With miles to go, mushers take time to enjoy scenery

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff
Posted Feb. 08, 2009, at 10:40 p.m.

GREENVILLE, Maine — Yips, yelps, howls and barks filled the crisp air Saturday as more than 100 dogs, frenzied at the prospect of racing, showed their impatience.

The assortment of dogs, mostly husky breeds, tugged at their leashes, jumped into the air and pawed at the ground as their handlers moved about the animals in preparation for the race.

Fourteen handlers and their sled dog teams from throughout New England and Canada competed in the 100-Mile Wilderness Sled Dog Race. All of the dog teams finished, and no was injured.

Sylvain Robillard of Lanaudiere, Quebec, and his 12-dog team finished the 100-mile race first. Don Hibbs of Millinocket was second and Martin Massicotte of St-Tite, Quebec, a four-time winner of the Can-Am Crown 250, placed third. The winners shared a purse of $5,000.

An additional 11 teams competed in a new offering this year, a 30-mile loop race from the village to the B52 memorial on Elephant Mountain and back. Rico Portalatin of Westhampton, Mass., completed the 30-mile loop race and won a gift certificate for dog equipment.

“There’s a lot of activity that I think helps the local economy,” Mariann Herbest of Beaver Cove, a volunteer coordinator, said Sunday. The mushers pump money into the economy and so do the volunteers, who travel from as far away as Augusta, and the event’s several hundred spectators, she said.

In addition, a portion of the registration fees and the proceeds of 50-50 raffles held during the event will be contributed to the towns of Greenville and Brownville for heating assistance for income-eligible families.

The longer race, which took the teams from Greenville to Brownville and back, not only gave participants a chance to rehearse for the Can-Am 250 in Fort Kent on Feb. 28 but also allowed them to have some fun and enjoy the scenery.

Robillard said this was his second year of competing in the local race and he found the backdrop of the water and mountains “beautiful.”

Jaye Foucher of Ashland, N.H., a Web developer, said the race itself gave her a little respite. “It’s one of the more relaxing and fun races I do,” she said.

Matt Carstens of Jefferson, N.H., also enjoyed the race. “It’s a good competition,” he said Saturday of his third attempt to win the local race. Carstens, who competed in the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in Duluth, Minn., and the U.P. 200 Sled Dog Race in Marquette, Mich., said while the Greenville race wasn’t very challenging, it was “extremely” fun.

“The trails are really well marked and the organization does a really good job,” he said.

That organization includes about 40 volunteers who help groom the trails, assist the handlers before the race and at stops, and provide an assortment of other services to welcome the mushers. The volunteers include members of the Appalachian Mountain Club, the towns of Greenville and Brownville, Moosehead Riders Snow-mobile Club, Piscataquis County ARES and Ron Miles of Foxcroft Veterinary Services in Dover-Foxcroft. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife also contributed the use of its building and property for the ever-expanding event.

In Brownville, where mushers are required to rest their teams for two hours, American Legion Post 92 offered its hall to those who wanted to rest.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/02/08/news/with-miles-to-go-mushers-take-time-to-enjoy-scenery/ printed on August 1, 2014