The race was back on. Race officials decided the teams’ wait time in Yentna would count toward their required 15 hours of rest, but mandatory six-hour stops were still required at Finger Lake and Yentna Station on the return run. The teams checked through Talvista Lodge and then settled into the third leg of the race, a 50-mile run to the halfway point at Finger Lake. At 3:25 am the race’s Facebook page announced, “We are not receiving updates from the Finger Lake checkpoint because they have shut down their generator for the evening, a point we had not factored into our race plans!“
Yukon Quest and Iditarod veteran musher Jodi Bailey was putting a training run on some young dogs from her Dew Claw Kennel, in Chatanika, and she wrote a good assessment of the trail on her blog after the race, saying it was “….a good challenge for the young dogs. In 300 miles they got a little taste of what the Iditarod has to offer them. Varying trail conditions, from low snow to blown in drifts, icy conditions on vast lakes, twisty turny technical trail on the way into Finger Lake, headwinds, tail winds, warm afternoons and cold nights. Busy checkpoints with teams parked together, coming and going, resting on different schedules. I could not have asked for a better smorgasbord of situations for my team.”
The teams began leaving the Finger Lake halfway point early Saturday evening, heading back down the river to Talvista Lodge and Yentna Station. The front-running teams were Darrin Lee of Chistochina; the Berington sisters, Anna and Kristy, of Kasilof on the Kenai Peninsula; Charley Bejna, a self-described adventurer, born and raised in Addison, Illinois, who has raced and finished several mid- and long-distance races, including the 2014 Iditarod; and Chatanika musher Jodi Bailey. As the mushers left the halfway point headed for home, it was remarked that there were very few dropped dogs, and the trail was well-marked and in good condition, both reports which race organizers like to hear.
Race fans were treated to dozens of beautiful photographs taken by Alaskan adventure guide Albert Marquez, of Planet Earth Adventures, who flew to Finger Lake and captured dynamic images at the checkpoint of the teams crossing the windblown lake, the mushers hauling drop bags, boiling water and tending to their dogs, tired dogs resting on straw beds, dropped dogs being loaded into planes for the trip home, and the faces of the mushers at the halfway point in the race. Albert’s superb photographs added an exciting dimension to the race for everyone involved, and the spike in Facebook activity was notable, with over 70,000 interactions on the race’s Facebook page.
Another splendid photographer was on the trail with his camera, Tom Jamgochian of Nome, who captured a breathtaking photo of the northern lights over the Yentna River at the Yentna Station checkpoint. Tom wrote about the photo: “The view today at 1:30 am at Yentna Station. My dogs were resting after a 76 mile run from Finger Lake. I had to wake them up shortly for the last 50+ mile push. It was 24 below and dropping – most were none too happy to be aroused from their straw beds.”
The run back down the Yentna River put the first teams into Yentna Station at 3:08 Sunday morning: Anna Berington, followed by her twin sister Kristy one minute later, and Charley Bejna six minutes later. Half an hour later Darrin Lee arrived, and twenty minutes after him were Jodi Bailey and her team of youngsters. Robert Redington was the sixth team into the last checkpoint, and then it would be three hours before the next team arrived. At 7:42 am, after a 4 hour and 34 minute rest, Anna Berington left the checkpoint with 11 dogs, followed by Charley five minutes later with 10 dogs and her sister Kristy a minute after him with 11. Somewhere on the trail Kristy would pass her sister Anna to take first place, with Anna placing second two minutes later and Charley coming in a half hour after her for third place, a nice sweep for the twin sisters and their close friend.Teams continued arriving at the finish at Happy Trails Kennel throughout the day, that evening, and well into Monday. Finally, at 4:25 pm Monday afternoon, three-time Northern Lights 300 veteran Ellen Halverson of Wasilla drove her team across the finish line. The race was over. Race Manager Sue Allen put her thoughts into words with a post to the race’s Facebook page: “How do I thank the hundreds of you that made this such an awesome race… Mushers, Kathy and Martin, trail breakers, trail sweeps, trail stake/ tent pole/dog tag makers, lodge owners/staff, vets, checkers, pilots, dropped dog helpers, website and update people, food prepares, photographers, start helpers, application takers, and dozens or others, handlers and the dogs who are so awesome to do what they do! There is nothing I can do to truly thank you but to say it…’Thank you.'” Complete race statistics can be found at the Northern Lights 300 website.