One question we are frequently asked is “How do mushers carry all of their gear for the Iditarod race?” The simple answer is – they don’t! Each musher is allowed to ship up to three bags that can weigh up to fifty pounds each to each checkpoint (except Yentna Station and Finger Lake). From these drop bags, mushers can supply themselves and their teams for their checkpoint routines and for the next leg of the race! The bags are delivered down the trail by the all volunteer Iditarod AirForce.
Here’s your chance to send Nathan a little TLC to a checkpoint of your choice! For a donation of $100 you can choose a checkpoint below to sponsor, email or contact us via Facebook, and you can say you helped Nathan pack his drop bags. When he arrives at your checkpoint he’ll have you to thank for getting him supplied and geared up to head out on the trail again!
What will you be helping to provide? Well, here’s a list of what Nathan typically packs in his drop bags:
For the dogs:
- meat & dry food
- vet wraps
- booties (enough for 16 dogs x 4 paws – that’s a lot of booties!)
- dog jackets
- foot slave
For the musher:
- gloves & liners (3 pairs each)
- long johns
- wool socks
- boots & liners
- lithium batteries
We would also love for you to send us a secret little note that we will personally pack into his dropbag for your checkpoint! You can send your words of encouragement for him to read when he arrives!
To sponsor a checkpoint, just email us at email@example.com or contact us via the “contact us” page or our Facebook page – let us know which checkpoint you are interested in and we’ll get the drop bags started! So what are you waiting for? Which checkpoint do you want to claim as your own?
Note: Checkpoints listed in orange are still seeking sponsors.
Anchorage: The Ceremonial Start will be held here on the first Saturday in March. Teams will head down fourth avenue make sharp right turn and head out eleven miles. The team will be so ready to go that they will take a smaller team, pull Nathan, his Iditarider, and a handler on two sleds just to slow them down enough to keep them safe! Sponsor this checkpoint!
Willow: The official start will happen her right on Willow Lake. The team will head off between two orange fences lined with people and across the frozen lake. People will line the trail for quite a bit, but soon the team will be on their own doing what they do best! Sponsor this checkpoint!
Yentna Station Roadhouse: (population 8) – The checkpoint here is at the home of Dan & Jean Gabryzack family. This checkpoint also serves as the halfway point for the Junior Iditarod held the weekend before the Iditarod start. Teams will move in and out of here pretty quickly head off along the river. Sponsor this checkpoint!
Skwentna: (population 30) – The checkpoint is located near the confluence of the Skwentna and Yentna Rivers. Arriving here under the checkpoint sign, mushers will be met by the Darlings and the Sweeties who return year after year to manage this checkpoint. This checkpoint runs like a well oiled machine – it has to. Every team will pass through here in a matter of hours! Drop bags will be arranged alphabetically and will be waiting for the teams in a long line down the center of the river. Teams will be parked on the river in herringbone fashion. Mushers who chose to stop and rest awhile can head up to the log cabin to claim a towel that has been heating in warm water with lemon before climbing the stairs to the loft to get some rest! Nathan will be feeling the support of Andy Bibeau at Skwetna!
Finger Lake: (population 2) – The checkpoint here is at Winter Lake Lodge. It is not uncommon to have ten feet of snow on the ground here. Well, maybe not in the last few years! Sponsor this checkpoint!
Rainy Pass: (population 2) – This area is the highest point on the Iditarod Trail as it passes over the Alaskan Range. The race uses two cabins at the Rainy Pass Lodge – one for the checkpoint and one for the mushers to rest in. When the team arrives here they will breathe a sign of relief that some of the toughest trail (including the infamous Happy River Steps) is behind them! Rich Stender is supporting Nathan in Rainy Pass!
Rohn: (population 0) – Nathan must like it here – he named a dog after this checkpoint! (Of course Martin Buser named a son after this checkpoint – so who loves it more?) Many people consider this area to have the most beautiful scenery on the trail. The checkpoint is at Rohn Roadhouse and serves as the gateway to the flatlands of the interior of Alaska. This area also has a rich history, it was one of the locations of the original Iditarod Trail Roadhouses. The checkpoint is situated in a 1930’s cabin. Nathan will have Jim Stroner to thank when he checks into Rohn!
Nikolai: (population 101) – Nikolai is the first of many native villages along the trail. The people here are Athabasan and the checkpoint is located in the community hall. The village sits along the Kuskoswim River. The mushers often comment that arriving in Nikolai is a bit surreal as it is the first true community they will visit since leaving Willow. The villagers are warm and welcoming and enjoy having the race come through each year! The students of the school run a “diner” of sorts during the race, serving up amazing grilled cheese sandwiches among other things, as a fundraiser! Volunteers and fans pay for their meals – but mushers eat free! Thanks to Jim and Terri Sternal for sponsoring Nikolai this year!
McGrath: (population 341) – In Iditarod terms, McGrath is a hub. Everything and everyone that is headed out on the trail makes it way through McGrath at some point in time! The community boasts two stores, a bar, and a restaurant! The first musher to reach this checkpoint receives the Spirit of Alaska award from Penn Air. Mark Carlson is spoiling Nathan and the team at McGrath!
