Thirty mushers in the Northern Lights 300 sled dog race were on the trail when a strong earthquake shook Southcentral Alaska early Sunday morning. Mushers in the race were either on their way back to the Big Lake finish line, or resting at checkpoints at the time of the quake.
Race manager Sue Allen credits a quick-thinking trail-breaking team for rerouting the course around dangerous cracks and fissures in the ice on the Big Susitna River caused by the 7.1 jolt.
“Pretty much at that point, everyone was on one of the rivers somewhere. And our point riders, who go out ahead of the teams, to make sure everything is OK, when they got back here to the kennel, they had some unbelievable pictures and stories of just huge cracks and jumbled ice and fissures and water on the ice that they came across on the river. And they were able to reroute the trail around all of those.”
Allen says mushers witnessed an unusual geyser like effect when crossing Flathorn Lake on the trail.
“And every musher that finished told us the same thing. It must have been just a big mud geyser, with everything coming up from the bottom of the lake. Big cracks in the ice, the water shot up through, bringing with it rocks and mud and dirt from the bottom of the lake. And so where those cracks were, everyone said it seemed like a river of dirt and rocks, almost like someone had gone out and just sprinkled them.”
All race competitors made it to the Big Lake finish safely. Ryan Redington is the winner. Redington arrived back at Big Lake at 9:30 Sunday morning with a total run time of 44 hours, 38 minutes and 15 seconds.
There is no money purse for the race, so Redington wins a pair of Golden Collars donated by High’s Adventure Gear. The Northern Lights 300 trail starts in Big Lake and turns around at Finger Lake at the foot of the Alaska Range. Three mushers scratched from the original lineup of 33 mushers who started the race at noon last Friday.