On Thursday, we spent another full day immersed in Yukon Quest sled dog action at the Dawson City checkpoint.
The morning dawned clear and cold, though a bit warmer at -29°C (-20°F). I got to the checkpoint just before 8:00 – after missing 3 teams by arriving minutes too late, I had stopped depending on the Live Tracker as more than an approximation.
Ryne Olson arrives at 08:39, in 14th position.
Seconds after arriving at the checkpoint, Ryne Olson didn’t look like she’d just mushed a dog team through 500 miles of wilderness! 🙂
I didn’t spend nearly as much time doing non-Yukon Quest shooting as I thought I would, but some scenes such as the Third Avenue Hotel Complex couldn’t be passed up.
Jeremy and I moved the schedule around a bit so that the group could all see two mushers depart from the campground for Eagle. We arrived about 40 minutes early to allow lots of time, as walking in heavy gear is slow and tiring.
Final preparations to get back on the trail were being made at Ed Hopkins’ camp as we passed by.
Ed’s wife, Michelle Phillips, gives lead dog Bear some love. Michelle had won the Yukon Quest 300 just 2 days before.
For spectators, part of the excitement of the race is certainly seeing and hearing the dogs’ excitement. This short video gives you a bit of that.
I got a position out on the riverbank to shoot the departures. Fifteen minutes after the schedule 10:20 departure of Ray Redington Jr., a team came down the trail, but it was Ed Hopkins, at his scheduled time.
To avoid a very large stretch of open water below Dawson, this year’s trail goes back up-river for a half mile or so before crossing to the north side.
Word was passed down to those of us along the trail that Ray Redington Jr. had scratched at the last minute, moving Ed Hopkins up into 5th place. Here, work starts on taking apart Ray’s camp for the return to Knik, Alaska.
This is Lance Mackey’s fancy sled setup, with a cooker behind the main sled and a basket sled for a possible injured dog behind that.
One of the race vets at work.
Returning to town, we next went to the Dawson City Museum, which opened up for us. It does a very good job of explaining what life was life both before and after the big gold strike on August 16, 1896 that would make the name “Klondike” famous around the world.
Although for the majority of people, life in the Dawson City area after the strike was a basic frontier one as shown by the log cabin in the photo above, for others Dawson was “The San Francisco of the North”, with most of the amenities seen in any city of the time, including electricity, and entertainment aimed at the mostly-male population.
We next drove back across the river and past the “Closed” sign on the Top of the World Highway, to see if we could reach a great view over Dawson and the Klondike River. Some other people had had the same idea, so we reached it with no problem.
Dawson and the Klondike River.
The pastel colours of the Westmark Hotel are wonderful in the winter (though the hotel is only open in the summer).
It was a great spot for a group portrait as well (2 people didn’t come).
Driving back to town.
At 4:15, several of us were back at the mushers’ camp for the departure of two more teams. Up on the road, I got hugs from 3 of this fellow’s very sociable dogs 🙂
Normand Casavant’s team gets ready for the trail to Eagle – he would start in 7th place. Journeys by Jerry Van Dyke, the company I’m working for on this trip, sponsored his bib, #3.
Cody Strathe’s would be the next team out, in 6th place.
Love the license plate on the back of Lance Mackey’s sled – “on by” is the command for dogs to go by something that’s distracting them.
Mike Ellis’ Siberian huskies looked like they were ready to go, though they weren’t scheduled to depart for over 4 hours yet.
At 4:50, exactly 24 hours after arriving in Dawson, Cody Strathe and his dogs were on their way to Eagle. I love the smile on that dog – he’s back doing what he loves to do 🙂
This British couple were hiking back down the river to an island that they live on, after coming to town for supplies.
At 5:13, Normand Casavant and his team were back on the trail.
That was the end of my up-close-and-personal Yukon Quest action for this year, but some of my guests were back down to the river for more that night. I’ll be watching the rest of it from my nice warm office chair 🙂
On Friday, we made the long drive back to Whitehorse, and tomorrow, Saturday, we’ll be giving the group a final look around the city before their flight out Sunday morning.