The History of Trail Breaker Kennel


January 1, 2018

 73 Susan Travels To Ak

  • Susan Butcher, at the age of 19, moves to Alaska to pursue a life of adventure in The Last Frontier.


January 2, 2018

 74 Muskox Farm

  • Susan starts working for a muskox farm in Unalakleet, a small village on the western coast of Alaska. In the summer, she builds a small cabin in the Goldstream Valley of Fairbanks.


January 3, 2018

 77 Wrangells Mushing

  • Susan winters with her dogs in a remote cabin in the Wrangell Mountains. She is 50 miles from her nearest neighbor and 100 miles from the nearest road.
  • She moves back to Unalakleet in the summer, working both at the muskox farm and as a commercial fisher.


January 4, 2018

Susan W Joe Redington

  • Susan establishes Trail Breaker Kennel in Eureka, Alaska with the purpose of running the 1,000-mile Iditarod.
  • Susan starts training for the Iditarod with her mentor Joe Redington Sr., father of the Iditarod.


January 5, 2018

  • David Monson, at the age of 25, moves to Alaska after graduating from law school in South Dakota. He moves to Anchorage and works as a lawyer for the Alaska Railroad.


January 6, 2018

 78 Iditarod Finish W Kate
Susan and her sister Kate at her first Iditarod finish.

  • Susan races in her first Iditarod, placing 19th. She becomes the first woman to finish the race in the top 20.
  • David moves to Dutch Harbor and starts working as a king crab fisherman in the Bering Sea.


January 7, 2018

 79 Denali Summit W Genet
Susan, her dog team, and Ray Genet at the summit of Denali.

  • Susan, along with Joe Redington Sr., Ray Genet, Brian Okonek and Robert Stapleton, make the first ascent of Denali by dog team.
  • Susan races in the Iditarod, placing 9th.
  • David returns from Dutch Harbor to watch the finish of the Iditarod in Nome, where he becomes fascinated with the sport.


January 8, 2018

  • David turns his focus to running the Iditarod by establishing his own team in Knik, AK.  While there, David and Susan meet at Joe Reddington Sr.’s kennel in Knik.
  • Susan races in the Iditarod, placing 5th.


January 9, 2018

David Susan Eureka
Photo by Jeff Schultz |

  • Both David and Susan race in the Iditarod. They realize their similar philosophies on racing and training and decide to join forces to race out of Trail Breaker Kennel in Eureka. Susan places 5th and David places 21st in his rookie year.


January 10, 2018

Gee Haw Mittens
Photo by Jeff Schultz |
Susan’s beaver mittens she used out on the Iditarod trail. Gee and Haw are the voice commands for right and left, respectively, used to direct the dogs down the trail.

  • Susan races in the Iditarod, placing 2nd
  • David races in the Iditarod, placing 5th
  • David spends the summer working with the Native Corporation in the Pribilof Islands before returning to Eureka to train dogs.


January 11, 2018

 83 Iditarod
Photo by Jeff Schultz |

  • Susan races in the Iditarod, placing 9th.
  • David races in the Iditarod, placing 13th.
  • David moves to Kotzebue, a small village on the coast of the Arctic Ocean, to work as a public defender.


January 12, 2018

Susan David Granite
David, Susan, and her lead dog Granite in Eureka, Alaska.

  • Susan races in the Iditarod, placing 2nd. Granite, Susan’s lead dog, finishes his first of many Iditarod races to come.
  • David moves back to Eureka to continue developing the kennel.


January 13, 2018

 85 S D Dance

  • While racing in the Iditarod, Susan and her team are attacked by a crazed moose on the trail. She scratches from the race.
  • David and Susan get married in September at their property in Eureka.


January 14, 2018

 86 S D Pre Race
Susan and David conferring before the start at the 1986 Iditarod.

  • Susan wins her first Iditarod in a record time of 11 days 15 hours 6 minutes and 0 seconds, becoming the second woman to win the race.


January 15, 2018

 87 Win
Photo by Jeff Schultz |

  • Susan wins her second Iditarod with another record time of 11 days 2 hours 5 minutes and 13 seconds.
  • David places 2nd his rookie year of racing in the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest sled dog race that runs from Whitehorse to Fairbanks.
  • Susan wins the 400-mile John Beargrease, the longest sled dog race in the lower 48 out of Minnesota.
  • Susan is named Sportswoman of the Year by the Women’s Sports Foundation


January 16, 2018

 88 Susan W Village Women
Susan shakes hands with women along the Iditarod trail who hold the sign “Dee Dee or Susan – Do all the women a favor! Win the Last Great Race!

  • Susan wins her third consecutive Iditarod with a time of 11 days 11 hours 41 minutes and 40 seconds.
  • David wins the Yukon Quest with a time of 12 days 5 hours and 6 minutes.
  • David and Susan win every race they enter this year.
  • For the second year in a row Susan is named Sportswoman of the Year by the Women’s Sports Foundation.

 88 Susan R.reagan T. Stevens
Susan presents President Ronald Reagan with the t-shirt “Alaska Where Men are Men and Women Win the Iditarod” with Alaska Senator Ted Stevens.

