Following Saturday's ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod in Anchorage, 65 mushers began their journey to Nome in earnest on Sunday morning, marking the official opening to the 41st running of The Last Great Race.
From the restart, mushers will make their way toward Yentna -- a "town" with a population of eight people -- a checkpoint that mushers were expected to reach by nightfall on Sunday. From there it's on to Skwentna and then Finger Lake, the latter of which teams are expected to reach early on Monday morning local time.
All the teams usually reach Skwentna by nightfall of the first day, and some will often make camp there. Those continuing on might encounter some of the toughest spots on the trail.
"There's a little scary section right outside of Skwentna, then it's supposed to be be really good after that," Gebhardt said. "You just gotta get by it and then you're good."
The trail suffers from the Iron Dog snowmachine race, held a couple of weeks before the Iditarod, resulting in moguls, ruts and bare uphills.
The Finger Lake checkpoint, roughly 123 miles from Anchorage, marks the last stop before the mushers make their way up through Rainy Pass. Weather should cooperate, with Monday's temperatures forecasted to be in the upper 30s for the 4-6 hour run from Skwentna.
It's uphill most of the way to Finger Lake, but the trail isn't overly tough. The trail leaves Skwentna southbound on the Skwentna River, cuts off the left bank to parallel the river in a swamp for eight miles, then swings west to cross the river at the site of the old Skwentna Roadhouse about ten miles out. It then climbs up into the heavily wooded Shell Hills for a mile and a half, down through open swamps and wooded areas to cross Shell Creek after another mile and a half, then on for another three miles across small lakes, swamps, and woods to Onestone Lake, where you're about 25 miles from Finger Lake. After two-mile-long Onestone Lake, the trail works west along open swamps and meadows, through occasional treelines, and across a few lakes, steadily climbing to Finger Lake.
During the course, mushers are required to make one 24-hour stop, plus one eight-hour layover on the Yukon River and one eight-hour stop at the White Mountain checkpoint.
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