Stage Stop Race 2016
Down a 44 Mile Trail
by Terry Allen
February 10, 2016
This was another great weather day for a sled dog race, clear and crisp, and only a light breeze. The Pinedale Stage Stop of the Eukanuba Stage Stop Sled Dog Race was held on Wednesday, February 3rd.
The end of the pavement in the Upper Green is not just the spot where the race starts every year, but also where other back country folks stage their projects. The Red Cliff Bible Camp folks were loading two big sleds with enough provisions for 40 people. The sleds were to be pulled six miles up and down mountain trails to their large lodge where they would camp for the weekend.
Dean Clause of Game and Fish was there with his helicopter team including refueling crew. Their project for the day was to count moose, elk and sheep for their reports. Turns out, some of the biggest bull elk never go to the elk feeding grounds, so Dean and his crew have to try to spot them and count them in the steep outback.
Also, sitting like the big dogs in the end of the road parking lot were five big yellow school buses full of 250 elementary school students that came up from Rock Springs and Green River again this year due to the efforts of Lead Teacher, Jill Harrell. Jill uses race resources to engage and inspire students. The students got to meet their favorite mushers, some very friendly sled dogs, visit the Eukanuba hospitality tent for some Dove hot chocolate and hot chili, as well as getting into a few snowball fights.
The unique course of study created by Jill allows the students to take their Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) skills from the classroom and apply them in the field. "We have created a curriculum that integrates the core skills of reading, writing and math with the mechanics of dog sled racing," Jill said. "The students learn about the race long before it starts. They research the sleds, dog breeds, diets, training program and even select a musher to learn about. They are fully invested by the time they come to the event and meet the dogs and the mushers which they have studied about," she said.
It is hard to understand how much sled dogs love racing unless you go to watch in person. They literally jump six feet in the air in excitement. There isn't a dog that isn't barking and jumping and tugging at it's reins trying to start the race on their own.
Few know that the origin of organized sled dog racing has it's roots in a mission of mercy.
"The most famous event in the history of Alaskan mushing is the 1925 serum run to Nome, also known as the "Great Race of Mercy." A diphtheria epidemic threatened Nome, especially the Alaska Native children who had no immunity to the "white man's disease", and the nearest quantity of antitoxin was found to be in Anchorage. Since the two available planes were both dismantled and had never been flown in the winter, Governor Scott Bone approved a safer route. The 20-pound (9.1 kg) cylinder of serum was sent by train 298 miles (480 km) from the southern port of Seward to Nenana, where it was passed just before midnight on January 27 to the first of twenty mushers and more than 100 dogs who relayed the package 674 miles (1,085 km) from Nenana to Nome. The dogs ran in relays, with no dog running over 100 miles (160 km)" (cited from wiki).
It was a fast race due to well groomed trails, cold temperatures resulting in hard snow and good visibility. It came off without serious mishap this year and the top three results were:
Jerry Bath of Lander, Wyoming
JR Anderson of Buyck, Minnesota
Bruce Magnusson of Manchester, Michigan
(for more detailed information on this stage and all other stages, see link at end of story)
After the race, about half the teams met at the Green River Bar for a slaw dog and a beer or soda; and to share race war stories of the day and meet a few people who work behind the scenes, but without whom the race could not be put on.
Dylan Harris lives in Portland, Maine with his girlfriend where they have a small dog-walking business. Dylan used to be a junior musher in Star Valley. "After I finished college I sold insurance in Lander but didnít care much for it," he said. "While in Lander, I met Jerry Bath and began caring for his sled and team. Racing is exciting," he said. "You get to be outside. I love dogs. They are so honest and straightforward and they love you every day. They are great to have around because they donít always tell me how bad their day has been." Roger Carpenter, the Media Director for the Eukanuba Stage Stop Race who had been listening, chimed in with a special kind of observation. "The later you come home, the happier a dog is to see you," he said. "Sort of the reverse of your wifeís reaction."
Dan Carter, the race director walked in about then and gave Jerry Bath the good news that he had won the Pinedale stage and would be wearing the yellow leaderís jersey for the Marbleton/Big Piney stage.
Frank Teasely, the founder of the race series, smiled at the news and congratulated Jerry. "This whole event survives because we surround ourselves with a lot of competent people," he said. "We set up our mushers to be successful, and a huge part of that is valuing the volunteers," Frank said. "We canít put on a race without volunteers." Rex Hamner and his FFA students are some of the volunteers Frank is talking about. They put themselves at the disposal of the race organizing folks early race morning. They were put to work installing banners, flags and course markers.
Justin and Sandy Wright of the Kendall Valley Lodge were also volunteers of a sort, because they generously offered free meals to all musher teams, as they have for years.
You need to lean in close and read John Stewarts lips as he speaks because heís got a pretty good Scottish accent. John is the race analyst. "I read the data," he said. "I look at the data as it comes in and off the time sheet splits. I can read the splits and understand what is going on with every racer in every part of the track based on the various splits," he said. "From that data, sleds, dogs and teams are adjusted to turn in better times depending on terrain, altitude and snow conditions."
Georges Durand comes from Saint Rambert, France. Georges is a firefighter and part of a fire truck crew. He is also a staging coordinator for the event, as he has been for 10 years. "I come here every year for 10 years now to do this," said Georges. "It is my childhood dream to see the Wyoming state, so when Frank Teasely brought his race to France I helped him for all 10 days. Frank said me, "I live in Wyoming, come." All my friends said: "no, no, no. You will be all alone and mushers wonít care for you." I tell them, you think what you want, but I think what I hope. But then I got hurt. For one year I am in a wheelchair. I told my wife, if I get better I will go to Wyoming. Now my wife says, "go, go, go, I wonít be able to live with you if you stay only talking about Wyoming." So, this is why I am here," said George.
Four veterinarians are part of the tour. "A lot of the injuries we treat are strains," said Monica Pacheco from Madrid, Spain. "This is a race known for its dog handling," she said. "We work with the mushers to understand their dogs. We all learn by sharing our knowledge and skills." Veronica Devall of Calgary, Canada has been doing sled dog veterinary for 20 years. "We treat dogs just like you would expect a human athlete to be treated," she said. "We ice it, massage it and then share with the musher and handler what we do."
Most of the mushers and support personnel have a long way to go to get home: Spain, France, Alaska, Canada and more. But Frank Teasely lives with over 170 sled dogs right at the entrance to Granite Hot Springs, right here in Sublette County. From here, Frank and his management team immediately start planning next yearís event. Mars Pet Care, of which Eukanuba is a part, has been a sponsor for 17 years. Frank does motivational speaking for their executives among other speaking engagements.
For two years in a row, there havenít been any Pinedale students at the event. Frank says heíd love to share his lifeís passion with them. "The two biggest sled dog races in the world that everyone recognizes are the Iditarod and this one," he said. "The mushers and support teams are the best of the best."
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