February 15, 2009

Yukon Quest: And they're off!

Along the Yukon River, over mountains, and through seemingly endless wilderness, it's just you and your dogs for two weeks and nearly 1,000 miles (1,594kms). It's the Yukon Quest. From Whitehorse, Yukon to Fairbanks, Alaska, you may experience temperatures that drop below -40o, long nights, blizzards, blinding sun, deep snow, open creeks, jumble ice, equipment failure, and exhaustion.

Yukon Quest racers are an unusual breed. They have set out to complete an epic journey; a challenge that few can imagine taking on. Months, and usually years, of preparation are required for the race. As the world's toughest team race (you can't do it without your dogs), the question that every competitor must ask themselves is not "Will I finish first?" but "Will I even be able to finish?"

Yesterday was the start of the Yukon Quest. Jade and I went downtown to see some of the teams off on their journey.

Excited onlookers line the start of the Yukon Quest trail...

...cheering the teams as they pass.

The dogs seem to appreciate the applause.

Comin' 'roud the bend.

A wolf-like gait.

Disney, are you paying attention? Forget Universal Pictures' Balto, you need to do a movie about the Yukon Quest. Just look at these characters!

The steely-eyed lead dog...

...who you don't want to tick-off.

The strong and kindly hero.

For a nice comedic element, the over-excitable and not-exactly-intelligent supporting character...

...who comes through when the going gets tough.

The rest of the team, who are always up for a bit of fun.

The professional, sponsored team. The team to beat. Just look at those jackets! Just look at those happy dogs! You just know that they need to get into some kind of trouble so the underdogs can help them out... (I hope that doesn't happen in real life, of course)

In the afternoon, Nanuq and I went snowshoeing further down the Yukon River. We were in luck; from the heights of the clay cliffs, we could see some teams running along the trails.

Looking south towards Golden Horn and the start of the race.

A team runs down the river.

A few miles down, thousands to go.

Fourteen dogs. That's a lot of dogpower.

In for the long haul.

Nanuq watches two teams, wishing he could join them.

"If I can't run with them, I'll just stay right here and gnaw on this tree trunk! Take that, tree trunk! Take that!"

Every year, around Quest time, I get this funny feeling inside. I don't know what it is. An urge to explore? A migration instinct? A need to test myself? All I know is that it feels like I should be out there, too, and if this feeling gets any stronger, I might have to do something about it.


Jennoit said...

Love the Quest pics!! Especially the ones from a top the clay cliffs. I really wanted to be there to see the start this year, but.....not this time.

Anonymous said...

Lovely pictures - I guess I'll have to enjoy the Quest by proxy once more...
Keep the pictures coming!

Anonymous said...

You'll have to put that adventure on hold while you're in Queensland!!! :)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful pictures Michael!

Carolyn said...

Wonderful pictures of the Quest and a beautiful day....brings back memories. Thank you for sharing.

Jennybell said...

This reminds me of years ago when Snow Dogs came out on video and our neighbor's son was about 7. Us adults were all outside and he'd gotten done watching the movie and came running outside fully dressed to go dog sledding! IN JULY, 80+ degree heat and he's in full snow suit, gloves, insulated hat, boots and gloves! His school does something with the iditarod (SP?) every year, I'll have to send him a link to this site
(I saw the actual Balto (stuffed) at the Cleveland museum of history)

Sarah said...

As for that feeling... I get it too. Maybe not to do a 1000 mile epic odyssey... but what about a 300?
Love the race, love your photos from the cliffs above.

Anonymous said...

You should get Disney's "Snow Buddies" then... it's about Air Bud's (remember him?) 5 puppies who accidentally end up in Alaska and join a Husky puppy to become sled dogs and compete in a race with a little boy... Jade would probably love it.

Every Photo Tells A Story said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Every Photo Tells A Story said...

It's amazing that Nanuq can speak so well with that stick in his mouth!

P.S. You better do something about those feelings "before" you go to Queensland. And, great shots of that gorgeous landscape.