IDITAROD WEEK: Snowmachine Trip to Safety Checkpoint

The last checkpoint on the Iditarod Trail before the Finish Line in Nome is Safety.  During my Iditarod week-long vacation, some friends and I decided to load up the snowmachines and make the 22 mile trek to Safety. 

It was a sunny blue sky day with temperatures hovering above zero.  It didn't seem that cold.  I mean, Nome was definitely colder than Alabama, but certainly not as cold as, say, Antarctica.  Or so I thought.  Once we got going on the snowmachines and were driving 40 mph against the wind, I realized I had never been so cold in my life. 

I thought I was prepared for the elements.  I was wearing silk base layer pants and shirt, fleece bodysuit, two sweaters, yoga pants, snow pants, two pairs of knee-high wool socks, Sorel snow boots, down parka, windbreaker, balaclava head covering, snowmachine helmet, Etip gloves, mountaineering mitts with handwarmer packets, and my qiviut nachaq.  Y'all, to say it was not enough is an understatement.  When we made it to Cape Nome, the wind was blowing 30 mph - and it was beyond unbearable.  At this point, I started wondering if I would make it all the way to Safety - or if I would ever be warm again.

Along the trail, we passed dog team after dog team, all on their way to Nome.  My crew and I pulled over each time to shoot videos and photos.  After all, it's not everyday you have the opportunity to cheer on Iditarod teams while they're on the last leg of the Last Great Race on Earth. 

At one moment, I jumped off the snowmachine and positioned myself to get a shot of a visibly exhausted musher before his team led him out of frame.  In my frenzy to shoot an epic video, I removed my glove to better angle my camera.  I mean, who has time for pesky gloves when you're busy capturing the moment of man vs. nature?  Within seconds, my hand turned red, and my skin was starting to freeze before my very eyes.  I'll never pull a stunt like that again.  But I think the video below was a good tradeoff.

All smiles as we prep for the expedition.

Taking a short break on the frozen Bering Sea.

My crew and I were so eager - downright desperate actually - for the special warmth and hospitality found only at the Safety Roadhouse.  The building was packed with checkpoint gear, happy fans, convos around the woodstove, and charming bathroom signs like "Go Make Yellow Snow." 

The trip to Safety was by far the best experience of my entire Iditarod vacation and one of the more memorable moments of my life.  I'd do it all again in a heartbeat - even with the frost nipped hands and nose.

In front of the Safety Roadhouse.

Alaska parking lot.

Important guidelines for patrons.

The Safety Roadhouse also doubles at the Safety Checkpoint, last stop on the Iditarod Trail before Nome.