One of the faster legs of the 2014 Iditarod is upon us, as the race reaches the winding maze of trails along the banks of the Yentna River. And for all of the worry about warm temperatures and lack of snow, the trail appears to be in perfect condition for sledding.
The ride from Yentna Station to Skwentna is usually a flat, fast run with few hills and plenty of wide channels to traverse. The Iditarod has encountered problems early on because of poor trail conditions, but the 30-mile-long trail is reportedly in some of the best conditions it's been in years. Iditarod.com's Sebastian Schnuelle said that it appears the lack of snow actually made the trail better this year.
The trail is hard and fast. Matter of fact, most likely best I have seen. Hardly a bootie to be found, and that tells a story, as they do not get stripped of the dogs feet in deep sugar snow. In other years, with more snow and a lot of snowmachine traffic, the trail gets pretty deep and punchy, specially for the last teams. Not so this year.
Because the trail is so fast, teams must watch carefully for markers. The winding nature of the trail means it can sometimes disappear under heavier sloughs on the south side of the river, which could lead teams off course if they aren't paying attention. The lack of significant snow this year might negate that issue, however.
Martin Buser begins the day in first place, with Kelly Maixner sitting 30 minutes back. Nicolas Petit, Michael Williams Jr. and Aliy Zirkle round out the top five.
Visit the Anchorage Daily News for a map of the day's race.
Provided no issues arise, the run should only last about three or four hours. The action gets underway at 6 p.m. ET.