Taking on the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest

Published 10:34 pm Thursday, February 4, 2010

After finishing the Iditarod in 2006, Tryon native Katie Davis will begin the Yukon Quest tomorrow, this time with her own dogs that she trained.
Davis, 30, who now lives in Onley, Montana, begins the race tomorrow that will take her and her team of sled dogs from Fairbanks, Alaska to Whitehorse, Canada. The terrain consists of over 1,000 miles of arctic wilderness with temperatures that will reach 30 below and lower.
Davis completed the Iditarod when she was 26-years old and says many mushers believe the Yukon Quest is the most difficult race.
The race is often called the most difficult sled dog race in the world because the terrain is tricky and the temperatures, being held in February, are brutal. Some distances between checkpoints are as much as 200 miles. In the Iditarod, distances between checkpoints are between 50 and 60 miles.
Davis says she hopes to complete the race in 12 days. She has everything planned out, having spent weeks preparing food for both she and her team. She plans to race five to six hours on average, then rest for six to eight hours. She will average eight to 10 miles an hour, or 80 to 100 miles per day with many long day hours and frigid nights ahead of her.
“Tonight was the start banquet for the 2010 Yukon Quest in Fairbanks, AK,” Davis wrote yesterday in her blog she has been keeping for months while training. “We got to meet with mushers, officials, volunteers, fans, and sponsors and got a good dinner. I was a good sled dog and ate everything that was available to me.
“We did the bib draw and I will be starting #6. I am glad to be leaving relatively early though I am glad I did not continue with my streak lasting three seasons now of leaving number one. It will be nice to have someone who knows the trail in front of me. Hopefully they go the right way.”
She talks about being glad her friends and mom arrived this week. Davis friends from Polk County, Anita Williamson and Brooke Bohannon, have made the long trip to meet Davis at checkpoints along her route with straw for the dogs to sleep on and fresh supplies.
Williamson said yesterday after arriving in Alaska that the high temperature was 5 below and the low was 25 below. Her mom, Beverly, also arrived and her dad, John, will arrive for her finish.
While on the trail, Davis has a cooker, or a metal five-gallon pail, that uses ethanol. With the pail she will heat up the food she prepared for herself and melt snow to make drinking water for the dogs. In preparing food for the dogs for the Yukon Quest, Davis wrote in her blog about cutting up frozen meat with a bandsaw for the dogs. Davis is a vegetarian herself, but will have to go off her regular diet to survive the Yukon Quest.
While on the trail, each dog will eat a pound of dry dog food and a pound of meat per day. Davis food is stored in vaccuum-sealed bags and is frozen, like everything else on the trail.
Davis has been training her dogs nearly every day for months. She says she is most excited about the Yukon Quest because it will be her first major race with dogs that she bred and trained. Davis recently quit her “real” job and has been living amongst the dogs she will trust to get her to the finish line safely.
“I love watching young dogs come into their own,” Davis wrote in her Yukon Quest profile. “I love seeing these amazing animals effortlessly do what most find unimaginable. I love the bond that develops between mushers and dogs when traveling for long distances and relying on each other for long periods of time.”
Davis raises over 20 dogs at a time, mostly Alaskan Huskies, at her Montana kennel she calls, “Evening Star Kennel.” All the dogs have names and Davis refers to them as her children, each having its own personality. Davis love of animals began at an early age when her family had horses.
She named her kennel after one of the first sled dogs she ever ran named “Venus.” Davis says Venus became her pet and constant companion and the two had lots of adventures together. In one of her blogs, Davis said Venus has travelled to more places than most humans ever do.
“Venus is the Evening Star. I named the kennel for her so my friend can be with me on the adventures to come,” said Davis.
Following is one of Davis recent posts when there were only five days left until the race began on her blog at www.eveningstarkennel.blogspot.com:
“We ran 70 miles and came home under the brightest full moon of 2010. I didnt use my headlamp except in the trees because the moon was so bright, it didnt seem to do anything. The dogs had a great run and finished strong. They picked up the pace as the daylight disappeared and we loped the last several miles.
“Saturday, we had the vet check. I had to pull the truck into a warehouse and we weighed and checked each dog carefully.
“Patron was the biggest weighing in at just over 62 pounds. Whitney was the smallest at just under 42 pounds. Most of the dogs were between 45-53 pounds.
“The dogs were a little nervous at being inside a strange place and having to stand on a table for some poking and prodding. Herbert was the most nervous and spent his few minutes on the table with his toes curled around the edge of it and bracing against my stomach to keep him from launching off.
“Everyone passed with flying colors except Detour. She has a heart murmur, not at all uncommon in sled dogs. But the vets want to do an EKG to be sure that there is not something else there to be concerned about. Hopefully it was nothing to keep her from racing as she is the rising star in the team. Detour is the toughest dog I have ever run and a phenomenal lead dog. We will find out in the next few days.
“Otherwise, all the dogs are happy and healthy. The temperatures are supposed to start dropping this week and will be -30 by later in the week. The extended forecast shows below 0 temps for all of the 10 days it shows for the Alaska side of the trail. It looks to be a cold one. Still trying to find the perfect footwear.
“Brooke, Anita, and my mom all arrive on Tuesday around midnight. It will be nice to have everyone here. Just five days until the start and we are pretty much ready to go. I am trying to get a lot of sleep now as I wont be getting much for the next two weeks. I feel so lucky that I have not one but two great friends and handlers coming to help me. I wont have to worry about the dogs not on the trail and I know that they will handle anything that comes their way.”

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