The Iditarod Trail Kennel in located in Knik Alaska which is located about one and a half hours north of Anchorage. The kennel has 23 racing dogs and 10 retired dogs which are owned and cared for by Charley Bejna. I am a one person operation, so it sometimes takes awhile to respond to emails and updates on this website. I appreciate your continued patience.
I would like to thank all of our great sponsors and supporters for making this possible to continue mushing in mid-distance races and the Iditarod. We appreciate it very much and always welcome any type of donations to the kennel throughout the year.
I have signed up for the following races.
Knik 200 Saturday January 6, 2017
Copper Basin 300 Friday January 13, 2017
Northern Lights 300 Friday 27, 2017
Iditarod (1,049) Sunday March 5, 2017
My 2016 Iditarod story
I drew number 9 at the banquet held on Thursday night. I was hoping that I would draw within the top 25. This year there was a big field with 86 mushers taking place in the race. The next day I was making sure that everything that I needed for the race was packed and ready to go. I do carry all my diabetic supplies with me so that adds up to a lot more things in my sled. It's always pretty stressful as I'm always double checking things. Several people had stopped by that day to visit with the dogs and me. My brother Butch, my friend Jay, cousin Denna & her husband Jim, friends GB, Jansen, and several others helped out a lot with the ceremonial start and re start in Willow. Sondra Davis from Indiana was my Idita rider and Stacy Cardy was my tag sled driver for the 3 mile run in Anchorage. Traditionally the run is 11 miles but due to another low snow year it was cut to 3 miles. Saturday was a sunny and warm day for the ceremonial start. Lots of fans lined the race route to cheer on the mushers and take pictures. We all had a great time include the dogs.
Sunday morning I loaded up all the dogs and had a few dogs that I had to make a decision on who to take and who to leave behind as I could only start with 16 dogs. I chose to take: Yukon, Brown, Kodiak, Grizzly, Hawk, Black, Canyon, Maple, Festus, Goodyear, Denali, Mick, Willow, Aspen, Cedar and McKinley. I thought this was the best team I had in a few years as most of them are 3-4 years old. Ten of these dogs have made it to Nome at least once or more during the last several years.
I parked on Willow lake, unloaded my gear and lined out everything that I needed to take on the race and grabbed something to eat. I felt really relaxed and well prepared for my 4th Iditarod. I unloaded all the dogs so they could be scanned, gave them some meat and a lot of water as it was getting pretty warm out. As it got closer to the start, a lot of people came over to wish me luck and take pictures of the team.
We were now at the start line! The dogs were really excited and ready to go! I went up to the front of my team and gave my dogs all a pet and thanked the handlers for getting us up to the start line. The count down begun.
Three, Two, One, GO!
We were now on the trail! The trail was really fast with a hard solid icy trail. I had my feet on the drag and break trying to slow down the team. It sure seems that when you are doing that, the dogs hear it and tend to want to go faster. I did have a bit of trouble trying to control them on the lakes. I saw several people I knew like John Neilson, Pete Konefke and Chuck Ashley along the first 8 miles taking pictures.
The sunny was blaring down on us as we made our way down the Little Susitana River. It was really warm out! I stopped a few times in a shady area to get the dogs out of the sun and put some snow on them to cool them off as Denali, Goodyear and Festus seemed very hot. At about mile 20 or so, Denali seemed to start not wanting to pull and possibly cramping up. I stopped the team, poured 2 bottles of water over him and loaded him in the sled. I also snacked the dogs a piece of fish at that time. Denali was one of the dogs that I had questioned myself if I should take him instead of a younger dog. The team was still moving well even though Denali was being carried in the sled. I pulled into Yentna, asked for a vet and dropped Denali and continued on the trail. I stopped again shortly out of Yentna, to snack the dogs again. The team was looking great as the sun went down and it got colder and more comfortable for the dogs. Several teams were camping along the trail before the next checkpoint.
I saw the lights glowing in the distance of Skwentana. I was the second musher to sign into the checkpoint and the first 72 miles of the Iditarod was behind us. The trail conditions were about same, hard packed and fast. The vets looked over the entire team and all was well. I bedded the dogs down, removed booties, snacked and fed them a meal with plenty of water. I looked over all the dogs and everyone look great! I decided to take a short nap outside with my team. After I took about an hour rest, I got up, fed, watered the dogs, packed up my sled and put on booties for the dogs. We now left the Skwentana checkpoint onto Finger Lake.
