08 February 2008

The Yukon Quest Begins

Tomorrow is race day for the Yukon Quest (http://www.yukonquest.com/), my favorite dog mushing race in existence! The Yukon Quest is a 1,000 mile dog mushing race between Fairbanks, Alaska, USA and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada and true to it's name the course primarily follows the mighty Yukon River which in it's frozen form was the primary highway into the north in the days of the gold rush. The race alternates which city it starts in and where it ends and is one of the wildest, remotest, and longest of all the sled dog races out there. This year it will start in Fairbanks and end in Whitehorse. You bet that many Fairbanksans will be out there volunteer dog handling at the start on the Chena River and that along the race routes every village along the way will greet the mushers enthusiastically, and there will be people waiting up at all hours of the night in Whitehorse to cheer the mushers across the finish line. This year it looks like there will be 24 intrepid mushers, all of whom have profiles up on the website. There are familiar names up there that I will be cheering along the way.

Dogs impatiently waiting to start by their mushing truck, Quest 2004. Each truck has a symphony of excited dog sounds.

This race more then any other race, in my opinion, challenges the musher's wilderness and survival skills. They must carry certain gear in order to chop their sled out of ice if they should break through, chase off a an attacking moose, food for themselves and their dogs as well as straw for their dogs to bed on. Often the temperatures for this race are well below -40F/C and one days when it warms up too much the mushers have to rest during the day and race during the night to keep their animals from heating up to much. This year it looks like overflow, when river water flows over the frozen ice, will be a big challenge along the race course. Overflow can present a real problem, having dog feet and runners in water in very cold temperatures causes major ice formation on both creating a need for frequent stops to keep feet healthy and runners slidable.

Lining out the team, which is so excited it has to be braked by a snowmachine from the rear, Quest starting line, Fairbanks, 2004.

I'll miss listening to the bark of the excited dogs and the live trail coverage as part of my morning wake-up ritual but I am glad that in this day and age I can still get my fix by listening to it by podcast at KUAC (Fairbanks' public radio station).

Edited to note: It's the 25th anniversary of this race this year!

PS - abernier, if you are reading this, send me an email so I can answer your question more thoroughly!


  1. You love this sooo much. Would you ever go on a race?

  2. hey, it makes no sense, but i love the word 'yukon'. yeah, i just had to say that.

  3. Every time I see these racing posts I wish my dogs could read.

    Fey can do 50 km an hour and Arjun is not far behind. Shanti, on the other hand, can run fast when she feels like it but seems to prefer dawdling and sniffing the flowers.

  4. I get so excited by these dog race posts. I'm trying to remember now what movie/documentary I saw about the Yukon race...hmmm...

    off to ponder

  5. I don't really know much about these races, but I absolutely love the pictures of the dogs. They are such beautiful animals!

  6. I keep seeing trailers for some cutesy Disney (or similar) film with talking sled dogs who decide to form a team and enter one of these races. It looks positively dreadful... The real thing, on the other hand, looks amazing. I'd love to go up North some time and see one for myself.

  7. Hi, WS. I nominated you (and especially for your photos) for an E (excellent blogger award) at my photoblog.

  8. Sounds really good actually, I admire the people (not to mention the dogs themselves) who have the guts, skills and determination to go for this. Keep us informed! I'll check out the link as well.

  9. crazymumma, I would race but I am not interested in the care and committment of owning an entire dog team so for now I will content myself to helping other mushers and skijoring.

    liv, :) and it's a beautiful place too.

    hel, oh, they would love it! Do you get snow there? Enough to cross country ski or skijor?

    ms chica, yes indeedy, although you know sometimes they are so excited at the start line that it can be difficult to keep them in their team position.

    jocelyn, really? That's cool, I'm glad everybody's likes these posts...I thought they might be too esoteric for most.

    mad hatter, they are gorgeous, dedicated, excited, expressive animals for sure.

    cae, oh my, I'm sure a disney version wouldn't be close to reality. There is a race from Quesnel to Wells, BC every year called the Dog Mail Run....oh, but it's Jan 24 usually (http://www.dogsledmailrun.ca/)

    hypoglycemiagirl, wow, you did?? Thanks so much for the honor!!! I'm so touched that you think my blog and photos are worth it!

    trousers, I will! I might not post it every day though so I don't totally bore you but I will keep you up to date!

  10. All those happy dogs! It gives me a lift just to see them. You could get a job with the races, photographing. Definitely.

    Here's a little treat for you:


    Hope you can see it. You don't have an e.mail address or I'd've sent it to you that way.



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