Armchair Musher: What not to ask your musher in Dawson…

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Well between training runs and packing drop bags I can’t help but sneak a peak at the Yukon Quest trackers to see who is where.  And currently teams are either in, or headed to their mandatory 36-hour rest in Dawson. Got me thinking about back when I was handling for Dan and the team in Dawson.

Mushers arrive trail worn and a bit weary, although glad to be there and looking forward to the respite of 36 hours in one place and the help of a trusted handler crew. It is actually hard to explain what it feels like to come off 500 miles of mostly solitary trail and into the bustling scene that is Dawson during the Quest. And I am sure for each musher it is different as each has traveled their own personal journey (both literally and figuratively) to get to that point. But experience has taught me a few things about the arrival in Dawson…too much talking is not a good thing. Face it mushers have been alone with their teams and the thoughts in their heads for miles, and are running on little to no sleep, which can make a musher pretty wonky.

The above thoughts were the starting point for a pretty funny conversation that happened one year in Dawson. Don’t even remember now who all was there, sitting around waiting for mushers to come in. This was in the days before trackers when we all just had to (somewhat) patiently wait till we thought/hoped our musher would come in. And then all race outside at the first sign of a headlamp to see who it actually was. Such fun, but I digress….

Anyhow a group of handlers, vets, and volunteers were sitting around waiting at the checkpoint, and somehow the conversation turned to “what not to say to your musher when they first arrive”. The list was never written down, and over the years the topic has come up again, usually at checkpoints while waiting for mushers to arrive; so the idea has evolved over time. Thinking about it now still makes me giggle, and I hope you enjoy it as well. I am winging it from memory, but I am sure you will get the gist of it; here we go….

Top 5 things to NOT to ask your musher when they arrive in Dawson….

With sarcastic musher replies, just for fun.

#5 – The transmission went out on your truck, and while I was at the shop they mentioned you need new CV joints, do you know how worn out yours are?

Please for the love of god do not mention the truck… yes I know it is old and in need of repair, but what do you want me to do about it now? I am kinda busy trying to run a race.

#4 – Your mother sent some of your favorite homemade cookies, but we were so hungry on the way here we ate them all up, when you write her a thank you card will you please ask her for the recipe they were delicious.

You ate them all…. why are you telling me this?

#3 – You know *insert name of musher in the lead here* was 8 hours faster than you on that last run, why aren’t you going that fast?

Because I am purposefully trying to go as slow as possible thus making your delightful little vacation as handler last longer.

#2 – Oh I am so glad you are finally here, I have been waiting for hours and was getting a bit of a headache, and may be getting a tiny cold, but now that you are checked in, can I finally take a nice nap?

Of course, this is the only place I can actually use your help, but I wouldn’t want you to put yourself out or anything. Plus I have been getting plenty of sleep, good to go for hours.

#1 – What is that smell?

What smell?

So what can you safely say to your musher when they arrive in Dawson, that is easy:

#1 – I love you

*unless that would be socially awkward, in which case “you are awesome” will suffice

#2 – truck is running great

*lie of you have to

#3 – here eat this

*place food in front of them, right now they will eat anything so don’t worry too much about what it is

#4 – your camp site is this way

*and lead them to the campground where you have set up a wonderful camp for them and the dogs (you better have if you are the handler cause that is your job)

#5 – get some sleep

* you won’t have to say that twice

Story re-printed from Dew Claw Kennel website:

Jodi Bailey