There probably wouldn’t be an Iditarod Race without the volunteers! I made it a point this year to try to volunteer in as many different areas as I could so I could see the race from as many different points of view as I could. I will be doing most of my volunteer shifts once the race begins, but yesterday I had the chance to do two different shifts, one planned – one spur of the moment! I started yesterday working at the volunteer check-in-desk. All of the people who volunteer for the race have to check in through this desk in one way or another, so I figured it would be a good place to start, meet some interesting people, and learn about volunteering. It was a little quiet at the desk, but I know it will pick up more and more as the race start approaches.
When volunteers came to check in, we had to have them sign some paper work and then we gave them their badge and hat, thanked them for volunteering, and then they went on their way. There are so many ways to volunteer… here are a few that people checked in today for: volunteer desk, communications and stats, phone room, trail blazer, trail guard, dropped dogs, sales desk, banquet hostess, and doctors. One of the volunteers we checked in today was Alan, a vet from New South Wales, Australia. He has volunteered for about five years now and will be giving great care to the dogs at one of the checkpoints along the way. He doesn’t even know which one yet, but his wife says he’s hoping for Rohn because he hears they cook up really good breakfasts there!
The lady in charge of the volunteers is Sally Smith. Her husband ran the Iditarod two times. She sure has a lot of stuff on her plate, but she is very organized and very well prepared. We looked on the data base and it looked like there are 1,047 people signed up to volunteer this year. In fact, they have stopped accepting volunteers, as they have filled all of the jobs. They start taking volunteer applications for next year’s race in September. We saw volunteers on the list from Australia, Hawaii, Scotland, England, the Lower 48, and of course lots and lots from Alaska. I told her we needed to find two more so that there were 1,049 volunteers to match the ceremonial number of miles in the race (they say it’s 1,049 miles, but it never is exactly). That’s like one volunteer per mile!
I worked at the desk with a lady who is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service here in Anchorage. What a cool job! There are three branches of the NWS here in Alaska and her job is to help forecast the weather. She says that forecasting the weather in Alaska is much different then doing the same job in the Lower 48 because of the Arctic winds, the sea coasts, and the elevation changes. She said she started becoming interested in the weather when she was a little girl. She had a strong interest in math and science (although she admits she didn’t always get the best grades in them in school). She majored in meteorology in college and applied for a job with the NWS in Alaska three times before finally landing her “dream job” here in Anchorage.
My second, unplanned shift, was at the sales desk for the little shop they have set up at the Millennium Hotel. Someone got sick and called out at the last-minute, so I offered to stay. I didn’t buy anything while I was there… but I did make a mental shopping list of things to come back for later!
I met a very unique volunteer while I was there… Angel. Angel and her family are traveling through the United States and have landed in Alaska just in time for the race. Does Angel wish she was running in the Iditarod? I’m not sure, but she was quite the hit at the store with everyone who stopped by. She is a very amazing dog and even has her own blog about her travels: http://travelswithangel.wordpress.com/
Today I am traveling to Knick Lake to see the start of the Junior Iditarod. The high temperature in Anchorage today is going to be 27 degrees and they are calling for snow again most of the day. I am sure it will be colder out on the Lake. I’ll try to remember to check the temperature while I am there. Here’s the link to the Junior Iditarod page – link. I’ll write more about it later tonight!