From Kyle Hopkins in Nikolai --
Before the race, we asked readers if there are particular mushers they’d like to hear from. Among the requests was a note from an elementary school class that’s following the progress of 25-year-old rookie Travis Cooper .
Cooper said his first Iditarod is going so smoothly that he didn’t even know he’d passed the twisting Happy River Steps – usually a dangerous rite of passage for rookies -- until they were over.
The Kansas-born musher’s only problem? Even when the dogs stop running, his mind is racing.
“It’s been harder to sleep than I thought it would be for being tired.”
Every time Cooper lays down, his mind races with plans for the next run and worries about trail conditions, he said.
Here in Nikolai, he’s been dreaming of the next checkpoint, where Cooper plans to take his mandatory 24-hour rest and finally grab a shower.
NOTES FROM NIKOLAI
This village checkpoint is quickly turning into a clubhouse for the back-of-the-packers.
-- Pat Moon and Hank Debruin said they may make the run to McGrath without placing booties on their dogs. Moon is running a squad of tough-footed coastal dogs trained in Unalakleet , he said, while Debruin is one of only two mushers racing with traditional Siberian huskies.
-- The other musher running Siberians is Karen Ramstead, who says she was nearly able to take the wheel dog, Irving, that was attacked by a moose last month in Willow. Despite the moose kick, Irving had been cleared by a vet to run this year’s Iditarod despite, Ramstead said. He had to stay home after fighting with another dog during a training run and suffering a puncture wound in his leg.
-- Mat-Su musher Kelly Maixner said he planned a run-rest schedule that would have put him in the top ten last year. In this Iditarod, it's left him in the dust. (He's taking his 24 here.)