Mitch Seavey is first to Huslia

Huslia residents came out in force to welcome the first musher, Mitch Seavey. (Photo: Ben Matheson, KNOM)

Iditarod racer Mitch Seavey is the first musher to reach the halfway checkpoint of Huslia. The two-time champion was the first to leave Galena early Thursday and arrived in Huslia more than 80 miles up the trail at 8:18 p.m. A big crowd lined the main street to welcome in Seavey.

Mitch Seavey was the first musher to reach Huslia on Thursday night. (Photo: Ben Matheson, KNOM)

For being the first musher to Huslia, Seavey wins the GCI Dorothy G. Page Halfway Award. The prize includes $3,000 in gold nuggets. Huslia residents gave Seavey several gifts, such as dog collars with custom beadwork and handmade fur gloves. Seavey settled in to take his 24-hour break in the checkpoint that is hosting the race for only the second time in history.

“Last time the race came here was such good reports of the hospitality and the good people and I missed out, I came through in just a few minutes,” Seavey said. “Even then, they gave me food and water and a present; kids hugged me. So, I wanted to make it back here, and the dogs didn’t need a big rest earlier. You can always do it, but I think I’ve maximized the team by coming here, and I still save my 8-hour for on the river.”

Huslia has a long tradition of mushing and was the home of the late mushing champion George Attla, Jr., the “Huslia Hustler.” The trail in this year’s Fairbanks route forks north off the Yukon River to Huslia and loops south to Koyukuk.

Huslia is hosting the race for the second time in history. (Photo: Ben Matheson, KNOM)

While the real prize is hundreds of miles down the trail in Nome, Seavey said that the racing has indeed begun.

“We used to just camp along and race at the end, and now, we’re racing from the beginning,” Seavey said. “It’s not all-out sprinting to the finish line, but it’s a strategy and sets you up for other parts of the trail.”

Top Iditarod teams are running their dogs between the checkpoints of Ruby and Huslia.