Iditarod 40: The Trail. Unalakleet to Shaktoolik

March 10, 2012

Alaska, Daily Post, Iditarod 40

Iditarod 40: The Trail. Unalakleet to Shaktoolik    40 Miles

To Shaktoolik, the trail crosses several low ridges with mostly gentle and moderate grades. The vegetation is stunted spruce and willow thickets. Leaving Unalakleet, the trail turns northward and parallels the coast to Power, then turns inland, crossing behind Blueberry Point. It then drops back toward the coast at Egavik, a summer fish camp. A series of long low hills is crossed with grades being moderate to gentle but some are up to a mile long. The crest of the last ridge is about 17 miles from Shaktoolik and the village is visible from here. The next four to five miles are down a moderate to steep serpentine grade through willow thickets and stunted spruce. The turns are moderate but can be extremely slick. At the bottom, the trail follows the coastal dune on the landward side the last 12 miles to Shaktoolik. The trail from the bottom of the hill to the checkpoint runs over ice on the Shaktoolik River and is often rough. The village is on the left.

Shaktoolik (Shak-TOO-lick) — (SHAK) Lat 64.20 Long 161.10 –Population 258 — One look down the street at the snowdrifts will tell you this is one of the windiest stretches of the trail. From here the trail continues overland for a short distance, then leads the mushers out onto the ice of Norton Bay, one of the most treacherous segments of trail that the musher may have to contend with. The checkpoint is at the armory.


About robertforto

Robert Forto is the owner of Dog Works Training Company in Alaska, a canine behaviorist, mushin' down a dream, sports nut and radio show host. Robert writes a lot about his observations in Alaska, pop culture, music, and of course dogs!

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2 Comments on “Iditarod 40: The Trail. Unalakleet to Shaktoolik”

  1. Von Martin Says:

    I remember this section of the trail well during last year’s Serum Run ’25. When the trail turns inland, it seems to go straight up for a few hundred yards and makes for quite a climb. The views back on the coast are awesome (in good weather) as you continue your climb into high country. I remember my dogteam being passed (and welcomed) by several Eskimo hunters driving their “irondogs” up the trail, with rifles slung across the handlebars. During the final miles of your climb, you experience a series of “false summits” that can really play with your head (and the dogs)! I’ll never forget the steep run back down to the coast. One of our trail breakers had placed a handwritten sign on the trail that read simply, “HOLD ON!” And they were’nt kidding. As we approached this descent you could just see Shaktoolik in the distance on a low spit that reaching into the frozen sea. At that moment, I had a wheel dog taking a ride in the sled. Fellow Serum Run musher, Don Duncan, who was about to lead our charge downhill turned to me and announced, “You might want to put that dog on the line for this drop down the hill”. That’s the last thing I remember hearing before we made the drop right behind him. Somehow, I got the team stopped in a good section, and put Boomer, my wheel dog, back into the line until we dropped down onto the coastline. It was an exciting ride down – pretty windy and brushy on both sides of the trail. The view (when you dared to look up) was spectacular! What a ride.


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