In Kuskokwim 300 Dog Sled Race, King is Crowned Again
CBS 11’s John Thain covered the race from Bethel and Kalskag
BETHEL/KALSKAG - Weather didn't stop mushers from racing 300 miles on the windy Kuskokwim River last weekend. The Kuskokwim 300 attracts a crowd of elite dog teams from all over the state.
The Kuskokwim River is no stranger to dogsledding. For centuries, native Yupik men and women used them as a primary means of winter transportation across this vast, frozen highway.
We've been mushing dogs all of our lives,” said Mike Williams, Sr., “so what better place for the starting line of a dog sled race than here in Bethel? It's a way of life for us for thousands of years so I'm keeping the tradition alive here.”
The Kuskokwim 300 attracted 21 dog teams. John Baker was one of many Iditarod veterans there. “It's a good testing ground against the best teams in the sport,” he said.
Veteran musher Jeff King said, “You never really know what your team is like till you get home from the K300.”
Jeff King has a history of success here, having won it eight times. He was hoping to make it nine. “I got a nice healthy team so I'm looking forward to a good run.”
The wind chill hovered around 30 below zero, and the dogs had 300 miles to go.
Halfway there, dog teams rested in Kalskag, and Rohn Buser prepared for another long day. “I’m just bootying up, getting ready to go,” he said. “A lot of wind in the face, it looks like that’s what it’s gonna be on this next run.”
Forty-mile-an-hour gusts pounded the Kuskokwim River. But an arctic windstorm wasn’t much concern for a group of life-long dog mushers.
The next morning, winds were calm. And so was Jeff King, who held a comfortable hour’s lead.
It was his ninth victory in this race – a race that gives a nod to the history and culture of the Kuskokwim River with every passing team.
Transportation to Kalskag was provided by Yute Air.