Iditapod: Sparky Doo Dah and the Rookies

Sparky, a lead dog in Two Rivers musher Aliy Zirkle’s team, getting some love from a handler at the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 7, 2020. (Casey Grove/Alaska Public Media)

It’s Monday, and Iditarod sled dog teams are heading into their second full day of racing after the official start yesterday in Willow. From there they mushed west to the Yentna checkpoint about 50 miles into the race, on to Skwentna at about 80 miles, and the front-of-the-pack teams are already heading up and up and up into the Alaska Range, toward the mountainous checkpoint of Rainy Pass. We hear about the rookies in the race, a clip from Quince Mountain on what it’s like to be the first openly transgender Iditarod competitor, and Aliy Zirkle tells us about one of her leaders, Sparky.

[Related: Follow all of our coverage of the 2020 Iditarod here.]

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Casey Grove is the host of Alaska News Nightly and a general assignment reporter at Alaska Public Media with an emphasis on crime and courts. Reach him at