The snow has fallen, temperatures have dropped, and one of the World’s greatest adventures is at hand. On Saturday, February 5, 2011, Dave and 14 of his closet friends will once again challenge the elements, and themselves, in the 27th Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. Looking to improve on last year’s finish time of 10 days, 23 hours, 37minutes, Dave’s #1 goal will be “To finish with a happy and healthy team.”
The 1,000 mile race from Whitehorse to Fairbanks has been called the “Toughest sled dog race in the World” and for good reason. Its length is equivalent to the distance between England and Africa, and the distance between some checkpoints is the breadth of Ireland.* Over four mountain ranges, frozen rivers, forests and tundra, battling dangerous sub-zero temperatures and lack of sleep, over thirty mushers will give it their all. Unique challenges include long periods of loneliness, the possibility of losing your dog-team, and the occasional ill-tempered moose.** In any given year, 30-35% of the mushers fail to reach the finish line for whatever reason. This year, over thirty dog-drivers have registered. The math isn’t hard to do.
Following the ghosts of the great Gold Rush of 1898-1903, the Quest competitors fully understand that this race is all about teamwork. The dogs depend on you as you must depend on them to survive. A past winner of the Veterinarian’s Choice Award, Dave has earned the reputation of one who “takes good care of his dogs” – the highest compliments a musher can receive. No one convicted of animal abuse or neglect may enter the Yukon Quest and (with the exception of Dawson City) mushers are not allowed any help from non-racers.
Though training and working with the dogs is a year-around endeavor, this time of year sees a more serious schedule. Two weeks before the start of the Quest, mushers bring food and needed supplies to the Food Drop, which are then distributed to race checkpoints, for mushers to retrieve during the race. The weekend before the race, all sled dogs entered in the race undergo a complete physical examination.
While help cannot be accepted during the race, prior to it any help in the form of sponsorships is not only welcomed, but necessary. Please take the opportunity to join the Dalton Gang and follow Dave and his dogs as they tear across the Alaskan wilderness. Become part of this year’s Quest and be sure to visit this website for regular updates before, during and after the race.
The Dalton Gang
*Firth, John. Yukon Quest: The 1,000-Mile Dog Sled Race Through the Yukon and Alaska. Whitehorse, Yukon: Lost Moose Publishing, 1998. ISBN 978-1-896758-03-9.
** One year, when a moose attacked his dog team, a musher was forced to kill it with an axe (Canadian law prohibits handguns), then butcher it according to Quest rules.