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Pete Kaiser wins the 2022 Bogus Creek 150, sweeping both Kuskokwim mid-distance sled dog races this season

Pete Kaiser of Bethel won the 2022 Bogus Creek 150 Sled Dog race at 5:12 a.m. on Feb. 20, 2022.
Katie Basile
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Pete Kaiser of Bethel won the 2022 Bogus Creek 150 Sled Dog race at 5:12 a.m. on Feb. 20, 2022.

Pete Kaiser of Bethel swept the Kuskokwim mid-distance races this season. He won the 2022 Bogus Creek 150 Sled Dog Race on Sunday, Feb. 20. The championship follows his sixth Kuskokwim 300 title just a few weeks prior, but he’s not done chasing gold this season. The Bethel musher will compete for his second Iditarod victory in just two weeks.

Kaiser arrived at the Bogus Creek finish line with all 10 dogs in harness at 5:12 a.m. Under freezing rain and dark skies, a couple dozen supporters, including his family, friends, race officials, and fans, greeted the champion, clapping and cheering as he arrived home. After crossing the finish on the Kuskokwim River ice, he pulled a bag from his sled, labeled “Fish,” and gave each dog two frozen slabs of meat.

Despite outpacing the competition, Kaiser said that “it felt like a slow motion race.” Heavy snow in the days leading up to the Bogus Creek 150 created a soft, punchy course. A fierce headwind forced many mushers to crouch on their sleds as they raced upriver. More snow fell as the top racers reached the turn-around checkpoint. Freezing rain began falling minutes before Kaiser arrived at the finish.

Kaiser hadn’t planned to run the Bogus. He added his name to the roster a couple days before the start, after days of heavy snow. “It’s good training to see different conditions than what we’re used to all the time out here, especially going into Iditarod, to see a little bit of deeper snow,” Kaiser said at the finish line. Kaiser plans to race the 1,000-mile-long Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in two weeks. The Bogus Creek race served as a final long training run.

For most of the winter, the lower Kuskokwim area has provided a hard, icy trail. Kaiser said that he wouldn’t have entered the Bogus if conditions hadn’t softened. “Hard, icy, fast trails are maybe more likely to injure a dog, and with Iditarod being so close, there’s not a lot of recovery time,” Kaiser explained. “This slower trail is like something you might see on Iditarod.”

The top finishers took slightly more time racing upriver than coming back. Kaiser reached the half-way point in 7 hours and 42 minutes. After a mandatory four-hour layover, he reduced that time on the way back to 7 hours and 27 minutes. He attributed the extra speed to “fresh dogs” coming out of the checkpoint and “a firmer trail after all the teams had gone over it.” Also, what had been a headwind going out was a tailwind coming back.

Herman Phillip of Kwethluk placed second in the Bogus, arriving in Bethel at 5:27 a.m., 15 minutes after Kaiser. Phillip won the Bogus back in 2011, and hadn’t planned to enter this year. He stepped in the day before the race to fill in for his friend, Lewis Pavila, after Pavila became ill. Phillip had not trained with Pavila’s team beforehand. “I just hop on and go,” he said, laughing at the finish. “Lewis’s dogs are good. They did good for me.”

Phillip was in the lead most of the race, arriving at the halfway checkpoint one minute before Kaiser, but Kaiser passed him near Akiachak on the way back to Bethel. “Pete is too fast for me. I’m happy for him, he did a good job,” Phillip said, smiling behind his spectacles. At the halfway checkpoint, Phillip had told KYUK that his goal was to have fun. At the finish line, he said he’d done that “both ways, up and down.”

The Bogus Creek gave all 14 of the dogs Kaiser plans to use in the Iditarod a chance to run. He ran part of the Iditarod team, and his friend, Matt Scott of Bethel, ran the rest. “That was just a real pleasure, something I’ll have with me forever,” Scott said after placing third in the 2022 Bogus Creek, arriving in Bethel at 5:40 a.m. “To be able to run a dog team of this caliber is just something truly special.”

Now Kaiser has a week to train in Bethel before flying himself and his team to Anchorage for the Iditarod start. “These guys [his team] will get four or five days off,” Kaiser said, “And we’ll do a couple runs, and we’ll ship in there.” Kaiser won the Iditarod in 2019. Last year, he scratched after his dogs became sick. He’s hoping his winning streak will continue this season.

For his Bogus Creek 150 win, Kaiser received a trophy made by artist Kelly Lincoln of Bethel. She wove the beach grass plate using blue seal gut designs and dyed grass picked in Bethel.

Weather always throws drama into mushing. This year it prompted a series of changes for the Bogus Creek race. Organizers postponed it by a month after very warm and then very cold weather stalled training for most mushers. Two days before the race, organizers moved up the start time by five hours to hopefully avoid the worst of the rain during the finish. The day before the race, they rerouted the course to avoid overflow on the Tuluksak River and approximately 4 feet of snow at Bogus Creek, the traditional turnaround checkpoint and race namesake. Instead, the trail followed the Kuskokwim mainstem, turning around about 18 miles upriver of Tuluksak. The change made the route shorter than usual. Instead of 150 miles, mushers raced about 122 miles.

Kaiser’s victory in the Bogus Creek 150 comes just weeks after winning his sixth Kuskokwim 300 title. The back-to-back titles mean that the Bethel musher swept both of the river’s mid-distance races this season. Kaiser also holds the championship title from the 2008 Bogus Creek race.

Usually when the Bogus happens, Kaiser is instead racing the longer and tougher Kuskokwim 300. Last year, organizers separated the races to different weekends to reduce crowding during the pandemic. They separated them again this year, which allowed mushers to compete in both. Kaiser placed third in last year’s Bogus Creek, behind his father and second place finisher Ron Kaiser. Richie Diehl of Aniak won the race, and then went on to win the Kuskokwim 300 a few weeks later. Diehl became the first musher to win both races in the same year. Kaiser is the second musher to hold that distinction.

Neither Kaiser’s father nor Diehl competed in this year’s Bogus. Diehl is registered to race the Iditarod in two weeks. He told KYUK earlier in the season that the close succession of the two races meant that he was unlikely to compete in the Bogus due to the costly and time-sensitive logistics of transporting dogs and drop bags between the two events.

Kaiser said that his Iditarod drop bags and equipment arrived in Anchorage last week. The ceremonial race start begins in Anchorage on March 5. The actual race begins on March 6 in Willow.

Anna Rose MacArthur is the KYUK News Director. She has worked at KYUK since 2015 and previously worked at KNOM in Nome, Alaska.
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