29. The 13th Annual Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race.
This was the second sled dog race I've been to, the first was the Flambeau International Sled Dog Classic in 2004 (pictures on my website here). I'm thrilled I got to see another one, especially so close to home.
I wanted to post some pictures and information about this event in this blog. The video (below) is at the start line and shows the dogs in eager anticipation for the run. At the word of the race official the team takes off.
The race map and classes.
There were four categories that ran the race at the same time:
8 Dog Class (80 miles)
6 Dog Class (60 miles)
Sportman Class (40 miles)
Family Class (10 miles)
Half of the race was held on Saturday and the other half on Sunday. I went with my friend on Sunday to the start at the Gravel Pit Trailhead on Highway 13 between Red Cliff and Cornucopia. After all the teams left the starting line we drove down to the western spectator site.
Pictures from the race.
1) Preparations before the race. Each musher was assembling their team and equipment while waiting for their turn at the start line. A kennel is attached to the bed of each truck with compartments for each dog while traveling.
2) Very ornate wood-work for the doors of this mobile kennel. The paw prints look like (from top left): frog, raccoon, wolf, black bear, porcupine, and badger.
3) The start chutes were where the mushers lined up their teams and sled before they moved onto the start line. Volunteers (yellow vests) helped keep everything organized and kept the tug lines from getting tangled in the excitement.
4) Race officials were in control at the start line, coordinating the predetermined start order and calling off start times on their stop watches. Everything was precise and (literally) went like clock-work.
5) Sleds were for sale in the warming tent. The artisan said he was a carpenter but when he learned there was a market for sleds he dove right in. I think he mentioned he raced when he was young... do what you love! The price tag on the one farthest right was $80, far cheaper than I expected.
6) Musher 33 passed through at the checkpoint while we were there. The dogs looked a little too warm but looked quite happy.
7) KQDS, FOX 21 from Duluth/Superior was filming the race at the start line and the checkpoint. Their website is under construction (for the last many months) and the hills near my house block reception. Hopefully they got some great shots and gave some airtime to the race.
The results from 2008 are still being compiled and have not been posted on their website yet. When they are, I'll post the winners in each category here.
Weather was a little too warm.
The dogs perform best with temperatures between -20 and +20 degrees, otherwise they can overheat and tire quickly.
Saturday was mostly cloudy with race temperatures from 23 to 27 degrees and west winds below 5 mph.
Sunday was partly cloudy with race temperatures from 26 to 29 degrees and east winds below 5 mph.
A sheet with Dog Sledding Terms was handed out at the event. Common Commands:
Gee - go right Haw - go left Hike - get going On by - go straight / ignore distractions Pull tight - pull the tug lines tight Whoa - stop _______________________
Lead Dogs - At the head of the line. They have to be intelligent, follow commands and run fast without anything in front of them to chase.
Swing Dogs - Directly behind the leaders, these dogs help swing the team in curves and may be lead dogs in training.
Team Dogs - All the other dogs in a team which can number between five and twelve depending upon the race.
Wheelers - The dogs directly in front of the sled; they help pull the sled away from trees and to swing it wide in corners. They need to be physically and mentally tough as the sled pulls them around a lot.
Tow Line - The main line that connects the power of the pulling dogs to the sled.
Neck Line - Keeps the dogs close to the tow line.
Tug Line - Line that connects the dogs harness to the tow line.
Booties - Footgear that protects the paws from cuts and prevents snowballs from forming on the pads.
Basket - Enclosed part of the sled that holds supplies and safety gear.