David moved to Alaska in 1977 from South Dakota. After working for the Alaska Railroad in Anchorage, as a king crab fisherman in Dutch Harbor, and working with the people of the remote Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea, he turned his focus to mushing. In 1981, he joined forces with fellow musher, and future wife, Susan Butcher to train and race in the 1,000-mile Iditarod. Over the years, David and Susan built up Trail Breaker Kennel into the premier racing kennel in the world. Throughout his career, he participated in many races, most notably winning the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest in 1988. For over 20 years, David has educated visitors from around the world as part of the Riverboat Discovery tour in Fairbanks. By welcoming guests to Trail Breaker Kennel, David has been able to share his incredible journey as a musher in one of the harshest environments in the world.
Tekla, David and Susan’s eldest daughter, was born and raised in Alaska. For many summers, she has welcomed guests who stop by Trail Breaker Kennel on the Riverboat Discovery tour. After graduating from Wesleyan University in Connecticut with a degree in Theater, Tekla spent a year in New York City doing scenic and costume design for theater. Tekla recently moved back to Fairbanks to work as the Creative Director at Trail Breaker, while also independently pursing her many artistic passions.
Tekla has been mushing since childhood. She remembers being taught how to drive her own one-dog team by Susan at the age of five. In 2006, at the age of 11, Tekla mushed 700 miles of the Iditarod trail with her own eight-dog team. The trip honored and celebrated her mother’s legacy on the Iditarod trail. Tekla, and her father David, traveled with racers and visited villages that Susan has stopped at numerous times throughout her career. In 2012, Tekla repeated the trip when her sister Chisana turned 11. Tekla is excited to continue to mush dogs across the great state of Alaska to promote the sport of mushing.
Chisana, David and Susan’s youngest daughter, grew up in Fairbanks. She spent her childhood exploring Trail Breaker’s property and finding new ways to express her creativity. After graduating high school a year early, Chisana spent a semester studying in Nepal. In 2019, she began studying at the New England Center for Circus Arts in Vermont. With an emphasis on the Cyr wheel and aerial silks, she hopes to work toward a performance career in the circus arts. In the summers, Chisana travels back to Fairbanks to work with her family at Trail Breaker.
As a child, Chisana was taught how to mush by her mother and father. In 2012, at the age of 11, Chisana mushed 700 miles of the Iditarod trail with her own eight-dog team. Joined by her father and sister, she mushed along the trail honoring and celebrating her mother’s legacy.
Riley spent his first 18 years of his life in Farragut, Iowa, a town of 400 people. It was when he went to college in Leadville, CO, that he started working with sled dogs. After working as a winter tour guide in Colorado, Riley moved to Alaska in 2013 to expand his knowledge on mushing and sled dogs. In 2015, he opened Dark Horse Racing Kennel and now has 28 sled dogs, most of whom he has raised since birth or early puppyhood. He dedicates most of his time to running his kennel and taking care of his dogs, but enjoys practicing carpentry, working on cars, and hunting and fishing when the time allows. A veteran musher, Riley has competed in both 1,000-mile races in Alaska: the Iditarod and Yukon Quest. He has gained additional mushing experience by competing in the Two Rivers 200, Old Mail Trail 200, and Copper Basin 300.
In 2019, Riley joined the team at Trail Breaker Kennel. He is excited to represent Trail Breaker and the mushing community to thousands of guests each year, educating them about the sport of mushing and the rich history of the Alaskan husky. Riley plans to continue learning and improving in competitive mushing and hopes to field a team capable of finishing the Iditarod happy and healthy for years to come.
Katrina grew up in Washington state and has always had a love for the outdoors. An avid mountaineer, Katrina frequented the trails of Washington. After attending Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, she decided to move up to Alaska in 2017 in search of fewer people and more wilderness to explore. Katrina joined the Trail Breaker Kennel team in the summer of 2018. During her time in Alaska, she has completed the Valley Finale dog sled race. Katrina lives in Fairbanks, Alaska with her one Alaskan husky while she continues handling and preparing for future sled dog races.
Sarah moved to Alaska in 1989 to work as a river guide and instantly felt that she had found her true home. She has been exploring the Great Land by kayak, dog sled, skis, and on foot ever since. The mountains, rivers, people, wild creatures, and open spaces of the north provide endless inspiration for her artwork. Sarah makes hand-colored linoleum block prints that she hopes convey joy, timelessness, simplicity, and peace. Sarah wears many hats around Trail Breaker, after joining the staff in 2002. One of those was illustrating the children’s book Granite.
Gretchen grew up in the Twin Cities suburb of Woodbury, Minnesota. After many trips to Alaska to visit family, she decided to spend the summer of 2015 working in the Last Frontier. Many years later, she can’t seem to pass up the summers of endless sun. Gretchen joined the crew at Trail Breaker Kennel in the summer of 2016. She graduated from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication in the spring of 2018. Spending her summers in Fairbanks, she trades in the dark and cold winter months in Alaska for the not-as-dark and not-as-cold winter months in the Twin Cities.