Grand Portage is a race that I would like to come back to. What a fun race!! Let me tell the tale starting from the beginning.
We got out of here early Friday morning, as planned. Ken and Jamie in their dog truck and me in mine. It occurred to me on the drive over that the last time I raced in Minnesota, the highlight of my trip was meeting Jamie Nelson and shaking her hand. Now, 4 years later, I’ve been living and training with her for 4 weeks prior to the Race. You can never predict what paths life will take you down!
As I checked in, I met Shelley Gerig of Thunder Bay. Shelley had graciously offered to come down and help out with some handling and driving chores for the Race.
The vet check went well. Everyone was pronounced in great health and ready to Race. Shortly after we met up with Bill Boutang and Sandy Wheiler, friends of Jamie’s that had agreed to shoulder most of the handling responsibilities for me during the Race.
That evening the Band held a feast in honor of the Race. That was really neat, in addition to GREAT food (moose, wild rice, fish, fry bread…) they had a gift giving with the community. Each musher brought a gift with them. Names of community members were tossed in a hat and the mushers drew names of who the gift was going to. The gift to the mushers was the Race. I think the Grand Portage band got the short end of that trade.
The next day was time to visit, organize, plan, and gamble (well – we were in a casino!!! I played until I lost a whole $5!). That evening was the mushers' banquet. We sat with Iditarod veteran and former Grand Passage Champion Mitch Seavey, who proved to be an interesting and articulate dinner companion! I drew bib #23.
Trust me to do something stupid at the beginning of a Race. I attached my sled bag backward to my sled and while I was cutting the tie wrap to fix the mistake, the knife slipped and I nicked my knuckle. Not a big cut, but deep and it wouldn’t stop bleeding. Bill and Sandy used up a good portion of my first aid kit bandaging and wrapping the darn thing. Finally Bill send me in search of a vet to fix it up. The vet wanted to put a stitch, however I must now trash the myth that I’m a tough and fearless musher and confess to the fact that I am scared to death of needles. It got taped together and well wrapped. Just before the start, I had the dressing changed and it re-wrapped so I could hang onto my sled a little better. Jamie, who suffered blood poisoning in a Race a few years ago, made me promise to get the dressings changed and the cut checked at each checkpoint. With no further mishaps, we headed off down the trail!
The trip over to Devil’s Track Lake was a clean, uneventful run. I felt the team wasn’t really working together, but they were still moving along steadily and I hoped teamwork would fall into place as the Race progressed.
Veteran handlers, Bill and Sandy had everything ready when I got to Devil’s Track. It is a real treat to have help in checkpoints, unlike Iditarod where only the mushers can do their dog care. I helped with the feeding and bedding down of the dogs and then took off to get a warm meal! After that it was back to the truck for a 1-½ hour nap. Bill and Sandy kept watch over the team and doled out a few massages to very grateful canines! I took a little more then my planned 4-hour break – I think it worked out to 4 ½ hours. . As promised, I had the finger checked over. It still hadn’t completely stopped bleeding, but it was slowing way down.
In the dark on the trip over to Popular Lake, I battled with headlamps. My light kept getting dimmer and dimmer and no combination of battery packs and headlights wanted to do any better. I was grateful when daylight rolled around, as by that time, I could hardly pick out my leaders with my light.
Popular Lake was a ‘Splash and Dash’ checkpoint for us. We stayed only long enough to get some soup in the dogs. Many dogs were dropped at this checkpoint due to sore shoulders, I was grateful to leave for Gunflint with all 12 of mine. All looking fit and strong.