Jessica Klejka is the last Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta musher to leave the Yukon River. She is just about to enter Kaltag, the last checkpoint before the trail runs over a pass to the coast of the Bering Sea.
The two other local teams in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race are ahead of her, still on their way to the coast. Pete Kaiser and Richie Diehl are mushing together about 65 miles away from Unalakleet, the first checkpoint on Norton Sound.
The first musher to arrive in Unalakleet was Thomas Waerner. The Norwegian arrived there at a little after 10 a.m. on March 15. Five-and-a-half hours later he was joined by Aaron Burmeister of Nome and Nenana, Wade Marrs of Willow, and Jessie Royer of Fairbanks -– just the beginning of a long line for mushers arriving in Unalakleet throughout the evening.
In a time of concern about how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic on the trail, it’s interesting to remember that the Iditarod Trail travels much of the same route used by a relay of sled dog teams in 1925. The teams were delivering serum to Nome to save the lives of children afflicted by a diphtheria epidemic. The serum arrived in time.