Bridgett Watkins has eyes set on burled arch in Nome

Salcha musher prepares for second run in the Iditarod
Published: Feb. 28, 2023 at 8:24 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - A little over one year ago, Bridgett Watkins was preparing for her first Iditarod. On a training run, her team, Kennel on a Hill, was attacked by a moose. Last year’s story can be found here.

“It still is a fantastic story,” mentioned Watkins. “You learn so much through those moments of trial and struggle, and that’s what my whole season was about last year... I think if it wouldn’t have been for those struggles at the end of the race and leading up to the race, we wouldn’t have been as prepared. The last Iditarod was truly wonderful.”

Nothing seemed to stop her from getting to the starting line. From the moose attack to a broken dog trailer, Watkins kept persevering to race in her first Iditarod.

Braving the trails, Watkins and her team were less than one hundred miles away from the finish in Nome. However, a brutal blizzard forced Watkins to scratch. She had also suffered a broken collarbone during the blizzard.

Now, she’s preparing to participate in her second Iditarod, and her eyes are set at the finish in Nome. “I come to this race much different than I did last year,” stated Watkins. “Last year I felt like I was kind of limping in and just trying to get to the starting line. This year, the starting line has not been an issue... We’ve been so lucky and so blessed.”

Watkins has completed every training run she had planned leading up to the race, and is still finalizing her team ahead of Saturday’s ceremonial start in Anchorage.

One of the dogs in last year’s attack, Flash, died as a result of the accident. Flash was the lead dog for Kennel on a Hill. This year, a large part of the race will be dedicated to Flash.

“He’s been on our mind a lot, especially with two of his siblings on our team,” said Watkins. “Their floppy ears, and mannerisms remind me of him often. It’s exciting they’re on my team. He’s giving me a lot of strength. He’ll be with us the whole way, and his siblings will carry it through for him.”

Watkins wears a keychain with Flash’s image engraved in on her parka. She mentioned that she hears the keychain flap, and it serves as a constant, positive reminder for her.

One of the aforementioned siblings of Flash, Bill (aka Billy Boy), was also injured in last year’s attack. Bill’s leg was broken, but has made a full recovery. Now it’s time for him to compete in his first race.

“Talk about a Cinderella story,” exclaimed Watkins. “He’s Flash’s full brother. After all the tragedy from last year, I’m so excited to have him on my team. He is super energetic and is the most excited dog we have.”

Bridgett Watkins is not just a musher. She has a full-time job and a mother of two children. Those two boys were in Nome last Iditarod. Even though they didn’t fully know what was happening, they knew something was off, and they met their mom at the airport, not the burled arch.

“A lot of people ask me why I do this,” answered Watkins. “It’s really simple. God gave me these children to raise and to put out into this world to be great humans. I wouldn’t serve them any justice if I just quit and lay down.”

Watkins story touched many last season. It even reached ESPN. Bridgett was not shy to answer what it means to be such an inspiration to so many people.

“My kids are my reason why, but the who are also all those people that can see the struggle and perseverance,” Watkins responded. “They can see the hard work and dedication of finding and never giving up on your dreams. You have to take that leap of faith. You can’t just hope, dream, wish, and plan. You have to take the next step, and the next steps after that. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be difficult, but you have to keep going.”

Watkins is prepared for her second running of “the last great race.” The 51st Iditarod has the ceremonial start, March 4, in Anchorage. The official restart in Wasilla will be Sunday, March 5.