DAWSON CITY, Yukon — Not too many Yukon Quest mushers have the benefit of resting in their own beds during the 1,000-mile race from Whitehorse, Yukon, to Fairbanks.
The idea of walking to your own fridge and grabbing a cold one or binge-watching a series on Netflix are likely luxuries most mushers could only dream about during a 1,000-mile race.
For two mushers in this year’s field of 30, veteran Brian Wilmshurst and rookie Jason Biasetti, that idea of staying at home in Dawson City was a reality.
Wilmshurst and Biasetti are both from Dawson City, where the fourth and final checkpoint on the Canada side is located. After teams travel 210 miles to reach Dawson from Pelly Crossing, they’re required to spend a 36-hour mandatory layover before beginning the 150-mile journey to Eagle, the first checkpoint on the Alaska side.
For Wilmshurst, who owns an ice cream store in Dawson that he operates when he’s not on a sled, the extended stay at home has been anything but relaxing.
“I’ve only gotten like three hours of sleep since I’ve been home,” said Wilmhurst, who attended Wednesday’s trail report meeting at the checkpoint while wearing a tie-dye T-shirt and a pair of the signature gym shorts he’s known for sporting around the trail.
“I don’t know, I think I get more sleep on the trail maybe. I’m worried about all the snow I’ve got to shovel in front of the ice cream store, so I’ve got to call a couple buddies up to help shovel.”
Before the veteran and his team had even arrived in Dawson, Wilmhurst said his 13 dogs could sense they were getting close to home.
“We camped about 50 miles out,” he said. “I thought we’d stay for about four hours, but after two they were up walking around like, ‘Let’s get out of here.’ So I was like, ‘All right, if you don’t want to hang out, let’s get to Dawson.’”
Now that he’s home, though, Wilmshurst figures he’ll make different plans next time he enters the Quest.
“I feel like I’ve got to go home and do chores,” the bearded musher said. “Maybe next time I will get a hotel room and hide out in it.”
Reitan feels at home
Martin Apayauq Reitan wasn’t running toward home, but the 21-year-old rookie from Kaktovik sure felt like it during certain points of the trail between Pelly Crossing and Dawson.
The rookie attended high school in Norway before relocating to Kaktovik, on Alaska’s North Slope, and he said the trail triggered thoughts of both places.
“Between Pelly and (Dawson), there were some really nice big, slopey mountains,” he said. “Up in Kaktovik, when we go up in the mountains, there are much steeper mountains and there’s no trees. Those mountains I went over from Pelly to here reminded me of the mountains in Norway.”
Sass pays tribute
Although 2015 champion Brent Sass said each of his 14 dogs performed well during the run from Pelly to Dawson, he singled out one dog in particular, 5-year-old Jeep, who he used as a leader for much of the run into Dawson.
“Jeep is the only dog on my team that I haven’t raised and trained and had all his life,” said Sass, who was the first musher into Dawson. “He’s a dog I got from a real good friend that passed away a couple years ago, Joee Redington.”
Redington was a sprint musher and often told Sass that Jeep had the potential to run distance races. After Redington died in 2017, Sass bought the dog from Redington’s wife, Pam, and was determined to get him on the trail.
“I was going to prove Joee right that he could be a distance dog,” Sass said.
After watching Jeep lead during three of his four long runs on the way to Dawson, Sass said he felt like the Quest rookie proved he can handle a 1,000-mile race.
“It’s a really proud moment for me, and it brings Joee’s spirit on the trail with me,” Sass said. “He was a really good friend and mentor of mine, so it’s awesome.”
Follow News-Miner sports writer Brad Joyal on Twitter at @FDNMQuest for updates from the Yukon Quest trail.