Tomorrow Denver Evans will be surrounded by the great white with only her wits and 10 sled dogs to protect her. She will travel over 140 miles, rest in only a sleeping bag, feed her team from a dog food cooker, and get back to the starting line within 24 hours. Tomorrow Denver Evans will compete in her very first Jr. Iditarod.
Evans has loved dogs for as long as she can remember. She rented the dog encyclopedia weekly so no one else could have it. At parties she could often be found in the dog bed, covered in fur and loving it.
“I think it’s the deeper connection that’s completely nonverbal that you just kind of feel,” she said.
Now, she will be spending more than 24 hours with them, traveling over icy lakes and snowy trail from Willow to Yetna. Originally the trail ventured from Knik Lake to Willow and back, but due to warm temperatures the trail had to be moved. As of Wednesday, Saturday’s weather in Willow called for a high of 37 degrees.
Evans left for the race last week, practicing with Ryan Redington, an Iditarod racer whose team Evans will be using.
She and Redington worked together at Alaska Excursions in Dyea, and he approached her with the idea of the race. After watching him work and seeing what the dogs could do, she decided she wanted to be a part of it.
This is Evans’ first time racing with a team of dogs. She’d never run more than two at a time. So in December she joined Redington up north where they practiced on the historic Iditarod trail. Evans said she felt she would fall off at every turn and drove into a few snow banks. But after hours of practice she got the hang of it and now feels confident.
Mother Heather Rodig said she was nervous going into it, but the more she watches Denver train, the better she feels.
“Ryan reassures me that she is just a natural and she’s going to rock it,” Rodig said.
Rodig will leave for Willow on Thursday and meet Denver on Friday morning, ready to cheer her on.
Evans had to raise $3,500 to compete in the race, funding dog booties, snow gear and funds for travel. Prior to getting a good pair of snow boots, she was using her Xtratufs, resulting in very cold feet.
Most recently Evans and Redington have been practicing on the actual trail, mushing for nine hours on the first day alone.
Come Saturday, she will be out in the elements for over 24 hours, racing through the snow, through the dark, through the wind and the fear. She’ll stop for a mandatory 10 hours, warm up the dogs with jackets and food, lay down straw for their beds, take a nap in her sleeping bag, and turn around to do it all again.
But for Evans, it’s all about the journey.
“I’m not looking to win or even place well, I just want to have the experience and be out in the woods with the dogs. That’s what I like to do the best.”
But Rodig says Evans’ confidence might just make her the winner after all.
The News will be traveling to Willow to follow Evans’ adventure. Check our Facebook page for updates on her race.