Today, the H/AREA retirees were treated to an excellent slide show presentation on the preparation and running in the 2009 Iditarod dog sled competition.
Our speaker, Kim Darst, is an energetic woman, with skills as a helicopter pilot, flight instructor and sled dog musher. She owns and operates a flight school in northwestern New Jersey and also has an airport in South Montrose, PA called “Husky Haven Airport”.
Kim became intrigued with flying during a childhood helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon. By the time she was 17 she had earned her pilot’s license and flew herself to her own high school graduation. For a period Kim held the record as the youngest licensed pilot in the world. Her passion became her career and at this point she owns seven airplanes and three helicopters. For the aviation enthusiasts among you, her craft include: two Cessna 172s; a J-3 Cub; a Cessna 182; a Piper Pa 24-250; a Commanche; an Aeronca 7EC; a Bell Jetranger; a Bell 47 and a Schweizer 300C.
In the early 1990’s Kim’s work took her to the great state of Alaska where she discovered the joy and thrill of the state sport, dog sledding.
In 2009 the Husky Haven Race Team pulled Kim and her packed sled out of the starting chute and into Iditarod XXXVII, and as they hit that famous trail they also launched Kim Darst into history again, this time as the first musher from New Jersey to ever embark on Alaska’s historical and unpredictable “Last Great Race on Earth.”
The Iditarod is a 1,000 + mile trek from Anchorage Alaska to Nome Alaska. The race is expected to take between 9 and 12 days. There are 26 checkpoints along the route. Consider the logistics: Food and supplies for the dogs and mushers must be prepared in advance, packaged for each checkpoint and shipped to Anchorage for distribution to the checkpoints prior to the race. Temperatures during the race can be as cold as -60 degrees. Each team consists of 16 dogs. Kim explains that when the 16 dogs are harnessed 2 by 2, to the sled the total length is equivalent to a tractor trailer (53 feet). The dogs wear coats and booties. The booties only last for about 50 miles which is about 5 hours depending on snow conditions, so extra booties (2 times 64 or 128 booties each day to be exact) have to be packaged for distribution.
In preparation for the race, Kim and her team trained in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and Minnesota, and then traveled across the US and Canada and up the Alcan Highway to Anchorage, Alaska.
The race was an experience in itself. The trail was marked and packed, but get off the trail and you would find yourself in 6 feet of snow. And even with the trail markers, they were of little help in a blizzard. Each sled had a GPS, so that race officials knew where each sled was and if it was moving or not. Mushers also had a cell phone like device with which they could call for help.
All in all it was an excellent presentation. Assisting Kim in the presentation was Jean Pollock, and Kim's lead dog "Cotton".
Rob Ferris, Honeywell Vice President, External Communications, made a presentation on Honeywell's plans for redeveloping the Morristown site. He reported that the Morris Township Planning Board voted to consider changes to the master plan that includes changing the zoning for the Honeywell site from commercial to mixed use.