You don’t just race the K300–you survive it

I’m in the process of writing several dog mushing stories–the ’92 Copper Basin 300 & the 2004 Kuskokwim 300–and I’m going back through some of my old posts looking for inspiration. Here is a re-run of a story I wrote about the conditions that mushers typically face upon leaving Bethel from the starting line of the K300~

What the racers can expect tonight, leaving the starting line of the Kuskokwim 300

The K300 starts after the sun sets, down on the glare, snowmobile & truck tire scarred surface of  the Kuskokwim River; there is seldom a trail leading away from the starting chute–rather, the lead dogs are confronted by a wind blasted delta of ice, bits of gravel, and more ice, where the only “obvious” way to proceed is down the long dark throat of the legendary water-course, trying to stay on its main channel and not get side-tracked down some meandering slough…

There are few markers that have not been flattened by snowmobiles, and most of the ones still standing are almost impossible to see for all of the halogen truck/car/four-wheeler/sno-go traffic coming dead on in your face, blinding you with their intensity and turning your own pathetic headlamp beam into a vague abstraction; the markers that you do manage to spot bear little to no relationship with where you are supposed to be going–they were put in days before, and between traffic, weather, and the constantly morphing nature of the river itself, they are almost never anywhere near where you should “really be going” except in the most general way.

If it is not so cold and windy that you feel as if your genitals are going to freeze off, then it is rainy and the trail is deep with slush–on the average K300, you will usually see both conditions, with plenty of room left over for a wind-driven snow storm or two that will make you think you’ve died and been banished to a frigid purgatory.

You don’t just race the K300–you survive it.

There are a pile of tough drivers in the starting line-up. My money is on Mitch Seavey, with John Baker as runner-up.

Thanks for tuning in–more to follow….


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