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Photo book highlights 20 years of the Yukon Quest

Collection from photographer Laurent Dick, writer Brian O'Donoghue is the latest in a growing Quest library

Posted: Sunday, February 23, 2003

"Yukon Quest Photo Journey," photos by Laurent Dick with text by Brian Patrick O'Donoghue (Todd Communications, 64 pages, $19.95).

Sled dog racing has been a popular topic for Alaska authors, but until recently readers were more likely to find books on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race than they were on the lesser-known Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.

But over the past three or four years the Yukon Quest has started to develop a library that beginning to rival the Iditarod's in scope - with the Quest being the focus of a mystery novel, non-fiction books about the race itself and even a selection of children's books.

For this year's 20th anniversary of the race, it was time for a photo book.

Fairbanks photographer Laurent Dick, who serves as the race's media contact, produced the book "Yukon Quest Photo Journey," with text from Fairbanks journalist Brian Patrick O'Donoghue. The 64-page book of color photos costs $19.95 and is published by Todd Communications, which has an office in Juneau.

The book is arranged in stages, which correspond to the different highlights of the 1,025-mile trail from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, to Fairbanks.

The first section, called "Beginnings," features photos from the race start - with some from the odd-year starting line in Whitehorse and some from the even-year start in Fairbanks. Other sections are called "Running Hard," "Teammates," "Pit Stops," "Yukon Miles," "Dawson Resurrection," "Mountains Await," "Fatigue" and "Final Push."

Most of the photos are recent, taken within the last five years or so. Some of them are stock mushing shots, similar to what can be found in a book of Iditarod photos by Jeff Schultz, but there are a few standouts. The photo on the back cover of the book is a closeup of Juneau musher Deborah Bicknell's dogs after the start of the 2002 race.

Some of my favorite photos included a four-photo sequence showing Two Rivers musher Keizo Funatsu trying to wrestle his sled through an icy and tree-lined turn near McCabe Creek; a nice sunset as Nenana musher Brenda Mackey crosses Eagle Summit; a photo of Atlin, British Columbia, musher Hans Gatt's team struggling with overflow on Eagle Creek; a photo of Denali Park musher Bruce Lee's team trying to negotiate the jumble ice on the Yukon River; a photo of Whitehorse musher Doug Harris straining to push his sled to the top of Eagle Summit; a photo of a very fatigued Cor Guimond of Dawson City trying to rest at Slavin's Cabin; and finally, a nice moment being shared by Two Rivers musher Aliy Zirkle and her father Doug after Zirkle became the Quest's only female winner in 2000.

O'Donoghue, a former reporter for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner who now teaches journalism at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, is the only musher to win the Red Lantern Award for the race's last finisher in both the Iditarod (1991) and Yukon Quest (1998). He is also the author of two books about his accounts on the trail - "My Lead Dog Was a Lesbian" about the Iditarod and "Honest Dogs" about the Yukon Quest.

Rather than writing a single narrative to correspond with each section, O'Donoghue chose to use well-selected quotes from the mushers that describe the rigors of the trail, the care of the dogs or other aspects of the race. He wrote a couple of paragraphs to kick off each section, then let the quotes really tell the story.

Some favorites:

"The higher brain functions were gone. I couldn't remember any of my dogs' names. I think I have gotten three hours of sleep since the race started," from Two Rivers musher Bruce Milne in the Fatigue section.

"I think that nowadays you don't realize how far a thousand miles is anymore until you travel it and get to see each hill and creek rolling by you, and you realize just how big the country is," from Soldotna musher Gwen Holdman in the Mountains Await section.

"I thought I would have two weeks on the trail to think about and resolve some of the big questions in life. But when you get out there, there is a constant barrage of challenges - all you think about is who should be in lead. You worry about glare ice or holes put in the trail by moose. You really have to be in the moment," from Zirkle in the Yukon Miles section.

This book can be ordered for $22.95 (which includes a $3 handling charge) through Todd Communications' Anchorage office, 203 W. 15th Ave., Suite 102, Anchorage, 99501-5128.

Charles Bingham can be reached at cbingham@juneauempire.com.



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