Above, Cindy Merkley’s footage of competitors arriving at the Yukon Quest’s halfway point earlier this week.
CHESTERVILLE — Local residents Cindy and Kent Merkley are sled dog enthusiasts, and for aficionados of the sport, they’ve certainly been on the “trip of a lifetime” this week.
The pair have been helping out with the the famous Yukon Quest that takes competing mushers on a 1,000 mile journey from Whitehorse to Fairbanks, Alaska.
Cindy says they were in Whitehorse last week for the start of the Quest. This week, they’ve been in Dawson City to assist competitors arriving at checkpoint 398 — the midway point.
“We have [the last] two mushers left to come in hopefully tonight,” she told Nation Valley News by Facebook messenger this evening, also estimating about half of the field of competitors have embarked from Dawson City on their way to Alaska.
Local residents have at one point or other seen or heard about the Merkley’s passion for sled dogs. They keep a team of 11 at their residence outside Chesterville. “My parents also have sled dogs and live on Forward Rd.,” she added.
The Dundas County natives aren’t themselves competing in their first trip to the land of the midnight sun but are part of a cadre of volunteers assisting those who are.
She says they’ve been “checking teams and working the vet check tent as well” as teams arrived in Dawson City these last few days.
“It is amazing to see these athletes in motion… these dogs are amazing. Truly amazing and the mushers are absolutely great.”
According to the Yukon Quest website, the dog-sledders take between nine and 14 days to complete the route, depending on the weather.
The Merkleys won’t be following the competitors any further and are due to return back to Chesterville soon. In the meantime, Cindy’s posts and videos have been holding the rapt attention of the folks back home in Eastern Ontario.
Below, a competitor “Brian” passes in front of Dawson City on the Yukon River, Feb. 7.
Below, Cindy’s footage of musher “Martin” on his way out of the Dawson City “dog yard.”
Below, “Allen” and team disembark from Dawson City yesterday.