Maggie Valley represented on Yukon Trail
As he races 1,000 miles through Alaska to the Yukon with his pack of huskies, musher Hugh Neff has a piece of Maggie Valley along with him.
Those following Neff’s journey online during the annual Yukon Quest, have probably noticed a Maggie Valley Police patch on the shoulder of his winter coat.
Maggie Valley Mayor Ron DeSimone and Police Chief Scott Sutton gave the patch to Neff last summer when he was here visiting the area.
“I wanted to make that connection to Alaska because Maggie Valley is the southern tip of southern sports,” DeSimone said. “Connecting with a dog sledder seemed to be a great way to promote that.”
Maggie Valley resident Jim Blyth is a former mayor of North Pole, Alaska, where he lived for 12 years. Through mutual friends on Facebook, Blyth saw that Neff would be in the Southeast visiting elementary schools and they ended up meeting for lunch in Asheville and taking a tour of Maggie Valley.
“He loved it. I took him to Cataloochee and he and his girlfriend camped there overnight,” Blyth said.
Neff is originally from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and was raised in Chicago, Illinois. He got into dog mushing in 1997 and in 2000 he ran his first race. This year’s Yukon Quest is his 22nd 1,000-mile race. He was the 2012 Yukon Quest Champion and has also participated in the Iditarod. This year’s Yukon Quest started in Fairbanks, Alaska and will end in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada.
“It’s a neat race and I think there are people all over the world following it,” DeSimone said. “It’s the last great race — what’s more challenging than that?”
The race is now in it’s fifth day and should be wrapping up early next week.
While Neff had a good lead in the beginning, he is currently in third place. During a local TV news interview as he came into Dawson City, Neff’s Maggie patch was clearly visible as he spoke about the difficulties of the race.
When he isn’t racing, Neff spends a lot of time traveling around to elementary schools speaking to students.
“He tours elementary schools and talks to the kids about leadership and taking on challenges in life. So we want him to come back here to talk to kids at Jonathan Valley in May,” Blyth said.
Neff also has a radio show and a book, “Tails of the Gypsy Musher: Alaska and Beyond.”
To follow the race, visit www.yukonquest.com. See interviews with Neff on the Yukon Quest’s YouTube channel.