Gourmet meal for first musher
in at the Holland Lake checkpoint
in Montana's Race to the Sky

Story & Photos
by Gary Noland
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
February 19, 1998

Minnesota musher
treated to
gourmet meal
on the trail


Steve Rasmussen, 33, of Melrose, Minnesota, finished fourth Tuesday afternoon in Montana's Race to the Sky, but he was the first musher into the Holland Lake Lodge checkpoint Monday afternoon and was honored with a gourmet meal for that distinction.

Standing by awaiting his arrival at 2:30 p.m. Monday was Chef John Gabriel of Condon who had slaved over outdoor cooking gear preparing a meal of blackened pork loin, rosemary potatoes, a ginger chicken stir fry, Cuban black bean soup, Foccachia bread, and Tosca cafe for dessert.

Gabriel's wife, "Gabe," served her husband's gourmet offerings to Rasmussen, his two handlers, and race coordinator Norman Lee of Seeley Lake on a table set with formal place settings, a bottle of white Zinfandel wine, and a burning candle for the final touch.

The meal had been prepared in a teepee tent with cooking gear supplied by Eric Pack, also of Condon. The setting was familiar territory to Gabriel, who this past summer cooked for an outfitter in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Mozart music played all morning before Rasmussen's arrival, soothing the anxiety of several visitors and media people who had waited nearly three hours for the musher who would be honored in a tradition borrowed from the Alaskan Iditarod race, where the first musher to reach the half-way point is treated to a gourmet meal.

Though Rasmussen was first in at Holland Lake, he actually trailed the second musher in, Butch Parr of Whitefish, by six minutes when the staggered starts at Lincoln were figured in.

But the rules say the first one in, regardless of times, so Rasmussen goes back to Minnesota with a fourth-place finish overall, but a meal he'll always remember, in the beautiful setting at Holland Lake.

  Steve Rasmussen in first!

A sit-down, candlelight gourmet dinner is awarded Steve Rasmussen and his handlers in honor of Steve arriving first at the halfway point, the Holland Lake checkpoint in Montana's Race to the Sky sled dog race.

The Chef, John Gabriel, of Condon Rasmussen tests the soup.

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