Mushers are a quarter-way through the Quest
Susan Rogan experienced her first hallucination on the Yukon Quest trail on Sunday night.
Photo by Vince Fedoroff
NORTHERN COMFORT – Susie Rogan takes care of her dogs Monday in the Pelly Crossing dog yard on the trail of the Yukon Quest.
PELLY CROSSING – Susan Rogan experienced her first hallucination on the Yukon Quest trail on Sunday night.
After sleeping just two hours in two days, the 46-year-old Whitehorse musher said she was approaching the dog drop at McCabe Creek when it happened.
“I was kind of watching myself sledding down, but not really there, and all of a sudden I saw this cabin, which really was there on the riverbank.
“And then this gigantic black wolf ran right into my team and attacked the swing dogs and the dogs behind them,” she recalled.
“And the crazy thing was, this wolf was going exactly the same speed as my team and was completely silent. I yelled really loud. I yelled ʻWoah! What the hell is going on?ʼ
“And my arms just went like rubber. I was so freaked out. And then I realized there was no noise and my dogs were still running. It was so crazy,” Rogan recounted.
“Iʼve never hallucinated anything at all, so this has to be true,” she laughed. “I just hope the next one is a little more pleasant.”
Rogan and fellow Whitehorse musher Normand Casavant were both in the top 10 Monday morning entering Pelly Crossing – the third checkpoint on the Quest trail and home of the Selkirk First Nation.
Casavant entered the dog yard at the Pelly Crossing community centre at 10:29 a.m., and Rogan followed close behind at 10:36.
“Thatʼs where I would like to be,” Rogan said. “If I can finish top 10, thatʼd be good. I donʼt even know how far into the race we are, but itʼs not bad eh?”
At the 402-km (250-mile) point, Pelly Crossing represents the completion of one quarter of the race.
The 50-year-old Casavant said his race is going well by his standards.
“Everything is beautiful,” he said. “I just follow my plan, and itʼs not over yet. The race is going to start after Dawson. A lot of things can happen. But Iʼm really happy, wow.
“Seventh. Itʼs just something to watch behind you and have behind you guys like Lance Mackey. Itʼs wow.”
Four-time champion Mackey was the 11th musher into the checkpoint, at 12:48 p.m.
Casavant said he was worried about his team while running on Sunday.
“I was stressed,” he said. “I got two small injuries in two dogs and I stopped right away when I saw that.”
Upon further examination, Casavant found four of his dogs ailing.
“I said, ʻWhatʼs the problem? Am I going to have to scratch or what?ʼ Four injuries.
“So I decided to stop. I started a fire, I did the massage of my dogs, and I checked them over.”
Casavant spent more than two hours at his impromptu campsite, before realizing his dogsʼ injuries were less extensive than he originally believed.
“When youʼre tired, your judgment is not always good,” he said.
He went on to drop two of those dogs in Carmacks.
Rogan, a Quest rookie who was heavily anticipating experiencing the legendary trail, confessed that she has found herself bored at certain points.
“I kind of like the parts where itʼs tricky,” she said. “You know, going through the forests and around the quick corners. Itʼs more fun, definitely.”
Rogan said paying attention to the team in front of her is crucial.
“If I shut my eyes even for a minute or two, you look up and somehow a dogʼs neckline is through another dogʼs harness. How did that happen? You
really do have to watch all the time.”
Rogan entered Pelly with her dog Curly riding shotgun in her sled.
“When a dog looks tired, I just put it in the basket,” she explained. “It bums me out. If I had to look and think every step that dog is suffering, I canʼt. I just get so distracted.”
Roganʼs partner, four-time Quest champion Hans Gatt, said he is impressed with her performance so far.
“Susieʼs team was awesome right off the start,” he said. “They came in here looking great. If she can keep them the way they are, then thatʼs great.
“I hope she gets them in these conditions into Dawson, because then I can take over for 36 hours and babysit them. Iʼll make sure she has an awesome team leaving Dawson.”
Roganʼs team includes 10 dogs from Gattʼs record-breaking championship team from 2010, where he set the fastest pace in Quest history by finishing in nine days and 26 minutes.
Gatt had previously won three straight Quests, from 2002 to 2004.
For the last two weeks prior to this yearʼs marathon, Gatt was the sole trainer of Roganʼs team.
“From what I saw, I would have been very confident to win the race with that team,” he said.
While pleased with her early work out on the trail, Gatt said Roganʼs checkpoint routine of feeding and working the dogs could be quicker.
“Iʼm a perfectionist,” he chuckled. “I know that Iʼm one of the fastest when it comes to checkpoints, to getting the chores done.
“So for me, yeah, itʼs hard to watch. Itʼs best to just walk away.”
Tagish musher Ed Hopkins entered Pelly in 14th place.
“This is actually kind of where I wanted to be,” he said. “I wanted to be around 13th, to be quite honest with you, because I knew there was 13 people I couldnʼt beat in this race.”
The 48-year-old has been running in close proximity with Alaskan Dan Kaduce in the cool of the night.
Hopkins said he couldnʼt understand the mushers running through the day.
“Come on,” he said. “Itʼs a no-brainer. I mean, those guys are crazy. I guess itʼs good for me later.”
Hopkins has been living up to his pre-race predictions of celebrating the 30th Quest in style.
“Oh, itʼs been kind of like a big party,” he said. “Iʼm having a great time.”
Due to overflow concerns on the river outside Pelly, the race was again rerouted slightly onto the Pelly Farm Road past the checkpoint.
“Itʼs very minor,” race marshal Doug Grilliot said of the change.
“Due to this warm weather weʼve had, thereʼs been an incredible amount of overflow that came up on the river. Weʼre talking 30 miles of it, 200-metre stretches at a time, and almost knee-deep.
“This isnʼt precedent-setting or anything for us,” he said. “Many times, weʼve run the road.
“In fact, the road was already staked and ready to go because thatʼs the road the YQ300 mushers were going to take on the return.”