Ray Redington, Jr., was the first musher into Rainy Pass, the fourth checkpoint on the 2012 Iditarod trail, and at almost 3,800-feet , the highest point on the famous sleddog race. Redington, the 36-year-old grandson of Iditarod co-founder Joe Redington, checked in at 1:02 p.m. EST with 16 dogs. He was followed by Hugh Neff, fresh off a win at the Yukon Quest, just three minutes later.
Both mushers immediately set out with their top priority at checkpoints: The dogs.
Unfortunately, some animals had gotten into the food and his bags were both ripped open. Both teams parked right next to each other. I could not help but notice that Hugh was very efficient -- amazingly focused, his team bedded down long before Ray. While Ray walked back and forth a few times to put down the straw, Hugh had that done in one simple step. He gave each of his dogs a snack before going to work on his team.
Redington and Neff were part of a group of five mushers that arrived in Finger Lake within a 25-minute span, along with defending champion John Baker and four-time winner Lance Mackey. The run from Finger Lake to Rainy Pass is just 30 miles, but treacherous, as it features the infamous Happy River Steps:
Mackey was the first out of Finger Lake, but was passed along the way at some point.
After Rainy Pass, the mushers make their way along the 32 mile-stretch to Rohn, a site that marks one of the original Iditarod roadhouses for dogs carrying mail.
Oh, and if you were wondering, the temperature in Rainy Pass as of this posting: -9, with a windchill of -21.
Coverage of the 2012 Iditarod, including current standings, can be found on the official website.