Photos: Iditarod mushers shrug off jackets and sled dogs sunbathe

A team of dogs sunbathes in in the snow
Dogs sunbathe on the snow at the Rainy Pass checkpoint on Monday. With temperatures around 40 degrees, some mushers didn’t put down the usual bedding for the dogs so that they could cool down. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

RAINY PASS LODGE — A snow-covered frozen lake near the remote lodge here turned into a sled dog parking lot Monday afternoon as Iditarod teams stopped to rest in temperatures that hovered around 40 degrees. 

Mushers shed layers. Dogs sunbathed. Tourists flown in on charter planes snapped photos under a hot sun.

“It feels like it’s 100 degrees,” said musher Wade Marrs.

The Rainy Pass checkpoint is about 150 miles into the race and, tucked into the Alaska Range, it’s a scenic place to wait out the heat.

“Beautiful here,” said rookie Hunter Keefe. “This is a part of the trail I was excited to see.”

By the time teams arrived in Rainy Pass, they had already navigated some early challenges, including the Happy River Steps, but faced the trickier trail ahead through Dalzell Gorge. 

Here’s what the checkpoint looked like Monday. (And for more from the mushers, read our story on how they coped with the warm-for-winter temperatures.)

A man with curly hair and a mullet and sunglasses sits on a pad
Eddie Burke Jr. snacks on Kuskokwim River dried salmon. Jessie Holmes received the salmon from the Alexie family in Bethel and passed some on to Burke. Burke said he also enjoys sweets. “I just ate a couple packages of Oreos and some Reese’s,” he said. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)
A musher rides in front of mountains and trees
Christian Turner approaches the Rainy Pass checkpoint. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)
A woman with sunglass shows off a hand that is injured.
Jennifer LaBar injured her left ring finger on the Happy River Steps coming into Rainy Pass, and it was still bent at the checkpoint. “It didn’t hurt initially and I didn’t want to take off my glove ’cause I didn’t want to see what it looked like, but I could feel in my glove that it was not normal,” she said. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)
Jennifer Labar lays out straw for her dogs to sleep on. Labar dislocated her ring finger on a sharp turn coming into Rainy Pass and had to do dog chores with just one hand. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)
A dog team runs through teh snow
TV crews film Wade Marrs’ team arriving in Rainy Pass. “It feels like it’s 100 degrees,” said Marrs. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)
A black dogs rests it's head on a blond dog in some snow
Riley Dyche’s dogs’ Secretariat, named after the Triple Crown-winning thoroughbred, and Kesugi take a rest at the Rainy Pass checkpoint. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media.
A dog team runs in front of some mountains
Matt Hall’s team departs Rainy Pass. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)
A man lies with his dog hugging it
Hunter Keefe lies with one of his dogs after arriving at the Rainy Pass checkpoint. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)
A dog rolls in the snow as a person with a yellow safety vest watches
Dogs roll in the snow in temperatures around 40 degrees. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)
Two mushers stand across from each other
Ryan Redington tosses a Gatorade to Hunter Keefe. The two were the first to arrive in Rainy Pass. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)
A man in a yellow hat walks a dog in a harness in front of some mountains
Ryan Redington brings a dog that escaped its harness back to his team. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)
A musher runs towards a wooden ski lodge
Ryan Redington’s team veers off course as he leaves Rainy Pass checkpoint. Like last year, Redington was the first musher into Rainy Pass, arriving within about five minutes of his time last year. He said his early arrival was due to his run-rest schedule. “I don’t think by any means I’m winning the race at all, but it feels good to be here,” he said. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)
A man in a orange parka high fives some kids on the side of a snowy trail
Brent Sass high fives fans as he leaves the Rainy Pass. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)
A musher in an orange jacket
Brent Sass approaches the Rainy Pass checkpoint. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)
A man with long black hair pulls water out of a pot in a snowy field
Dan Kaduce draws water from a hole cut into Puntilla Lake for mushers to use. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)
A group of people stand in front of a sign that says Dan we Believe
Fans of Dan Kaduce cheer him on at Rainy Pass Lodge. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)
A veterinarian checks dogs tied up and in harnesses awith mountains in the background
A veterinarian checks dogs at Rainy Pass. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)
A woman in blue mushes a team of dogs toward the mountains
Mille Porsild leaves Rainy Pass. She said she had to watch her dogs closely as they ran through the checkpoint to make sure they didn’t try to stop. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

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

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