The Fiftieth First Start

That morning, the sky darkened. Then, the whole valley whitened with snowflakes. Fat flakes fell for twenty-four hours and, in our town, twelve to fifteen inches accumulated over iced puddles, bare patches of dirt, and petrified dog poop. Everything false spring took was returned, two-fold.

It was glorious.

We ate breakfast, pulled on snow pants and stocking caps, and drove to downtown Anchorage to catch the Fiftieth Ceremonial Start of the Iditarod.

To say the whole town was there is to say crowds of friends and families lined Fourth Avenue and still the rope keeping us from the trail was touchable. There were many open spots. And we were not early.

We walked west, from Cordova to the heart of the event: the starting line. The banner stretched across Fourth Avenue, from the Dog Mushing Hall of Fame to the Fourth Avenue Market Place across the street. The bark and yip of tiny dogs mingled with the swish of polyester jackets, the crunch of boots on new snow, ringing bells and exuberant hollers. A man counted down from ten. The first of forty-nine teams did not move.

I, along with the crowd of cellphone videographers, kept my phone overhead, waiting breathlessly for the team to get going.

Lead Team

A small miscommunication meant only a small delay, and soon twelve excited dogs leapt into motion, two sleds in tow. Everyone yelled and then another team pulled up.

For an hour we watched thirteen or so teams fly down Fourth Avenue. We walked back slowly, stopping to cheer or take pictures. At Cordova, we watched a few drag sleds (the second sled) flip at the turn. The mushers scrambled to recover before losing sight of their whole team.

Cordova Turn

On the way home, the snow caked Glenn Highway made us wonder if catching the Re-Start in Willow the following day might not happen.

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