HUMAN

Name: EARL ESMAILKA
Age: 50
Residence: KALTAG AND FAIRBANKS, ALASKA
Occupation: REGISTERED GUIDE. I RUN A GUIDE BUSINESS.
Years involved with Iditarod: PROBABLY SINCE ’98. I THINK SO.
Iditarod Role: SORT OF HELP TRAIL BREAKING AND MAKING SURE THE TRAIL IS GOOD, LIKE WORK NORMALLY IS. THAT’S BASICALLY WHAT I BEEN DOING.
Current Location: KALTAG, ALASKA
Date of Photo: MARCH 9, 2019
Temperature: 31F / OUTDOORS

What is your Why?.. Why are you here today and involved in Iditarod?:

IDITAROD IS REALLY, LIKE, IMPORTANT TO COME TO KALTAG. THERE’S NOTHING GOING ON. THERE’S NO SPRING CARNIVAL, THERE’S NOTHING GOING ON HERE IN KALTAG. BUT WHEN THE IDITAROD COME IN, SO THERE’S A LOT OF PEOPLE. IT JUST BRINGS A LOT OF PEOPLE TOGETHER. EVERYBODY WALKING INTO THE BANK; EVERYBODY WALKING IN TOWN; IT’S LIKE IT’S LIFE! YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?

Tell me about your most rewarding experience on Iditarod?:

 

I THINK IT WAS BACK IN 2000, OR WHENEVER LANCE MACKEY WON. I WAS TRAIL BREAKING. I BROKE TRAIL FOR 7 YEARS WITH THE GUYS OUT IN FRONT PUTTING UP THE MARKERS, CUTTING BRUSH, BUILDING BRIDGES. AND JUST STAYING OUT, YOU KNOW, 5:00, 6:00 IN THE MORNING GETTING INTO SHAGELUK. JUST OUT-AND-OUT WILDERNESS. WE COULDN’T FIND A TRAIL, BUT WE END UP MAKING IT. AND WE MADE IT ABOUT 5 IN THE MORNING. BUT THEN, AT THE END THERE, WE ALL GOT TO WHITE MOUNTAIN. AND THEY GOT LAYOVER. AND I KNOW LANCE MACKEY BECAUSE HE GREW UP HERE KIND OF LIKE IN HIS YOUNGER YEARS. AND HE USED TO HANG OUT WITH US, HIM AND JASON. SO WE’RE SITTING AROUND TALKING. YEAH, REALLY GOOD JOB, YOU KNOW. AND I SEEN HE WAS RUBBING HIS LEGS AND HE WAS STANDING UP. AND, YOU KNOW, HE WAS CRAMPING. AND HE ASKED ME, “COULD YOU GO GET ME SOME GATORADE?” I SAID, “YES”. AND HE WAS GOING TO GIVE ME MONEY AND I JUST HANDED IT BACK TO HIM. AND I WALKED DOWN TO THE STORE AND GOT HIM, I THINK, FOUR OR FIVE BOTTLES OF GATORADE. HE JUST GUZZLED TWO OF THEM INSTANTLY. SO HE WAS DRYING HIS STUFF OFF IN THE FURNACE ROOM. AND THERE’S A DOOR IN THERE. AND ME AND HIM WENT INSIDE AND ALL THE MEDIA JUST GATHERED AROUND HIM, YOU KNOW, WATCHING EVERY MOVE. AND I WALK IN THERE AND, YOU KNOW, WE’RE SITTING AROUND CHATTING. YOU KNOW, JUST TALKING. AND THEN HE GOES, “GUYS, PLEASE, JUST KIND OF LEAVE US ALONE.” SO HE SHUTS THE DOOR TO FURNACE ROOM. AND WE’RE SITTING THERE TALKING AND TALKING. AND HE GOES, “MAN, BUDDY, I COULD NEVER BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING. NEVER.” I SAID, “WHAT?” “I’M WINNING THE IDITAROD! I’M GOING TO WIN THE IDITAROD!” AND THAT WAS HIS FIRST TIME. AND WE COME OUT. CRIPE! THERE WAS LIKE 5 REPORTERS, CAMERAS, EVERYTHING. AND HE GOES, YOU KNOW, ASKING ME WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT. I SAID, “GUYS, WE WERE JUST CHATTING ABOUT OLD TIMES ABOUT WHEN HE LIVED IN KALTAG AND WHEN HE WAS JUST A, YOU KNOW, HOMETOWN BOY.” BUT THEN WE GET TO WATCH THE FINISH, AND HE COMES OVER TO SHAKE OUR HAND, THE TRAILBREAKERS. AND IT WAS LIKE THE BIGGEST REWARD. HE GOES, “THANK YOU, GUYS. GOOD TRAIL. GOOD JOB. THAT WAS PROBABLY ONE OF THE BEST MEMORABLE MOMENTS OF THE IDITAROD FOR ME.

What do you know for sure?:

IN LIFE I THINK IF MARK KEEPS ON INVOLVING THE LOCAL PEOPLE AROUND, YOU KNOW, DO SPECIAL THINGS. JUST LIKE WHAT I’M DOING. I’M DOING THAT BREAKING TRAIL, HELPING OUT A LITTLE BIT. I HAULED PASSENGERS DOWN, THE VETS, LAST NIGHT AND I GET BACK AT 2 IN THE MORNING. AND HE GOES, CRIPES, I’M WORE OUT; I’M TIRED. AND I SAID “IT’S A PRIVILEGE JUST TO BE A PART OF THE IDITAROD.” AND THEN WHEN WE GET DOWN THERE, CANASTERS AND THE CHECKER, TIM, HE GOES – HE JUST GRABBED ME AND PULLED ME AND SAID, “THANK YOU. THANK YOU. BECAUSE WE GOT THE VETS. AND, CHRIST, OUR WHOLE FAMILY IS OUT RUNNING AROUND AND GETTING READY. AT FIRST THEY WERE NOT DOING NOTHING. THERE WAS NO LIFE. BUT WHEN WE SHOWED UP WITH THE VET’S, YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN THEIR EYES.

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