Meet the 2020 YQ300 Mushers

TWENTY-ONE Mushers have signed up for the 2020 YQ300!

1. Nathaniel Hamlyn

25-year-old YQ300 Veteran

My sponsors: Family & Friends

Nationality: Canadian

From: Whitehorse, YT

Occupation: Lands Officer

Kennel name: Step Up Kennel          

Website: http://www.stepupkennels.com/

Kennel name origin: I always aim to improve from year to year. Putting myself and the dogs through experiences to gain confidence and be the best we can be in training and racing. 

Kennel bloodlines: Swingley, Buser

Breeds: Alaskan Husky

Number of dogs in kennel: 16

Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? 9 years

How did you get started running dogs? My father bought two Siberian Huskies as pets. These two were hooked to a sled and chased the truck or snow machine on the ice road while I "drove" the sled.

What do you love most about running dogs? I love the bond that my dogs and I have that can only come from pursuing a common goal. This bond also allows me to create a lifestyle around the need to explore new terrain, accessing areas that would be near impossible in other ways. Having a kennel is a lifestyle, this is what I really love.

Are you a member of any other organizations involved in sled dog sports? DPSAY (Dog Powered Sports Association of the Yukon)

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race? I entered the YQ300 to give my younger dogs some experience and to see a part of the Quest trail that I love. Not doing the 1000 mile also allows my wife and I to both race plus enter more races. My goal is to finish with happy healthy dogs and for all of us to learn. Plus, it's cheaper than the 1,000!

What music do you listen to on the trail? Everything but mostly country.

How did your dogs get their names/ How do you choose names? I bought the core of my team from Warren Palfrey when I switched from Siberians to Alaskans. I still have these guys and their naming theme is non-existent. A few highlights: PK, Kirsten, Tara, KC. I try to name my pups after things I enjoy; guns, trees etc.

Please share with us some stories about your dogs: Back before the start of my first Yukon Quest, I had four leaders to start the race with. After coming down Rosebud too fast I had to drop two of them. That left me with two leaders for over 800 miles, or so I thought. I by chance put KC in lead when one of those two got tired. She surprisingly did very well. She went on to lead for over half of the race from never running lead before. Then a year later (2019) she started and finished the race as one of my all-star leaders, finishing in Fairbanks after emerging off the wet river through a snowstorm. I could see the pride in her face and I have enjoyed watching her confidence grow. 

Share a quick story about one of your indispensable Handlers: I have never had a handler and have the pleasure of sharing this sport with my indispensable wife. We will be training together this winter. 

Tell us about your favorite experience with a volunteer on the trail: There are way too many great memories to pick one. Every checkpoint on the Quest has wonderful volunteers who make you feel like a king even if you are dead last. 

List recent sled dog races and/or best performances: 2019 Yukon Quest - 10th, 2018 Yukon Quest - 13th, 2017 YQ300 - 3rd.

 

2. Vickie Justice

25-year-old YQ300 Rookie

Nationality: American

From: Fairbanks, AK

Occupation: Fairbanks DOT

Kennel name: All Alaskan Kennel       

Kennel name origin: I took over my grandma’s kennel name.

Kennel bloodlines: Osmar, Sass, Mackey

Breeds: Alaskan Husky

Number of dogs in kennel: 23

Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? Since I was little.

How did you get started running dogs? My grandma, she ran dog tours for over 20 years. She passed the addiction on to me.

What do you love most about running dogs? Everything, from the bond of raising your own puppies to watching them turn into amazing little athletes.

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race? I think it’s an amazing race/organization. I handled for the 1,000 last year and really enjoyed it. I’d just like to have fun with my dogs while we all learn and experience something new.

What music do you listen to on the trail? A little bit of everything.

How did your dogs get their names/ How do you choose names? Either by personality or by category/themed names.

Please share with us some stories about your dogs: I will be racing eight of my own puppies that I raised and trained, so I am excited to see what they are capable of!

3. Dave Turner

49-year-old YQ300 Rookie

Nationality: American

From: Fairbanks, AK

Occupation(s): Musher

Kennel name: Racing Chaos 

Website: https://www.facebook.com/dave.turner.31  

Kennel name origin: Named after one of my first dogs, named Chaos.

Kennel bloodlines: Swingley, Rivest, Cook

Breeds: Alaskan Husky, Pointer

Number of dogs in kennel:40

Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? 15 years

How did you get started running dogs? Skijoring with my Malamute mix, Orcus.

What do you love most about running dogs? My dogs and the people

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race? Adventure and learning experience. My goal is to finish with a happy-looking team.

What music do you listen to on the trail? EDM, heavy metal

How did your dogs get their names/ How do you choose names? It’s a grueling process to come up with names that I like, it’s usually a theme.

