The Yukon Quest welcomes back Nathaniel Hamlyn and his team from Step Up Kennels to the race — they will be running in the 100 mile event!
Nathaniel Hamlyn has been running dogs for over a decade now. When he was first getting started on the trail in the NWT, he was inspired by Yellowknife musher, Marcel Marin, who told him stories about running in the Yukon Quest. Marin ran the Quest in 2005. “When I started out, that was my dream — to run in the Yukon Quest,” says Hamlyn.
Hamlyn moved from Yellowknife to Whitehorse in 2014 to pursue his university studies, and train with the local mushing community. In 2017, he ran in the 300-mile event, and the following year, his early goal of running from Whitehorse to Fairbanks came true. In both 2018 and 2019, he and his team came across the finish line in the 1000-mile race at the Quest. Hamlyn also competed in the 2020 Yukon Journey, a 300-mile race.
His kennel has evolved over the years from Inuit dogs to Siberian huskies to Alaskan huskies. “Five years ago, I made the switch — Alaskan huskies are the right fit for me,” he says. He’s raised two litters of pups and today is working with a younger, more uniform team. “This year, I've decided to take a break from long distance and focus on the 100-mile event — it takes a lot to train for a distance event,” explains Hamlyn. “My team is younger this year and they’re training faster — some of the old veterans can’t keep up to this pace.”
He’ll be counting on the leadership from Tikka, a spirited female, who is “by far the smallest dog on the team” but also one of the fastest. “She has a big heart and pulls like crazy,” says Hamlyn. This will be Tikka’s first time leading a race. “I kinda told her, ‘you know, I need you to be a leader because you’re so small — and she turned into one.” Hamlyn is looking forward to running the Quest with Tikka in the lead with Aquilla, who is learning from her. “It seems that when Tikka is leading, we go 1 to 2 miles/hour faster.”
Being out on the trail is no easy feat, says Hamlyn. “You’re at war with the weather. When it’s 45 degrees below zero — that’s not comfortable,” he laughs. “You’re hungry, tired, and cold. You kind of go into autopilot and you have to focus on your routine. If you haven’t trained enough, the routine isn’t there.”
But for Hamlyn, the rewards of mushing far outweigh the challenges. “I love the dogs and their personalities. It’s inspiring the way they always seem to be happy,” says Hamlyn. “It’s really hard to explain the feeling when you’re going into the woods alone with them. It’s peaceful and you get unplugged from everything — it’s where I do my best thinking.”
(Content: Trina Moyles/ Photos: Nathaniel Hamlyn)