Mushers Race Copper Basin 300 Last Weekend
Fresh snow, rain among obstacles
GLENNALLEN - The mushing season got off to a slow start with a couple of races cancelled due to the lack of snow.
That’s why mushers were eager to hit the trails this past weekend for the Copper Basin 300 in Glennallen.
CBS 11 photojournalist John Thain brings us all the action.
One of the next big races is the Kuskokwim 300 which begins in Bethel on Friday, January 18.
The Copper Basin 300 was starting strong with 37 mushers lined up and ready to hit the trail.
"It's a great tune up race for the Quest and Iditarod, and perfect timing; we're about 3 weeks from the Quest so we can make some changes and fine tune," said musher Jake Berkowitz.
John Schandelmeier agreed. This race was an important one for John Schandelmeier and his wife Zoya. The low entry fee and easy road access meant they could afford to enter two teams. His team consists almost entirely of rescue dogs.
“A lot of these dogs came from kennels or people don't want them -- they're all problem dogs of some sort,” he said.
He planned on using this race as a test – he thinks some of these dogs may end up on the Iditarod trail.
The race runs 300 miles, and mushers can expect the unexpected.
It's often known for it's cold temperatures, but this year temperatures soared to above freezing, Creating soft snow on the trail and pockets of slush on lakes and rivers.
It was early in the race, but Allen Moore, from Two Rivers, took an early lead.
He was the first one into Red Eagle Lodge
“I was trying to hold ‘em back the whole time, so that’s good, and they still got lots of energy, so that’s positive… so if we can just keep ‘em energetic…”
Over two hours later, Tony Angelo of Fairbanks arrived. His team consisted of big Siberian huskies who were less then thrilled about the warm temps.
“We're just going to take it slow and easy, it took me almost seven hours to get here but I think we'll make it to the end,” Angelo said.
Deciding how long to rest was the question on everyone's mind. Some teams took off after only a four-hour stop. Allen Moore held back. “There's six inches of new snow, so hopefully those people went in front and they're breaking trail for me.”
It was likely a good decision. The first teams into Paxson were exhausted from running in deep snow.
The next day would bring even more snow. Many mushers still had well over 150 miles to go.
Allen Moore took the lead again, but he had several teams close on his heels.
A warm rain had washed away what little remained of the trail, but when the first musher appeared at the finish line, it was clear that Allen Moore's efforts last weekend had paid off.
“It was kinda a mud-fest; the last 10 minutes were the hardest of the whole thing,” he said. “It was not an easy race and it never is, and every year there are new challenges and the great thing about this race is you don't know what the challenge is going to be until you show up.”
For many of these mushers, they'll be taking lessons learned here all the way to Nome.