19-Jan-2008 -- On the second day of the Kuskokwim 300 dog mushing race, Tom and 3 friends were headed back by snowmachine for Bethel, AK, having visited a checkpoint for the race and spent the night in the village of Tuluksak. In Tuluksak, the local teachers had kept the school open, cooked and dished out free beaver stew, coffee, tang and pancakes for the race crew. We were not race crew, in fact, but 100% tourists, there to see the dogs, the tundra and real rural Alaska. We were held up for a while by the Tuluksak Official Welcoming Committee (made up of a mob of elementary school kids), who grilled us about our height, our relationship status, and where we were going on the snowmachines. Three of us had no idea where we were really going. But Tom had a GPS and we had to follow him anyway.
On the 19th, amid rapidly warming temperatures, rain, and a river ice road fast reverting back to a river, we made a quick attempt for 61 N, 161 W.
But alas, there was a big, open, unfrozen slough in our way. At this point in the day, we thought there was no prospect whatsoever of snowmachining over open water on our trip. Tom would never ask us to do something crazy like that. That was because we didn't know how badly the river and sloughs had deteriorated ahead of us. On the way back home we nearly lost a snowmachine TWICE in water that overflowed onto the frozen river. All the splashing left us a little soggy and maybe a little less enthusiastic about snowmachining over ice again. When the mushers made it back to town after their 300 mile dog race, some reported their dogs were actually swimming through the overflow, and that they'd seen trail markers (which are supposed to stick upright out of the snow) swimming, too. 15 locals abandoned their snowmachines in the slushy sloughs that night. Some mushers said it was one of the worst years for the race that they had ever seen. So...we did not reach the confluence. But nor did we die (yay).