This weekend marked the beginning of the Yukon Quest race which started in Fairbanks this year, and ends in Whitehorse, YT. Mushers navigate the Yukon River as it winds its way into Canada. One of the racers has been doing this race for nearly 20 years. At 1000 miles per year that’s 20,000 miles just in this race; incredibly that equates to almost a trip around the earth! These mushers are incredibly dedicated to the sport and their dogs. On top of that they have to be tough as nails. In 2010 Hans Gatt ran the course in 9 days 00 hours and 26 minutes. That’s averaging well over 100 miles per day! There is a great guide for the race which can be found here : YUKON QUEST MEDIA GUIDE. However, I thought I would pull some information out of there that I though was cool!
- “Mushing” is a general term for any transport method powered by dogs and includes carting, pulka, scootering, sled dog racing, skijoring, freighting, and weight pulling. More specifically, it implies the use of one or more dogs to pull a sled on snow. The term is thought to come from the French word marche, or go. It is the command to the team to commence pulling—Mush! Although this term is seldom used in the modern day, it still gives name to the sport.
- The Yukon Quest Trail links together a series of shorter travel routes that were the only means of winter travel over a century ago. When Yukon Quest founders began looking for a route to follow between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, they resurrected many historic routes and combined them to cover 1,000 miles.
- The Yukon Quest Trail dates back to 1870s to the Forty Mile Gold Rush Era. The Iditarod dates back to the 1925 Serum Run from Nenana to Nome
There is a great resource of tracking the status of the mushers here : LIVE TRACKING!
The day was a tremendous community event. Crowds of people lined up to watch the mushers take off. Each time the announcer would begin the countdown and the crowd would yell “10…9…8…7..6!…5!!…4!!…3!!!….2!!!!!…..1!!!….GOOOOO!!!!!” and the dogs would take off down 2nd ave. All in all 18 teams were launched in this fashion. It is amazing how excited the dogs are. If you have been around sled dogs about to run you know they yip and howl until they are finally released. They jump in the air and are constantly pulling at their harnesses. I learned at the race that these smaller dogs are made for distance, and larger dogs are used for shorter sprints.I compiled this video of the starting day. I think it does a pretty good job of capturing the community of the event, but also how excited the dogs are!
Here’s the route and profile from the race! 1000 miles and some elevation to boot.There is a race within this race as well. At Dawson city there is a required 36 hour layover to rest the mushers and inspect the health of the dogs. The first musher to Dawson City get 4 ounces of Yukon gold!
After going through my pictures I was pretty entertained by the dog faces that I had captured. Some of them are humorous, and one (you’ll know which!) looks just down-right ferocious. All of the dogs were very, very excited to head out provided a cacophony of barking. If you have a caption for any of these, I would love to hear them!
HATS! HATS! HATS!
One of the things on display were a variety of fur garments. I only took a couple pictures when the opportunity came and I wasn’t point my camera at the dogs. Very cool to see some creative furry headresses though.