  • Susan is hosted by President Ronald Reagan to congratulate her for her outstanding achievements in the sport of mushing.
  • Susan is inducted into the American Academy of Achievement.


January 17, 2018

Susan David Eureka
Susan and David in Eureka, Alaska where they lived and trained their championship Alaskan huskies.

  • Susan places 2nd in the Iditarod.


January 18, 2018

 90 Finish LinePhoto by Jeff Schultz |

  • Susan wins her fourth Iditarod with yet another record time of 11 days 1 hour 53 minutes and 23 seconds. She becomes the only woman, and one of six mushers, to win four or more Iditarod’s. Her lead dog Granite was with her for all of those wins.
  • Susan wins her second 400-mile John Beargrease race in Minnesota.
  • David and Susan purchase land in Fairbanks, Alaska, establishing the Fairbanks branch of Trail Breaker Kennel.


January 19, 2018

 91 Near KaltagPhoto by Jeff Schultz |
Susan and her team traverse the Iditarod trail over a creek near Kaltag.

  • Susan races in the Iditarod. After leading the race for 900 miles she becomes lost in an Arctic blizzard outside of the White Mountain checkpoint, only 77 miles from the finish. She places 3rd that year.


January 20, 2018

Susan And Dogs Eureka
Susan and some of her huskies in a cabin in Eureka.

  • Susan places 2nd in the Iditarod.


January 21, 2018

Susan Giving a Demonstration to Guests on the River Boat Discovery Tour
Photo by Jeff Schultz |
Susan gives a demonstration to the visitors on the Riverboat Discovery tour in Fairbanks.

  • Susan places 4th in the Iditarod.
  • Trail Breaker Kennel becomes a beloved stop on the Riverboat Discovery tour on the banks of the Chena River in Fairbanks. David and Susan are able to share their passion for mushing with visitors from around the world.


January 22, 2018

Iditarod Finish ChutePhoto by Jeff Schultz |
Susan and her team coming through the finish chute in Nome.

  • Susan places 10th in the Iditarod. She retires from competition to start a family.


January 23, 2018

  • David and Susan’s eldest daughter Tekla is born on May 3rd


January 24, 2018

  • David travels to Washington, D.C. for the new millennium. During his time there he is hosted by President Clinton at the Rose Garden and gives a speech about Alaska and the lifestyle of mushers at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
  • David and Susan’s youngest daughter Chisana is born on July 3rd.


January 25, 2018

  • David races in the 300-mile Copper Basin race out of Glennallen, placing 2nd.
  • David, Susan, Tekla and Chisana travel to Washington, D.C. to represent Alaska in the Inaugural Parade for President George W. Bush. They travel down Pennsylvania Avenue by dog team.


January 26, 2018

  • David runs the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest, placing 4th.
  • David races in the 300-mile Copper Basin race, placing 4th.


January 27, 2018

  • David and Susan open Trail Breaker Kennel to summer visitors on property, allowing people from around the world to gain a backstage pass into the historic kennel.


January 28, 2018

 91 Norton Sound Near Elim (2)
Photo by Jeff Schultz |

  • Susan dies after a long battle with acute myelogenous leukemia at the age of 51.


January 29, 2018

 07 T D Finish Banner
Photo by Jeff Schultz |
Tekla and David at the finish line in Nome, Alaska.

  • David publishes the children’s book Granite he and Susan wrote. The book tells the story of Susan and her lead dog Granite’s experience racing in the Iditarod. Granite has become one of the most popular books in Alaska history.
    For more information on Granite and how to order your personalized copy today, visit our Granite Book page.
  • At age 11, Tekla mushes her own team of dogs on 700 miles of the Iditarod trail with David to celebrate Susan’s legacy.


January 30, 2018

  • Alaska Governor Sarah Palin proclaims Susan Butcher Day, an annual state holiday on the first Saturday of March, commemorating the life and achievements of Susan.
  • The Susan Butcher Family Center at Providence Hospital in Anchorage, Alaska is established. The center aids families who have loved ones battling cancer.


January 31, 2018

  • David runs his fifth marathon to raise money for cancer research. Over the course of those five races, he raised $150,000.


February 1, 2018

 12 D T C Iditarod
David, Chisana, and Tekla on the Iditarod Trail.

  • At age 11, Chisana mushes her own team of dogs on 700 miles of the Iditarod trail with David and Tekla, to celebrate Susan’s legacy.


May 9, 2019

Mandy Yq

  • Lead Tour Guide Mandy Nauman-Austin races in the Yukon Quest. She was the only female musher to enter the race that year.


May 9, 2019

 19 Laura Yq

Photo by Julian Schroeder

  • Kennel Manager Laura Allaway races in the Yukon Quest with a dog team that includes 9 Trail Breaker dogs.

 19 Chase Yq

Photo by Julian Schroeder

  • Lead Tour Guide Chase Tingle races in the Yukon Quest, completing a goal he’s had since starting his own kennel.


May 9, 2019

 15 Laura Iditarod Start

Photo by Jeff Schultz |

  • Kennel Manager Laura Allaway races in the Iditarod with a dog team that includes 12 Trail Breaker dogs.