We left later in the morning and enjoyed the ride up the Steese Hwy, my first return in 35 years. After crossing 12 Mile Summit and dropping into the Birch Creek drainage, we started seeing caribou, mostly on the overflow of the creeks. We arrived at Mile 101 and watched a few teams enter and leave and then began the climb up Eagle Summit. Towards the top, we were able to see the valley below, and just make out a team making it's way up Eagle Creek towards the summit a 1000 feet higher; a small speck of humanity in a vast wilderness. We watched until the dogs, sled and musher vanished up a side pup. Then we journeyed on towards Central, the next checkpoint.
We arrived in Central with many teams taking a rest and just a few of the leaders already out on the trail to Circle, including Zack Steer. The trail conditions were a bit rough through the burn area of the 2004 fires, but snow conditions good and temperatures downright balmy, at least for a Yukon Quest musher. Mid day temperatures nearly reached 20....ABOVE. As I scribe this a few days later, the first 16 teams have already reached Dawson City in the Yukon, some 400 miles further up the trail, with Hans Gatt leading a very competitive race. Conditions remain excellent in a mild northern February.