This post was sent to me by my daughter, Jelisa. Since she was a tiny girl, she has loved dogs. During elementary school, she took a special interest in sled dog racing; we took her to her first sled dog race, The John Beargrease, in Duluth when she was ten years old. In elementary school, for hero day, Jelisa dressed up as Susan Butcher who won the Iditarod four times. It was a very uncomfortable choice on the 80 degree day. A few years later, we toured the Iditarod headquarters in Wasilla, Alaska. As she’s grown older, her obsession with sled dogs has diminished, but since she lives in Duluth, I asked her to go to the John Beargrease sled dog race this year to take pictures and write about it for my blog and she agreed to do so. Encouraging our daughter’s interest enriched our lives and made some wonderful family memories over the years learning about sled dogs.
The John Beargrease is the longest sled dog race in the continental US at 390 miles. The race is named after John Beargrease who was the son of an Anishinaabe chief and used sled dogs to deliver mail along Duluth’s North Shore during the 19th century. Usually this event is held at the Oreaden Middle school but since it was under construction this year the race was held in the middle of nowhere at the Duluth soccer complex. Luckily I found it.
Sunday, January 31st was the start of the 27th annual race and it was cold. Really cold actually, and windy, but it was still hard to find a parking space near the starting line. I parked over a mile away and considered myself lucky for getting such a good spot. The first thing you notice as you get close to the starting line is the noise. Even before you can see them, even before you know where the starting line is, you can hear them. Hundreds of dogs, not barking, but howling with excitement. They are loud enough to be heard from over a quarter mile away.
The starting line is lined with people on both sides watching the mushers take off. After one musher leaves another team is walked up to the starting line and given their introduction
It takes a lot of people to hold back a sled dog team. Those dogs just want to run.
While waiting for the next team to take off you can walk around and talk to the mushers or pet the dogs. It’s a very laid back kind of event
If you are wondering how a sled dog team is transported, take a look at this truck. It’s got 16 dogs in it and even has room for the sled. Each dog gets their own kennel filled with straw.
Some dogs get all dressed up for the occasion. This team was dubbed the best dressed team on the course.
So if you are ever in Duluth during the last weekend of January and looking for something fun and free to do, make sure you check out the John Beargrease.