Kirsten Bey

NOME

  Bey in her dog yard just north of downtown Nome, with the Icy View neighborhood and the Kigluiak foothills in the distance.

Bey in her dog yard just north of downtown Nome, with the Icy View neighborhood and the Kigluiak foothills in the distance.

When I first came to Alaska...

I was a lawyer, and had been working as a public defender outside of Portland for a number of years, and felt I needed a break. So I thought I would take the summer off and go traveling around, and visit all my friends from law school. The last place I visited was Alaska, because I had two good friends from law school who were up in Anchorage. So I came to visit them, and they had a friend who was a lawyer also. He was a musher half the time, and a lawyer half the time--a dog musher. Had sled dogs, ran races. And this was in the fall time, and he needed somebody to help him move his kennel that year. His wife had just started veterinary school; his wife wasn’t going to be around. So he was looking for a handler basically, you know, somebody to help out at the kennel. And that sounded like a good way to not go back to work for a while! So I stayed, and helped him for that winter, and I really liked it. And so I stayed on for a couple more winters, and, you know, decided I really liked sled dogs, and wanted to stay in Alaska, and get my own dogs. So then I permanently stayed in Alaska... That’s how I got to Alaska.

 

why dog mushing is important to me

I think because I was born in North Dakota and my heritage was Norwegian Vikings, I think I had some sort of like, the cold and dark, in me. That must have come out when I came to Alaska. I really like the physical work. I think I had overtaxed my brain [working as a lawyer]. And just doing the dog mushing, and we didn’t have electricity or running water. Just the physical work was kind of a real-- well, it was just so fun. I found I really liked the dogs. And really, you know, the dogs were all interesting-- they have their individual selves, personalities. Pretty fun to go travel out into the wilderness. I wouldn’t do that by myself, I wouldn’t do it with somebody else hiking or whatever-- but the dogs. They're doing most of the work. I decided I wanted to stay in Alaska, because I wanted to have dogs.

"The whole thing is just incredible. I mean, these animals that just love to run. I can’t even talk about it without getting emotional. Just to be able to go places, see things, that you wouldn’t-- travel places that would be hard to get to you. I guess you could do it on a snowmachine, but that wouldn’t be any fun because you can’t see anything, and it’s noisy, and it’s smelly."

 

finishing "the last great race on earth"

I finished the Iditarod in 1993, [the annual long-distance sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome]. My dogs-- I had borrowed a dog from somebody in town. That was one of my lead dogs. But I’m sure it was musher error: we ended up not coming in on the ocean side [of the beach] into town. We took one of the local dog trails. It came in on the back side of town and ended up just straight across from here [far from the finish line]. So I had done that, and other people were behind me, and followed me! There were five of us, and we had to make our way around town. ... [Nome musher Aaron] Burmeister saw us and was like, “You’re not on the trail!” So we had to go down Steadman Avenue. ... You just remember those kinds of things. You’re happy to [finish the race], but sad that’s it over, because you have been having so much fun. You don’t have another, you know, fifty miles to travel with your dogs.