpoint. Martin Buser’s team however was less excitable. Buser says the way his team is running is definitely defensive.

“Yeah that’s a good way to put it alright,” Buser said. “I was not in offensive position coming over here, that’s for sure. The dogs were playing a little bit of their own team not on our team.”

He says his team is sore and tired.

“They couldn’t reach deep into the tank to give more,” Buser said.

But Aliy Zirkle doesn’t care what’s going on in front or behind her.

“I’m just going to keep going with my schedule I guess,” she said.

The trail from Kaltag was virtually snow free and the trail report is calling for more of the same ahead. That also doesn’t seem to bother Zirkle.

“Three-hundred miles is going to be really freaking far if there’s no snow for 300 miles,” she said. “There’s no snow and then there’s a trail laced with ice.  I was kind of hoping for laced, because no snow is… doesn’t matter.  I can do it.”

Once teams leave Unalakleet, they head for Shaktoolik where the wind is reportedly howling.

From there, the trail would normally cross the sea ice into Koyuk, but a lack of ice this year will put teams on an overland trail.

Categories: Alaska News

Zirkle Maintains Iditarod Lead; First Out of Unalakleet Saturday Night

APRN Alaska News - Sat, 2014-03-08 23:16

Aliy Zirkle continued her lead over Martin Buser and Sonny Lindner Saturday night in the 2014 Iditarod. She arrived in Unalakleet first and left first.

Buser, Lindner, Jeff King and Aaron Burmeister were still in Unalakleet at 10:00 p.m. Zirkle and Buser were battling for the lead much of Saturday.

The race continued to take its toll on mushers and their teams. Nicolas Petit, who was racing near the front, scratched Saturday night just outside of Unalakleet.  He told his officials he was concerned for the welfare of his dogs. Earlier in the day, Ramey Smyth scratched in Ruby saying that some of his dogs were sick.

Mitch Seavey, the 2013 champion, was on the outskirts of Unalakleet Saturday night about 10:15.

Abbie West continued to lead the rookie field. She was out of Kaltag Saturday night.

Categories: Alaska News

Mushers and Sled Dogs Start to Show Signs of Fatigue on the Yukon River

APRN Alaska News - Sat, 2014-03-08 13:14

Iditarod mushers kept volunteers in the Nulato checkpoint busy overnight. Some teams that weren’t expected to stay grabbed a few hours rest in the sleepy Yukon River village, while others who could have used the rest decided to blow through.

Martin Buser says his dog team didn’t have much of a challenge travelling down the Yukon River this year.

“They were bored getting down that trail slow and steady and kind of a punchy, drifted trail,” he said.

Jeff Kings feeds his dogs after their run into Nulato. Some teams stayed long in the sleepy village, while others pushed on down the trial. Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks.

Buser’s quiet team curled up for a nap almost immediately after they arrived in Nulato.  Sonny Lindner arrived shortly after.  His dogs wolfed down the food he offered.  He says his dog team is showing signs of fatigue from the early rough trail.

“That trail was really rough at the start and once you get on the good going, and everybody starts trotting right along then all those places that got sore earlier start showing up,” he said.

Lindner spent his eight hour mandatory rest massaging sore shoulders and wrapping sore wrists. He could have waited to rest long in Kaltag, but he says Nulato is much quieter.

Checkpoint volunteers were surprised when Aliy Zirkle announced she planned to stay for a few hours in. Her team came in alert, tails wagging. She stopped to make what she calls a “significant force reduction.”

“I had to reduce my squad by two dogs: Joe Schmoe and Scruggs, so we made a significant equipment reduction. I just lost about 40 pounds off the back of my sled,” she said.

Zirkle left behind all kinds of gear she doesn’t think she’ll need.  She says 12 dogs is actually the perfect number, plus it’s eight fewer feet to booty, two personalities less to deal with and a little less food to carry. As for the river travel, Zirkle says what’s normally a monotonous run seemed to go by quickly.

“Yeah, I don’t feel like the river’s been that long for me this time,” Zirkle said.

As teams come off the Yukon in Kaltag, they’ll tackle what is a reportedly snow free trail in place all the way to Unalakleet, but that’s nothing new for mushers this year.

Categories: Alaska News

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