Yukon Quest - Carmacks checkpoint

A view of the main resting space inside the Carmacks checkpoint Sunday morning, Feb. 3, 2019, at the Carmacks Recreation Centre. Race volunteers, media and fans are stretching out in the quiet space. 

CARMACKS, Yukon – The Yukon Quest’s traveling caravan has reached an extended stop at Carmacks, which is the second checkpoint on the Canada side and is located about 177 miles from the start line in Whitehorse, Yukon.

Every musher has arrived at Carmacks, and a few had already returned to the trail by Sunday morning to head 73 miles to Pelly Crossing, the next checkpoint. The teams trucked to Carmacks from Braeburn, which is the first checkpoint about 100 miles from the start, because of poor trail conditions between checkpoints.

After teams arrived in Braeburn, they were required to wait through a mandatory 12-hour layover, and the majority of them decided to spend that time in Carmacks.

In addition to the 12-hour layover, teams also had to wait out their start time adjustment here, a necessary addition due to the three-minute interval between each team at the start. The teams who started first had the most time added to their 12-hour wait time, while those who left Whitehorse at the back of the pack had a shorter adjustment added. All teams will now be on the same clock when they leave Carmacks.

Everybody at Carmacks seems happy to hit the pause button on their journey to Fairbanks.

“We really didn’t know what to expect with the restart,” said Carmen Gustafson, a Whitehorse resident who is in her third year working as the Carmacks checkpoint manager. “There was a little bit of guessing on our part, but I had a bunch of people come back from last year, and things are going smoothly.”

The checkpoint is held in the Carmacks Recreation Centre. There’s a main room equipped with couches and chairs that are providing mushers, handlers, race volunteers and race officials ample space to stretch out.

Attached to the main room is a kitchen, the Golden Harness Cafe, where a few of Gustafson’s 20 checkpoint volunteers are serving breakfast. Today’s menu includes the Carmacks Lucky Strike – eggs, bacon or sausage served with fresh fruit, pancakes and potato wedges. There’s also the B.O.B — Breakfast on a Bun — that includes egg-and-cheese or egg-and-bacon sandwiches served with potatoes and fruit.

Across from the kitchen is a gymnasium that has been turned into a sleeping quarters. It’s pitch black in there, giving mushers, handlers, volunteers and fans a place to catch up on some sleep in quiet.

The 12-hour layover and the checkpoint’s accommodations have created a peaceful atmosphere for people to enjoy inside.

“Everybody’s been in really good moods,” Gustafson said. “It’s been quite calm and easy to deal with. It’s been super smooth, but that’s because I have such awesome team of volunteers.”

Outside, the scene is similar to the Dawson City dog yard in the sense that each team is stationed next to its truck. Because teams were trucked from Braeburn, the Quest has allowed handlers free reign to help with the dogs, which typically is only granted in the dog yard at the start line and during the Dawson City 36-hour layover.

Although teams are consistently leaving Carmacks for Pelly and will continue to throughout the day, everybody seems happy to have had a chance to recharge before the race pushes on.

Follow News-Miner sports writer Brad Joyal on Twitter at @FDNMQuest for updates from the Yukon Quest trail.