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Saturday, February 6, 2016

“On you huskies, mush!” at the Kearney Dog Sled Races

   One-Tank Trip for Feb. 6-16
   (c) By Jim Fox

   “Mush you huskies!”
   Kearney, a community of 800 people located just north of Huntsville, is again going to the dogs for what is billed as the largest dog sled race in Ontario.
   Drawing teams and mushers from across Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and the U.S. including Alaska, the 22nd annual Kearney Dog Sled Races take place on Feb. 13 and 14.
Spectators cheer on mushers in Kearney for the annual dog sled races. (Explorers' Edge photos)
   There’s no need to travel all the way to the North Pole to witness this iconic Canadian tradition in action.
   Yes, there is winter up there with about 60 centimetres of snow in the bush as of this week, with just one race shortened due to this year’s unusual weather, said Kate Monk, communications director with the Explorers’ Edge tourism region.
   All trails have been brushed, packed and groomed, and are in excellent shape and ready for racing, she added.
   Being held in the Almaguin Highlands, two hours north of Toronto, the races feature an overnight trek through the wilderness north of Muskoka on the western edge of Algonquin Park.

   There are many things to see and do in addition to the races such as skijoring, children’s events, skating, a bonfire, fine food and fun entertainment.

“On you huskies, mush” is heard as a 10-dog team passes by in the Kearney Dog Sled Races.
   Signature races
   The races feature four-dog and six-dog sprints, one-and-two dog men’s and women’s skijoring and the popular Kid & Mutt event.
   There’s also a 10-dog stage race covering about 60 kilometres a day, with the best accumulative time being the winner of a $5,000 purse.
   That race was shortened “because of winter’s late arrival,” that didn’t allow mushers to spend time on the trails preparing with their teams.
   The 10-dog race starts on Main Street in downtown Kearney and heads south through town with challenging hills to climb, hardwood bush, lakes and marshes to enjoy.

   Mail must get through
A team in the Seguin Sled Dog Mail Run glides by in the woods.
   Along with the races is the annual Seguin Sled Dogs Mail Run on Feb. 13.
   Since 1985, “sledvelopes” with letters prepared especially for the event are gathered, loaded onto sleds and hauled by several dog teams to Rosseau, 17 kilometres away through the bush on groomed trails.
   Teams gather and leave from the Village of Humphrey on Highway 141 at 9:45 a.m. to the cheers from the many spectators.
   These hand-stamped sledvelopes have become collector items all over the world.
   Breakfast will be served at the Humphrey Community Centre at 8 a.m., with activities for children including a chance to have a photo taken with the huskies.
Snowshoeing is a popular activity in the Explorers’ Edge region.
   The Explorers’ Edge region also offers ice climbing, ice skating (at the Ice Trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park and on other outdoor rinks) snowmobiling, tobogganing and dog sledding.
   These and other adventurous outdoor activities can be enjoyed throughout Algonquin Park, Muskoka and Parry Sound at this time of year.
   The SportLab in Huntsville is holding five skijoring sessions at Arrowhead.
   Bring your dog as it’s a combination of cross-country skiing and dog sledding.
Skijoring sessions with people and pets are being offered at Arrowhead Provincial Park.
   This part of cottage country also has downhill skiing on the slopes at Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area, home hill of Olympic champ Dara Howell.
   It’s a ski and snowboard resort in Huntsville, with 14 groomed trails, three quad chairlifts, night skiing, snowboarding and a terrain park.
   The frosted forests in all their glory also offer the traditional winter activity of snowshoeing.
   There are many snowshoe routes across a range of terrain to from which to choose at public parks such as Arrowhead and Algonquin, on managed trails and at privately-owned establishments, such as Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh in Bala.
   Guided snowshoe hikes are available with outfitters such as White Squall in Parry Sound and with LivOutside in Bracebridge, along with advice on going on your own.
   Also in these areas are many outfitters and rental businesses that provide the required equipment to participate in a true Canadian winter.
   To learn more about the dogsled races and winter in Explorers’ Edge: kearneydogsledraces.ca; explorersedge.ca; (705) 646-7673


Jim Fox can be reached at onetanktrips@hotmail.com
For more One-Tank Trips: http://1tanktrips.blogspot.ca

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