I apologize for not posting yesterday, but it was all I could do to drag myself to dinner and to bed. I've never been so exhausted.
The day started cold (-22 c) and crystal clear with a whoop-dee-do through a fabulous forest that hugged a river. Because the area is so wild, the trail was laced with poro (reindeer) tracks and browse signs. Later we saw many places where hirvi (moose) had pranced and rested.) But enough sightseeing, within the first hour we had a doozey of a climb. Mike thinks we climbed 2400 feet in the first 20k, including a near vertical wall that gave us a good view of the Russian lookout tower. The closest we would get to the border.
The sweep snowmobile was nipping at my heels so when I pulled in to lunch I realized my pace was too slow to make the last aid station--they call them "service"--by 17:00. Ron had been patiently skiing with me but it was time for him to bust loose and make tracks to catch up with the rest of the group. He went on but Mike, Georgeanne and I hopped the bus and skipped 15km to start at the next service spot, Rukajarvi, home to the blueberry soup. That's where we caught Jeff & Kellie. They were making good time at the head of the pack.
As Georgeanne, Mike and I took off from Rukajarvi, we expected Jo, Lyle, Amy and Ron to catch us, but we never saw them, even with darkness falling. I was getting worried wondering what had happened. Georgie and I were passed by a German fellow, Jentz, and he was so kind to stick with us. He was an older fellow who had skied RRH many times and knew what was ahead.
We made it to the last service spot with 3 mintues to spare, but we couldn't find anyone at Nissinvaara for a hot drink so we pushed on.
Jentz lead the way and it was dark by the time we reached Petajalampi, the finish for the day. We saw Antti Pulliainen, our friend who has visited Marquette, and he told us that the skiers were so delayed that they put them on a bus at Rukajarvi and brought them back to the hotel. No wonder we weren't passed. Lyle chose to take the bus but Amy, Jo and Ron were still on the trail. But where? It was full darkness. And then, I saw Jo's smile skiing up the last hill. Right behind her were Ron and Amy. They finished the whole 61 k, as well as Jeff & Kellie.
What a site to see them. Ron was most surprised when 10 k back he thought he was skiing alone and stopped to eat a Gu, and who does she see skiing toward him, Jo and Amy. He was so happy. Moments like that are the asterisk on this trip.
After that trio, we were still waiting for Mike. About 15 minutes later we heard the sweep snowmobile and there in front was Mike skiing to the finish. I ran out to greet him with hot juice. We are a family and taking care of each toher. He was the last one off the trail, talk about SISU! The snowmobile that had followed us most of the day brought him in about 6:45. 9 hours on the trail.
Be proud of your Marquette team. Antti said in Rukajarvi when they tried to convince Amy & Jo to take the bus they wouldn't have anything to do with cutting it short. Ron either, although he was skiing alone and had no idea Jo and Amy were still on the trail. So out of the 80+ skiers at this event, the Marquette team was the last in because as Amy would say, "Not 'til the last dog died."