Nature Column #9605--St. John Valley Times--Week of Feb.28,1996



All we could see was snow as Ruth Schenk and I drove to Maibec's Lumber Camp in T13R14, Checkpoint #4 of the 1996 Can-Am 250 mile Sled Dog Race. Snow was falling lightly at the start of the race, but it intensified by noon. Fortunately, the ham radio operators responsible for communications at the Maibec checkpoint were right ahead of us as we left Allagash. The logging roads were not plowed that day, but Dean Wiggins (N1HSQ) had a Toyota 4/Runner that was high enough to keep the bumper from plowing into the snow, and he had reasonably good visibility in the heavy precipitation. Ruth's vehicle, though a 4-wheel drive, was just low enough so that the front plowed in and threw plumes of snow right back on the windshield. Ruth had to drive with her head out the window for about 15 miles! Steve Boomhower (N1CHF) and I (N1UYA) were in continuous radio contact as our drivers braved the ever deepening snow.

Almost five hours after we left Two Rivers Lunch, we cheered when we saw the lights at Maibec shining through the snow. For a couple of miles before Maibec neither driver had good visibility and we were turtle slow. The helpful watch couple were surprised to see us emerge from the swirling snow, but had hot soup for us that really hit the spot.

In the meantime the dog teams were taking more than three hours longer to reach Checkpoint #1 in Portage than they did last year. The first team into our Maibec station was Paul Boudreau's.

He arrived at 3:13 P.M. on Sunday, Feb. 18th, less than 29 hours after leaving Fort Kent. He immediately moved one dog to the back of the sled because "He likes to be alone". Then Paul gave each dog a liver treat. Next he put some corn syrup on his hand and put it in some of the dog's mouths saying, "You're a problem". The syrup supposedly stimulates appetite. Next an 18" square cooker was opened, and anti-freeze was poured over fiberglas insulation in the bottom. Sara Hartt and Jean-Luc Theriault brought hot water, which Paul then dumped into a deep pan set over the flaming anti-freeze. Frozen meat was chopped with an ax and simmered in the pan with sugar. While that was heating, the musher noticed that the two leaders were in the wind, so he moved them back near the sled where they would be protected during the mandatory eight-hour rest. He then set twelve bowls out on the snow and divided the hot mixture between them, each dog getting a tailored amount. A thumb-nail sized vitamin pill went on top of the food. Some of the team watched the preparations intently. Others remained curled up. One dog actually jumped up and down in anticipation! Six of the dogs ate eagerly, two of them obviously wanting more. The other six didn't show much interest, and Paul coaxed them with food on his hand. Next chickens with feathers on ("to clean out worms"), but heads and feet off, were chopped in half and a piece thrown to each dog. All but one ate the chicken. The dog who didn't want chicken received a chunk of red meat instead.

When Paul was ready to go, he talked to and petted each dog. We led his team out across the road and put them on the trail to Allagash at 11:13 PM. He finished 2nd in the race, but is the leader in the Can-Am Triple Crown after the first two races.

Gale L. Flagg

Return to race news index

home paw button