Please share with us some stories about your dogs: Most of my team are from a few litters. Pluto and Ocean are my superstar leaders.

Tell us about your favorite experience with a volunteer on the trail: At The Pas in Manitoba, they hand out beers at all the road crossings on the last day of the race!

List recent sled dog races and/or best performances: 2019 Tustumena 200 – 1st (2017 and 2018 – 3rd); 2018 Knik 200 – 3rd (2017 – 15th); 2018 Fur Rondy – 14th; 2017 Alaska Excursions 120 – 1st

 

4. Misha Wiljes

51-year-old YQ300 Veteran

My sponsors: ManMat; Family; Friends; Dog and Kennel Sponsors

Nationality: Czech/American

From: Willow, AK

Occupation: Clerk

Racing name: WW Kennel     

Website: www.wiljeswillowkennel.com

Racing name origin: W W is short for “Wiljes from Willow”

Dog bloodlines: King, Redington

Breeds: Alaskan Husky

Number of dogs: 20

Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? 19 years

How did you get started running dogs?  By handling for Charlie Boulding.

What do you love most about running dogs? Being with my best dog friends out on the trail as a team!

Are you a member of any other organizations involved in sled dog sports? Willow Dog Musher Association

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race? To finish, preferably slightly better than in 2011 and 2013.

What music do you listen to on the trail? I do prefer to listen to the sounds of the wilderness.

How did your dogs get their names/ How do you choose names? Most of our dogs came with their names. If we change or need to choose a new one, we do this according to their personality which is possible due to the smallness off our kennel.

Please share with us some stories about your dogs: We have one special dog named Atlas, whom we found five years ago in the Mat-Su animal shelter. He has beautiful blue eyes. He is not afraid of water, whether it’s a puddle, stream or river. He has three 1,000 mile races under his belt!

Share a quick story about one of your indispensable Handlers: My husband is the best and only handler. He is also my mechanic and woodworker.

Tell us about your favorite experience with a volunteer on the trail: Volunteers. Vets and Race Officials are the essentials of the race, without them the race wouldn’t take place. They always give great mental support when you are in need! The Vets are super helpful and treat the dogs with great knowledge and empathy.

List recent sled dog races and/or best performances: 2019Yukon Quest 1,000 – 26th; 2018 Iditarod – 45th; 2017 Iditarod – 54th; 2012 YQ 1,000 – 17th; 2011 YQ300 - 7th.

5. Lauro Eklund

24-year-old YQ300 Rookie

My sponsors: Yukon River Camp; Northern Alaska Tour Company; Coldfoot Camp; My wallet!

Nationality: American

From: Fairbanks, Alaska

Occupation(s): Musher, Guide

Kennel name: Skookum Expeditions   

Website: https://www.skookumexpeditions.com/        

Kennel name origin: We are just always like the name, Skookum – an old Indian name meaning “good” or “solid”. It’s the name of the touring side of our kennel as well.

Kennel bloodlines: Erhart, Lance Mackey, Garnie

Breeds: Alaskan Husky

Number of dogs in kennel: 27

Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? 5 years

How did you get started running dogs? I started running dogs when I bought my first dog, Annie, from Lester Erhart’s dog yard in Tanana, a village on the Yukon River. My old man had dogs for years. Along with my brothers, he used dogs primarily for working trap lines, trips and the Iditarod. I grew up hearing dog stories from my dad and his friends about running dogs. These stories gave me the inspiration to have my own dog team.

What do you love most about running dogs? Being out on the land with them.

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race?  My main goal really is to see some of the Yukon Quest trail and of course finish so that this race will be a qualifier for the Yukon Quest 1,000 mile race. The main thing for me is just to finish with a happy team.

What music do you listen to on the trail? Bluegrass, Folk or none at all.

How did your dogs get their names/ How do you choose names? Whatever pops up in my head!

Please share with us some stories about your dogs: Most of my guys are somewhat related, same mom, different stud. Most will be from my very first litter, so it’s nice to think that some hair-brained idea that I dreamt up in a cabin on the Yukon River, before these guys even opened their eyes, has taken me this far!

List recent sled dog races and/or best performances: 2017 Two Rivers 200 – second to last place; 2016 Two  Rivers 100 – last place; 2015 Solstice 50.

6. Jennifer LaBar

37-year-old YQ300 Rookie

My sponsors: Family; Friends; Big Dan Trucking

Nationality: American

From: Healy, AK

Occupation(s): Denali Park Trail Crew; Owner of Dogsled Tour Company – Rockin’ Ridge Kennel

Kennel name:  Rockin’ Ridge Kennel

Website: https://www.rockinridgekennel.com/   

Kennel name origin: When I moved to Rock Ridge, I got serious about building a kennel.

