Quest racer plans extended trip to Nome

Posted: Thursday, February 08, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A rookie Yukon Quest musher plans a pit stop at Fairbanks before continuing on all the way to Nome to raise money for a man disabled in a car accident.

Dario Daniels, 36, of Homer, is accepting per-mile donations to raise money for Craig Harmon, 43, who was paralyzed in a California car wreck in October.

The Yukon Quest, a 1,000 mile race from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, to Fairbanks, begins Sunday. Continuing on to Nome will add about 830 miles to Daniels' Quest mileage.

Daniels last summer worked as camp manager for Godwin Glacier Dogsled Tours out of Seward, which takes visitors on guided dogsled tours of the glacier.

Harmon's partner, Lucy Wyman, worked as camp cook for more than a month. For nine days just before the couple's scheduled departure from Alaska, Harmon worked as a dog handler for Daniels at the glacier camp.

Wyman and Harmon left Alaska and had just finished a 1,000-mile bicycle tour when they crashed their car near Bakersfield, Calif.

Wyman was not seriously injured, but Harmon broke his neck and severed part of his spinal cord.

Daniels made the decision to race for Harmon about three weeks ago, and has been consumed with the logistics ever since.

''It's pretty overwhelming,'' Daniels said late last week. ''It's definitely cut significantly into race preparation itself.''

Harmon had no medical insurance at the time of the accident. Though his auto insurance will pick up part of the tab, Wyman said, there's no question they will need money.

After Daniels crosses the Quest finish line, he plans to travel to Kaltag, possibly via the Chena, Tanana and Yukon rivers. At Kaltag, he will continue over the regular Iditarod route to Nome.

Daniels has run the Iditarod once, but has driven a team the full trail seven times as a guide. Though he knows the trail well, Daniels said, he will have to adjust his Yukon Quest race strategy to give his team the rest it needs to continue.

''If we have a chance to compete, we'll take advantage of it, but if it looks like we're out of the money it'll make more sense to take it easy coming into Fairbanks,'' Daniels said. ''We're going to make that decision out there.

Harmon said he hasn't come to terms with Daniels' overwhelming gesture.

''I haven't gotten used to people raising money for me yet,'' Harmon said from his hospital bed in Portland, Ore. ''It's hard for me to talk about it. As far as people doing stuff to help me out like that ... it's hard. It's very humbling. To be in a position where I need that, it hasn't really all sunk in yet.''

Daniels said the trip will be about keeping on going.

''If I can get anything out of this, it's something I want to do for a friend,'' Daniels said. ''That when the going gets tough, that he remembers that we're keeping on going for him. He can't quit because we won't quit. And we can't quit because he can't quit. We can make each other stronger that way.''

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