Hike! Gee! Haw!

We’re no Iditarod, but Minnesota knows dog sledding.

Of course we would. This beautiful, oftentimes (remarkably not now; it’s a “balmy” 36 degrees in Duluth) tundra embraces outdoor sports, ice castles—you name it.

So it’s fitting that rain or shine, piles of fresh snow or status quo, the Voyageurs Classic Sled Dog race in Northome, Minn. is scheduled to continue as planned this Saturday, January 12, 2013.

dog sleddingDog sledding is quite the sport to behold, if you haven’t: the mushers (drivers), huskies (dogs), speed, and what’s that they’re yelling?! (You’ll learn below.) In fact, if you’d like to give it a try, there are a handful of Northern Minnesota places to try it out, like Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge in Ely, Minn. But this weekend, it’s time to watch.

Two classes are competing: The Trophy class starting in Northome and finishing in Squaw Lake run a total of 22 miles, while the 8 dog class will start in Northome as well but run 35 miles east to Barney’s Resort, continuing on to finish in Marcell (that’s 70 miles).

The public is welcome to join participating mushers for a “pre-game” dinner Friday (Northome School, 4:30-7 p.m.) and breakfast (7-9 a.m.) on Saturday, before the first team takes off at 10 a.m. (with the next teams starting every following two minutes). Of course, there’s some prep to be done, and the public can meet participants and watch: Teams will begin preparing their sleds and dogs at about 9 a.m.

A brief tutorial for those watching: “mush” isn’t heard as much as you’d expect. Here are some common terms:

  • Hike! = Get moving.
  • On By! = Go around another team or other distraction.
  • Gee! = Turn to the right.
  • Haw! = Turn to the left.
  • Easy! = Slow down.
  • Whoa! = Stop.

And if you hear kissing sounds, that’s not affection being shown—it’s the command for the dogs to go faster!

Note: The 29th Running of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, another big race, is coming up January 27. Pet owners, perhaps you’ll want to enter your pup into the “Cutest Puppy Contest” Jan. 26 at the Black Bear Casino Resort—or at least plan on stopping by. There’s a variety of great places to stay along the route if you want to make this race a weekend away as well.

Update: Poor snow conditions have forced organizers to postpone the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in northeastern MN.

Just remember, Minnesota weather is unpredictable. Make sure to check the event’s website or social media before bundling up and heading out.

Now hike! It’s a Minnesota adventure you won’t forget.