Nome Kennel Club hosts 20-mile sled dog race
The Nome Kennel Club hosted its second race of the season, a 20-miler, which started at the city’s snow dump and traveled east over the tundra. Three teams entered and finished the race. Weather and trail conditions were ideal. It was 10°F with no wind and the trail conditions were also optimal with a good, fast base for the dogs to run on.
Nils Hahn, running 12 dogs, was the fastest to finish the course in a time of 1 hour 43 minutes 12 sec., Diana Haecker the second, running ten dogs, in a time of 1:48:56. Reese Madden was third, running eight dogs, in a time of 1:49:16. He lost time after some problems losing the trail and with dogs who had ideas of their own. Madden was the first team to start, and eventually went off course. “That’s when he caught me, when I turned back around,” he said. He had to direct his dogs back onto the trail. “We’re just not used to that trail. We’re kind of used to heavy loads going out to my mine,” he said. Madden is mining for gold out on the sea ice with friends, seven and a half miles down West beach and a quarter mile offshore. They dive under the ice to mine. He uses the dogs to travel on the sea ice to the offshore mine site. “I worked until five this morning,” he said. “Then I ran them back to town and trucked them out to my house and got up three hours later to come here.” He and his friends are not a company, they just banded together to try and make some money gold mining through the ice during the time of COVID when job opportunities are scarce. Despite their heavy work schedule, Madden’s dogs appeared to be eager to race. “I live ten and a half miles out of town. I don’t have any handlers, I’m all by myself. I don’t have anyone to pass teams with or practice. Just getting ready for the Kusko is why I did it today, let my dogs get used to other teams,” Madden said.
The Kuskokwim 300 has been delayed until the second week of February this year, due to COVID. The course has also been altered to run to Bogus Creek, back to Bethel and to Bogus Creek again and back due to COVID concerns of the villages that usually serve as checkpoints to the halfway point of Aniak. “I’d like to do the Kobuk 440 but they have a limit on how many people can go up,” he said. “It’s all up in the air.” Madden’s plan has been to run his dogs to Kotzebue for the Kobuk 440, stopping by Serpentine Hot Springs on the way. He’s never done a long-distance race. “This is the first time I’ve been in a race since I was a kid,” said Madden.
Kennel Club president Neil Strandberg reports there’s a 30-mile race coming up at the end of January. “In February we have a race to Pilgrim Hot Springs,” he said. It’s about 70 miles to Pilgrim Hot Springs and the race will be there and back. Strandberg says the hot springs will be the halfway point with a long rest built-in so the mushers will get a chance to do a good soak. This is a new event for the club. Considerations of not running the Nome-Council 200 this year included the COVID pandemic and the club didn’t want to inadvertently spread the disease by bringing mushers to the community of Council. “We decided that there are some other interesting areas that certain members would like to go explore,” Strandberg said. Hence, the idea was born to utilize wilderness destinations. “It is definitely an exciting race,” he said.
There were also planned to organize a race to Serpentine Hot Springs but the due to COVID concerns and national laws that govern park lands, this will not take place this year. The club mulls alternatives to allow for race events in March.
The club has around 20 members as of the last annual meeting. “We’re always looking for new members,” said Strandberg. The next race is scheduled for January 30.