Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race
February 5, 2016
I have written about the history related to the Iditarod (see http://www.lynnlovegreen.com/iditarod-time/), but I didn’t know the history behind the Yukon Quest race until this year. Here’s a primer for those of you into sled dog racing and Alaska history.
Jujiro Wada was an adventurer also known for his association with E. T. Barnette. As you may know, Barnette was the trading post owner who founded the town of Fairbanks. When Felix Pedro (Felice Pedroni) struck gold in the area in 1902, Barnette was keen to start a rush that would benefit his business. He directed his employee Jujiro Wada to mush from Fairbanks to Dawson to tell the news to the gold miners there. This was about one-thousand miles of travel in the dead of winter, not an easy feat. But Wada was a tough guy, and made it there safely. He fulfilled his duty, and the stampede for Fairbanks was born. Some say Wada ran the first Yukon Quest.
Fast forward to 1983, when mushers Roger Williams, Leroy Shank, Ron Rosser and William “Willy” Lipps created the Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race, following historical trails along the Yukon River. The next year, Sonny Lindner became the first Yukon Quest champion by completing the race in slightly over 12 days. The Yukon Quest has been a favorite of mushers and fans ever since.
This year, there are 23 mushers starting tomorrow, and many fans young and old who travel to the checkpoints and follow their favorite teams though the race. This year is notable for a change in the starting location; warmer temperatures have made parts of the Chena River unsafe for dog teams, so it will start in a different place but still in Fairbanks. You can learn more details and follow the race from the Yukon Quest website in the sources list below.
P. S. I was able to use E. T. Barnette in Golden Days, my YA historical romance about Fairbanks, but I didn’t find a way to fit Wada in there. Maybe I’ll have to pay homage to him in another book one day. He was quite an interesting man.
Sources for this post, plus a video on the mushers:
Alaska Public Media: History of race and the new start location for this year: