FOREST LAKES – La Plata County resident Kyra Wilson, 13, will participate in the opening of a 300-mile dog sled race later this month in Wyoming as a junior dog musher with world-class, legally blind dog musher Rachael Scdoris.
As a junior musher, Wilson will run a short trip through Jackson, Wyoming, with Scdoris to launch the 25th annual International Pedigree Stage Stop Race Jan. 31. Scdoris is the first person with a disability to complete the Iditarod, a 1,000-mile race in Alaska, and formerly was named Glamour magazine’s Woman of the Year.
For Wilson, a two-time junior musher, it’s an exciting chance to interact with world-class racers.
“At the end, you get to see them place their dogs in their little trucks and you get to see how they dismantle everything,” Wilson said. “I thought that was fascinating.”
The junior musher stage stop is the 2-mile opener for the eight-stage race. The sled teams run on snow-covered streets through the city of Jackson in front of crowds of onlookers, before a fireworks show and ski parade. The next day, the world-class sled teams launch into the journey through Wyoming and Idaho.
Wilson will see Scdoris’ uniquely trained dog team in action. Because Scdoris has been legally blind and color blind since birth, she can’t see low-hanging branches or obstacles to give commands to her dogs.
Instead, her dog team is trained to follow the team ahead and stay on the trail without help from the musher. During races, a teammate in front of her calls out warnings. Using the special training, Scdoris and her dog team ran the Iditarod four times, finishing twice and placing 45th and 57th.
The family launched a GoFundMe to help pay for travel to the race. Wilson, who started a small recycling program with her neighbors in Forest Lakes, is putting some of her savings toward the trip. The family raised $200 of its $800 goal as of Tuesday.
“I think it’s really exciting. ... It’s not something everyone does in their spare time,” Wilson said. “Dog sledding has a smaller community.”
Wilson has been around dog sledding her entire life.
The small dog sledding community in Oregon connected the Wilson family to the Scdoris family in the 2010s. Her parents, both involved with the sport, lived and worked with Scdoris when Wilson was a baby. In fact, Wilson took her first steps in the Scdoris family’s dog yard.
“She (Kara) hasn’t seen Rachael since she was a baby,” said Josh Wilson, Kyra’s father. “This (race) is kind of like bringing it back around again.”
Then, when she was only 10 days old, “baby Kyra” was on a glacier in Alaska visiting her father, a former dog musher, at a dog camp where he was training his own team.
“It sort of brings me closer to what he used to do,” Kyra said.
Josh no longer trains dogs, but he remembers the connections he used to forge with his team and the exciting lurch when the sled dogs take off for the first time.
“I’m really happy that she’s doing this,” he said. “She’s the animal person, too, so she’s the one that has really been interested in it.”
Kyra doesn’t anticipate attempting a 300-mile race of her own anytime soon. She is more interested in microorganisms, medicine and art. But she enjoys dog sledding in part because of her love for animals.
“I think they’re kind of like mini-people but a lot more furry,” Kyra said. “They have a mind of their own, and they can be really interesting sometimes.”