Established in 2013. Black Spruce Dog Sledding is owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Jeff and KattiJo Deeter.
KattiJo (Katie) Deeter – Owner & Guide
KattiJo has her Bachelor of Science degree in Therapeutic Recreation from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. A lover of wilderness, travel, people and animals, KattiJo spent each summer during college traveling somewhere new and trying different lines of work. Summer camps, horseback riding and wilderness programs all grace her resume. But after graduating from UW-L in 2008, KattiJo still wasn’t ready to settle down and get a “real job.” She spent the next couple years continuing to work her way through most of the contiguous U.S. and by 2010, only Alaska and Hawaii remained on her list of places in America she was itching to visit. A google search for “summer jobs in Alaska” returned an opportunity to work at a dog sledding tour company in Juneau, Alaska. What luck! Luckier still, KattiJo met Jeff that summer and they have been together ever since. They got married in 2013 and honeymooned in Hawaii.
Summer and fall tours are conducted mostly by Jeff and KattiJo, while winter and spring tours are run primarily by guides who are also our long distance race competitors, neighbors and friends! This allows all of us to work just enough, and train our dogs even more.
Riley Dyche – Guide. Darkhorse Racing Kennel
Riley started running dogs in Leadville, Colorado in 2010, working for a winter tour operation. After three seasons of mushing in Leadville and watching dozens of documentaries on the Iditarod, Riley was eager to get into the more competitive side of mushing. He accepted a handling/mushing position with Alaska Icefield Expeditions (AIE) in the summer of 2013 in Skagway, Alaska. There he met Yukon Quest musher Matt Hall, who offered him a job that winter training and racing his one and two year old dogs. Riley spent that winter season working for Matt in Two Rivers, Alaska, and learning from his expansive knowledge on high quality dog care and training. After working for Matt, Riley spent two more winters handling for Yukon Quest and Iditarod mushers Ryne Olson and Sven Haltmann, respectively. Riley started his own kennel in 2015, and completed the Yukon Quest in 2018 with a group of his own dogs. Look for Riley in the 2020 Iditarod.
Mandy Austin – Guide. Douglas Fir Mushing
Mandy was born in northwest Wisconsin, and was first exposed to dog mushing in northern Minnesota. While working at a lodge there, Mandy took her first dog sled ride and says she “wanted to be a dirty dog musher ever since.” While attending Vermilion College in Ely, Minnesota, Mandy took a dog mushing class, which she says changed her life forever. She promptly left school and moved to Alaska’s Interior in 2005 to chase her mushing dreams. First Mandy worked for a sprint kennel in Salcha, southeast of Fairbanks. Then she moved to Chena Hot Springs where she worked in the tour kennel there under the management of Brent Sass (who went on to win the 1,000 mile Yukon Quest race in 2015). Mandy eventually took over the management position at Chena Hot Springs Kennel and stayed until 2008. After leaving, Mandy resumed her close working relationship with Brent, and ran a team of his dogs in the 2014 Yukon Quest. She finished in 9th place.
Luther Buhr – Guide. Tsunami Sled Dogs
Luther was born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He got his start in dog mushing at the age of 19, when he bought his first sled and adopted two retired Iditarod dogs. Luther moved to Fairbanks in the fall of 2013 to pursue his mushing dreams. By 2016 he was in his first race, the Copper Basin 300, with a team of dogs from musher, Sven Haltmann, whom he had helped to raise from puppies. Luther has also worked for Yukon Quest champion, Matt Hall. These days Luther works for Riley Dyche, helping to train Riley’s racing dogs. Luther plans to start his own kennel soon.
Greg Nappi – Guide. Sluice Box Sled Dogs
Greg got his first taste of dog mushing in 2010. He was a volunteer doing winter patrol in Gates of the Arctic National Park, and was introduced to large freight dogs there. Greg says he was immediately impressed with the dogs’ ability to travel through untouched wilderness. In the years following that experience, Greg gave up his life as a ski-bum in south-central Alaska to pursue the dog mushing lifestyle and exceptional trail access of the Fairbanks area. Greg currently lives with his partner, Amelia, and their 14 dogs. Greg and Amelia enjoy taking trips in the Alaska Range and Brooks Range to get away from the city life of Fairbanks. In the summer Greg uses a select few of his dogs as pack animals for gold prospecting trips into the Brooks Range.
Acacia Hammel – Guide & Handler
Acacia began mushing years ago in Vermont when she responded to a “help wanted” ad on Craigslist. Having always been a lover of animals, especially dogs, she took to the role quickly. After her first time on a dog sled Acacia was addicted and has been mushing ever since. Watching the dogs personalities, confidence and physical abilities grow and develop each season keeps her perpetually interested in the sport. Acacia strives to build a personal connection and line of trust to every dog she works with. She hopes to buy land within the next year or two so she can start building her own kennel and team of racing dogs.