This weekend, Feb. 6 and 7th, it's the 16th Annual Kearney Dog Sled Races. (you really need to scoot over to their photo gallery to get a feel for the event!)
Back in the days when dog-sledding was beginning it's meteoric rise to popularity, we had a group who would come to Bondi and offer tiny little tastes of this great sport to the kids. Johnny Reid would bring some of his prize-winning Siberians, and one of his buddies who was a hard-core husky racing fanatic would bring some of his, and they' take guests on a little five minute loop around our lawn and the bay. This was wonderful, but as time passed, the bigger resorts and operators were offering more money, and we couldn't match it. Of course, they were also offering much longer rides, and now you can head out for half day, all day, and overnight runs with groups like Snow Forest Adventures and Winterdance. These folks offer world class dog sled adventures right here close to Bondi. It's great to have neighbours like this.
Once upon a time, the Dwight Carnival also hosted Siberian Husky dog sled races, and one year, when they encountered trail problems due to weather, the races moved here to Bondi. Parking across from the Firehall, the dog teams ran through the Hawk's Lake-Hidden Lake ski trail network. There were lots of spots where you could watch them, including a really popular stretch as they ran parallel to the road through the old gravel pit towards Hidden Lake. For several years, Nancy stood at the start line, counting down the competitors and discovering that hand signals were vital, since the mushers couldn't really hear anything over the excited yelps of the dogs. In short, dog sledding is a magical experience. Dog sled racing is an exciting, tough sport. And the dogs adore it. They are not all purebred huskies. At the races you'll see a wide mix of breeds, and a wider mix of folks who enjoy this sport.
One of our guests, concerned that the dogs were running so many short loops around our property giving little kids rides, asked the handler if the dogs were tired. His reply was classic.
"Well, Ma'am, that leader there, she's my middle distance dog. Usually races 60 to 70 miles. She's laying there, wondering when we're going get started..."
They're going to 'get started' this weekend up in Kearney. Distances for these races varies: there's the lightning fast 4 mile; the just-long-enough-to-stretch-the-legs 6 mile, and the Now-We're-Talking 40 mile race.
And new this year is the 120 Mile Overnight race. Some of the teams that you'll see at these races run the big-league races -- Hank, from Winterdance, is prepping for the Iditarod in early March. That's an 1150 mile race, from Anchorage to Nome, lasting from 10 to 17 days, over some of the most beautiful and difficult terrain on the planet. Susan Butcher won this three years in a row... prompting a spate of sweatshirt sales that proclaimed: "Alaska, Where Men are Men... and Women Win the Iditarod".
There's also the Yukon Quest, another dog sled race never to be sneezed at. From Fairbanks to Whitehorse, this one winds across -- and over -- 1000 miles of some of the hardest terrain anywhere, including the Rosebud Summit, some 2250' high.
Rick Mercer tried his hand at dogsledding... and if you drop by the Kearney Dog Sled Races this afternoon you'll find the chance to try your hand at it too. In addition to the races, there are all kinds of activities, snow carving, mountain bike racing on ice, kids' activities, family skating and a whole lot more.
We're about an hour away from Kearney. And about the same distance from the Haliburton Dog Sled Derby Races coming up on the Family Day Weekend in mid-February. You can spend a day going to the dogs, and then spend a day on the silence of our ski and snowshoe trails... a perfect weekend. And much closer to home than the Iditarod and Yukon Quest...
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