Kennel bloodlines: King and Little/Osmar

Breeds: Alaskan Husky

Number of dogs in kennel: 25

Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? 9 years

How did you get started running dogs? I landed a job running dogs for Sonny Lindner.

What do you love most about running dogs? Just being in the beautiful outdoors with my best friends and being self-reliant.

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race? I entered the YQ300 to challenge myself and enjoy a new adventure with my dogs. My goal is to finish with happy and healthy dogs

What music do you listen to on the trail? I don’t listen to music much on the trail but when I do, it’s old rock or something peppy.

How did your dogs get their names/ How do you choose names? Some came to me with names already and the others are named after places that I want to go (Himalayan Peaks), places I have been and other cool adventures.

Please share with us some stories about your dogs: A friend gave me a dog that was too fast for his team and she has turned into the matriarch of my kennel. I have 12 of her puppies, many of them make up my current race team and the others will join the future team.

Share a quick story about one of your indispensable Handlers: It’s not just one story about my good friend and handler, Jess. It’s her invaluable trait of having a consistent, cool, calm and collected nature. She is always up for anything too, trail or no trail.

Tell us about your favorite experience with a volunteer on the trail: The checkpoint manager in Dawson City had my passport delivered to my hotel in Whitehorse after I left it in the hotel in Dawson City!

List recent sled dog races and/or best performances: 2018 Two Rivers 100 – 5th and Vet’s Choice; 2017 Copper Basin 300 Finisher!

7. Karolyn Bristol

28-year-old YQ300 Rookie

My sponsors: SP Kennel (Aliy and Allen); My Family

Nationality: American

From: Merrimack, NH

Occupation(s): Tour Guide/Handler

Kennel name:  SP Kennel      

Website: https://spkennel.com/

Kennel name origin: Names Skunk's Place Kennel after Aliy's first sled dog.

Kennel bloodlines: SP Kennel

Breeds: Alaskan Husky

Number of dogs in kennel: 51

 Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? 4 years

How did you get started running dogs? I reached out to Aliy my senior year of college asking what she would recommend to someone who wanted to get into dog mushing. She invited me to come up and spend a month with them. I was hooked!

What do you love most about running dogs? Spending one-on-one time with the dogs.

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race? I entered to work towards the Iditarod and YQ1,000 and I'll be happy just getting to the finish line with happy and healthy dogs!

What music do you listen to on the trail? Anything with a good beat or fun lyrics, a lot of Broadway musicals!

How did your dogs get their names/ How do you choose names? My first dog, Kenobi became mine on May 4th, Star Wars Day.

Please share with us some stories about your dogs: Some of these dogs are from the first litter of puppies that I ever helped deliver, the coffee litter, who are now four years old!

Are you a member of any other organizations involved in sled dog sports? Two Rivers Dog Mushing Association

List recent sled dog races and/or best performances: 2019 Two Rivers 100 - 5th.

8. Chad Stoddard

32-year-old YQ300 Rookie

My sponsors: (Lance Mackey) Come Back Kennel

Nationality: American

From: Fairbanks, AK

Occupation(s): Guide

Kennel name:  Come Back Kennel; Mackey's All-In Racing    

Website: https://www.facebook.com/comebackkennel/

Kennel name origin: Lance Mackey

Kennel bloodlines: Mackey

Breeds: Alaskan Husky

Number of dogs in kennel: 40

Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? 6 years

How did you get started running dogs? I started in 2014 working for Iditarod Veteran Billy Snodgrass in Wyoming.

What do you love most about running dogs? I love traveling with the dogs and being with them in the Wilderness. There is always something new to learn. Overcoming things together, as a team.

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race? I entered the YQ300 to learn and grow alongside my team. I hope to finish this race as a qualifier for the Yukon Quest 1,000 and the Iditarod. My goals are to finish with a happy and healthy team, to the best of our abilities.

What music do you listen to on the trail? Last winter it was Radiohead, Queen, Jimi Hendrix, Blackwater Railroad, Infamous, String Dusters, Yonder Mountain String Band, Waylon Jennings, Trampled by Turtles or nothing at all.

How did your dogs get their names/ How do you choose names? Some are named after the Alaska Sweepstakes Race and some have an electric theme because of their mother, Electra.

Please share with us some stories about your dogs: They are Lance Mackey's dogs that I have raised and trained since they were a few months old.

List recent sled dog races and/or best performances: 2019 Alpine 65 - 7th; 2019 Solstice 50 - 18th; 2019 Eureka Lodge 156 - 8th.

 

9. Benjamin Good

40-year-old YQ300 Veteran

My sponsors: My wife

Nationality: American

From: North Pole, AK

Occupation: Petroleum Refinery Lab Manager

Kennel name:  Good Alaska Mushing Company

Website: https://www.facebook.com/goodalaskamushing/

Kennel name origin: My name, the place I live, what I do.

