The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Erin Knotek
For The LOG 

Moose Pass musher preps for Junior Iditarod


Courtesy photo

Ashley Guernsey and her dog Spot.

Ask yourself what the typical 14 year old in your neighborhood does for fun. Ashley Guernsey, the oldest of four children of Russell and Melissa Guernsey, spends 150 miles on a dog sled, camps outside in the winter and takes care of a sled dog team.

Next month on Feb. 22, the Moose Pass teenager will run her first Junior Iditarod, a 150-mile endurance race including a 10-hour layover. The junior mushers are responsible for all aspect of this event, including dog care, food preparation and outdoor skills.

Since Ashley Guernsey was six years old, she wanted to be a dog musher. The movie "Season of the Sled Dog" was a favorite of hers when she was little. By age nine, Ashley had her own two sled dogs named Abigail and Spot. She devoted her time to training her dogs. When asked what she hopes to be when she grows up, Ashley's reply was she isn't sure what she will become once she grows up, but she knows that she will run the Iditarod.

Dan Seavey, who ran in the first Iditarod in 1973 and patriarch of the Seavey mushing dynasty, introduced her to mushing by letting her run some of his dogs. At the ceremonial start of the Iditarod, he let her handle dogs and ride with the him. Dan also helped shape Ashley's love of mushing by letting her help with the Seward Mayor's Cup Race for several years.

Ashley's mentor, Victor Creek musher Rick Tarpey, is one her favorite mushers. Tarpey is on a long list of Ashley's favorite mushers, including the distinguished elder Seavey, Mitch Seavey, Rachel Snodorris and Dee Dee Jonrowe.

Living in Moose Pass as a teenager is no easy task. Seward Middle and High schools are over a one hour bus ride away, twice a day. Ashley must juggle her commute, her honor level studies and athletics with training time. Ashley runs her dogs anywhere from five to 100 miles per week.

Then there are the costs of mushing and time spent in fundraising. The Moose Pass Sportsmen's Club gave her a substantial donation and the Iditarod Trail Blazers are sponsoring her. Ashley has earned money making and selling crafts, but mushing is an expensive sport. With just a few weeks until the main event of the Alaska mushing season, local boosters are promoting a no-bake bake sale to assist Ashley in her first race.

Rather than going to all the work of holding an actual bake sale, supporters are asked to donate an amount equivalent to what they'd spend. No-Bake Bake Sale Donations and letters of good wishes for Ashley Guernsey can be sent to Ashley Guernsey, 41658 Seward Highway, Moose Pass, AK 99631.


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