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Last weekend we took a roundabout road trip to the 2015 Apostle Islands Sled Dog Races. Our first stop was at ABR in Ironwood, Michigan for a half day of skiing. The next morning we were up early so we could make it to the races before the 10am start. As usual we were early and had plenty of time to wander around and look at the prerace activities. We were fortunate that we were early because we had to make a couple of trips back to the car for extra cloths. While the air temperature was around twenty degrees there was a strong wind that made it a bit cool.

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We had a chance to check the dogs out before they became excited about getting hooked up to the sleds. Many of them had eaten and seemed to be relaxing before the race.

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Many of the mushers already had their sleds out and were getting ready to hook the dogs up to the sleds.

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As with just about every place in Wisconsin there was a lack of snow. This was the first time that I’ve been at the race where they had to haul snow to the parking lot so the sleds could make it to the starting line without running on gravel.

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As with any sled dog race it requires many volunteers to get the teams to the starting line. This group reminded me of the typical group of tourists following the leader holding a flag. They were heading out to the teams to assist the mushers to the starting line. It takes five or six people to get the eight dog teams to the starting line.

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This was one of the first teams to head out onto the course. The dogs were overly excited and became all tangled up just before they were given the signal to go. One of the handlers was trying to get the dogs straightened out when the team took off and the handler ended up on the ground. The dogs were still tangled up but the musher was able to get the lead dog headed in the right direction using voice commands.

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Unfortunately this team did not make it through the race. They had a problem on the first turn and the musher was injured. They had to send a snowmobile out to pick him up and someone had to bring the team back to the starting point.

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After photographing from near the starting gate I walked down the course a ways to photograph from a different position. I have to say this is the first time I’ve seen a musher smoking a cigarette either before or during a race. My wife was at the starting gate when he started. She said he was trying to light the cigarette in the wind when the team started.

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After photographing out on the course for a while I wandered back toward the starting gate to photograph some more mushers starting the race.

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I then moved up to the starting line to watch the teams being brought into the starting gate. I believe this girl was 8 years old and had a team of two dogs. The announcer said that she got an early start to racing because her mother was racing when she was six months pregnant with the little girl. The musher listed her day job as a student.

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The final musher of the day has raced in this race a number of times and his entire team consists of dogs rescued from shelters.

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After the race we met up with some friends that had moved from Menomonie to Cornucopia, Wisconsin. We talked for a while and planned on having lunch but it started to rain just after the race finished. We decided to head to Duluth before the roads turned bad. As it turned out the rain stopped after about a half an hour and the sun came out.

Many more photos from the first day of the race can be found on my website.

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