Kennel bloodlines: Burmeister

Breeds: Alaskan Husky

Number of dogs in kennel: 24

Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? 11 years

How did you get started running dogs? I started by skijoring with a yellow lab retriever.

What do you love most about running dogs? I love the Alaska lifestyle, the dogs, raising pups, the challenges of winter travel.

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race? I love the people and the energy that surrounds the Yukon Quest, the dogs, the challenges of the trail...Rosebud and Eagle Summit, Birch Creek. Central Corner bar is the best place to be in Alaska on the first weekend in February. (Fairbanks start, even-numbered years)

Are you a member of any other organizations involved in sled dog sports? TRMA Two Rivers Mushing Association

What music do you listen to on the trail? None

How did your dogs get their names/ How do you choose names? Themes. Sometimes inspired by my kids. Latest litter is named after the kids' TV show 'Paw Patrol'...Zuma, Rocky, Rebel. Ryder.

Please share with us some stories about your dogs: My main leader, Popy, is all business. We have a yellow lab named Kobuk, who is a full-time pet. When Kobuk was a puppy his favorite toy was a stuffed fox with a squeaker in it. Popy came in from a training run one afternoon, gave Kobuk the stink-eye, walked over and picked up the stuffed toy, chewed it in half and spit it out, then walked away. Popy doesn't have time for nonsense except for belly rubs, as to her belly rubs are not considered nonsense!

Share a quick story about one of your indispensable Handlers: In 2018, in Central, I couldn't sleep so I got up and went out to the team before my wake-up call. Handlers aren't allowed in the sleeping area. My handler, Drew couldn't find me and had three volunteers searching for me. He was paranoid that I had missed my wake-up call!

Tell us about your favorite experience with a volunteer on the trail: In the 2018 YQ300 it was a close race to the finish line. Traditionally the finish line is when you pull up beside the Central Bar. Barb Moore realized we needed an actual finish line so she rallied the townt...so the finish line was red spray paint across the road!

List recent sled dog races and/or best performances: 2019 Two Rivers 200 - 3rd; 2018 Alpine Creek Excursion - 3rd; 2018 Yukon Quest 300 - 1st; 2018 Copper Basin - 14th; 2017 Yukon Quest - 13th.

10. Joe Taylor

27-year-old YQ300 Rookie

Nationality: American

From: Fairbanks, AK

Occupation: Guide, Animal Care Technician

Kennel name:  Mushing Malarkey

Kennel name origin: My good friend and fellow musher Jacob Witkop, has an art for re-naming my dogs. One of my leaders, Meloz, who has a rock for a hand and a face only a mother could love, became Malarkey very early on to Jacob. He is a particulary goofy and senseless dog, yet I love him The name represents our, sometimes less-serious, but always fun, approach to the sport.

Kennel bloodlines: The Melting Pot - King, Zirkle, Erhart, Hall

Breeds: Alaskan Husky

Number of dogs in kennel: 14

Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? 3 years

How did you get started running dogs? I worked with sprint musher Arleigh Reynolds for a summer exercise science project and I was hooked from then on. I learned a lot about conditioning dogs from Arleigh, but those dogs are too fast! I like to sip coffee while standing on the runners.

What do you love most about running dogs? Some of my favorite mushing memories are being out on the remote trails and camping with my dogs in beautiful spots. I really love the process of training and conditioning, that stretches us to do these trips. I love putting the time in training dogs and watching them respond. Watching them grow is extremely rewarding and what I love most about this sport.

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race? My goal this year is to show the dogs and myself the trail and keep them happy and healthy. Last year, we were trained and ready to go for a couple of 200 mile races that were cancelled or postponed, so we are excited to race this year!

Are you a member of any other organizations involved in sled dog sports? TRMA - Two Rivers Mushing Association

What music do you listen to on the trail? I listen to a wide range of podcasts but will throw on some Queen, Dave Mathews Band or pop hits occasionally.

How did your dogs get their names/ How do you choose names? Most of my dogs came with names. The dogs I have named, I've received endless criticism for from friends, so I am excited to have a litter and think of some new and even more sillier names for them.

Please share with us some stories about your dogs: Kevin is one of my yearlings that I'm really excited about. I got him as a puppy from Ware Marrs. As Kevin grew up, I became concerned about a few things. I realized he wasn't really learning his name (long after the other pups had it down) and he was always running into things and tripping on stuff. It turned out that Kevin is just a total bonehead and canine wrecking ball. He becomes full-tilt in harness and now that he knows his name, you'd better watch out when you call him because he will come at you full-speed!

Share a quick story about one of your indispensable Handlers: I am a one-man operation!

