RAINY PASS, Alaska (KTUU) - Hugh Neff has admittedly had a rough year in 2018.
Hugh Neff talks with Channel 2 in the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2018 Iditarod. (KTUU)
He recently celebrated his 50th birthday, and just last month, the veteran musher, and former Yukon Quest champion, dropped out of that race after one of his dogs, 5-year-old Boppy, died of aspiration while resting outside of Dawson City.
“I’m still, that’s just something I’ll never get over,” Neff said in Rainy Pass Monday. “So it’s just been a brutal year, to tell you the truth.”
After dealing with temperatures of 65 below during the Quest, warm temperatures and fresh snow are a welcome relief for Neff and his team.
And on turning 50? Some say age is nothing but a number, but not Hugh Neff. At least not on Monday.
“I just turned 50, I’m getting lazy,” he joked.
Time and a lot of miles are starting to take their toll on the musher, who at 50 is still younger than the three former champions still in the race.
"I'm claiming it, I was talking with Mitch (Seavey) earlier about essential oils he's using for his back and stuff because this is my 32nd thousand mile race since 2000, so I'm pretty wiped out."
But that hasn't stopped him and his team of veterans from competing, though they’re taking it easy on this year's Iditarod trail after a rough Quest.
“This is pretty nice, isn't it?” Neff said on a sunny day wearing his snow pants and a hoodie. “I love the Quest, but sometimes the Iditarod is posh living.”
Meanwhile, Neff isn’t the only one, even on his team, who may be feeling his age. His team includes two 10-year-old dogs, Amigo, and his brother George Costanza.
Neff even has an idea to accommodate the over 50 crowd in the race.
“We need masseuses at every checkpoint out here,” he said. “That's going to be my new deal. I’m going to talk about that at the next meeting.”