Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Trip to U.P. 200 Dog Races

Angie and & went to Marquette, Michigan this past weekend to attend the UP 200 sled dog races. We left early Friday morning for the 9-hour drive, plus the time zone change. From Madison to Green Bay, it was basically solid town all the way. Boring and similar. After we got north of Green Bay, the scenery started to change, getting thicker with woods the farther north we went. We had a great stretch along the shore of Lake Michigan, beautiful jumbled ice. There are tons of lake-side houses for sale.

Angie took these with her phone while we were driving - the view was better in person.

We eventually got to our cheap motel and met our mushing friend Shannon Miller and her friend Jon Mattsen. They were there to run the Jack Pine, a 30-mile, 6-dog race, a goal of mine. Shannon has been mentoring me, giving me advice and introducing me to other mushers. She was bringing puppies she raised to be delivered to the new owners, including us!

Excited to be at the start!

The 200 mile race starts on Friday night, so we went downtown to see the start. We met some of the "big-time" mushers and saw their dog trucks and trailers. I knew a few of the people from Facebook and/or emails, so it was nice to meet in person. There were 30-some teams, running 12 dogs. The excitement kept building until the first team took off - and then the rest of the dogs went crazy! We made our way to the sidelines - they had trucked in some snow for a 10-foot wide path down the main street. There were several thousand people lining the trail. in town, with bonfires and parties all along the trail. There is also the Midnight Run, which is a 100 mile race that starts simultaneously in another town for 8-dog teams. It was great seeing the teams start, the dogs pulling so hard that the snow is flying out behind their feet, with the mushers riding the brakes for all they got!

Going so fast they are a blur!

Saturday morning, we piled into the two dog trucks and headed south to the little town of Gwinn, where the Jack Pine starts. With a bit of a late start, and taking the longer route, we arrived with little time to spare before the race started. We helped (as much as we could) our friends get their teams ready, then lead them to the starting chute. Six eager dogs are hard to hold back, one wrong step and you could be dragged several feet! (I witnessed at least two handlers being dragged!) By the time we were in position to start, the dogs were freaking, ready to run! Countdown and away they ran! We packed up the trucks and headed back to Marquette for the finish.

Cool pier at the finish area

In the parking lot, we had 2 to 3 hours to kill before the first team arrived. Angie had our puppy, Maggie, and our new friend from Minnesota, Kathleen, was there to bring home Ginsberg. Those puppies were ROCK STARS! People swarmed all over them, took photos, asked questions, it was great!

The new moms - photo courtesy Shannon Miller

Eventually, the teams started coming in. Our friend Jon came in 7th. After 12 of the 13 teams were in, Shannon had yet to make an appearance. She was running three of her own dogs and three she borrowed from Jon, so she anticipated the possibility of problems, having never ran those dogs before. And as time went on, we started getting a little nervous! Eventually, I received a photo text from her - it was her dogs, taking a break! They had gotten tired on the mountain. The trail actually goes over the ski mountain, and many teams had problems getting their dogs to go under the ski lift. She took a break, switched some dogs around, and got some help to get them past the ski area. She was laughing and joking, so we knew she'd be fine. Red lantern to the last team to finish!

Photo text from Shannon

The next morning, we loaded up the puppy and our two new dogs, and took the long road home. It was fairly uneventful, but we were sure glad to get home!

Historic Lambeau Field

It was quite the learning experience for me, so many things that I am still in 'information overload'! I sure know many new things to try and do.

Next post: We get NEW DOGS!

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