Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Race
Guest Blogger: Sarah Brooks
25th Anniversary Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Races March 4, 2017
10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-And THEY’RE OFF! These are the words that are broadcast over the PA system on Main Street in Fort Kent Maine on the first Saturday of March each year as the Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Races get underway. Competitors from both the U.S. and Canada take part in the competition. Spectators line both sides of the chute and hundreds of dogs are heard barking, eager to be off on their next adventure. A festive atmosphere abounds throughout the town.
The 100 Mile mushers and teams of 10 dogs leave Main St. first with Team #1 having a start time of 8:00 am and subsequent teams following at 2-minute intervals. Their destination is Allagash where teams will be doing a mandatory 3-hour layover at the former High School. Then they are up and running again to the finish line at Lonesome Pine Ski area in Fort Kent. These teams should start arriving at the finish line sometime around 9:30 Saturday evening.
The 30 Mile teams of 6 dogs and their mushers depart Main St. starting at 9:10. Their arrival at the finish line at Lonesome Pines is usually around noon on Saturday. The public is welcome to join in at the Finish for all of the races to cheer these great athletes.
Next is the 250 Mile Race. Start time is 10:20. This race sees teams of 12 dogs depart on a route that takes them to Portage Lake then westward through the Maine Woods with Checkpoints at Rocky Brook, Camp Syl-Ver, Allagash and back to Fort Kent. This is the greatest 250 mile race east of the Mississippi River and is a qualifier for the world famous Iditarod and Yukon Quest. The winner will arrive at Lonesome Pines sometime in the early morning hours of Monday.
The public is invited at two checkpoints, Portage and Allagash. The Portage Checkpoint is the only checkpoint where all of the 250 teams will be doing a layover at the same time. (The race requires a mandatory total layover of 14 hours). It is an amazing sight to see anywhere from 160 to 360 dogs bedded down at the same time, resting in their blankets or nestled into the straw that is provided for them. Mushers go about their duties caring for their team, cooking the dog’s meals over little campfires and preparing for the next leg of the race.
Portage is a unique Checkpoint as the venue covers a wide area. Public is invited to welcome teams at the Incoming Time area (their official time stops there for the first leg of the race) which is on the shore of Portage Lake at the Maine Forestry Station. From there the teams cross three roads, a set of railroad tracks and Rt.11 to get to the field where the dogs will bed down. At this point, the public can observe the teams from afar. The Town Office is open for people to go in to get warm. Food vendors are located inside. The mushers will be in and out of the building so people might have the opportunity to meet them, have their pictures taken or get an autograph. Portage uses between 75 -80 volunteers in order for the checkpoint to run smoothly. These volunteers include trail crews, kitchen crews, safety personnel, handlers, parking attendants, Portage Lakers Snowmobile Club, Portage Lake ATV Club, veterinarians, medics, search and rescue, radio operators and many more.
Portage is a great place to go out, watch teams come into the checkpoint and have a firsthand look at the race.