The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Madelyn Walker
For The LOG 

Locals folks make sure mushers are fed


When local mushers, Travis Beals and Sarah Stokey, owners of Turning Heads Kennel, prepare to run the Iditarod, they think of the dogs first. They plan and assemble thousands of pounds of top-quality dry foods and assorted fish and meats for their canine athletes who consume over 10,000 calories per day.

Fielding two teams means preparing foods for 32 dogs for a 1,000-mile-plus trek that can take nine to 15 days. The preparation and logistics are staggering and mushers have to deliver all their food drops to Iditarod headquarters by mid-February. In the midst of this feat, it is easy to overlook the fact that mushers need to eat, too. And that food needs to be assembled for the food drop at the same time.

The great cooks of Seward rallied to help Travis and Sarah hit the trail as well fed as their canine teammates. Imagine 30 below on the Yukon River and pulling some Chinooks Restaurant Scallop Mac out of the dog cooker. And if it is a snack stop, that is covered too, thanks to Major Marine Tours and Monica Chase at The Moon Muse: Snickers and Reese’s, juices or Monica’s seven-layer bars, which should only be eaten by people burning 4,000 calories a day. The Moon Muse provided a staggering array of baked goods including breakfast cookies specially crafted for Sarah, and marshmallow brownies for Travis’ sweet tooth. There was so much, we were able to provide a pre-Iditarod platter for both mushers and handlers.

Imagine pulling Mongolian Beef from Peking out of the seal-a-meal before facing the rough and tumble of the Farewell Burn. A bit of love from home. Or celebrate surviving the Dalzell Gorge with Lamb Stew, Bacon Corn Chowder and biscuits from Kevin Lane at the Cookery. Who needs to be the first musher to the Yukon to win a five-course meal from the Millennium Hotel?

Our mushers are being cooked for by some of the best chefs in Alaska all along the trail. When they brace against those bitter winds along the coast, they’ll spoon up tummy warming Thai Chicken from Woodies or a bit of Curry Chicken from Mark and Yolanda Ifflander (we all still miss Yollies). And even though breakfast, lunch and dinner have no meaning in this race, Dan and Madelyn Walker sent out plenty of ready-to-eat breakfast burritos and the most calorie-loaded Cheesy Bacon Casserole they could find – with liberal amounts of spinach added to hold off scurvy. Cristan McLain provided her high calorie peanut butter fudge, a recipe honed from marathon canoe races, which was carefully parceled into several food drops so Travis won’t eat that to the exclusion of anything else.

It is often tough for mushers to eat well on the trail. Cold temperatures, dehydration and lack of sleep all cause loss of appetite. When Sarah was told all the meal donations being provided, she squealed, “Awesome! I can’t wait to get on the trail ... all this food sounds heavenly. I’ll be mushing my little heart out just so I can get to the next great meal!”

The Bering Coast is beating you up. You are tired, cold; you know you are getting close, just not close enough. You have to stay up for your dogs. You set the pace, the mood. Out of the cooker comes just what the students in Ms. Nichols middle school foods class decided you need: BACON mac and cheese or maybe sausage pasta. They gave it a lot of thought. They made it just for you. And you feel every one of them cheering you on. You sit up a little taller; you are warmed by the food, maybe you crack a smile that makes your teeth hurt. You break camp and whistle up your dogs and move on down the trail.

So yes there’s a theme – lots of bacon and love. Sure, Travis and Sarah could have bought the bacon to get them down the trail – but it is the love and support that each meal speaks that will help get them to Nome.


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