Tell us about your favorite experience with a volunteer on the trail: Words of encouragement and a high-five from volunteers goes a long way. I appreciate that they are standing out in the cold to keep things safe for us.

List recent sled dog races and/or best performances: 2019 Solstice 50 - 19th.

11. Cody Waterbury

25-year-old YQ300 Rookie

My sponsors: Husky Homestead; AIH; Redpaw; Kaladi Brother's Coffee; Usibelli Coal Mine; Inlet Tower Hotel and Suites; Howling Dog Alaska; Tara Cicatello.

Nationality: American

From: New Port Richey, FL

Occupation: Dog Handler and Tour Guide

Kennel name:  Husky Homestead

Website: https://huskyhomestead.com/

Kennel name origin: I work for Jeff King and will be running under his kennel name.

Kennel bloodlines: King

Breeds: Alaskan Husky

Number of dogs in kennel: 36

Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? 3 years

How did you get started running dogs? I came up from Florida for a summer job at Husky Homestead and ended up staying for the winter. I learned how to run dogs that first winter, stayed for another summer and then opted for a break. Over my time away, I realized how much I missed it, so I'm back at it!!

What do you love most about running dogs? I love watching the puppies grow into themselves and become sled dogs. I love the Alaskan wilderness and the bond gained between humans and their animals.

Please share with us some stories about your dogs: Jeff King let me name two of the pups from his "Cinco de Mayo" litter; Luna and Sol. I'm hoping that they will be the lead dogs for my race since I was involved in raising them. I trained and harness-broke the Cinco de Mayo litter my first winter here, so it will be great to see them racing after having the opportunity to spend so much time with them.

What music do you listen to on the trail? I listen to Folk and Bluegrass if I'm feeling calm; Hip-Hop if I need a confidence boost; and Punk if Ineed to get pumped!

How did your dogs get their names/ How do you choose names? We usually put them in themes by litter and all our staff also submit their ideas to Jeff.

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race: To finish with a strong, happy and healthy dog team. And to be warm! Ideally this race will be my first qualifier for the Iditarod in 2021!

Share a quick story about one of your indispensable Handlers: I’m not sure you who will be handling for me yet, but I know they will do a great job and I’ll be fortunate to have them helping me out.

Tell us about your favorite experience with a volunteer on the trail: I have never been on the trail, but I am looking forward to some great experiences on the trail with them!

List recent sled dog races and/or best performances: 2017 Alpine Creek Excursions Race - 14th place.

12. Ryan Freedman

30-year-old YQ300 Rookie

My Sponsors: Dave Dalton and Alaska Heli-Mush Tours

Nationality: American

From: Nenana, AK

Occupation: Tour Guide and Winter Dog Tours

Kennel name:  YoopAK Kennels

Website: http://www.yoopakkennelandtours.com/

Kennel name origin: I was given the trail name YoopAK (you-pack) on the Appalachian Trail because fellow hikers said all of my stories stemmed from Alaska and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (Yoopers).

Kennel bloodlines: Dalton

Breeds: Alaskan Husky

Number of dogs in kennel: 14

Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? 10 years

How did you get started running dogs? By chance. I ws doing yard work for a woman in Michigan and she asked if I wanted to help with her kennel.

What do you love most about running dogs? The journey with the dogs. Seeing untouched places with the dogs. I love working together as a team to reach new places. 

Please share with us some stories about your dogs: A special member of this year's team is Katahdin. He is a three and-a-half year old superstar and was the first puppy my wife and I had from our own breeding. He LOVES single lead. He will be running this year with his two half-brothers, Willie and Hank Jr., who are Quest finishers. His two cousins, Flash and Voltage, will be along for the run!

What music do you listen to on the trail? I listen to upbeat or Christian music.

How did your dogs get their names/ How do you choose names? My wife and I come up with different themes. We have siblings from the "Lightning" litter; "Lonesome Dove" litter and "Country Singer" litter.

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race: I entered the race in order to experience the trail and journey with the dogs. Our goals are to finish happy and healthy with a big team.

Share a quick story about one of your indispensable Handlers: We have no handlers. Mushing is a family affair that I do along with my wife and four young boys.

13. Leigh Strehlow Pagel

31-year-old YQ300 Rookie

My Sponsors: My husband, Family and Friends

Nationality: American

From: Fairbanks, AK

Kennel name:  Howls Moving Kennels

Website: https://www.howlsmovingkennel.com/

Kennel name origin: I was inspired by a book with similarities to our Quest: Finding our place, without conflict.

Kennel bloodlines: Moore, Mackey

Breeds: Alaskan Husky

Number of dogs in kennel: 19

Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? 5 years

How did you get started running dogs? The Cheechako Race during the April Races in Tanana got me hooked and my best friend helped me get addicted!

