EXHILERATION – The Skagway Siblings, John O'Daniel (left) and Kathy O'Daniel (middle) get help from support crew members Bob Deitrick and Jason O'Daniel on the coveted shore of Dawson City. Jeff Brady

Skagway 'Team O'D' fulfills River Quest

460 miles in under three days

Story by Jeff Brady

John and Kathy O’Daniel, the “Skagway Siblings”, completed the sixth annual Yukon River Quest in Dawson City June 26. They finished in 24th position overall with an elapsed time of 61:50, just under three days after leaving Whitehorse.
John manages Skagway TrueValue Hardware and big sister Kathy is a Juneau elementary school teacher. They were paddling the Skagway Alpine Club canoe in shirts bearing the name “Team O’Daniel.”
The O’Daniels kept a comfortable pace the entire trip, passed 12 teams going into Carmacks, bounced through Five Finger Rapids where two teams “dumped” this year for the first time due to the high water (all were rescued by a Canadian Rangers patrol nearby that watches teams go through the rapids), and passed four more teams going into the second rest stop at Kirkman Creek.
During the final 100-mile stretch into Dawson, they paddled through the Thistle Creek area and watched a forest fire, one of many in the Yukon interior that created smoky conditions, but kept finishers from overheating.
“We did pretty darn good,” said John, a veteran of three races. “Kathy never gave up and I knew she was hurting. She told me, ‘I ain’t quitting, don’t you dare scratch at Carmacks.’”

START – The Skagway Siblings leave Whitehorse behind the pack. Bob Deitrick

John said the team accomplished two of three goals: arriving in under three days, and getting in ahead of the voyageur teams. The only goal he missed, was besting his 23rd place finish from 2002.
“I’m so glad we did this,” said Kathy, who received good news a couple days before the race that lab results from her lumpectomy on June 15 were benign.
Kathy said her sleep-deprived hallucinations were spectacular: “I saw whales, giraffes, giant refrigerators and Q-tips, plumed bunny trees, and my husband Bob in the boat.”
Kathy’s husband, Bob Deitrick, and John’s son, Jason O’Daniel, provided support for the team. Jason plans to race with his dad next year, and supplied the team with a number of “poopie jokes” from the hardware store to keep them in good spirits.
Southeast Alaska’s other entrant, solo kayaker Dave Sevdy of Juneau, was one of 16 teams that scratched in the Carmacks area. Sevdy, like many others who stopped near the halfway point, said he could not perform well in the 90-degree heat.
“I’ve been baked, I’ve been smoked, and now I’m a ham,” he said after reaching Carmacks.
After a rest he caught a ride to Dawson and assisted many teams as they came into shore.

FINISH – John and Kathy paddle hard through the finish line. Jeff Brady

The race was won by Team Michigan, Steve Landick and Bruce Barton, with an elapsed time of 44 hours, 27 minutes, just 18 minutes off the course record held by Landick and another partner from the 2001 race. They said the heat and smoke slowed them down coming into Dawson.
The river was fast with all the early runoff this year, and six category records were broken. Despite not breaking the course record, Barton and Landick beat the stock tandem canoe record by 43 minutes.
Other records broken included: Men’s solo kayak: Stephen Mooney, Whitehorse 47:58; Mixed tandem kayak: Jason Merron and Charmian Gradwell (BBC Challenge team from England), 51:13; Women’s solo kayak: Ingrid Wilcox, Whitehorse, 55:56 (broke her previous record by almost 7 hours!); Women’s tandem canoe: Yvonne Harris and Pat McKenna, Whitehorse, 57:22 (broke their previous record by about 2 hours); Women’s tandem kayak: Amy Byers and Danise Kimball, California, 67:04 (broke previous record by 17 hours!).
A record 51 teams started on June 23, and 35 finished the world’s longest annual paddling event by 6 a.m. June 27. See www.yukonriverquest.com for complete results.