Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race
This past weekend we took another road trip. Our destination was the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Races in Bayfield, Wisconsin with a little skiing in between. We arrived at the Echo Valley Gravel Pit well before the races were to start. The gravel pit is located 12 miles north of Bayfield on Highway 13. It offers a large flat area so the racers can get all of their gear ready for the race and also provides parking for the Volunteers and spectators. This was our first dog sled race and we didn’t know what to expect.
When we arrived most of the mushers were already encamped with their dogs and sleds on the ground. The first thing we noticed was the tremendous excitement in the air. Most of the dogs were barking and the din was really loud. There were other dog teams that were really calm. We walked around the venue admiring the beautiful animals on the various teams.
The races were scheduled to start at 10am so we headed for the starting line in time to get a good viewing location. The din really increased as the dogs were getting harnessed up. They knew what was coming and were really excited to be off and racing. Although the parking lot was full we didn’t notice all that many spectators around the starting line and we had no problem finding some good viewing sites for the start of the race.
Volunteers at Work
One of the reason there were so few spectators was because there were a large number of volunteers working. We didn’t realize that it takes so many people to put on a dog race. It takes 5 or 6 people to bring a dog team to the starting point and even then there can be mass bedlam. The dogs are frantically jumping around and frequently get tangled up in the harness. Since they have two shutes at the starting gate there can be mass bedlam as the dogs get ready. The mushers have an anchor on the
sled and that is attached to a wire cable at the back of the Shute so the dogs can’t take off before everything is ready. When they are given the go the anchor is handed to the musher and the team jumps from the starting gate to the cheers of the fans.
On this particular day there were 4 different classes, 8-dog, 6-dog, Sportsman, and Family/Youth. We watched most of the racers start before leaving and driving down to a midway point on the race course to watch some of the teams out on the race course.
Sailboats waiting for Spring
We then headed back to Bayfield to see if we could watch the wind sled that transports people back and forth to Madeline Island. As it turned out the ice road had opened up so the wind sled was no longer running We took time out for a nice lunch and watched people driving out to Madeline Island and ice fishing on the lake. We also took a few photos of the sailboats that were stored along the harbor.
After lunch we drove back out the to the race starting point which had become the race finishing point. What a difference. In the morning there was bedlam with the dogs ready to go and barking up a storm in the excitement. The weather was warm and the course was soft so the dogs really had to work hard. When finished the race there wasn’t a sound. Their tongues were hanging out and it looked like all they could think of was getting back to the truck for some food, water and rest.
This was a fun day and something we would love to do again. The race venue is great and you will have no problems getting a good viewpoint for photography. If you really want to get up close you can volunteer to help at the race. They are always looking for volunteers to help with the dogs.
Additional photos from the day can be seen on my website.