When Daley asked musher Carl Routhier’s dog handler if he could see inside the “dog boxes” on the trucks that transport the sled dogs, Simon replied, “I wonder if you could fit in one?”
The next thing I knew, Daley was in the box with a huge smile on his face. Then his sister and her friend got turns.
This experience was one of the many reasons our family spent the late afternoon through well past the kids’ bedtime at the finish line of the 2016 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon located at Billy’s Bar and Grill off of Jean Duluth and West Tischer Roads.
We had intended to watch only one team finish. During the afternoon, we tracked the racers’ progress on the GPS map. We were thrilled that one sled dog team was scheduled to finish the 383-mile race after piano lessons and before dinner — perfect timing on a busy school night.
But we couldn’t help but get swept up by the excitement.
Spectators are allowed an up-close look at the canine athletes, the occasion to personally congratulate the mushers, the chance to watch the judges perform their checks, and the ability to see the sleds and gear.
We ended up joining the crowd inside Billy’s for grilled cheese sandwiches while we waited for the last musher to arrive. Spontaneous cheers would erupt when somebody called out an update on the team’s progress.
Daley even had a chance to give Simon, the kind dog handler from Quebec, a thank you for the special dog box experience.
And ask another dozen or so questions, like, “What do the dogs do if a squirrel runs by?”
It was late and dark, but the energy of Beckie Hatcher’s arrival was contagious.
Finley, who is 4, may have cheered the loudest as Beckie and her dogs came around the bend. She had been studying the race with her fellow Hartley Nature preschoolers (other local preschools also got in the spirit; check out the Secret Forest Playschool blog).
With our children finally tucked in their warm beds with visions of sleds and dogs in their heads, I am thankful for all of the wonderful people who gave them these unique memories. Thanks to the 500+ Beargrease volunteers, the sponsors, the mushers and handlers, the staff at Billy’s, and of course, the amazing dogs.
Y’all make the Northland a great place to raise kids.
Have you experienced the Beargrease? Share your experiences in the comment box below. Thanks!