The 2013 Northern Lights 300 starts Jan. 25 at Deshka Landing, near Willow, a sharp change of venue from last year's inaugural departure from Martin Buser's Happy Trails Kennel in Big Lake. Warm weather and a lack of snow resulted in a report on Martin Buser's blog last week of "…a very rainy weekend with no possible passable trails…."
A trail map at the Northern Lights 300 website shows the trail has been changed from last year's course, heading roughly south down the Big Susitna River and then out onto the Big Su near Susitna Station, then following the Big Su to the Yentna River, and up the Yentna to the first checkpoint at Yentna Station.
After a mandatory four hour layover at Yentna, where the start time differentials will be adjusted, the teams will follow the Yentna River to Skwentna. From Skwentna, as noted in a pre-race letter to the mushers, "Due to severe overflow, the Iditarod Trail to Onestone Lake is not accessible. Thus the race trail will go via Shell Lake to Finger Lake."
The checkpoint at Finger Lake is a mandatory six hour layover, and then the teams retrace their route back to Skwentna. The final leg of the race will go down the Yentna River to the Big Su, to Flathorn Lake, then onto the Iditarod trail, and the race will once again finish at Happy Trails Kennel.
The race committee is advising snowmachiners to exercise caution in they're riding in the area. A release from the race committee said:
Attention Motor Mushers:
There will be a sled dog race on the river, through Yentna, Skwentna, Shell Lake, and Finger Lake, from January 25th through the 27th. Please be aware!
The Northern Lights 300 Sleddog Race begins at Deshka Landing at 10:00 am Friday, January 25. The race travels down the Big Swamp to Trail 11 and out onto Big Su. The trail continues through Yentna Station, Skwentna, Shell Lake and Finger Lake, back to Yentna Station.. Teams will return from Yentna downriver to Dismal Swamp, Flathorn Lake, Iditarod trail and into Big Lake, finishing at Happy Trails Kennels.
We are making every effort to make mushers and teams as visible as possible. Please be aware that you may encounter dog teams and be especially vigilant on the tight trails between Skwentna and Finger Lake.
The Northern Lights 300 starts at 10 am on Friday, January 25, at Deshka Landing, near Willow. The finish is expected Sunday afternoon at Martin Buser's Happy Trails Kennel in Big Lake. An Awards Dinner is planned for 6:00 pm on Monday, January 28, at the American Legion Post #35, , 5050 Tweed Court, just a few miles north of Wasilla on the Parks Highway.
Helen Hegener is an author and a documentary filmmaker specializing in distance sled dog races and the men, women and dogs who run them. This post originally appeared on her website, Northern Light Media. It has been republished with permission.