2-9-2019 3:46 PM
Brent is leaving Circle, closely followed by a very strong group of experienced competitors, and they are headed out on a deceptively difficult run. How so you may ask? It certainly isn’t the longest distance between checkpoints, and there are no major summits. Here let me pull some info directly from the Yukon Quest – Mushers Guide to the Trail: “Expect it to be 15 degrees colder on Birch Creek than in Circle”, “It is winding, endless, and almost always the coldest section of the Yukon Quest. Be prepared for minus 60. Expect overflow and beautiful Northern Lights…” Fairly accurate, except I don’t remember any Northern Lights. And looking at the current weather in Circle, hovering at about 13 F / -11 C I would hazard a guess that at least for now Birch Creek will not be -60.
This insidious section has the potential to be heartbreaking. Even on good years the trail just seems to take way linger then it should. You are nearing the end of the race, and there is a chance your tired mind is laying tricks with you. For instance at one point in time when I was racing I found myself mesmerized by the sheer beauty of the sun and moon doing battle for real-estate in the big sky above me. I mushed along soaking it all in, and then I realized I could not remember weather this was sunrise or sunset? On some level it didn’t matter, so I decided to just keep watching and find out. But that my friends, is an example of what I am talking about. And things like that are likely to happen on endless stretches like Birch Creek.
Past popular camping spots include the cabin Carl Cochrane. Until his passing in 2011 his door was always open to Quest Mushers, and was a favorite stop for many. It is unclear if it is open to mushers this year, but I would not be at all surprised to see mushers stop there. Landmarks are helpful on winding little rivers like Birch Creek.
Matt and Denis are making their way to Circle. Based on the Race Flow chart Denis may be having a slightly better run, but both look to be strong and moving well.
It appears Ryne, Nathaniel, and Torsten are resting at Slaven’s. Ryne has been there for a while and there is a chance she will be gone before Jessie gets in. The boys however appear to have arrived more recently and with Jessie just 15 miles out she may be there with them in a few short hours.
As we look farther down the trail it looks like there are a lot of teams resting at Trout Creek, with the notable exception of Curt, who appears to be camping past there, will be watching to see what he does from there.
As we see these teams starting to spread out on the trail I thought it might be fun to get some perspective on the distance we are dealing with. So again I called on one of my wicked smart and tech savvy friends, Chris at Boreal Perspectives to help with a graphic. All too often Alaska is just a small box tucked up in the corner of the map, and that just doesn’t do justice to Alaska and the Yukon. So Chris made me this:
The map is to scale. If you put the Yukon Quest trail over a map of the lower 48 Whitehorse would be in Nashville TN. Dawson would be in St. Louis MO, and the Fairbanks finish would be just north of Kansas City. Thanks to my good friend Chris for the perspective.