Interesting how dreams are constantly evolving and we can end up in places we never even imagined possible.
I was born in the country in a place called Nassagaweya in Ontario. I've always been an animal lover. Growing up I had horses and spent my free time training and competing in Pony Club events including dressage, stadium jumping and cross-country eventing. After high school I had to sell my horses and I went to the University of Waterloo for Earth Sciences and Hydrogeology. Over the next fifteen years I worked for environmental consulting firms in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia and I returned to Waterloo to do a Masters degree in Hydrogeology. I've also always loved winter sports. I grew up competing in downhill ski racing, teaching downhill skiing, and coaching race teams.
In 2003 I went on a trip that changed my life. My uncle and his jeep enthusiast friends had planned a trip in their 1942 original military jeeps. They were bringing three of them over by container from England and travelling the Alcan Highway from Vancouver to Anchorage. I got invited to join them and spent two weeks seeing the North. Along the way we stopped in Whitehorse, Yukon for a few days and I knew then that I would return. We carried on to Fairbanks, Alaska and travelled north up the Dalton Highway to the Arctic Circle. We stayed in a little place on the Yukon River and it was there that I met my first dog musher, Hugh Neff. Hugh told me that Alaska is good in the summer but that I really needed to come back in the winter to experience the real Alaska. Well, a few months later after keeping in touch by mail (he had no phone and no internet), I took the challenge and returned to Nenana, AK to experience winter and dog mushing. We did a couple 10 mile runs near the cabin and my third day there we decided to make a run to Tanana, a native village 60 miles from the road system. Half way there the trail disappeared and after 12 hours we ended up camping out under the stars a mere 10 miles from Tanana and at 40 below zero. The next morning we made it to the village and watched the temperature drop to 50 below. We waited out the cold weather a few days and then returned back to the truck on the trail we came in on. It was an amazing experience but I wasn't sure I wanted to repeat it again right away.
Following that trip I went home to Vancouver but all I could think about was Alaska and sled dogs. I ended up finding a job and moving in May, 2004 to Whitehorse, Yukon, and Hugh got a job in Skagway, AK only 2 hours away. I rented a house on Annie Lake and would go to Skagway every weekend. My life then was so completely different. In September Annie was born. Right away we knew she would be special. She had so much confidence and would follow me everywhere. Starting that winter we lived in a cabin on a lake with no electricity, running water or plumbing. We gathered our firewood from the bush and water from an ice hole in the lake. I was driving 40 minutes each way to go to Whitehorse to work and every night we were running dogs. For the next eight years my life was work, helping Hugh prepare for the Yukon Quest and Iditarod, and working on the cabin to now have running water, plumbing and solar/wind power. In late 2011 Hugh and I parted ways and what was harder, split the kennel. I had 40 dogs including Annie and remained at Annie Lake. I had a few dogs with race experience (Annie, Juanita, Griffin) but the others had never raced with Hugh, or were retired. I also had the 13 puppies that were born that year. Over the next two years my goal was to form a team and train the puppies. I figured I'd done all the work to do with sled dogs but I needed to find out why mushers do it.
I began running dogs in earnest the fall of 2012 and we trained every day. In February we did the Yukon Quest 300 from Whitehorse to Stepping Stone and back to Pelly. I loved every minute of it (or most of the minutes). I loved seeing new trail with my closest friends, my dogs. I loved caring for them and running to their abilities. I finished with 11 of the 12 dogs I started with. Most of those dogs had never finished a race before and they finished the race with me happy and healthy. I came 7th but I was most honoured to be presented with the Veterinarian's Choice award given to the musher who takes great care of their dogs and finishes with a good looking team. My primary goal in racing is always the well being of my team. I'm nothing without my dogs and they're my first priority.
In 2014 our plan was to compete in a few 300 mile races to give my young dogs some experience. Mother nature wasn't very co-operative with late snow, a lot of snow in December for two weeks, and then warm weather. It meant training was delayed and a lot of races were cancelled. We ended up going in some local races later in the season, the River Runner 140 from Takhini to Braeburn and back and the Silver Sled 100 from Haines Junction to Silver City and back. Both were great experiences for the two year olds.
Two weeks ago I wasn't sure of my plans for this coming winter. I had originally thought I'd do some 300 mile races this winter, like I was supposed to do last winter. Then in thinking about it I realized that this winter might be the last year for a lot of my veteran dogs to do a 1000 mile race. I would really like to have them there on my rookie run especially to teach some of my young dogs. The Quest this year starts in Whitehorse and I've seen the first third of the race trail. I remember last time doing the Quest 300 that I didn't want to stop at the finish, I wanted to keep going. So, all of a sudden I was planning my first 1000 mile race. I'm pretty excited about it and I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of the trail with some of my best mates. We'll see how training goes but I'm really hoping that Annie will be part of my team. I'm hoping in reading this that you'd like to join our team and help us to accomplish our goals. Go over to the 'Take Action' page to find out how. Thanks!