What do you love most about running dogs? Just being out there...The freedom of being out there on the trail or in the wide open along with the teamwork that transpires between myself and my dogs.

Please share with us some stories about your dogs: All of my dogs, except one are related or siblings. I will have a Big Family of dogs running together on the race. I'm excited to have my First Litter of two-year-olds running in the race too.

What music do you listen to on the trail? I listen to Reggae, EDM and Country.

How did your dogs get their names/ How do you choose names? I have a "Space Theme" happening with Star Wars and the crew from Futurama (not planned)! Also a "Food Theme" seems to be taking over. I usually use a theme inspired by the parents or try to keep theme names with littermates (Ham and Egg).

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race: I entered the race in order to experience the Quest and to finish with happy and healthy dogs.

Share a quick story about one of your indispensable Handlers: After 15-hour shifts, in the rain, with freezing temps, he helps me do what I love daily and every "turd" he scoops shows me how much he loves me!

14. Luther Buhr

27-year-old YQ300 Rookie

My Sponsors: Dan and Chris Turner; Alaska Icefield Expeditions, Riley Dyche, Dan and Kara Buhr.

Nationality: American

From: Fairbanks, AK

Kennel name:  Dark Horse Racing Kennel

Website: https://www.darkhorsesleddogs.com/

Kennel bloodlines: Hayashida, Swingley, Hall, Eaton

Breeds: Alaskan Husky

Number of dogs in kennel: 30

Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? 7 years

How did you get started running dogs? I had a canoe guide who was also a musher when I was 15. Speaking with him about mushing sparked my interest in the sport. I dabbled with mushing a little in 2012. In 2013, I made the move to Fairbanks to chase my mushing dreams. Since then I've handled for Sven Haltmann, Matt Hall and Riley Dyche, plus I started to breed my own team!

What do you love most about running dogs? The dogs plus their love, passion and enthusiasm. I love watching young dogs develop into top-tier athletes.

Please share with us some stories about your dogs: My YQ300 team will be a mix of Riley Dyche's yearlings and a few of my own yearlings, so I'm very, very excited about that!

What music do you listen to on the trail? Everything from Tupac and Biggie to The Black Keys and Trampled by Turtles. Audio books are also a staple to my training season.

How did your dogs get their names/ How do you choose names? Riley's yearlings consist of the "Lord of the Rings" litter and "The Triple Crown" litter. Riley loves the Lord of the Rings books and The Triple Crown pups were born around the time Justify won the Triple Crown in 2018. My personal yearlings are the "Canoe Brand" litter (Old Town, Wenonah and Seliga). I've always had a strong love of being on the water.

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race: I entered this race to give these yearlings a quality learning experience. My goal is to get 14 happy wagging tails across the finish line!

Share a quick story about one of your indispensable Handlers: I am the 'indispensible handler'...haha...that has a nice ring to it!

Tell us about your favorite experience with a volunteer on the trail: I've been involved with the Yukon Quest for a few years now and I've never had a bad experience with a volunteer! Everybody has always been super happy and helpful!

List recent sled dog races and/or best performances: 2017 Two Rivers 200 - 11th place; 2016 Copper Basin 300 - 25th place.

15. Claudia Wickert

38-year-old YQ300 Veteran

Nationality: German

From: Whitehorse, YT

Kennel name:  Fox Creek Kennel

Kennel name origin: We live near Fox Creek.

Kennel bloodlines: Kleedehn, Gatt

Breeds: Alaskan Husky

Number of dogs in kennel: 25

Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? 12 years

How did you get started running dogs? As a guide.

What do you love most about running dogs? I love spending time on the trail with my amazing dogs. 

Please share with us some stories about your dogs: My team will be a mix of experienced dogs and a few younger dogs that haven't raced much yet. Most of them were born in our kennel and are related to each other. I am looking forward to spending lots of time training and racing with them. 

What music do you listen to on the trail? None. 

How did your dogs get their names/ How do you choose names? We usually pick a theme for each litter. 

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race: I hope to make it to the finish line with happy and healthy dogs and be able to enjoy the beautiful scenery. 

List recent sled dog races: 2019 - Silver Sled 100, 2017 - YQ300, 2016 - Two Rivers 200, 2015 - YQ 300 

 

16. Sean Underwood

28-year-old YQ300 Rookie

My Sponsors: Husky Homestead, AIH, Redpaw, Kaladi Brothers Coffee, Usibelli Coal Mine, Inlet Tower Hotel & Suites, Howling Dog Alaska, Kate Underwood, Kailyn Fitts

Nationality: American

From: Atlanta, GA

Website: www.mushsean.com / www.huskyhomestead.com 

Kennel name:  Husky Homestead

Kennel name origin: I work for Jeff King, and will be running under his kennel name.

