Severin Nelsen trains near Skagway in his kayak. Photo submitted

Solo Skagway paddler in 2010 YRQ

460-mile race starts at noon on June 30 in Whitehorse


By KATIE EMMETS

Racing in a solo kayak, Severin Nelsen will be representing Skagway in the 2010 Yukon River Quest which starts next week.
For the first few years he was in town, Nelson said he kept seeing posters advertising the quest and thought it would be a cool thing to participate in it.
“I better go for it,” he said. “This is the year.”
The 28-year-old considers himself to be a novice kayaker.
Although he has never competed in a river race, he has gone on a few multi-day paddling trips including one in Glacier Bay and one on Lake Atlin.
He said he would like to keep his finish time under 60 hours, but if things go well, near the 50 hour range.
According to the Yukon River Quest website, 80 teams with more than 180 paddlers will take off on in Whitehorse June 30 to make the 460-mile trip to Dawson City on July 4.
Last weekend, Nelsen did his first overnight kayak trip to get ready for the event. He woke up at 5:30 a.m., worked all day at the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad and left for the Yukon when he got off. At 12:30 a.m. he put in at the Tagish bridge and continued until he reached Whitehorse at 11:30 am.
While on the water, Nelsen was able to see what those who have done the river race were talking about when they warned him about hallucinations after paddling round-the-clock.
Nelsen saw shapes in the rocks, and although he was completely alone on the river, he said he saw people from work.
“My co-workers were yelling at me and my boss was there,” he said.
For training, Nelsen said he lifts weight in the gym that targets his back, shoulder and core muscles. He also does a lot of cardio and admits that his arms are still “a bit weak.”
For the race, he is bringing spaghetti, yogurt and a few energy supplements.
“The lady who I’m renting the boat from said to bring food that no matter how sick you feel, you’ll still be able to eat it,” he said.
Also along for the ride will be a camera to take pictures with to remember his first trip on the Yukon River, and an iPod.
Nelsen, who said he has an eclectic music taste, will be making a play list of fast songs for motivation, adding that he will be listening to punk music.
“I liked a lot of punk-type music in high school that I listen to for a pick me up,” he said.
The race organization invites spectators to gather in Rotary Peace Park and along the waterfront on the morning of Wednesday June 30 to witness the spectacular start. The racers line up for introductions at 11:30 a.m. with the historic SS Klondike looming in the background. Then the race horn blows at 12 noon and the participants run a short distance to their boats. Watching all the colorful boats leaving Whitehorse is truly one of the most spectacular sights in the north, according to a YRQ press release.
Then it’s a long paddle on Lake Laberge, through the waning light of the midnight sun on the Thirtymile heritage section, and then on to Carmacks and the first rest stop of 7 hours. After some sleep, they head down Five Finger Rapids, past historic Fort Selkirk, and on to the final rest stop at Kirkman Creek for 3 hours. That gives them energy for the last 100 miles to Dawson City. Teams will finish sometime between the afternoon of Friday July 2 and Saturday July 3 just before midnight, the official finish time for the race.
Nelsen will be supported by his wife Shandra, and several Skagway residents are volunteering at checkpoints. Follow his progress next week on the results link www.yukonriverquest.com.

UPDATE: Nelsen made it almost to the Kirkman Creek checkpoint, about 350 miles, before having to scratch due to sore muscles and fatique. Watch for story and photos in the July 9 issue.

Authentic canoeist off to rocky start

 A German man was found stranded on Lake Bennett June 20 after his authentic birch bark canoe was damaged by rocks from high winds and rough water conditions.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police were able to rescue Dirk Rohrback, 42, on Tuesday after they received a tip from boaters that he was sending a distress signal the night before, an RCMP release stated.
According to an article in What’s Up Yukon by summer resident Barry Smedley, Rohrback worked with a Native in Ontario to build a traditional birch bark canoe constructed with tree sap, Jack pine roots and a hand-carved cedar paddle. He said he was inspired by Jack London’s stories based on his participation in the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890s.
The Munich native assured Smedley that he was well prepared for the trip with high-tech gear, food and clothing.
And luckily for him, he was right.
According to the RCMP release, even though Rohrback was trapped on Lake Bennett for two days, he was “in no immediate danger as he had ample camping equipment and supplies.”
He is fixing the canoe in Carcross in order to resume his travels. Rohrback began his three-month quest on June 13 by hiking the Chilkoot Trail, Smedley’s article stated. At the end of the trail, he met the canoe which had been brought up on the train to Lake Bennett. He plans to paddle 2,000 miles down the length of the Yukon River, reaching the Bering Sea by late August.