Full of surprises, right from the beginning.
Steve and Jan Berington knew their lives were about to change as they made the long drive from their small town of Port Wing, Wisconsin (pictured right), to the closest major hospital for the birth of their second child. After an uneventful pregnancy with no need for an ultrasound, they were anxious to learn if they were having a boy or a girl and if the baby was healthy. Imagine their shock on that cold day in February, 1984, when identical twin girls made their arrival! With synchronized heartbeats helping disguise their surprise, these two promised to have interesting things in store for them.
Port Wing is a very small town located on the southern shores of Lake Superior. Growing up in this remote area gave Anna and Kristy ample time outdoors, and the assortment of critters on their parents' hobby farm quickly instilled a deep love of animals in the twins. From riding horses to helping care for the other animals, they were always quick to get involved with anything that kept them outside. Thanks in part to the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon held in nearby Duluth, MN, they learned of sled dog racing while they were quite young. And much to the chagrin of the family pets, they figured they would try it out with a set of skis, a milk crate, and a slightly perplexed dog team made up of a Border Collie and a Great Pyrenees.
It wasn't long before a neighbor, Lisa, asked Anna and Kristy if they were interested in helping out at her sprint kennel on weekends with running, training, and feeding her dogs. Weekends turned into any and every chance they could get to spend time with them. They learned the ropes and eventually entered in several sprint races with a 3 to 4 dog team and also competed in skijouring. They may not have fully realized it at the time, but they were getting hooked.
A bit of trial and error.
After graduating from South Shore High School in 2002, Anna and Kristy decided to channel their desire for physical activity and love for the outdoors into a career with the Army National Guard.
They completed boot camp in South Carolina before a brief deployment and a fair amount of traveling. They learned many valuable skills during this time, but in the end they decided Army life wasn't for them.
Shortly thereafter, they knew college wasn't the answer, either. It only took a few semesters of classes for them to realize they couldn't sit still long enough to enjoy what they were learning.
Then one summer they picked up an old issue of Team and Trail, a dog sledding publication, and saw a want ad for dog handlers at an Alaskan kennel. This definitely caught their attention and led to further research into the kind of work available in the field of dog sledding. Eventually Anna and Kristy moved to California where they spent winters working at a dog sled touring business in Lake Tahoe and summers at a horse stable guiding tourists in the Sierra Nevada mountains. This was fun, but the routine of running the same trails was doing little to satisfy their need for adventure and competitive spirits.
And Alaska becomes home.
The summer of 2007 gave Kristy the opportunity to make a quick trip to Alaska's Kenai peninsula, where she had the good fortune of meeting 1984 Iditarod winner Dean Osmar. It didn't take long for Dean to convince the twins to move to Alaska to try a different caliber of dog sledding. That winter, Dean taught Anna and Kristy a great deal about long distance dog sledding and even gave them a chance to race. Kristy's first race was the Knik 200 followed by the Tustumena 100 (where she placed 2nd by a matter of minutes). Anna's first race was the Klondike 300 followed by numerous mid-distance races, eventually placing 8th in the Taiga 300. It was a long, hard winter, but by the time the snow melted in the spring of 2008, Kristy and Anna were sure of one thing - Alaska was where they wanted to live and run dogs.
The twins' current home base in Alaska.
Today, both twins are official Alaska residents, currently based in Knik (near Wasilla). Prior to that, in the winter of 2008, Kristy had moved to Kasilof. For a number of years, she trained with Paul Gebhardt, a dog sledding veteran. In addition to caring for and training as many as 80 dogs in the kennel, they also built their own sleds and dog houses, tied their own gang lines, and groomed their own training trails around the kennel. Anna also called Kasilof home during that time. She worked with Dean Osmar, 1984 Iditarod winner, caring for and helping train the 70+ dogs in his kennel (Cook Inlet Kennel). In 2013, Anna moved up to Knik, closer to Anchorage, when given a chance to work for Scott Janssen, fellow musher and Iditarod veteran. Anna cares for and helps train his dogs as well as the 7 dogs she now has of her own. At the start of the 2014-15 racing season, Kristy also made the move up to Knik. Her dogs Jonah, Dunbar, and Dingo also made the move. In the "off season" when the dogs demand a bit less of their time, the twins work a variety of jobs including fishing and construction.