There is a famous quote by Lewis Grizzard that reads: “life is like a dog-sled team. If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.” For Clearwater, B.C.’s Steve Mullen, that is exactly what happened as he became the lead dog winning the inaugural Rail Trail 200 International Dog Sled race held last weekend, starting and finishing in Grand Forks.
Five mushers took part in the 200-mile race and only one competitor, Brandi Mullen, took part in the shorter 100-mile race that began in Grand Forks and ended in Beaverdell, B.C.
“The people that ran this trail went way, way, way, beyond anything that was expected of anybody,” said Simms at the Musher’s Dinner that followed the conclusion of the race. “They took the chance showing up here. This is the first year that we have run this race and they said ‘yeah, you betchya, we’ll come up here and be the guinea pigs’, and they did an amazing job. They kept going in spite of the fact that the weather was not good and the trail was not perfect.”
The big race, which began on Friday and ended on Sunday in Grand Forks, took the mushers through Greenwood, Pheonix, Beaverdell, Eholt through to Big White and many places in between.
Of those five mushers who started the race, Mullen and one other, Stefaan De Marie of Christopher Lake, Saskatchewan, were the only two racers who completed the whole course. Mullen took home $3500 for first place, De Marie $2000 for second place, Karen Ramstead $1500 for third, and Richard Todd $1000 for fourth.
While the first running of the Rail Trail 200 was not without its setbacks - extreme weather conditions in the West Boundary area caused an unscheduled restart on Sunday morning - the mushers along with organizer Dr. Ruth Sims had nothing but wonderful words to say about the event.
Second place finisher De Marie, said at the banquet that he has run eight or nine Canadian Challenge dog sled races back in his home province of Saskatchewan, but got more out of this race than any of those.
“I really enjoyed it,” said De Marie. “I have got a lot more satisfaction out of this race than I have ever had out of the Challenge.”
Mullen echoed De Marie’s comments, and concluded that because he was from Clearwater, that he was as close a local guy as there was, and that he “would like to come back, as it was a great event.”
Mullen also said that he planned on coming back in the summer for some camping and to help out the organizers, if they would like.
In total $10,000 was handed out in prize money. Organizers are already talking about next year's activities.
Video courtesy of Les Johnson, What's Up in Grand Forks.