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Iditarod racer speaks at Avon Public Library

Daily Staff Report
Vail CO, Colorado

Experience the trials, joys and achievements of former Iditarod musher Karen Land Monday at the Avon Public Library. The free program, the second event in the High Country Speaker Series sponsored by the Eagle Valley Library District and Gore Range Natural Science School, begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Beaver Creek Room. Land’s close companion and racing dog, Borage, will also be in attendance.

Land became intrigued with sled dog racing in 1997 while hiking the Appalachian Trail with her dog, Kirby. During a re-supply, she came across a book about the Iditarod sled dog race. At night, curled up in her tent with Kirby and stories of dogs on the run, Land says, “A dream was born.”

In 1999, Land enrolled in a graduate writing program in Maine. As part of her studies, she wrote about a rookie dog musher preparing for the 250-mile Can Am Crown Sled Dog race in northern Maine.

“I wanted to write about dogs and people who love dogs,” she says. “But it became much more than that. It became a labor of love, a calling. I fell in love with all of the dogs, the sport, the wilderness and the lifestyle of a musher. I knew exactly what I wanted to do next.”

Land was fortunate to meet Dr. Terry Adkins, DVM, at the Can Am Race. A musher himself, Adkins offered Land an apprenticeship as a dog handler at his Montana kennel of 100-some Alaskan huskies. Adkins, who served as a veterinarian on the first Iditarod in 1973, has run the race 21 times.

In 2001, working out of Adkins’ kennel, Land completed her Iditarod qualifiers in her second year of mushing. She finished the 450-mile Wyoming International Stage Stop Race, the 250-mile Can Am Crown in Maine, and Montana’s 350-mile Race to the Sky Sled Dog Race over a short two-month period.

Ultimately, Land went from an observer to a doer in just three short years. It takes most mushers at least twice as long to work up to the Iditarod. In March 2002, Karen took on and finished the biggest, most challenging sled dog race in the world ” the Iditarod. She went on to compete in the 2003 and 2004 Iditarod as well.

“My dogs have taught me about leadership and teamwork,” she says. “Running a team of 16 sled dogs across Alaska is a dance. I have learned to smile in a blizzard, to take risks or take breaks for the good of the team, and follow my dreams to the finish.”

In a salute to snow, this year’s High Country Speaker Series features three speakers who each bring a unique perspective on the magic, mystery, and danger of one of nature’s most captivating elements. Colorado Department of Transportation veteran Ken Wissel will close out the series on Feb. 26 with a look at what it takes to keep our high country roads safe in winter. He’ll share footage and slides of past and present avalanche activity from Denver to Vail.

The High Country Speaker Series is free, but space is limited. Advanced registration is recommended by calling the Avon Public Library at 949-6797.


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