Monday, March 7, 2011
Sled dogs and two lame ducks: More Upper Peninsula Adventures by Sunwiggy
Another post from my guest blogger Sunwiggy.
I have fallen in love with sled dogs! This was the weekend of the
Copper Dog 150, and even though I worked most of the weekend, I was
determined to see all I that I could. The race started in Calumet at
7:30 PM, so my husband and I bundled up and headed downtown. Snow had
been brought back in and piled up the length of 5th Street, and
despite the cold, people were lined up three and four deep. In hopes
of getting photos, we went as close as we could to the starting line.
What a racket! The sleds were scheduled to start two minutes apart,
and, as each sled was brought up, the dogs in that team went wild!
There were three or four handlers to keep the dogs and sled in place
until the starting signal was given, and they had their hands full.
The dogs leapt into the air, twisting and yowling and howling and
barking and snapping at each other (but not, I noticed, at the
handlers, who seemed completely unconcerned). Those dogs wanted to
RUN. If you heard a pack of canines sounding off like this while you
were hiking in the woods, you'd be climbing the nearest tree!
We didn't have time to go to the street party before the start of the
race, and, because my face was numb and I could no longer feel my
nose, we chose to watch the later fireworks from our bedroom window.
I was struck once again by how friendly Yoopers are, everyone talking
to whomever was standing next to them, sharing information and jokes.
We missed the Copper Harbor events Saturday, but got back to downtown
Calumet Sunday, to watch some of the teams racing back to the finish
line. On Sunday, the teams ran 50 miles, from Copper Harbor to
Calumet, and that included going over Brockway Mountain! The
announcers gave us some background information on the mushers as they
came into view. One musher was from Quebec (and very handsome). There
was a young lady musher, only 17 years old. The announcers urged the
crowd to cheer on another musher: "He's from the UP! Let's give him
a real Yooper welcome!" Everyone started to clap and hoot and cheer,
scaring his dogs half to death; the lead dogs tried to turn around to
flee back the way they had come, much to the confusion of the rest of
the team. The announcers barked: "Quiet! Quiet, folks! These dogs
were trained way back in the woods. They're shy of people." Everyone
shut up, but the dogs were having none of it. Their musher had to get
off and drag them over the finish line, but he was laughing as he did
so. All of the almost 40 teams had run 150 miles in three days. The
dogs were smaller than I had expected, but very beautiful. I would
love a ride on one of the sleds!
My husband and I followed that with a little birding. Hoping for open
water, we drove down US 41 towards L'anse. There was even more ice on
the bay than a month ago, lots of ice and lots of fishing shanties and
pick-up trucks. And there, in a little patch of open water near a
cluster of shanties, we saw 2 eagles, 4 crows, a dozen or so
quarreling herring gulls, mallard ducks, Northern pintail ducks, and
across the road, a lone Canada goose. On the way home, we drove past
a country field where, 2 weeks ago, we'd seen 3 eagles and some crows
dining on, presumably, a large dead animal. Today, there were TEN
eagles and a dozen crows, and I saw one of the eagles, neck stretched
out in rage, running across the snow, charging the cluster of crows,
which had the good sense to take wing. Eagles can be feisty! We
finished our day with a drive-by of the "dead deer feeders", which are
looking rather sad by this point. The rib cage is more bone than
Although, like most of us in Yooperland, I am very ready for Spring,
the Copper Dog was such a uniquely Far North kind of event, and so
much fun, that it's okay that winter stuck around for this weekend,
anyway. Now it can go! The sandhill cranes are coming back in
mid-April, according the Copper Country Audubon newsletter, and I
figure they should know. I can't wait!