Kennel bloodlines: King

Breeds: Alaskan Husky

Number of dogs in kennel: 36

Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? 4 years

How did you get started running dogs? I came up to Alaska to commercial fish with my uncle, aunt and cousin out of Kodiak Island. After two summers of fishing, I wanted to stay up here for a winter, so my family introduced me to their friend Jeff King - and he took a chance on me. 

What do you love most about running dogs? The peace and quiet of your team moving down the trail, the scenery and the places you get to see, and of course the bond with the dogs. 

Please share with us some stories about your dogs: We have a number of dogs between two and four years of age that are hitting their prime. I'm excited to see that process in their development leading up to the race. 

What music do you listen to on the trail? Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band, or I just listen to the dogs. 

Are you a member of any other organizations involved in sled dog sports? Dog Powered Sports Association of Yukon (DPSAY)

How did your dogs get their names/ How do you choose names? We pick themes for each litter. 

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race: I wanted to see new country. I also handled for the 2018 Yukon Quest, and ever since then, it has been on my mind. 

Share a quick story about one of your indispensable Handlers: It's me that's the handler - haha!

Tell us about your favorite experience with a volunteer on the trail: During the Tustemena race, a woman came up to me as I was taking care of the dogs. I was kind of ignoring her because I was busy with the dogs. She asked me what my name was, and I mumbled my answer. She said, "Nice to meet you, I'm Libby Riddles." 

List recent sled dog races: 2016 Alpine Creek Excursions Race - Finished, 2017 Tustumena 200 - 14th, 2018 Copper Basin 300 - 24th

 

17. Jeremy Traska

29-year-old YQ300 Rookie

My Sponsors: Alaska Icefield Expeditions, Juelie Traska, John Traska

Nationality: American

From: Two Rivers

Website: www.howlingridgekennel.com

Kennel name:  Howling Ridge Kennel 

Kennel name origin: My wife named the kennel when she started the team as a young girl. the dog yard sat on a small ridge and the dogs loved to howl. 

Kennel bloodlines: Our own/Chezik/Hall

Breeds: Alaskan Husky

Number of dogs in kennel: 44

Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? 7 years

How did you get started running dogs? I got a job working for a summer tour guiding company in Juneau and I've been hooked on mushing ever since. 

What do you love most about running dogs? I love spending every day with the dogs and travelling across Alaska with them. 

Please share with us some stories about your dogs: Impluse and Velocity are siblings that I've raised from birth. When they were puppies, they loved to come inside and cuddle on the couch with me. Now, as adults, they love it when I nap with them in the straw while resting on the trail. I'm sure they will be ready to cuddle when we get over Rosebud and Eagle Summits!

What music do you listen to on the trail? A little bit of everything. 

How did your dogs get their names/ How do you choose names? Themes that have a special meaning to us. 

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race: I entered to gain more race experience as I prepare to run the 1,000 mile Yukon Quest within the next few years. 

Share a quick story about one of your indispensable Handlers: My wife and I run our kennel without any extra help, so we are each other's handlers. I have handled for her twice on this race and this year she will be raking up my straw. Thanks, Shaynee!

Tell us about your favorite experience with a volunteer on the trail: All of the volunteers we meet along the trail are awesome because they allow us to do what we love. 

List recent sled dog races: 2017 Two Rivers 200 - 5th, 2019 Copper Basin 300 - 12th 

 

18. Deke Naaktgeboren

35-year-old YQ300 Veteran

My Sponsors: Aurora Animal Clinic, Chicken Creek Saloon, Eric Straley and family, Kendall Elifrits, Brenda and Marty Shinn, and the wonderful Individual Dog Sponsors

Nationality: American

From: Pella, IA

Website: www.dekesdogs.com

Kennel name:  Nautique Sky

Kennel name origin: My Siberian Husky from college name Nautique, who passed away unexpectedly and now lives in the sky! Nautique Sky. 

Kennel bloodlines: Our own, Seavey, Gephardt

Breeds: Alaskan Husky

Number of dogs in kennel: 41

Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? 9 years

How did you get started running dogs? By playing the computer game "The Yukon Trail", it lured me to be interested in life in the north, the Gold Rush, and eventually dog mushing. 

What do you love most about running dogs? I love having the sled packed for multiple days, getting to ten miles into the run, and knowing that wherever we are going over the next couple of days, it's me and the dogs and we will take care of each other. 

Please share with us some stories about your dogs: I'll be running five yearlings themed after Canadian icons. Molson, Maple, Poutine, Toonie and Bubba Canuck. Bubba was sponsored last season as a puppy in honor of a very good young man from my home town that tragically passed away, his name was Bubba. We renamed Canuck to Bubba and it will be exciting and extra special to launch his racing career this season. Bubba is fun-loving, a bit goofy and a very genuine dog.

