Eagle, AK - There are fewer miles between the top two mushers and the Yukon Quest finish line in Fairbanks than there are between the leaders and the current red lantern team. A few mushers at the back of the pack have become travel companions and there just may be a race for the red lantern brewing.
There’s no question that Kristin Knight-Pace’s sled is huge. “My sled bag is pretty small,” she said. “It’s something I learned a little too late and also all the zippers are broken so it’s being held together with tug lines.”
It stands at least four feet high, there’s a half a bale of straw in a duffle bag strapped on top and the sled bag itself is filled with dog food. “Because I still have a pretty big team and they are all really big and so right now, they’re plowing through calories,” she said.
Nearby, Lance Mackey laughs. He nicknamed it the ‘chest freezer.’ “And now I think it’s more like a walk-in,” he said.
The two have been travelling together since they caught up a hospitality stop near roughly 550 miles into the race. “You’re cruising through the middle of absolute nowhere and you come around the corner and there’s a little sign that says ‘lasagna 200 yards, burritos 100 yards,’ and it’s like a beautiful handmade cabin with the light on for you,” said Knight-Pace.
“This is the first time I’ve actually gotten to sit an hang out and just enjoy it instead of going in there, hurry up, wolf down a plate of food, get up and go and leave a mess,” said Mackey.
When they’re on the trail, Mackey provides advice and Knight-Pace is happy to accept it. “It’s fun to try to assist and give a little bit of insight,” he said.
“The other day at camp we’re sitting there and I have this sore dog and I was like, ‘you know what? Lance freakin’ Mackey is sitting right next to me. I’m just going to ask him what he would do.’” 00:15
Mackey spent roughly 20 hours at on hospitality stop. He jokes he ate until the food was gone, but what he isn’t joking about is a red lantern finish. “I kind of in the back of my mind had mentioned this several times leading up to the race and my handlers all think I’m nuts,” he said. “But, you know I think it would be kind of an honor to own a red lantern. I think people have the wrong impression of people who receive red lanterns for one.,” said Mackey.
Besides, he said, no one in Yukon Quest history has ever won both the race and the red lantern.