Hike! Long-awaited Beargrease sled dog race starts today
Amid falling snow, teams entered in this year's John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon underwent veterinary checks on Saturday ahead of today's long- delayed, long-awaited return of the race up the North Shore. The first mushers will leave the startin...
Amid falling snow, teams entered in this year's John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon underwent veterinary checks on Saturday ahead of today's long-
delayed, long-awaited return of the race up the North Shore.
The first mushers will leave the starting line at 1 p.m. today north of Duluth off Riley Road, about a half-mile west of Jean Duluth Road.
Ten teams are signed up for the marathon race, which covers about 375 miles up the North Shore to the Gunflint Trail and back to Duluth. Thirty teams are signed up for the 125-mile mid-distance race, which will end at the Sawbill checkpoint -- not in Tofte as usual -- because of poor snow conditions near the shore of Lake Superior.
Lack of snow also forced the postponement of this year's race from its originally scheduled Jan. 27 start. And last year's race was canceled because of warm weather. All told, it has been more than two years since the last running of the Beargrease -- and that has heightened the anticipation for today's start.
"Mushers' spirits are high. They just want to race," race coordinator Pat Olson said Saturday. "Everybody is upbeat and excited and anxious for tomorrow."
Teams were examined by veterinarians at Black Bear Casino near Carlton on Saturday morning. Musher meetings and opening ceremonies were held later in the day. Despite the messy mix of rain, freezing rain and snow that fell Saturday, Olson said reports indicated that the trail was "holding up fine."
The forecast for today calls for partly sunny skies and highs near 30.
Events at the Riley Road starting line begin at 11 a.m. today, when spectators can meet the mushers and dogs until noon.
The race begins at 1 p.m., with marathon teams leaving first, two minutes apart. After a 15-minute break, the mid-distance teams will leave every two minutes.
Spectators are encouraged to use shuttle buses that will run between the University of Minnesota Duluth's Maroon Parking Lot W and the race start area from 10 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Lot W is located along Junction Avenue just north of College Street.
The top mid-distance teams are expected to finish at Sawbill on Monday morning. The first marathon team is expected back to Duluth on Wednesday morning. Race updates will be posted at duluthnewstribune.com this week.