A rookie musher challenges the veterans.

My husband's first cousin Susie Rogan lives an enviable life in the "True North, Strong and Free". She and her partner Hans Gatt breed and train sled dogs just outside Whitehorse, Yukon. Susie has the rugged beauty of the Yukon in her back yard. She has faced down a hungry grizzly bear hoping for a free lunch on a litter of new pups, as maternally protective of her brood as the canine mother. Susie and Hans live for their dogs. Their bloodline is highly praised for long-distance endurance racing. Currently they have about 50 dogs, including moms and pups. Northern dogs are capable of surviving and in fact thriving in extreme cold weather. They need great food, some straw and snow for a bed, boots to protect their feet and a great musher behind them on the sled, calling them to "run". and run they do, covering more than 100 miles a day. At each checkpoint along the race route the dogs are checked by veterinarians for soundness and withdrawn from the race if not 100% fit.

On Saturday, Feb. 2, Susie and her team began the 1000 mile Yukon Quest with 25 other teams, headed for Fairbanks through some of the most rugged mountains and isolated river valleys in Canada and Alaska. She is a rookie in this race against seasoned veterans, but Susie has the grit and the knowledge to see her through. She also has as her chief support team member her partner Hans, four-time winner of the Quest, second place finisher in the Iditerod, and many times European sled dog racing champion. Susie's mother Harriet was there at the start and will greet her in Dawson City as Susie heads for the  Al-Can border. You can track the race by Googling Yukon Quest and like Yukon Quest on Facebook.  It's almost as good as being there, just not as cold!