The dogs were looking good and there speed was great. Several teams had passed us and I had also passed a few. The trail was a little slower and punchy from the snowmachines that also traveled the trail. The sun was starting to rise as we were getting closer to the Finger Lake checkpoint. We pulled into the checkpoint and did our routine chores, removed booties, straw the dogs, check feet, wrists, fed, etc. I saw John and Pete as they took a flight there to see the checkpoint and take pictures. I talked to both of them for a bit then went to the lodge to get a bit to eat. I rested at Finger Lake for about 4 hours. All the dogs were eating and drinking great. The younger dogs Maple, Cedar, Aspen and Willow were fitting into the team great. We were now on our way to Rainy Pass.
It was again pretty warm out and the trail was kinda of slow. We were getting close to the Steps which is usually difficult and the trenches were deep. The dogs seem to like the trail when it's winding through the trees and down hill. We were going down the steps and the dogs handled it very well. Once were at the bottom, Mick stopped pulling so I stopped the team to look him over. I loaded Mick into the sled and he also was another dog that I thought about not taking on the race until the last minute. I still need to learn that if I have a question about a dog before a race, it's better off to take another dog. With Mick in the sled, it slowed us down quite a bit since he is one of my bigger dogs on the team. We were about 20 miles from the checkpoint and I stopped to snack the dogs. It definitely was warm out! We had just pulled into Rainy Pass.
Once I parked the team and did the dog chores I was able to briefly talk with my brother, Dena and Jim. They had flown out to Rainy Pass to also see me and how the checkpoint worked. Rainy Pass is probably one of the best checkpoints to fly out to with amazing views. I was a little disappointed that their charter had to leave so soon to head back to Anchorage. I kept Mick with the team, but dropped him before I left the checkpoint. After dropping the first two dogs quite early in the race, I was a little bummed out but thought I had a good healthy team of 14 dogs. A few dogs had some sore wrists so I massaged some ointment on them and put on wrist wraps. I slept about 45 minutes before leaving Rainy Pass. I packed up everything and left Rainy Pass right before sunset onto Rohn.
Yukon and Brown were still my leaders and were doing great. Willow and Maple were two dogs that were doing absolutely great as this was there first year in taking place in races. As it got darker, I noticed far in the distance several headlamps of other teams climbing up the pass. I was a little surprised that we were catching up to teams. I looked at my GPS and it had stopped working so I didn't know how fast I was going or knew how many miles to the next checkpoint. I thought to myself, what's going to happen next? It seemed like several different issues kept happening from checkpoint to checkpoint. As we continued down the trail, I noticed several headlamps all in one area. As we came to that area, there was open water that was about 15 feet wide and that water was flowing pretty good. I stopped on the edge of the open water and helped a few teams get across as some dogs don't like crossing water. Trent Herbst ran in front on my team. Yukon and Brown led the team across with no problems at all. They actually seemed to enjoy crossing the open water. I placed my two snow hooks deep into the snow and asked the musher in front of me to please make sure they stay stopped as I know my team would be charging to go and pull the hooks. I ran back across to help Trent get his team across. He led his team and I drove his sled. I looked across and sure enough my team pulled the hooks! I knew this would happen, luckily they got caught up in the other mushers sled and they didn't run off with out me. We crossed a few other smaller open waters and had no problems. We then crossed several Ice bridges that the trail breakers made to get the teams through the difficult areas. My team was doing great and every dog was doing their job getting us down the trail. In several areas the trail was very tight with tress on both sides and there was no room to make a mistake. There was also a lot of areas that were just bare ice but the dogs had no problem staying on the trail as I also didn't either keeping the sled upright. We now we're at the Rohn Checkpoint.
I checked into Rohn and the volunteers helped park my team in the woods. There was no snow at all where we parked and it felt like fall with just bare ground among us. I bedded down the dogs, removed booties and snacked the team. In Rohn, if you want water, you have to walk about 10 minutes down to the river and a short bank to the open water. I dipped about 9 gallons to feed the dogs 2 meals. I fed the dogs, had a meal myself and went inside the Rohn cabin to dry off my boots as they were wet from the water crossings. I talked with a few mushers inside, filled up my thermos with water and wet outside to take a nap beside my dogs. With it being mild, I wanted to sleep as much as possible with my team. I would choose 2 different dogs each checkpoint to sleep next to, most of them liked to snuggle right up to me. After several hours, I packed up things and was now off to the 75 mile run to Nickoli.
