THE 1,000 MILE INTERNATIONAL SLED DOG RACE – FAIRBANKS, ALASKA TO WHITEHORSE, YUKON
Broncos & Jaguars couldn’t hold a candle to sled dogs this Sunday as the second day of the Yukon Quest played out under beautiful bluebird skies. “We don’t care about the game,” said one checkpoint volunteer, “we only care about the race!”
With most mushers opting to take their mandatory four-hour layover at the Mile 101 checkpoint, the dog yards soon bore witness to the phenomenon known as “mush hour.” The mood in the yard was loose and upbeat as the dogs napped in the sunshine and the mushers swapped trail tales. Allen Moore was heard asking Ed Hopkins how he had managed to get across a section of overflow on Birch Creek without getting wet. “I was running so fast it just bounced off me,” Hopkins deadpanned. Seth Barnes, who spent the early morning hours jockeying with Tom Frode Johansen on the trail, didn’t fare quite so well, forced to wear his camp booties around a checkpoint for the second year in a row while his footwear dried out. Barnes spirits remained completely undaunted, however. “We love it,” he said. Hank DeBruin, meanwhile, seeking to break a two-year curse of missing out on a crucial staple of the trail, had only one question for the checkpoint staff as he rolled in: “How’s the bacon supply?”
The challenge of the day after the competitors left 101 was the formidable Eagle Summit, but conditions were so favourable during daylight hours that most mushers only remembered how fun the downhill was. Rookie Tore Albrigtsen joked that he was almost disappointed that the climb that had been described to him as so completely nightmarish proved to be such a cake walk. When she arrived at the Central checkpoint to pick up supplies and carry on, 19 year-old rookie Laura Neese, who tackled the climb near dusk with a group of racers, spoke with pride about how her lead dog skillfully weaved around some of the slower ascenders as they crested the summit.
As temperatures dropped to -26ºC / -16ºF with nightfall, six mushers opted to rest their teams (and selves) in Central, with the majority of the mushers stopping only long enough to pick up supplies to make their dash for Circle. The unofficial leader board at 11:59pm has Hugh Neff, first to Circle, followed closely by Allen Moore. The top five is rounded about by Matt Hall, Brent Sass, and Ed Hopkins.
For official times and up-to-the-minute tracking check www.yukonquest.com/race-central