K-300 Wrap Up
The Musher’s Banquet last night at the
The format of the evening is dinner first, and then presentations to each musher who completed each race. Starting with the Red Lantern (last place) in the Akiak Dash, and then the Bogus Creek 150, and then the K-300, each musher is called to the podium to receive an envelope containing a patch for that race, a lovely belt buckle if it is the first time they have run that race, a check for their winnings, and sometimes additional gifts given by the sponsors. Each musher is invited to “say a few words”—usually thanking their sponsors, family, and people who helped them, with dog food, dog handling, training or inspiration. Many of our local mushers are painfully shy; some don’t say a word, just take their envelope, shake hands with the three or four people on stage, and leave. Some simply step to the mike and say “quyana cak nak” (thank you very much).
The more verbal mushers told stories of the trail, some long, some short, but most about the incredible difficulty caused by this year’s weather. The race started out in beautiful conditions. A little warm in the high 20s but with lots of snow, no wind, and a nice clear night. Twenty-four hours later it was ten degrees warmer, no snow at all, tremendous wind and water everywhere. Musher after musher spoke of trail markers standing in the middle of lakes, or actually floating in current.
Hugh Neff flipped over backward in a deep hole and got completely soaked from the neck down. He was near a village and was taken into someone’s home to dry out, which prevented severe hypothermia. Paul Gebhardt and Jeff King spoke of water that was two feet deep. Ed Iten watched his team splashing ahead of him when suddenly all he could see was their heads because they were swimming. Sled dogs, on the whole, dislike water and hate to swim. He gave them a “Gee!” command to go right and his leader swam in a big circle to the right, climbed over the wheel dogs, snagged his tug on the gangline and there was one big thrashing mess as Ed’s sled sank in the water. He grabbed hold of dogs, harness, lines, anything he could grab, and hauled the whole mess out before any disaster occurred.
The consistent lesson of the K-300 over the years is that the weather can do just about anything. We’ve had every kind of weather from 40 below to 40 above, freezing rain to warm rain, lots of snow to none at all—sometimes in the same race. Most of the mushers said that yeah, they’ll be back next year; it has to be better weather than this year. It just couldn’t be any worse. Those are dangerous words.
The winners of the three races were Ryan Housler in the Akiak Dash; Pete Kaiser in the Bogus Creek 150; and Mitch Seavey in the
So the races are essentially done for another year. Checkpoints are closed and dismantled. Checkers and vets are back home in
One must consider what the race’s responsibility is to these two mushers who haven’t declared themselves scratched. The machinery of volunteers and support for the race is now gone. Further efforts of these two mushers to drive their dogs in to Bethel is highly likely to end up in a Search and Rescue call out, putting people’s lives at stake to save them. In my opinion, there should be a limit to how long a competitor can maintain that he or she is still in the race, and a time when the Race Committee can say “Sorry; you’ve scratched.” These last two mushers have reached that point. It has been 36 hours since the winner crossed the Finish Line. That seems long enough.
Photos by Dutch and The Tundra PA.
1. Jeff King, Martin Buser, Rohn Buser, and Ed Iten swap stories over lasagna.
2. Ryan Housler, winner of the Akiak Dash.
3. Pete Kaiser, winner of the Bogus Creek 150.
4. Mitch Seavey, winner of the Kuskokwim 300.
5. Rohn Buser, just because he is such a cutie and I love his dimples.
Labels: Dog Mushing