The dogs are off for the 2012 Rail Trail 200 Dog Sled Race
by Erin Perkins
With abundant snow, more on the way and temperatures holding steady, the seven dog sled teams completing in the 2012 Rail Trail 200 Dog Sled Race headed out on the trails with an optimistic air, Friday, Jan. 20.
The race, which is now in it's third year, had seven sled teams from across Western Canada -- one more than last year. The eight-dog 100 mile (161 km) race will end in Beaverdell and has only two competitors. The 200 mile (322 km) race will end in Greenwood with the remaining five mushers.
Nearly 100 people gathered at the start line, located behind the Station Pub in Grand Forks, to cheer the seven mushers and their 76 dogs on at 9 a.m. on Friday.
Competing this year in the 12-dog race is Rick Wannamaker, Christina Traverse, Randy Mackenzie, Gerry Walker and Steve Mullen. Competing in the eight-dog race is Steve Taylor and Jillian Taylor.
Besides the dogs and mushers, there are also all those helpers in the background, making the whole race possible. That includes the dog handlers who are responsible for the well being of both dogs and humans.
Michelle Hauser is one such handler. She works for returning champion Steve Mullen out of Clearwater B.C. Mullen, 42, has been racing for over 28 years and operates a kennel called Alaskan Husky Adventures. He took first place at last year's Rail Trail.
"What ever Steve needs, I'm his right hand girl," said Hauser, as she massages the muscles of her sled dog chargers.
Hauser helps Mullen feed, clean up after and get the dogs ready for racing. As part of their race preparation, the dogs have booties put on their feet to protect them from the ice, snow and any other debris littering the trail.
The two mushers in the eight-dog race is a father and daughter, Steve and Jillian Taylor from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. Steve, 64, has been racing since 1973. He does it because dog sledding is relaxing and he enjoys it.
"I've been doing it for years and I'm as pumped up as I've ever been," he said of this race, which is his first in Grand Forks.
The 12-dog teams are expected to arrive at the finish line in Greenwood sometime on Sunday, Jan. 22. The eight-dog teams should arrive in Beaverdell sometime late Saturday, Jan. 21 or early Sunday Jan. 22.
The Rail Trail 200 is a prequalifying race for both the Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska.
For a play by play account of the race, visit their official website at www.railtrail200.com.