A musher from one of the world’s southernmost cities is headed to Alaska to compete

A man stands in the back of an open van with dogs in crates.
Miguel Isla Casares with a rental van and his dogs at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. (Santiago Cullen)

It’s spring in the southern hemisphere, but the lure of another season of cold and snow to run dogs is drawing musher Miguel Isla Casares from one of the southernmost cities in the world to Alaska. 

“I’m from Argentina,” he said. “Ushuaia, Patagonia.”

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Casares said he and his 10 sled dogs flew to New York and then drove a rental van to Michigan where they are temporarily staying with Iditarod veteran Lloyd Gilbertson.

“They give us food and everything,” he said. “I feel like home here and I am really far from home.”

Casares said Gilberston even gave him a dog truck for the next leg of the journey north.

“To drive all the way to Fairbanks,” he said.

It isn’t Casares first trip to Alaska or Fairbanks. He said he met Yukon Quest and Iditarod Sled Dog Race champion Lance Mackey in 2019, and spent last winter at his Fairbanks area kennel, after Mackey’s partner was killed in an ATV accident.

“I went there to be with them and help with the dogs and we become good friends,” said Casares. “They are a great family.”

Casares credits Mackey, Gilbertson and other mushers for helping him, as well as people all over the world who’ve donated money after seeing a video he posted on Instagram about his goal of racing his dogs in Alaska.

“The idea or the plan in my brain today is to bring the first team from the Southern Hemisphere to compete in the Northern Hemisphere,” he said. “I made all the money to come all the way here just through Instagram with showing the video and telling the people this is my dream and if someone want to help me. And thousands of people start to show up and here I am.” 

Casares wants to run the 1,000-mile Iditarod but says his first challenge will be completing shorter, qualifying races like the Copper Basin 300 or the Yukon Quest 550. 

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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