3rd Place 2006 Iditarod veteran Paul & Evy Gebhardt with the coveted Humanitarian Award
In the year 2000 Paul Gebhardt of Morning View Kennel in Kasilof was only one team away from becoming the second Iditarod Champion from the Kenai Peninsula. This year, after becoming separated from his team and being lucky enough to catch up to them, he finished only two teams away from becoming the third Iditarod winner from the Kenai. As his colleagues would agree however, regardless of where they place, any musher who has claimed the Iditarod Humanitarian Award is an Iditarod Champion indeed, and Paul Gebhardt has been chosen for that honor twice. In the history of the Last Great Race, only four mushers have won the Humanitarian more than once. Additionally, Gebhardt has placed in the top twenty 6 times, and in the top ten 4 times. He has the fastest time from Safety to Nome and has won the Golden Harness Award for his great lead dog, Red Dog.
Last week Paul shared his 2006 Iditarod experience with the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce at the Riverside Inn. “I started last this year, so I had 82 mushers to pass and as I finally passed the last team I’m thinking YES I’m finally at the front of this thing. I was about a half hour from taking my rest when I came around a curve. My sled was loaded down with a lot of food and straw and when the sled is heavy, it is harder to steer. The sled hit the right side and veered to the left and as we were heading down to the lake, there was one solo tree all by itself just before the lake. The sled smacked it dead center and came to an abrupt halt and the team lurched forward snapping the line that connects them to the sled and all 15 of them took off across the lake happy to have lost all that weight behind them and running joyfully on their own without even looking back at me,” recalled Gebhardt. “Someone asked me if I was going to go back and cut that tree out, and I said no I’m going leave it there not to see if someone else can hit it, but it’s a tree that I’ll recognize in the future with no problem,” laughed Gebhardt.
Regardless of the mishap, Gephardt feels it was a great year for his kennel, “For both my wife and I it was a very successful run. Obviously the Humanitarian Award is like icing on the cake. It means a lot for us to be recognized as people who take special care of their animals,” said Gebhardt. When asked about future plans for his team. Paul replied, “To Win!” Paul will be heading to the Kobuk 440 race this week, “I hear Jeff King is going to be there, and I still have that team to beat this year, and next year we’ll be concentrating on the Iditarod real hard,” concluded Gebhardt, an extreme athlete and a tribute to historic arctic sport of dog mushing.
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