Gichigami Express Sled Dog Race gets under way with events, Saturday, January 5

The first Gichigami Express stage-style sled dog race will be held from Sunday, January 6 through Tuesday, January 8 in the communities of Grand Portage, the Gunflint Trail and Grand Marais. A field of 20 mushing teams will be competing in the three-stage race.

The event begins with a veterinarian check of the dogs at the Grand Portage Log School, Saturday, January 5, from 8 to 4 PM. There will be a Potlatch Banquet at the Grand Portage Community Center at 6 PM featuring presentations by the mushers and on the history of sled dogs in Grand Portage. Everyone is invited.

The first of the three-stage races starts at Mineral Center at 9 AM, Sunday, January 6. The 20 teams will race to Hungry Jack Lodge with arrival times expected between 3 and 6 PM. Everyone is invited to the outdoor banquet  at Trail Center Lodge on the Gunflint Trail after everyone arrives.

Windigo Lodge on the Gunflint Trail is hosting a breakfast for everyone from 6 to 8 AM, Monday, January 7. The mushers will leave Windigo at 9 AM and race to Devil Track Lodge with an arrival time of 3 to 6 PM expected. Everyone is invited to attend the spaghetti feed at American Legion Post 413 in Grand Marais. Everyone is invited.

On Tuesday, January 8, everyone is invited to the Grand Marais Lions' Club breakfast from 6 to 8 AM at Sven and Ole's in downtown Grand Marais. The third stage of the race will begin at 9 AM at Devil Track Landing with the teams heading for Mineral Center. They are expected to arrive between 3 and 6 PM. The awards dinner wil be held at Grand Portage Lodge and Casino at 6 PM. Everyone is invited.

The race features past Beargrease Champions Blake Freking, Ryan Anderson, Nathan Schroeder and Keith Aili. Local mushers racing will be Odin Jorgenson, Dennis LaBoda, Curtis LaBoda, Frank Moe, Rita Wehseler and Bill Wehseler. There will also be two teams from Michigan's Caribou Creek Kennel.

The mushers will be following trail routes that have been used before centures. before European settlement, Native people traveled through the boreal forests using dogs to draw carioles (a type of sled) carrying  food and supplies. Two centuries ago, fur traders used dogs to run their trap lines. In the 19th Cetury, settlers received their mail and gossip from well-known mail carriers and their dogs. Sled dogs were also used during teh logging era to haul supplie,s firewood and mail.

The Grand Portage Band of Lake Supperior Chippewa has underwritten the $25,000 race purse.
 

More information on the Gichigami Express sled dog race is available from the race website at www.gichigamiexpress.com .