Saturday marks the start of the distance sled dog racing season, when a full field of 40 mushers will race in the Knik 200 Joe Redington Sr. Memorial.
The race, which is an Iditarod and Yukon Quest qualifier, starts at Knik Lake and follows part of the old Iditarod trail system on a 200-mile round trip to Skwentna and back. The first musher leaves at 11 a.m., with others following in two-minute intervals.
The Knik 200 offers a prime chance for fans to get a look at some top mushers and their teams without battling the crowds that surround the Iditarod. Parking will be available at the Knik Bar parking lot next to Knik Lake. The bar will not be open, but snacks and warm beverages will be served by a local vendor.
Last year's race was canceled due to poor trail conditions, so 2012 winner Jake Berkowitz enters the race as the defending champion.
Other notable mushers in the race are Iditarod veterans Ray Redington, Paul Gebhardt and Hugh Neff, who won the 2012 Yukon Quest. The race field is at capacity with 40 teams, and there are more mushers on a waiting list.
The Berkowitz victory carried a bit of drama with it in 2012, and not just because he beat Lance Mackey, a four-time winner of both the Iditarod and Yukon Quest. There was a glitch in the process used to adjust times due to the staggered start, so even though Mackey crossed the finish line first, Berkowitz' race time was six minutes faster, making him the winner.