By Angelica Ingram
When Marilyn Hubley got a phone call from Winterdance Dogsled Tours employee Barb Bohlin about volunteering at the upcoming Dogsled Derby she questioned why the message said it was an urgent matter considering the dogsled races weren’t scheduled until March.
The voicemail turned out to be a ruse and when Hubley called back she found out she was the winner of a trip to Alaska to watch the beginning of the Yukon Quest with local musher Hank DeBruin racing in the event.
The news sent Hubley into shock.
“She [Barb] said you won and I said no” laughs Hubley. “We argued back and forth for a bit and I was just stunned … it took a few days to really set in. I was phoning everybody and posting it all over Facebook.”
The contest was done by Winterdance Dogsled Tours and individuals became eligible for a draw if they had supported DeBruin through a variety of different ways.
A retired money market trader Hubley 51 moved to Kinmount in 2004 and it was then when she became familiar with Winterdance Dogsled Tours.
She rescued Siberian huskies as a pet project and wanted to know more about DeBruin’s business.
She immediately fell in love with the operation and the way DeBruin and his wife Tanya McCready-DeBruin treated their animals.
“I went up to see them once they built all their kennels and I was really impressed how they put the dogs first literally” said Hubley. “Seeing the dogs and seeing their nature … I knew they were being raised by great people and that just made me want to support them all the more.”
Although she lives closer to Peterborough now Hubley still volunteers frequently with the Haliburton Dogsled Derby and stays connected to Winterdance.
She flew out on Feb. 3 for the Yukon Quest and came back on Feb. 8. While in Alaska she also had an opportunity to visit with a friend.
When she arrived she immediately participated in the race events including meet the mushers even though she was running on little sleep.
“I had been travelling for 12 hours. I was a zombie” she said. “I was just so happy to be there.”
The activities were interesting but it was watching the start of the Yukon Quest that had Hubley most excited.
“I got to be with them at the start and run down the start line and take pictures” she said. “I got 1000 pictures of them going through.”
Hubley describes the atmosphere at the start line as a mixture of excitement and tension especially amongst the mushers.
“I feel for the mushers because it’s really tense for them” she said.
Hubley said the experience was surreal. The retiree describes Alaska as a breathtaking place in terms of scenery with very friendly people. The trip exceeded her expectations.
“I kept thinking … I’m in Alaska” she said.
After she returned to Ontario Hubley still followed along with DeBruin’s race on Facebook. She was sad for the musher when she heard he had scratched from the Yukon Quest but thinks he made the right decision for his team.
“I was sad for him because it’s such a huge undertaking even just to get them there and it’s so expensive” she said. “But I know Hank and I know he puts his dog first … so I knew he was not pushing his team for a reason. I was really disappointed for them but I was really glad that he was smart enough to make that decision.”
She said those who participate in the Quest are amazing athletes who are willing to take great risks.
Watching DeBruin with his team Hubley could see the mutual love between the huskies and the musher.
“It’s quite heartwarming I was almost in tears at the start” she said.