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Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run
Quesnel-Wells-Barkerville, British Columbia

January 27, 28, 29, 2006

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Results provided by Jeffrey Dinsdale

Final Summary 14th Annual Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run

Here’s a brief rundown regarding the 14th running of the Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run. Over 30 participants traveled all or part of the 55 mile trail from Quesnel to Barkerville to Wells, British Columbia over four different stages. Just under 2,000 Mail Run envelopes were carried for eventual distribution to 27 different countries. Participants came from throughout British Columbia, Alberta, the states of Washington and California and from Christmas Island in the South Pacific Ocean. There were dog teams ranging from four to eight dogs in size, two skijorers, and for the first time ever some brave cross country skiers. All were supported by dedicated snowmobilers and an army of volunteers. The weekend was an overwhelming success.

The cloud of last year’s torrential rainfall was hanging over organizer’s heads, right up until the day before the Friday start. On Thursday night, almost 4 inches of fresh snow guaranteed an outstanding run over the first stage from Umiti Pit to Cottonwood. A fast, safe trail, bright sunshine, freezing temperatures and lots of enthusiasm. The night before, at the pre-event meeting, old and new friends met, there was lots of positive talk and it paid off. Most of the participants left before noon, the average time for this 24 mile stage was about 3 hours and everyone arrived well before darkness. Time to set up camp at the Cottonwood Trading Post campground, tents and trailers appeared and a little overnight village was established. That evening over 70 people enjoyed a great potluck supper at the Cottonwood Community Hall and even more of the participants and their family members camped inside the Hall for the night.

Early Saturday morning the cooks were preparing the pancake breakfast for all comers. During the night it had started to snow and it was still coming down heavily as hungry campers sat down outside at tables set up in the parking lot (in the snow) and ate their pancakes, eggs and sausages just like Canadians always do. The heavy snow continued until about 2:00 p.m.

Participants began leaving Cottonwood about 10:00 a.m. and even more sled dog teams joined in for this day’s stage. The distance for stage 2 was 15 miles to Troll Ski Resort. Even with the snow coming down, trail conditions were still excellent. There is a grueling uphill climb during the second half of this run but it finishes with a great 3 km run down Pinegrove Mountain right into the Troll Resort parking lot. Participants were in Troll by 1:30 p.m., the leader for the day was in fact one of the skijorers and he said the conditions for him and his dogs were fantastic.

Saturday afternoon saw lots of sled dog demonstrations and sports and everyone, including the many members of the public who came out to watch, loved it. Everyone had a try at the weight pull, there were some new skijorers initiated but the highlight was the Multi-Sport Relay which is a complicated combination of dog mushing, skiing, driving around holding an egg on the back of an antique snowmobile, fire lighting, tea boiling, bannock baking and bribery. It was a huge success.

Saturday night saw 120 people enjoying a fantastic banquet catered by Troll Resort, the event was held in the main lodge. There were awards for the oldest (74) and youngest (12) participant, the most authentic heritage outfit, the best conditioned team, the person who experienced the toughest luck, the top skijorer and the red lantern for the last participant into Troll. A great auction and then music and dancing. Things began to wind down around 11:00 p.m., many people “crashed” for the night in the main lodge, others camped out in the musher’s campground and still others chose to drive to either Quesnel or Wells for the night.

Sunday morning saw another pancake breakfast at the ski lodge (this time inside), the participants drove from Troll Resort to the ghost town of Stanley and with the temperatures below 10C they left for the incredible 15 mile run over the historic Cariboo Waggon Road to Richfield and then down the main street of Barkerville. Five skiers completed this stage of the Mail Run, becoming the first skiers to complete any stage of this event. Again, the first person to finish this stage was a skijorer. This trail is not only historic, it is challenging and beautiful at the same time. To travel this route is to go back into the depths of the 1860’s Cariboo Gold Rush and you could only wonder at how they negotiated these mountains with horses and wagons and even camels back during the Cariboo Gold Rush.

Once in Barkerville, teams were escorted to their dog trucks in the adjacent parking lot, donuts and coffee/hot chocolate were served by the Boy Scouts and everyone began preparation for the Barkerville Dash over the last 5 miles of the trail.

The final stage, the “Dash” was exciting. Even more teams had traveled to Wells/Barkerville to take part in this stage. It was a mass start, teams of up to 6 dogs, with or without a passenger, everyone puts a prize into the pile and everyone selects a prize at the end based on finish time…there are no losers. Planners had hoped that the Mail Run would be over by 3:00 p.m. and it was only a few minutes after this that the mail was turned over to Ron Potter, postal superintendent for this area, awards were drawn and things came to an official end for another year.

There were over 40 active volunteers supporting the participants this year….what a wonderful dedicated bunch. There were many thank you’s at the banquet, all of them richly deserved. We were blessed with outstanding trail and weather conditions this year, there were no injuries or serious mishaps, all of the dogs came through in good shape, some of the human participants in not such great shape. It was really a sled dog bonanza, especially when considering the fact that the Wednesday and Thursday before the Mail Run, the First Annual Sled Dog History and Adventure Symposium was successfully staged in Quesnel. For all the participants it was a great winter time adventure.

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