The Eagle, Alaska checkpoint of the 1000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race is housed in the historic one-room schoolhouse. It’s a bustling place during the Yukon Quest sled dog race.
Scarlett Hall has been Eagle checkpoint manager for “longer than I can remember – probably six or seven years.” She does it because she gets to work with Eagle volunteers who have done it for years and years and she has a commitment to the Yukon Quest.
Most of what Scarlett does actually happens before the day of the checkpoint set-up. She makes sure the food is delivered to Eagle, that it gets to the cooks, that the cooks prepare it, and that the checkers are lined up. Then she says, “We choose a time for set-up and everybody shows up and just starts doing. And it just magically comes together.”
When the race comes through, Scarlett says, “I stay here and oversee things and watch the checkers as they go about doing what they do.” But she does much more. Kelley Griffin enters the building and Scarlett gives her a big hug, “I got up at 3 a.m. to look at your Spot and if you had not moved by six, I was going to send out someone to check on you.” She and Kelley chat for a few minutes before Kelley heads back out to her dogs, preparing to leave.
Scarlett continues, “ The Yukon Quest gives everybody in Eagle something to do in winter time and there’s not a lot that goes on in Eagle in the winter time.”
The food at Eagle is fabulous and, again, it’s Scarlett organizing and volunteers doing the meals. The Yukon Quest helps by covering the cost of food supplies. She smiles, “I ask the volunteers to bring cookies, snacks, and breads. What’s been kind of neat in the last few years is that some of the younger girls want to earn their Yukon Quest volunteer patches. So they have come forward and they do baking for us. We like to see that it excites them. Plus it helps us and they get to participate in the Quest.”
As for food preparation, over the years, Eagle volunteers there have experimented with a number of ways. Their goal, she says, “is to prepare the food so it is the safest and freshest for the mushers. The idea is to get the food supplies in early, cook it and store it in meal- size portions and freeze it. When the race happens, we take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridges at the checkpoint so that the meals are ready when the mushers come through to choose what they want.” They are heated up in the microwave in minutes. They even cook vegetarian meals because last year several vegetarians came through.
The Menu is posted in chalk on the black board : Beef tortellini, Scalloped potatoes and ham, chicken soup, chicken Alfredo, beef and vegetable stew, a choice of beef, egg or vegetarian burritos. They have ham and tuna sandwiches, pancakes and ham and bagels with cream cheese. Over in one corner of the countertop, there are a variety of cookies and snacks and bread. Closer to the microwave, there is a batch of fried bread one lady made up and Scarlett smiles, “it’s wonderful heated up in the microwave.”
It’s no understatement when she says, “We’ve been feeding the officials and the mushers who have come through really well this year.” She gives credit to working well with Stephanie Knaebel from the Quest Fairbanks office and Greg Schaffer, the race manager.
Scarlett’s husband Wayne is a legendary figure in the Yukon Quest. He competed in the Yukon Quest three times and Scarlett says, “he loves to jump in and help out.” She explains, “We have some property on American Summit and we know it real well. That is why we are aware of where people are what the conditions are up there.” Wayne was at the checkpoint when the storm blew in on the summit and he strategized with the snow machine drivers who went out to open up the trail after the whiteout.
But on top of that, every year Wayne and their son along with a few friends set up a tent camp at the Forty Mile Bridge on the Yukon River. “He does it so the mushers have a place to stop and rest there. We throw that in as our volunteer portion for the Quest.” She says, “They cut a huge supply of firewood so the mushers are able to stay warm and rest a bit.” Scarlett noticed that some of the mushers this year have been spending long amounts of time there.
Throughout our interview, Scarlett’s eyes are checking on supplies and she is looking around the room and acknowledging people. The people of Eagle certainly do come together in a very warm way to provide hospitality to the Yukon Quest – but it’s not magic. It’s a lot of hard work and commitment.
This profile was originally published on the Yukon Quest facebook as part of the 2011 race coverage.