I got a phone call yesterday from John Runkle in Nikolai. I first met John my second year (didn’t stop the first year) on the Trail in 1999. He operated a Bison hunting business out of one of the nicest tent camps you have ever seen. Big bed frames full of spruce bows (That’s where Rob got the idea for Rohn) made the tents feel like the 5 star Hilton compared to a bivy at -40. All Trail travelers were welcome at Bison Camp. His wife Marty would hand you a cup of coffee and a bowl of moose stew without asking while you chatted with local guides, clients or played with their busy, inquisitive 3 year old P.J. It was a special experience for all of us who had the chance to visit this Alaskan “roadhouse” half way between Rohn and Nikolai before the state limited Bison permits to a point it just wasn’t profitable. So like a lot of old roadhouses it sits abandoned along the Iditarod Trail. John will be cleaning out the last of the tent frames soon and Bison Camp just becomes part of history. Not quite—–That inquisitive 3 year old is now 22 years old and goes by Phil Runkle instead of P.J. The other day after sitting depressed recovering from a shoulder injury not able to run his dogs or do much else he hooked up 12 dogs and headed for Farewell Lake area. He has set up camp and is trapping with his dog team. He is set up on Spot Lake. Most won’t know the name but it is the first lake you drop onto after you cross Tin Creek coming from Rohn. I think its less than a mile from the creek crossing. P.J. ,oops, Phil wants to carry on his family’s tradition of welcoming racers to his camp to visit and warm up. I bet he will have a sign on the Trail so you won’t miss it. His father always did and once put wanted posters on the Trail, “Wanted Mostly Alive”, and offered a reward for my capture. If you need to or just want to stop and check out Phil’s Camp.
John also told me there is good snow cover from Nikolai all the way to Farewell. Winter storm warnings for the Valley and up to Finger Lake with snow expected most of the week at Puntilla. Carl said he expected a foot at Winter Lake Lodge. All I have got for now but more to follow.