The View from Mattie’s Pillow

Mardi Gras and the Yukon Quest

I’m sitting at the kitchen table, my back to the sun shining in over the deck windows behind me, still to the south, but higher now. When I started this blog in January, the sun barely gleamed above the horizon for a few minutes then slipped behind Becker Ridge, the next ridge to the west. Now passes up above the ridge, so that there’s a luxury of sunlight. I almost take it for granted that I can go out with the horses as late as 3 or 4 and still have time to work with them a little. They are glad to be left alone in the morning, standing east to west, their furry sides flat to the sun, switching position to follow the sun or change to the other side, like sunbathers working on their tans.

This morning, the news of the Yukon Quest is that the lead has switched again. Hugh Neff, who passed Bill Kleedehn on Eagle Summit had a two hour penalty at the Twin Bears layover, so left a half hour behind Sebastian Schnuelle, headed to town. They left around 5am, so may be pulling into the Chena River finish line right now. The cause of the former leading team’s refusal was a lead dog in heat–a great distraction to the dogs behind her. As is typical of Quest mushers, several mushers stopped to help Kleedehn up the summit until he finally made it over. Eagle Summit, location of the treacherous Pinnell Mountain Trail, is steep and rocky, often closed in with blowing snow or fog. Even though the race switches direction every year, sometimes starting in Fairbanks, sometimes in White Horse, YT, Eagle Summit is often the breaking point for mushers in the race. But all is well, and the first set of mushers will be eating high calorie food by tonight, their dogs nested comfy in their dog boxes.

It’s Mardi Gras today, and I haven’t cooked pancakes or thrown beads. Here, it’s a remote holiday, like Groundhog Day, but I will look at the seed catalogs again and place an order for colorful vegetables in honor of the day.

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