From McGrath --
We left Nikolai right after Aaron Burmeister. At times the trail was quite blown in, specially along the chain of open meadows and lakes.
While passing teams towards the front, I started to realize that there was a pattern emerging: Lance Mackey, Dallas Seavey, Jeff King, Mitch Seavy, Hugh Neff, John Baker and Aily Zirkle, who was running up front about 20 minutes ahead of everybody else.
We were passing a row of CHAMPIONS. Each and every of those Top 7 teams have either won the Yukon Quest or Iditarod and some done so multiple times. This is no coincidence to have the Iditarod field stacked up like that. All of those seven people are very driven individuals, who share a passion for success. And they know what it takes to get the job done.
Each team looked well-focused. Aliy wasted no time to snack her team as we passed. Fish was on the menu and every single dog gobbled up the slices Aliy offered them. A sign of success, hungry, well trained dogs run within their limits, with plenty of appetite. And attitude. As soon as we drove past, they started to bark and lunge.
There is for sure a tight race brewing here at Iditarod 2012. The teams behind those seven are no stragglers either. Paul Gebhardt - highest placing 2nd. No surprise to see him knocking on the front door. Ray Redington and Aaron Burmeister are right behind him, both having worked up the ranks in the standings, trying for that big victory. Aaron still driving a full string of 16.
Jeff King and Mitch Seavey traveled within sight of each other. Mitch was sitting on his seat, not moving a muscle and must have had a huge grin on his face watching his beautiful team strung out in front of him.
Jeff was patiently drafting Mitch, having a bit of an advantage specially during the blown in-stretches. I am sure at some point both will reverse their roles.
Here in McGrath is the quite before the storm. Camera Teams were testing equipment. Race Judge Al Marple came walking on the inbound trail to make sure all is in order. Colored “ icelights “ were lining the trail.
Soon the Pen Air first to Mc Grath Award will be given out.
Check out a gallery of Sebastian's photos from the trail here.