Nature Column #9505--St. John Valley Times--Week of Feb.15, 1994



The first 43 miles of the Can-Am 250 Dog Sled Race are a beautiful run. On Feb.12th George Pooler, Larry and Lucas Guimond, Stan and I left Wallagrass at 8 AM on snowmobiles. We were headed for the Portage Checkpoint. I wish I had a dog team and could take that trail with them.

Before I guide you over the trail, I'll briefly tell you of the work done on the trail after Jan. 30, when I last wrote. On Feb. 2, George Pooler, Randy Pinkham , Stan and I finished the wooded trail to Carter Brook. Brad Soucie joined us at noon, and we all worked hard on the" Gilmore Hill" trail. We cut a lot of brush, and a major undertaking was filling a deep water hole with an entire cedar tree. We cut evergreen boughs and saplings to cover a long section of water-scoured trail above the hole. Then we shovelled snow over the entire area. On Feb.4, George, Larry, Stan and I cut the ice-laden trees on the ridge trail. Randy and Brad joined us for cutting brush down to the road to the Fish Hatchery. We had to fill some watery dips on that road, also. After the 16" of snow on Feb. 5, Larry and George broke out the trail from Wallagrass to the Fish Hatchery. Jim Dumond made the track from there to the Portage Checkpoint.

We started our long trip on the 12th across Wallagrass fields, putting out stakes to mark the trail -- particularly intersections with other trails. Sweeping views across the fields make this a nice section.

"Pooler's Run" through the woods to Carter Brook had fresh evidence of moose passing through, and there's a good chance that ruffed grouse bursting from the snow along the trail may startle a lead dog or two. It's a nice trail now that the stumps and overhanging trees are cut.The Gilmore trail was much smoother and the watery area was now solid snow. Out of that wooded area, a wide trail leads to Drake Brook, where we stopped to cut branches. We filled an exceptionally steep deep with brush and snow. From the confines of the woods, we emerged onto a wide road overlooking the Dickwood Lake area, then descending to Isie Pond. We then turned onto the ridge trail with the ice-laden trees. There's a long hill to climb there, and the ice is still on the trees. If the sun shines on race day, the mushers will be treated to the dazzling sparkle on the tree limbs. There are some challenging turns and a few bumps on the wooded trail, and moose tracks abound. What do the dog teams do when they spot a moose?

Once they have negotiated the ridge trail, the 8 miles to the Fish Hatchery in Eagle Lake will be a welcome rest for the mushers and teams. It's a wide, open trail with sweeping curves and gentle hills. The mushers will be able to see for miles over the Birch River country. We had to stop to fill in a couple of steep dips with brush and snow, but that was the only work needed. A short wooded section will take the racers to ITS85 past the Fish Hatchery to a turn off to St. Froid Lake. This is a flat trail through brushy growth. Entering St. Froid Lake, between the Birch and Red Rivers, the teams will pass through an ice-fishing village and travel south down the middle of the lake. They should be able to enjoy the panoramic scenery if the weather is decent. Passing through another fishing village at the south end of the lake, they enter the Fish River. Due to the mild January, this river had a lot of slush when we passed through. Our heavy snowmobile got stuck in slush twice, and there were a couple of very nervous riders. We were all relieved to return to "solid land" at Nixon Bridge. Doody passed us with his drag while we were getting out of the slush, and shortly after that we found him temporarily halted by a buildup of slush on the drag. The cold nights this week should freeze the slush, so the the mushers will likely have a dry passage.

From Nixon Bridge, it is a flat run through the Mosquito Brook lowlands onto Portage Lake, with the first check point in Portage.

The first 50 miles of the race courses through such varied terrain and habitats, that it should be very interesting for the mushers. I hope they enjoy it and the next 200 plus miles.

Gale L. Flagg

Fort Kent, Maine 04743

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