Mushers in Alaska’s Iditarod sled dog race, including Monica Zappa, are making their way to Nome, battling some of the worse trail conditions in the history of the event. Warm weather and lack of snow have made parts of the roughly 1,000 trail extremely treacherous . Out of an initial field of 69 mushers, some 13 have scratched from the race so far.
But Zappa, a rookie from Kasilof, Alaska, who is dedicating her first Iditarod race toward efforts to protect Bristol Bay salmon, is hanging in there and is about halfway to the finish line.
According to a report from the Nikolai checkpoint , Zappa said “the trail was a nightmare and when she camped last night she kept having flashbacks” of what she had just gone through – rocks, stumps, tussocks, open water, and the like.
In another report, Zappa said the Dalzell Gorge, a notoriously dangerous stretch of the trail even in good conditions, made her fear for her safety and that of her dog team.
“My mouth was dry and I needed a drink of water. When we’d get wedged by a tree or when I could hook my snow hook to a tree, I’d pause and take a drink and even pray a little. The dogs listened very well but covered the steep parts of the tail at a pretty good clip. There was no way to use a hook to stop with all the ice. The only way to stay stopped was to hook onto a tree.”
In the television news story that aired last week, a few days before the start of the race, Zappa discussed her preparations for the 2014 Iditarod and why she is “Mushing to Save Bristol Bay.”