We left just as the sun was rising. The team looked great leaving the checkpoint. It started off with icy trail and turned into bare ground. It was so dry, that it actually was dusty out. This part of the trail is always dry with little or no snow for about 15 miles or so. With no snow, it made us a little slower as the sled has nothing to glide on except stones, grass and dirt. After about 3 hours, several dogs were not pulling and were coming down with diarrhea. Usually a few dogs will have this as they are under stress but it goes away. As time went by, all dogs had diarrhea, vomiting, and not pulling. I stopped to snack them and put Goodyear in the sled as he was not interested in working. It was another warm and sunny day out. We continued down the trail and Cedar and Canyon were the next two dogs to be loaded in the sled. With three dogs in the sled now, I started to look for a place to stop and rested the entire team for about 3-4 hours. Very few of the dogs were not eating nor drinking. I keeping wondering why all of this was happening with the team. Did I fed meat that might have gone bad, did they pick up some virus from another team? We were about 40 miles from Nickoli and were moving very slow as I had 3 dogs in the sled. Several teams had passed us and I was really looking forward to reaching the checkpoint. We finally made it to Nickoli!
I checked in and immediately asked for a vet to look at my team. McKinley had a high temperature and a few other dogs were dehydrated. I considered on scratching as I couldn't stand to see my team in the condition they were in. I talked to Anna, Kristy, Hugh and a few others about what was going on with my team. All of them were very helpful and said I should take my 24 hour break here and evaluate my team after that. I didn't have enough food for my 24 so Anna and Kristy said I could use there extra food once they left. I feed all the dogs but none of them were eating except for a few of them. I had given some medicine to all the dogs hoping it would stop the diarrhea. I had given the dogs several snacks and still nothing seemed to interest them in eating. I went inside the checkpoint to get some rest and figure out what to do next.
I went outside every 3-4 hours checking on the dogs and was trying to get them to start eating. It was very frustrating at this point in the race as whatever I tried, it didn't seem to work. After about 18 hours of rest, I took each dog for a short walk. Willow, Festus, Maple and Kodiak seemed to be the best ones amongst the team. Hawk was probably the worst dog that was not herself. I thought to myself, Hawk was my main leader that got us to Nome 2 years ago and she has now caught some type of virus that has put her out of her element. The dogs finally started to drink and eat some food. It made me feel good, but new that we had a long way to go. I decided to drop Aspen, Goodyear and Cedar at this checkpoint. I packed up the sled and was on my way to McGrath.
We left Nickoli and they looked ok going down the trail. About 2 miles out, McKinley was not wanting to run, so I stopped and loaded him in the sled. I now said to myself that my Iditarod was coming to and end. We continued down the trail and about 15 miles before McGrath, Canyon was also not wanting to pull so she was loaded up too. I couldn't figure it out what was happening to the team. Even with a 26 hour rest, nothing had changed.
We arrived in McGrath, checked in and I made the decision that scratching was the best thing to do for the team. I never thought that my race was going to end this way. I trained very hard this year, did great in other races, had the best feeding program yet and 10 dogs that had made it to Nome before. I took care of the dogs and had a few vets look over the team. I insisted that several dogs be tested for parvovirus, as there was a scare several weeks before affecting a few other mushers. The tests came back negative so this was something else to rule out. I came to the conclusion that the team picked up a flu like virus along the trail as did a lot of other teams as well as the mushers themselves. A few mushers had suggested that I take another long rest and go to the next checkpoint. I would have had to drop McKinley, Hawk, Canyon and Brown. This would have left me with 7 dogs and 700 miles to go. No way was I going to continue in this situation. I rested and watched other teams come in and out of the checkpoint. It's not easy seeing this, as I wanted to be out on the trail with all the other teams. The next day the dogs were going to be flown back to Anchorage and I was on a different flight shortly after them.
The dogs and I were back at the kennel on Friday night. It took 2 days for them to fully recover and are back to there normal selves. I did go up to Nome to see Anna and Kristy cross the finish line.
On an unrelated subject, I had two retired house dogs, Pearl who was 13 years old suddenly come down with pancreatitis and she had to be put to rest 3 days after I returned that Friday. Pearl was my first husky that I acquired in 2007. Pearl loved watching and waiting for me to come home. Pearl had traveled to and from Alaska with me on my trips. Pearl was a great dog and companion.
Indy who was 17 or 18 years old had also been put to rest three weeks later. Indy was having a hard time with her back hips, getting up and laying down. I acquired her in 2009, she was a very shy dog. I worked very hard with her to overcome that and she became very friendly with others. Indy loved walking around the dog yard visiting with other dogs. Indy also traveled with me too. Indy too, was also a great dog and companion.
With everything that has happened in a 3 week period, I had become pretty quite via Facebook and the website but will start posting things as they happen.
I'm now back in Illinois concentrating on the landscaping season. I have had a lot of people ask if I'm taking place in the 2017 Iditarod, as of now I'm not sure if I'll be signing up. I have a lot of decisions to make before next season. I will have to down size the kennel and work hard on getting more sponsors to make it happen.