Mixed emotions at the 2023 Yukon Quest sign-up Barkfest
Barkfest invited people to bring their dogs and sign up for the annual Yukon Quest
At the top of the world, in the Yukon wilderness, an epic winter sports event takes place every February: the Yukon Quest sled dog races.
For Ilana Kingsley, watching the race became a family tradition.
"I've been following the quest since [my husband and I] lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 2003," she said.
Earlier this year, after a nearly 40-year union, the race's two governing boards — one in Alaska, one in Yukon — said they will no longer work with each other, meaning the race will no longer cross the border between the two countries.
"It's really sad for the two countries to decide that they don't want to play together. I think it's unfortunate for the mushers," said Kingsley.
Librarian by day, musher by night, Kingsley has been running dogs for almost 30 years, including in the Yukon Quest 100 race.
On Saturday, at the 2023 Musher Sign-Up Barkfest event, she registered for next year's YQ 250 race.
"I hope the boards will come together for the mushers and there will be another Quest 1000 at some point in time," said Kingsley, adding she supports the extended rest time for dogs which was one of the key points of dispute between the boards.
During the Saturday event, located between the Old Fire Hall and the Yukon Quest office, families and bystanders enjoyed the sunny weather, a fundraiser barbecue, and a dry-land race while interested mushers signed up for the race.
Connor McMahon, soon-to-be a three times Yukon Quest racer, signed up at the in-person event as well. He said he didn't mind the board's divorce as the shorter distances could incite more people to sign up.
"I think it's exciting. It gives a bunch of chances for some other mushers to get in and experience some longer distance and kind of work within their comfort zones or push them," he said.
"I'm very excited about the finish line being in Dawson."
In 2023, the race will cover 550 miles between Whitehorse and Dawson City, Yukon. It will be broken into three races through four communities in the Yukon, following historic northern travel routes.