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!