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Last weekend we made our last trip to the U.P. for this winter. Our primary goal was to get some late winter skiing in but we also planned the trip to coincide with the CopperDog 150 Sled Dog Race. Last winter we watched the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race and we had so much fun that we decided to check out the CopperDog 150.

The CopperDog 150 is a three day event with multiple stages. The first stage started at 7:00 pm on Friday night in Calumet and ended in Eagle Harbor. The second stage started at 9:00 am in Eagle Harbor and ended in Copper Harbor. The last stage took the mushers from Copper Harbor back to Calumet.

There was a large crowed on hand at Calumet for the start of the race. We arrived early and still had a  problem finding a place to park. We ended up watching the start of the race a few blocks from the starting line. First to come down the race course was a group of snow bike racers. They were followed by some snowmobiles carrying race officials. We watched about five mushers start from this vantage point .

We then decided to walk down to the race staging area where the real excitement was taking place. If you have never been to a sled dog race it is bedlam at the start of the race. Once the mushers start to get the dogs out of their trucks most of the dogs become frantic with excitement. They are barking, and jumping and straining at the harness. When they start moving toward the starting line it usually takes  6-8 people to manage the move and even then it is a struggle with some teams. The dogs are so strong that they need to be held back. We watched one team dragging 4 people along as they tried to hold the sled back. Once at the starting gate the musher places two anchors out to hold the sled and someone else usually stands on the sled break all to hold the team back. Others are out holding the dogs. Not every dog team requires as much effort. I’ve seen a few that are led to the starting line and stand waiting for the start but those are the exception.

On Saturday morning we drove up to Eagle Harbor to watch the start of the second leg of the race. There were far fewer people around so it was easier to get a better view of what was taking place. The weather was brutal with heavy snow and strong winds off of the lake. I decided to leave my good camera in the car and rely on my pocket camera.

It is not uncommon for the mushers to have some problems at the start of the race. Some of the dogs are so frantic that they get tangled up in the lines. In a couple of instances the team were about 50 yards down the course and the mushers were frantically trying apply the brakes so they could stop the sled and get the dogs straightened out. Fortunately there were race officials stationed down the course to help hold the sled while the musher got things straightened out. We stayed until all of the teams had left the starting gate.

On Sunday afternoon we drove to Calumet to watch the finish of the race. It was a beautiful sunny day. I photographed a number of teams as they entered town. The dogs were moving right along in spite of having raced for three days.

I then started walking down the course to photograph some of the race fans. This was one of my favorite shots with the kids all lined up at the hot chocolate bar.

Dog sled racing requires a huge number of support people so if you like dogs and want to volunteer at a race I’m sure you would be more than welcome. I think they said there were over 450 people helping to put the race on and this race only had about 30 teams. Most of the surrounding communities had people helping out at the race.

We spent some time watching the teams come in. As you can imagine the dogs were famished when they arrived at the finish line. It was an entirely different scene than at the start of the race. You didn’t hear a single dog bark at the finish line. I would have thought they would be tired by the third leg but a race official said they just as excited on the third start as the first start.

Most of the dogs in the race were Alaskan Huskies which are bread for racing. I initially thought this dog was a Siberian Husky puppy but the owner said it was a miniature Siberian Husky. He was getting a lot of attention from race fans.

We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and are looking forward to watching more dog sled racing.  More photos from the CopperDog 150 can be found on my website.

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One Comment

  1. Hi Philip,

    I am seeking your permission to use several of the photos in this blog post on in our Volunteer Thank You video for the 2012 CD150. We assemble about a 45 minute video that will be shown in the Calumet Theater on April 10 at 6:00PM. Then we post the video online for everyone to enjoy. Several of your photos capture great moments and I would like to include them in the video. Please contact me at toddbrassard@copperdog150.com. Thank you!

    Todd Brassard
    Race Director
    CopperDog 150


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