Iditarod teams get some relief with ‘smooth and nice’ Yukon River trail

A musher runs up a hill as the sun rises behind the hills
Paige Drobny approaches the Galena checkpoint at sunrise on Saturday around 8 a.m. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

GALENA — Iditarod teams have finally gotten some respite from the warmer-than-usual weather and challenging trail conditions that marked the first week of the race.

The trail on the frozen Yukon River was hard and fast into the community of Galena early Saturday, at race mile 545, said musher Dan Kaduce. Kaduce and his 14 dogs pulled into the checkpoint at 4 a.m. and settled in to rest. He said his dogs enjoyed running in the below-zero temperatures.

“We’re one of the farthest north teams in the race,” said Kaduce, whose kennel is in Chatanika north of Fairbanks. “Those warm temperatures are not our style. These guys were way more back at home last night and hopefully here today.”

A musher going down a trail next to willows
Dan Kaduce leaves Galena around 8:30 a.m. Saturday. He said despite below-zero temperatures, he still hadn’t pulled out his mittens during this year’s Iditarod, mushing in leather work gloves instead. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Even with the drop in temperatures, Kaduce still worked without gloves as he prepared his dogs to continue down the trail toward Nulato. 

Nearby, British Columbia musher Aaron Peck said the cold was good for his dogs too, though he was less excited about it for himself. 

“They thrive in that — it’s me that was doing jumping jacks on the sled trying to stay warm,” he said. 

Aaron Peck feeds his dogs some medicine in the dog yard in Galena. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Lev Shvarts arrived at the checkpoint on Saturday morning in his heavy parka and frost-tipped ruff. He took it off in the dog yard and was wearing a military-surplus parka and snow pants. 

“I’m wearing everything I brought — it’s very poofy,” he said. 

A man in a fur hat and a grey-green jacket looks down
Lev Shvarts in the dog yard in Galena. He said he wasn’t enjoying the cold but his dogs were. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Nearby Paige Drobny had her own clothing concerns. She’s been wearing the same outfit since the race started last Sunday — sweating in the heat and freezing in the recent cold. 

“I just had this thin pair of socks on just because that’s what I had,” she said. “My feet got a little bit cold. It wasn’t that much fun.” 

It didn’t stop her from nodding off behind the sled on the way into Galena though. 

“It was that smooth and nice and we’re that far into the race that it’s hard to stay awake,” she said. 

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A musher outside
Paige Drobny and her 10-dog team leave Galena Saturday afternoon after a nearly five-hour rest. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)
Dallas Seavey was the second musher into Galena Friday evening and stayed for just four minutes, chasing Brent Sass down the trail. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Lex Treinen is covering the state Legislature for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at

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