The mood shifts: Big Piney, day 4

Commentary by Jerry Bath

Stage 4 in Big Piney, WY, today was greeted by another bluebird Wyoming morning.  I’m not sure this is really the Pedigree Stage Stop Race as I can’t remember ever having such nice weather – not hot but very comfortable.

Could it have been the heat? The hills? Something is shifting and you could feel it in the staging area as the mushers began to roll in this morning. The mood was somber.  First thing I said was, “Uh-Oh! It must be day 4!”  This is the point of the race to reassess the plans for who runs where and when.  Always think ahead and make adjustments daily, but know that when tomorrow comes you may need to change yet again. Tighten your lug nuts, folks, so the wheels don’t fall off!

The funk was so evident that Laura Daugereau passed around “happy” stickers and it worked, bringing smiles all around.

Defending champ Lina Steeper made her mark by winning the leg today and taking first place in the overall. She knows from experience her team does well in the hills.

Anny Malo and Érick Laforce fell off the pace, placing second and third on the day. Alix Crittenden, J.R. Anderson, Tommy Bird and Richard Beck rose to the occasion. The question is, did some save dogs for tomorrow that they wish were in the team today?

We’re really starting to see the roller coaster of ups and downs that this type of race can cause. We are also starting to see a fair amount of teams running 9 dogs with one team choosing to run 8.

The coveted Yellow Bib has changed hands three times and undoubtably will again. (Speaking of the Bib, a past Junior Musher of mine, William Shade, did a school presentation and the kids said “Look.  The golden bib!”  So Lead Teacher on the Trail Katie Williams has been doing a good work with her curriculum.)

We’re changing things up again tomorrow, Jan. 30, as the Lander leg has been shortened to 27 miles instead of the advertised 35, and will run up from Sinks Canyon.  Most mushers were pleased by this as today might have been a rough day.  Some were undoubtedly saving dogs for this 35-mile leg but, despite the shorter distance, it will still have a little over eight miles of climbing.

The meet-and-greet today in downtown Lander was a huge success with an amazing turnout of young and old alike.  The hour-long event went by fast as there were still plenty of folks mingling around when we were getting ready to load the dogs for a nap and feed the mushers.  The Lander Bake Shop was a gracious host by keeping their doors open with amazing hot drinks being served and showing film of last year’s race.

The Lander leg kicks off tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. at Bruce’s parking area in Sinks Canyon.