Alaska News

Iditablog: Karin Hendrickson's race watching strategy: 'Crawl into a ball and not pay attention'

Karin Hendrickson, the veteran musher who suffered a training accident in September, won't be on the Iditarod Trail this year, but her dogs will be.

At the Iditarod banquet Thursday night, Hendrickson said she was glad her team -- which will be traveling with veteran racer Bryan Bearss -- would still be heading to Nome, but it was bittersweet for the four-time race finisher. When asked how she would follow the race, not being on the trail was a concept still hard for her to accept.

"I might crawl into a ball and not pay attention for a few weeks," Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson, who was still wearing her blue-and-white torso brace, is recovering from an accident where she was struck by a vehicle that lost control on icy roads while the Willow-based musher was training her dogs along the Parks Highway in November.

Bearss, a veteran who finished the race as a rookie in 2006, took over Hendrickson's team following the accident. He said after about three months of working with the dogs, he feels like he's at a good place with his training. Bearss said he's finally learning the character traits and personalities of all the dogs.

The situation is difficult, Hendrickson said. She said while she "holds down the fort" at her Willow home, there's little dog care she can do. She can't lift anything, so feeding and cleaning up after the dogs is impossible. With unstable, icy ground she can't even go walk out in her dog lot. She's been reliant on handlers, but finding people who can help has been a challenge.

Hendrickson said months after the accident, her lingering injuries -- including bulging discs and nerve damage -- are apparent. She said it's unclear how long it will take for those injuries to heal but she hopes to be able to race in 2016.

"I don't want to take another year off," she said.

Suzanna Caldwell

Suzanna Caldwell is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Dispatch. She left the ADN in 2017.