While the Yukon Quest continues, they’ve moved on from their mandatory 36 layover in Dawson City and are moving towards the Fairbanks finish line.

This year Jeff volunteered to help sort the straw and dog food bags that were sent ahead of time by the race teams. He also spent 5 hours in the minus thirties bucking up trees that were delivered as firewood for the vet shack.

Together we volunteered for 3 overnight (midnight – 8am) shifts staffing the checkpoint headquarters, checking teams in as they arrive, and checking them out when they finished their 36 hour stay.

I like the overnight shifts. The headquarters is much quieter. During the day it is packed with fans, handlers waiting for their teams to arrive, media, reporters, race officials, vets, and race logistics officials.

During the night, it can be completely empty, until the race tracker map shows a team is about to arrive. Then people shuffle out of bed and arrive to watch, the journalists and their cameras are ready, and the race officials and vets join us on the line to check the team in.

This year the ice road is a 13 minute long journey around the open water. Jeff and Chris, another overnight volunteer, checked the teams in, while I waited on the frozen river ice road, to stop any vehicle traffic from attempting the slope up and off the ice, so the team of dogs that just arrived could make it safely down the hill and onto the ice, because there is no stopping a team of dogs and a sled on a downhill icy slope.

What that really meant was me standing on the river, completely alone, in the snow and wind, for about 40 minutes in the middle of the night, under the almost full moon, pacing around to keep my toes from freezing, peeking my headlamp down into deep ice cracks on the ice, and wondering how I got so lucky. I love this place!

After a team arrives, or departs, we call the details in the race headquarters in Fairbanks so they can update the official record, and the website.

We also sold race merchandise. Although on the overnight shift I think we bought more than we sold 😉

Here’s our desk in the Visitor’s Centre.

To check teams out, we make the long trip across the ice road to the campground. The team arrives and we check to be sure they have the mandatory supplies, specifically their passport (since they’ll be crossing into Alaska) and enough booties for all their dogs. We count the number of dogs they have, since Dawson City is one of the places on the race where they are allowed to drop any dogs they aren’t able to continue with. We make sure their SPOT devices are lit up and then we count them down to their official departure. Its amazing how eager the dogs are to get back at it!

The Percy DeWolfe race, a local sled dog race, runs a canteen throughout the race, selling hot food, drinks, cookies, and muffins. They didn’t staff it overnight, but we did on their behalf!

Handlers would also come in to fill their coolers with hot water. Most of the dog food is frozen meat. They add hot water for the meat to thaw, and also to get the dogs enough to drink at the same time.

The checkpoint volunteers also staff the phones, and take notes and messages to pass on between all the different crews (vets, judges, logistics, operations).

It is really remarkable how much work goes into a race to keep it running to smoothly! Glad to be a part of it, and I’m already looking forward until next year!

Lisa

Lisa (Verkley) Schuyler is a blogger reporting live from her new home in Canada's Yukon Territory. Often found wearing a hoodie, covered in pet hair, Lisa is a mis-placed forester who now spends her days engineering happiness for WordPress users. Lisa loves nature, animals, and most importantly, her handsome husband Jeff.

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