Carlton teen trains team for Alaska’s Junior Iditarod

North to the Future

Balto was a black and white Siberian husky who led a dog team on the final leg of a life-saving serum run to Nome, Alaska, in 1925.

Balto was a black and white Siberian husky who led a dog team on the final leg of a life-saving serum run to Nome, Alaska, in 1925.

Balto was a black and white Siberian husky who led a dog team on the final leg of a life-saving serum run to Nome, Alaska, in 1925.

Balto was a black and white Siberian husky who led a dog team on the final leg of a life-saving serum run to Nome, Alaska, in 1925.
“I believe my mother thought that it was going to be like most other four-year-old’s dream…

CARLTON -- You cannot say that Carlton teenager Christina Gibson doesn’t think big…as in Iditarod big. The 16-year-old home-schooled musher is training to compete in Alaska’s 2018 Junior Iditarod, a 150-mile version of the 1,000-mile Iditarod from Anchorage to Nome billed as “The Last Great Race on Earth®.”
To add to the challenge, it will not only be Gibson’s first experience in Junior Iditarod, but also her first ever visit to “The Last Frontier” Alaska’s state name.
The Junior Iditarod is open to teens from 14 to 17 years of age. Teams start at Knik, near Anchorage, and travel 75 miles along the National Historic Iditarod Trail to the Yentna Station Roadhouse,” said Gibson. “There, they will camp at a checkpoint with their teams for the required ten hours before leaving and running back toward the finish line in Willow Alaska.”
Gibson’s main goal “is to compete in and win the world-famous Iditarod.” Along the way she hopes to produce a top competitive mid-distance team racing 100-250 miles while “promoting high standards of care for sled dogs.”
Gibson’s interest in mushing came early when, as a toddler, she watched the 1995 animated adventure film, Balto, based on the story of a sled dog that led his team in the delivery of serum to combat a 1925 diphtheria outbreak in Nome.
“I believe my mother thought that it was going to be like most other four-year-old’s dream…I would eventually move on to the next thing that caught my eye,” said Gibson. “That however, didn't happen and when I was 12 and still expressing interest, we finally got hold of some Washington mushers.”
Gibson also credits competitive mid-distance racer and Iditarod finisher, Laura Daugerau, who divides her time between Washington and Montana, with inspiring her.
“Laura has made a huge impact on my life as a friend and teacher,” said Gibson. “I wouldn’t be running the Junior Iditarod if it weren’t for her.”
Christina and her mother, Emily, moved from Duvall to Omak in 2014 to caretake some land that later burned in the 2015 Okanogan Complex Fire. The pair eventually settled on the Methow Valley to be “part of a more connected community” and closer to west side friends.
Gibson acquired her first sled dog in 2014.
“My team has grown since then into a racing team made up of eight Alaskan Huskies,” Gibson said. “Owning and caring for a dog team is not easy; it takes lots of hard work, time, dedication, and money.”
When not working with her team, Gibson enjoys photography, reading and writing which also involves keeping up with her blog “Chasing Whiteout” that can be found on her website, whiteoutracingkennel.com. She is also interested in film and acting and plans to attend college as she continues to pursue competitive dog mushing.
Gibson begins training when the fall temperatures fall below 50 degrees.
“The initial training schedule is one day on, one day off,” said Gibson. “We start with low miles, gradually increasing to make sure each dog has a chance to become accustomed to training.”
By the time the snow begins to stick she has progressed to a two-day-on, one-day-off schedule.
“Each dog is unique. They have their own personality, their likes and dislikes,” said Gibson. “Just like people they have off days, or days they don't feel well,”
Speaking like a coach, Gibson said it’s her job to take all those unique personalities and help form them into a team that works well together.
“They are incredible athletes that truly enjoy what they do,” said Gibson. “I think everyone has their own thought on this, but, when I see my dogs’ attitudes at a race, and watch them zero in on another team, I truly believe they know it's a competitive event and have much joy in that fact.”
Gibson said her efforts have been well rewarded.
“Working with the dogs has taught me more than I ever imagined,” said Gibson said. “I really wouldn't be who I am without them.”
In return, Gibson has created her Facebook page and website that is “dedicated to happy, healthy, fast dogs” together with “honest and quality dog care and racing.”
Her passion for racing has also helped Gibson face young adulthood.
“Being a teenager, no matter who you are, or what you do, is stressful,” said Gibson. “Becoming an adult isn't easy, and having anyone who loves you unconditionally no matter what, is so important. My dogs are that for me.”
Like many others who feel a special kinship with animals, Gibson has let her dogs teach her to cope with life as it comes.
“The dogs live in the moment,” said Gibson. “They don't stress or worry about what’s coming next, or what challenge may lay ahead on the trail, so I am learning not to either. They have made me a more confident, healthy, and happy person.”

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