Camden native Scott Smith is no stranger to dogsled racing. The 44-year old has taken part in numerous races over the years, most notably his four years competing in the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska.

Smith's last Iditarod race was in 2008, and after taking a few years off from the sport, he returned to long-distance competition at the 2013 Yukon Quest.

While the Yukon Quest is a bit shorter in distance than the Iditarod, Smith called "The Last Great Race" a "cakewalk" in comparison to the Yukon Quest.

"He said, 'This thing is rugged and technical' and he was quite impressed," said David Smith, Scott's father. "There's a lot of rugged territory and mountains and rivers and stuff up there. He just thought it was a much harder race than the Iditarod."

Mid-distance racing is 150 to 500 miles, while long-distance races are further.

"He really enjoys mid-distance racing," said Scott's father. "When he was living in Wyoming he was doing mid-distance races there and, at one point, he was No. 7 in the world."

David added, "Then, in just a spur of the moment thing, he entered the Yukon Quest this year."

The Yukon Quest is a 1,000-mile race between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska, a grueling event that takes place annually in February. The temperatures in that month can be "the coldest and most unpredictable," according to event's website. The race consists of one musher and 14 canines per team and "is a true test of the capacity of humans and canines, and a tribute to the strength of the ancient bond that unites them."

Comparatively speaking, the Iditarod is 1,150 miles long and travels from Anchorage, in south central Alaska, to Nome on the western Bering Sea coast.

"It's maybe a day's difference [in travel]," David estimated.

The Yukon Quest follows the historical Gold Rush and mail delivery dog sled routes from the turn of the 20th century and "treads across some of the last pristine wilderness remaining in North America." There are 14 checkpoints along the course.

Scott finished fifth among the 20 competitors who completed the race, clocking in with a time of nine days, 16 hours, 40 minutes.

By comparison, the winner, Allen Moore, finished in eight days, 19 hours, 39 minutes.

During one of the middle checkpoints, known as Eagle Checkpoint, Scott battled whiteout conditions and "had to pull the dogs up over the mountain."

At one point, Scott did not see another musher for six days.

"He had four guys ahead of him anywhere from a day to several hours, and he had the rest of the field behind him about 10 hours," said David. "He said, 'Other than when I went through the checkpoints I didn't see another human being. But I saw an awful lot of beautiful country.'"

Scott, who lives in the foothills of the Aelutian mountain range, works as a contractor in Alaska and an administrative manager of an oil field housing community in a remote area of the state.

He has done "hundreds" of races and has been "mushing dogs," for more than 20 years, according to his father, who added it costs roughly $1,800 a month to feed Scott's many dogs.

David said his son has said recently he plans to retire from competitive racing, though the elder Smith finds that hard to believe.

"He says he's going to sell off the dogs and the equipment and stuff, but I've been hearing that for 20 years. He said he thought maybe the Yukon Quest might be his last race because he'd really like to see this job he's doing pan out.

"But once [dogsled racing] gets into your blood it's in there. He's been doing it for 20-plus years and it's pretty well ingrained in him."

Scott could not be reached for comment on this story but said after one of his Iditarod races:

"It is the toughest thing you will ever have to do in your life. This race will put you through the lowest of lows and the highest of highs. That is what is so great about the race. Because you learn so much about yourself. You learn survival skills. When it is 50 below [zero in temperature], any wrong moves and you can die out there.

"But nothing really prepares you for going three days without a wink of sleep and trying to keep your dogs happy and mentally staying on your game plan and staying on schedule. Mentally it is so tough. It will take the biggest, strongest man in the world and tear him to shreds. In the same token, 24 hours later you can turn that around and have a wonderful dog team and be feeling on top of the world."

Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at mhaskell@courierpublicationsllc.com.