Sled dog with volunteer.  Ready to run!

Sled dog with volunteer. Ready to run!

Even though we’ve lived within a hundred miles of the U.P. 200 and Midnight Run for the past thirty years, we’ve never ventured over to Marquette to watch the annual sled dog races.  Credit this blog and my outdoor commitment!  Yesterday I decided it was absolutely necessary to travel and see the start of the 20th annual race.

If you’ve read yesterday’s entry, you know that my friend Bertha (and some of her friends) already planned to attend.  I wangled an invitation and met them at the Ramada about 6 p.m.  From their 7th floor window we could see the crowds starting to gather.  It’s a rumor that this is the biggest dog sled race event in the Lower 48.  It’s also a rumor that between 6,000 and 10,000 folks often attend.  I have no idea how many folks dressed in their warmest clothing lined the blocked-off streets.  Here’s a crowd shot:

Crowd by theater waiting for dogs & sleds to race by

Crowd by theater waiting for dogs & sleds to race by

You can’t imagine how fun this was.  The excitement in the crowd was palpable.  The announcers got the crowd chanting “ten-nine-eight-seven (and so forth)” until the volunteers released the barking and excited dogs and  they ran down the blocked-off city street with lightening-fast speed.  My heart pounded with the crowd enthusiasm, the roars of approval for the dogs’ prowess, the excitement and the clapping and cheers.

I would have been 100% content if the camera had cooperated fully and captured at least one excellent shot of the dogs and sled driver (known as a “musher”).  However, 90% of the shots ended up blurry, missing either dogs or musher, or otherwise inadequate.  Here is the best (and maybe only) complete dog sled team shot to give you a flavor of how it appeared:

Dogs & sled & driver (all in one picture)

Dogs & sled & musher (all in one picture)

After watching several teams mush down Washington Street, we walked down the road to the bottom of the hill where the trail veered sharply to the right.  Our friend called it “Dead Man’s Hill” as the teams needed to slow down to make a comfortable right turn.  I maneuvered toward the front of the crowd and propped myself against a snowbank to attempt a non-blurry shot.  An older woman began chatting and later shared that she used to be a musher!  How cool was that?  She said she no longer has trained dogs, but raced back when she lived in Maine many years ago. 

Just dogs...thrilled to be running

Just dogs...thrilled to be running

The owners and mushers treated the dogs so lovingly.  I swear, they were treated as well as children (at least it looked that way from an outsider’s viewpoint).  Everyone there cheered the dogs with such enthusiasm and love. 

See all the people descend upon Marquette to watch the races

See all the people descend upon Marquette to watch the races

After the races we ambled back up towards the Ramada Inn.  Some of our party desired cinnamon almonds, hot chocolate, chips and fudge.  As we wandered, I saw a woman with a tiny dog in her shirt.  She leaned forward to introduce the baby-dog to a huge yellow dog.  Aren’t they cute?

Tiny dog meets big dog on the sidelines

Tiny dog meets big dog on the sidelines

Afterward we returned to the Ramada where my friend was spending the night.  She invited me to join them in the jacuzzi.  It was a lovely way to warm up.  Except.  There didn’t seem to be a convenient place to change into my clothes to return to my motel.  What to do?  Bertha suggested I throw on my snow pants, coat and boats over the bathing suit.  Does that sound like a wise idea?  I did!  And drove back to the motel with a wet bathing suit under a snowsuit. 

Only in the Upper Peninsula…   🙂

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