K-300 Has a Winner!
The 2008 Kuskokwim 300 has been one of the slowest in many years. The warm weather and melting conditions have made it a tough slog for dogs and mushers alike. Mitch Seavey was the first K-300 musher to cross the Finish Line at 8:09 pm, about an hour later than expected. He and his team all looked exhausted. I believe that puts this year's winning time at 49 hours, 39 minutes--about six hours longer than last year's time. This year is the first time I recall the winner finishing in the dark since the Race Committee changed the start time quite a few years ago.
Dutch and I were on the river by 7 pm, when Mitch was expected in, and getting there was quite a challenge. So much melting has occurred from the warm weather that the surface of the river is pure slush. And the ice at the river's edge has receded, leaving a wide swath of water in its wake, which makes driving your truck across it an act of pure faith. I watched a half dozen trucks do it before I was ready to risk it.
A small crowd of faithful supporters was there at the Finish Line to cheer Mitch on and give him a warm Bethel welcome. He looked very glad to be done.
Almost an hour after Mitch, Ramey Smith came in second; and nearly another hour after Ramey, Ed Iten came in third. John Baker was the fourth musher back to Bethel, and all the rest are still on the trail. Rohn Buser is expected next, but I'm wondering if he got lost; he left the last checkpoint at Akiachak at 6:41 pm, ahead of Ed and John. It should be about a two hour trip; in these conditions it took Mitch three hours, but even so, Rohn should be here by now. Jeff King should be next after Rohn.
Mushers will be finishing throughout the night and into the day tomorrow. Awards will be presented, and stories told, at the Musher's Banquet tomorrow night at the Cultural Center. Hopefully, all mushers will be off the trail by then, but it is not unusual for the Red Lantern (the musher who finishes last) to miss the banquet.
Good luck to those still on the trail. It ain't over till it's over, and that is when every last musher and dog is safely home.
Photos by Dutch.
Labels: Dog Mushing