Mushers, Sled Dogs Kick Off Race Season with Gunflint Mail Run

Heidi Enninga
January 04, 2015 10:37 PM

Teams of mushers and sled dogs kicked off the start of the race season in the Northland this weekend, finishing a trip Sunday morning on the Gunflint Trail near Grand Marais.

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The teams crossed Poplar Lake one-by-one, the final leg of a two-day journey starting around noon.

John Bottger and his wife were part of a local crowd who came to revel in the sight of the nine and ten-dog teams coming across the finish line. 

"It's just beautiful to see the mushers and the dogs and the interrelationships of the mushers and the dogs,” Bottger said.

Leanne Bergen of Sioux Lookout in Ontario traveled to the race with 19 dogs. Both she and her father ran teams in the race, but in a bright green sled, she and her team were the first across the finish line.

"It was the first time I actually won a race, so it’s pretty amazing,” Bergen said. "I'm friends with all of the dogs, I know all of their personalities."

The Gunflint is a race featuring 100 miles of northern Minnesota wilderness.  

"It's so peaceful, there's nothing else like it,” Bergen said.

Jack Stone, one of the race organizers said the event showcases the wild beauty of the area.

"This is what it's all about, just being out here in the snow and the ice, it's just a great place to be in the wintertime,” Stone said.

Being out in that wilderness is right where the hardy-Northlanders taking in and participating in the race like to be. Temperatures hovered around -16 for the last day of the race.

I'm outside year round,” Bergen said. “It's where I belong.

Besides an appearance when the Beargrease was canceled in 2012, the Gunflint hasn’t been around for years. The community is a small one, but it got behind a revival of the Gunflint Mail Run race in a big way.

"It's been really gratifying to have people pick up the phone and call us up and  say 'what can we do'?” Stone said.

"This is a community up here, and we are very good at supporting community events," Bottger said. “The word goes out that they need help, and womp, people come in."

The community raised the money for a $5,000 purse that Bergen took home.


Heidi Enninga

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