ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - An Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race musher was flown to a hospital after a harrowing ordeal that included crashing his sled, hitting his head on a tree stump and getting knocked unconscious, and later falling through ice and breaking his ankle.
Scott Janssen, 52, an Anchorage undertaker known as the Mushing Mortician, was back home early Wednesday after getting a cast for the broken bone he suffered on Tin Creek, about 40 miles from Nikolai.
“I made it through the worst part of the trail only to slip on the ice and break my foot,” Janssen told The Associated Press on Wednesday as he recuperated from home.
Treacherous trail conditions with little snow have marked the early part of this year’s Iditarod, which started Sunday with 69 mushers. The nearly 1,000-mile race spans two mountain ranges, dangerous wilderness and the wind-whipped Bering Sea coast.
Janssen’s ordeal began Tuesday when he crashed his sled between the Rohn and Nikolai checkpoints, hitting his head after he said he bumped across rocks all along the trail. He lay unconscious for at least an hour and awoke to find his sled nearby and his dogs huddled next to him, covered in light snow.
As he dismantled his broken seat, another musher came along. Janssen asked him the time, and couldn’t believe an hour, if not two, had passed.
“I tripped over there, went full-speed and hit my head on that stump,” he said he told the musher. “I think I went night-night for awhile.”
After caring for his dogs, Janssen fixed his sled and continued on.
There’s a lot of heaven to be seen along the Iditarod route. But, he said, “that part of the trail was all hell.”
He made it to Tin Creek and estimated he had only about 7 more miles of nasty trail until it turned good again.
But one of his dogs, Hooper, got loose from the line and took off.
“I slipped on the ice, and bang, that was it,” he said. “Then I just laid there on the ice because I could not get back across the water to get back to my sled.”
He lay there for about 45 minutes before another musher, St. Anne, Jamaica, native Newton Mashall, came along.
“I said, ‘Help! Help,’ and Newton comes walking up and said, ‘Yeah, mon. How you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m just lying around, kicking back,’” Janssen said.