Takotna: (population 49) – When the mushers arrive in Takotna they are greeted with, “How do you like your steak?” Yes. This tiny community offers one of the biggest welcomes along the trail. In 2014 when Nathan arrived in Takotna he opted for eggs and bacon instead of steak, but they made sure he got his steak later on! This community is famous for the huge spread of pies they put out for the mushers and volunteers. Unfortunately for Nathan, he is not a pie fan – oh well – more for everyone else! This is a popular spot for mushers to take their 24-hour layover (Nathan did his here in 2014). The mushers park their teams all over town – in people’s yards, next to people’s homes, etc. Those who stay for 24 hours will often been seen walking their dogs around town in pairs! David Perron is sharing pie with Nathan in Takotna!
Nathan Leaving Takotna in 2014
Ophir: (population 0) – Ophir, once a booming gold rush town of 1,000 people, Ophir is now officially a ghost town. It was named for the lost country of Ophir, the source of King Solomon’s gold. The checkpoint is at Dick and Audra Forsgen’s cabin. Rumor has it Audra usually has a pot of stew going on the stove for the mushers and the volunteers! After this checkpoint, the teams will head south to follow the even year’s southern route. Sponsored by Dawn Beckwell again this year!
Iditarod: (population 0 ) – Iditarod was once a bustling community, but now comes to life only every other year when the race comes to town. This checkpoint marks the halfway point in the odd years. Don Tilden will be with Nathan in spirit at this checkpoint!
Shageluk: (population 83) – The name of this village means “village of the dog people” in the native language! Sponsor this checkpoint!
Anvik: (population 79) – The first checkpoint on the Mighty Yukon! The first musher here wins a delicious surprise! Thanks to Patricia Christofferson for sponsoring this checkpoint!
Grayling: (population 189) – The mushers will visit this checkpoint which is in the community hall for their last bit of civilization for awhile. They won’t see another village for over 120 miles! Ray and Tammy Brutger are packing Nathan’s bags for Grayling!
Eagle Island: (population 0) – This checkpoint is just a tent on the Yukon River! Sponsored by Cindy and Harv Johnson!
Kaltag: (population 250) – This is the point where the southern and northern routes meet back up. Mushers check in at the home of Rich Burnham, but the official checkpoint is the community hall. Nathan will be thanking Rando Whybrew when he pulls into Kaltag!
Unalakleet: (population 692) – This village, located on the Norton Sound, is the largest community on the trail between Willow and Nome. The checkpoint features little individual bedrooms complete with doors for the mushers to rest in! What a luxury! If Nathan is lucky, someone will have brought in a pizza from Peace on Earth Pizza and he’ll be able to snag a slice before he heads off to rest! The checkpoint also features a large screen TV that shows the trackers so he’ll be able to see who is nipping at his heels. While Nathan is resting inside, the dogs will be bedded down in between snow berms that will protect them from the wind. Good thing, because when the leave this checkpoint, the team will be heading out toward the Bering Sea and all the wind they could ever wish for! Sponsored by Margaret Fagerholm!
Shaktoolik: (population 258) – This is one of the windest stretches of trail. Its name is based is based on a Unaliq word, “skutuliq,” which means “scattered things.” When the mushers leave Shaktoolik they head out onto icy Norton Bay, one of the most treacherous sections of the trail. Christy Jennings is supporting Nathan and the team in Shaktoolik this year!
Koyuk: (population 347) – Mushers and teams arrive here with a sigh of relief… at least the rest of the trail is over land! The checkpoint is in the City Recreation Center. The schools let out for a few days while the race is going though here. The kids love to help out at the checkpoint! Koyuk is sponsored by Billie Diver!
Elim: (population 332) – The checkpoint here is usually located at the Fire Hall. The students of Elim love when the Iditarod comes through, they learn about the race in school and get several days off of classes when the leaders come through town! Mushers reaching Elim say they can begin to see the end of the trail… but it’s still anyone’s race at this point! Sponsor this checkpoint!
Golovin: (population 171) – Golovin is a confusion for race fans every year. It appears on every race map, but not in any official standings! What’s the story? Well, Golovin is no long an official checkpoint. When the required eight hour rest was added to White Mountain, mushers no longer really “needed” the Golovin checkpoint. The community is wonderfully welcoming to the mushers and the town remains on the race maps, but as an “unofficial” checkpoint. Sponsor this unofficial checkpoint!
White Mountain: (population 199) – This village is on the banks of the Fish River and takes its name from a nearby mountain. The checkpoint is located up a very large hill from the musher parking spots which are on the river. Mushers are required to take an eight hour layover here before making their final push to Nome. With eight hours to kill, Nathan will have lots of time to appreciate your sponsorship of this checkpoint! Bill Olson will be cheering Nathan on during is rest at White Mountain!
Safety: – This is the last checkpoint before Nome, just 22 miles to go! The checkpoint is the Safety Roadhouse, in the middle of nowhere on the Nome to Council highway. Unless the weather is bad, most mushers don’t stay here too long – they may stop for a cup of coffee or a bowl of soup. They may even leave an autographed dollar – the walls of the Roadhouse are covered with them! Jeff Lewerenz is encouraging Nathan through Safety this year!
Nome: (population 3,695) – The team has made it under the famed Burled Arch! By now “Iditarod Fever” has hit the town and the entire community has turned out to welcome the team to the end of the Last Great Race™! The whole team will rest here for a few days before they can fly out, lots of food and supplies are needed to support the team! Linda Nervick will be sending Nathan some love as he rolls into Nome!