What music do you listen to on the trail? Chris Ledoux, Eric Church and "Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus.

How did your dogs get their names/ How do you choose names? Just trying to always think of fun themes and tie them into what's going on in my world at the time of naming the pups. I have Special K Litter, Disney Princess Litter, Canadian Litter, Mexican Litter and the College Mascot Litter. 

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race: A warm up race for the Iditarod on familiar turf and to train some yearling dogs. The YQ300 is a really good taste of some extreme terrain, bitter cold conditions, and you really get to learn about Birch Creek - twice. 

Share a quick story about one of your indispensable Handlers: Anna and Colter were incredible last year and handled the entire Quest for me. 

Tell us about your favorite experience with a volunteer on the trail: The entire crew at 1010 in last year's blizzard was incredible. Everyone pitched in and helped each other and exemplified what the Quest is all about. And I can't forget the bacon... 

Are you a member of any other organizations involved in sled dog sports? Two Rivers Dog Mushers Association (TRDMA)Dog Powered Sports Association of Yukon (DPSAY)

List recent sled dog races: 2018/2019 Solstice 50 - 6th, 2018/2019 Alpine Creek 65 - 12th, 2018/2019 Copper Basin 300 - 19th, 2018/2019 - Yukon Quest - 16th, 2018/2019 Silver Sled 100 - 6th, 2018/2019 Two Rivers 200 - 6th, 2018/2019 Percy DeWolfe 210 - 8th

19. Tabitha Hughes

38-year-old YQ300 Rookie

Nationality: American

From: Syracuse, NY

Kennel name:  Howling Bay Kennel

Kennel name origin: After the matriarch, Bay. She is the first Greenland Dog of Howling Bay. 

Kennel bloodlines: Greenland, Canada, Alaska

Breeds: Inuit

Number of dogs in kennel: 36

Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? 12 years

How did you get started running dogs? I started as a handler after responding to an ad at Coldspot!

What do you love most about running dogs? The silence and the solitude of the wilderness.

Please share with us some stories about your dogs: Bay will be joining us on this adventure!

What music do you listen to on the trail? A mix of modern and classic.

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race: I have volunteered at checkpoints, at the Vet Checks, and as a handler multiple times. The people that put their heart and soul into organizing this race, and the amazing country that it crosses, have intrigued me for years!

Share a quick story about one of your indispensable Handlers: Anna and Colter were incredible last year and handled the entire Quest for me. 

Are you a member of any other organizations involved in sled dog sports? We are actively working toward a "Mush with P.R.I.D.E." certification. TRDMA as well. 

 

20. Madeline Rubida

27-year-old YQ300 Veteran

My Sponsors: Tagish Lake Kennel (Michelle Phillips & Ed Hopkins) 

Nationality: American

From: Hungry Horse, Montana

Website: www.tagishlakekennel.com

Kennel name:  Tagish Lake Kennel

Breeds: Alaskan Husky

Musher Question and Answer

How did you get started running dogs? Handling for Dew Claw Kennel in Chatanika, AK. 

What do you love most about running dogs? Travelling through beautiful country in winter as a team. 

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race: Because Michelle told me to! The goal is to finish with a happy team. 

List recent sled dog races: 2019 YQ300 - 4th, 2018 McCall Ultra Sled Dog Challenge 5th, 2018 Montana Race to the Sky 100, 2015 ACE Race

 

21. Jacob Witkop

30-year-old YQ300 Rookie

My Sponsors: The Crew at Pile Driver Kennel! Lina, Doug, Noah, Brittany, Arkigh & Donna. My girlfriend Becky

Nationality: American

From: Massena, NY

Kennel bloodlines: King, Reynolds, Holmes, Turner

Breeds: Alaskan Husky

Number of dogs in kennel: 25

Musher Question and Answer

How many years have you been running dogs? 8 years

How did you get started running dogs? I used to hook up the neighbourhood dogs to a snow sled. I went to Alaska to run sled dogs in my gap year after my undergrad and never moved back. 

What do you love most about running dogs? Watching a team build and grow while spending a lot of time with them. 

What music do you listen to on the trail? The jingle of the tuglines and snaps. 

How did your dogs get their names/ How do you choose names? I usually pick a book and name puppies after the characters. 

Why did you enter the 2020 YQ300 and what are your goals for the race: To try the challenge of the Quest and finish my first 300 mile race. 

Are you a member of any other organizations involved in sled dog sports? ISDRA, ADMA, TRDMA

List recent sled dog races: 2019 Solstice 100 - 3rd, 2018 ACE Race - 10th, 2018 Two Rivers 200 - 4th