Milne wins Quest red lantern; race ends

Posted: Thursday, March 01, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race officially ended Tuesday night as musher Bruce Milne reached the finish to claim the Red Lantern.

Milne was slowed by dogs in heat and a broken sled runner. He also froze his hands and toes and crossed Eagle Summit in a storm obliterated by a storm, but he persevered to finish the 1,000-mile race from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, to Fairbanks started more than two weeks ago.

''I haven't seen another musher since Eagle,'' Milne said after crossing the Chena River finish line at 7:45 p.m.

''When I left Dawson there were still seven teams behind me and I knew they couldn't catch me,'' Milne told a cluster of fans. ''When I got to Eagle (race judge) Joe May told me, 'The good news is you're almost in the money. The bad news is everybody behind you scratched.'''

Milne, 46, of Two Rivers, was the last of 19 mushers to finish. He was more than a day behind the closest team in front of him and almost five days behind winner Tim Osmar. His official time was 16 days, 7 hours and 45 minutes.

With lead dogs Chowder and Blitzen leading the way, Milne's team of nine dogs charged across the finish line that impatient race officials had already dismantled earlier in the day. All that was left was the yellow Yukon Quest banner denoting the finish line and some metal fencing.

Race officials arrived 10 minutes later to present him with the Red Lantern, a lantern mounted on a red gold pan, awarded to the final finisher.

Milne said he thought about scratching outside Central, less than 200 miles from finish, after he froze his toes spending the night in his sled bag on Birch Creek.

''It was the second night in my sled bag at 40 below and that wasn't very fun,'' Milne said. ''I knew my toes were freezing because I couldn't wiggle them anymore.

''All my toes are turning black,'' he said.

It took Milne 10 hours to make the 33-mile run over Eagle Summit from Central to the Steese Highway Mile 101 dog drop. He said getting down was the hard part.

''The trail was completely gone,'' Milne said. ''There were no markers. We were going down gullies and across tailing piles and everything else.

''If you weren't on the trail you were in belly deep snow,'' he said. ''If I hadn't gone over that mountain last year there's no way I would have been able to make it down this year.''

As a rookie last year, Milne finished 20th out of 21 mushers with a time of 15 days, 1 hour and 39 minutes.

Milne's team looked fresh and alert after crossing the finish. The dogs were all standing up, wagging their tails long after Milne anchored his snowhook.

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