Sunday, March 9
Norwegian the first to Eagle Island, then leaves quickly

Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Norwegian Robert Sorlie maintained his lead in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday after stopping for less than 20 minutes while the other leaders rested.

Sorlie, 43, reached Eagle Island with 12 dogs at 8:12 a.m. and left at 8:31 a.m., more than two hours before the arrival of Ramy Brooks, who rested his team there for about 5½ hours.

Sorlie, in his second Iditarod, is a firefighter at Gardrmoen International Airport who finished ninth last year and was named rookie of the year.

Brooks, of Healy, Alaska, reached Eagle Island at 10:41 a.m. with nine dogs and left at 3:41 p.m.

Three-time champion Jeff King of Denali Park, Alaska, reached Eagle Island at 3:17 p.m. with 13 dogs and was still resting at 5 p.m.

Eagle Island is about 70 miles south of Kaltag, the last checkpoint on the Yukon River and the jumping off point for mushers to head for the Bering Sea coastline.

The 31st running of the Iditarod has gone through unprecedented changes because of an unusually warm winter that forced organizers to change the traditional route and move the start north to Fairbanks.

The first musher to reach Kaltag the second time will receive a seven-course gourmet meal. The village of just more than 200 people is 335 miles west of Fairbanks, situated on a 35-foot bluff at the base of Nulato Hills west of the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge.

From Kaltag, mushers will leave the Yukon River for a 90-mile run to Unalakleet on the coast.

The trail begins with 15 miles through spruce forest and open areas along the Kaltag River, then through drainages along the base of Old Woman Mountain. As the trail continues past the mountain, mushers face gentle, rolling hills. Little or no vegetation can be seen along the trail until near Unalakleet.

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