Share the Trail

Snow is on the ground, hopefully here to stay, and we hear the roar of snowmachines reverberating through town. It is the sound of winter, as is the howl of a dog team. The message of co-existence on the trail needs to be spread to every person who is out there in the big white open, traveling by motorized means or by dog team, fat bike, skies or snowshoes.
The news of Dallas Seavey’s dog team being hit by a snowmachine on the Denali Highway is gut wrenching. What we know is that a one snowmachiner, traveling with a few others, ran into a 9-dog team, killing one dog on impact, another died shortly thereafter, two dogs have their legs amputated, a third may keep his maimed leg, but all are severely injured and will never run as sled dogs again. The musher was one of Seavey’s handlers, who had to deal with the horror until Seavey and more help arrived. Seavey said in a FB post that the snowmachiner stopped, was of no help as he was too intoxicated.
The snowmachiner was identified as 28-year-old Austin Gibbs of Healy. He was given a citation for negligent driving. Upon inquiry why there were no charges for DUI, a trooper spokesperson told the Nugget that “due to the timeframe that the incident was reported to troopers, and lack of supporting evidence, alcohol was not substantiated as a contributing factor in the crash. “
It doesn’t matter where this took place. I know off the top of my head several dog mushers in Nome and Kotzebue, and some Iditarod mushers, who were hit by snowmachines. In one incident a person died and another was badly injured. In other incidents, dogs were maimed or died, or the musher’s injuries required a long road to recovery.
 The non-motorized travelers on a trail are vulnerable as snowmachines just have so much speed, so much power and so little room for corrective action when they come upon an “obstacle” on the trail.
It’s sad to say, but me and most of my fellow Nome mushers don’t even run our dog teams any longer on the Iditarod Trail — the trail famous for dog teams — because the potential to be hit by a fast-moving snowmachine is just too great.
Please consider talking to your family about respect on the trail. About slowing down and giving non-motorized travelers wide berth. Drinking and driving is never ever a good idea and may ruin a life, or several.
 I have enjoyed many visits with snow machiners while on the trail, stopping my dog team and talking story before taking off again and enjoying the rest of the day. It can be done again, but we need to spread awareness to share the trail.
Please  consider educating yourself before venturing out and do your part so we can all enjoy Happy Trails. —D.H.—


The Nome Nugget

PO Box 610
Nome, Alaska 99762

Phone: (907) 443-5235
Fax: (907) 443-5112

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