The 1,000 mile Yukon Quest trail passes over Eagle Summit. At 3,652 feet, it is the tallest summit in the race. The area's high winds, drifting snow, and steep terrain make it the most difficult section of trail in the race, and some competitors have called it the most difficult section of trail in any sled dog race in the world. In 2006, a fierce storm atop Eagle Summit caused whiteout conditions that forced seven mushers and dog teams to be evacuated via helicopter from the mountain. Partially because of the storm, only 11 mushers finished the race — the fewest in Yukon Quest history. Along with these adverse weather conditions mushers are faced with sleep deprivation, hallucinations and long distances of isolation between each check point. Many will tell you their mind will play tricks, not knowing what is real and what is fiction, this is what has made this year’s painting so exciting.
Allow me to introduce The Summit Eagles.
Firstly, the musher. The musher leads out in front to help his/her team upon the summit. The figure is obviously tired, but determined to keep pushing on, fighting through the storm to lay a safe passage for the dog team. The figure is dressed modestly, this race is not about matching sporting outfits for the elitist, it strives to remain accessible to all. If you and your team have heart enough, spirit enough, to take on this challenge then you are welcome here.
The huskies are working too, pulling as a pack. Their bonds are so strong, and their drive is stronger, neither the musher nor the team will let each other down, everyone must work together at this point. One husky has noticed something above, and looks joyfully in expectation of what it may be.
The first question I wanted the viewer to ask was whether these eagles are real. Could they be just a hallucination? Could they be real? Is this the ‘spirit’ of the race, the magical moments that happen when there are no cameras?
One might ask how a musher would tell apart a dream from reality at a time like this, some may pinch themselves, but most will tell you they check for the dogs’ reaction. Their ears go back, they speed up in excitement, they can sense a moose on the trial a long time before you see it. In this painting, the lead dog has spotted the arrival, it is the oncoming of the eagles.
When you look a little more, you see the wings are blocking the blizzard, protecting the team, guiding them through the storm. A most beautiful moment. Where we are reminded in certain parts of this great earth – our home – we can easily succumb to Mother Nature’s whim. So often we are aided by the support of our animal brethren to avert some peril either by design or our ability to understand their spirit. Here, with a single beat of a wing heat is fanned onto the dogs, as the other wing diverts the bitter cold. It is as if the eagle spirits of the summit have deemed the team worthy of safe passage, and they shall make it so.
For one moment, I ask that you gaze into the painting, indulge with me in this illusion, hear the wind and feel the heat of the adventure, enjoy a moment worth more than its weight in gold.
An exciting scene telling an inspirational story of the passage that is the eagle summit.