Happy February, folks! We’re gaining daylight like nobody’s business these days, and to say that it’s lifting my spirits immensely would be an understatement. After three weeks of a proper deep freeze, we’re finally seeing warmer temperatures this week, and I swear it feels heaven-sent. On the last proper day of the deep freeze, however, we got to experience our first dog mushing event here – the Yukon Quest Alaska 2024 – with the event starting at -47F in Fairbanks, Alaska. Guys, it was wild.
All About Yukon Quest Alaska
If you know anything about dog mushing at all, you’ve likely heard of the Yukon Quest or Iditarod, and the former takes place every February during the heart of the coldest months in the region. During these incredibly cold, unpredictable, and unforgiving months, the Yukon Quest takes place, testing human mushers and their canine counterparts in this world-class event that’s truly incredible to experience.
Each year, the Yukon Quest sets off between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon, switching directions each year. As an even-numbered year, the Yukon Quest started in downtown Fairbanks at Griffin Park and traveled along the Chena River right past our house and literally in our backyard…just one hundred feet from our front door. The Yukon Quest Alaska is the Alaskan side of the quest. The main race is a 550-mile course, while other racers can do the 300-mile race, which is an Iditarod qualifier, as well as an 80-mile fun run, which is open to junior mushers.
Experiencing Yukon Quest Alaska 2024 from Fort Wainwright
If y’all remember from my Fort Wainwright bucket list, seeing the Yukon Quest was definitely high up on that list. I will say with complete certainty, however, that I didn’t expect for it to be -45F on race day – though, apparently, it’s a thing. The race set off from downtown Fairbanks at just after 11 AM, and it took about 20 minutes for the first mushers to reach our neighborhood on Fort Wainwright.
Our home is located right alongside the Chena River, so by simply sliding down to the completely frozen riverbed, we were able to watch the mushers fly past us. The pups were incredible! Decked out in jackets and boots, they pulled their mushers right past us, some giving us excited glances along the way, but most focused on their mission. It was so cool.
What to Know About Yukon Quest Alaska
It’s worth noting that the Yukon Quest Alaska and the Yukon Quest International Association (YQIA) in Canada are currently two separate entities and races. Due to prior disagreements, a decision was made to create a separate 1,000-mile Yukon Quest race in Alaska. That race does not exist yet though, and a separate YQIA race in Canada has their own races on their side of the border right now, which start in Whitehorse. Things worth noting if you want to see the race:
- It’s a free event; most people head down to the starting like when in downtown Fairbanks
- Lots of people simply follow along the river (like us) to watch the mushers go by
- There are veterinarians along the course and at each stop to ensure the health and wellness of the dogs
- Mushers must carry everything they need for the entire course from the start
- There is a Yukon Quest Alaska live-tracker to follow the mushers as they go
- Mushers have right-of-way on the river and along the course, so while you can watch, make sure you make space.
Ultimately, the event goes off in some of the most challenging weather…so be prepared as a spectator! The kids (except Porter) went back inside before the first mushers because of the cold, and I actually froze my thumb to my camera taking these photos. But yes, it was absolutely worth it!