GREENVILLE, Maine — With fresh snow on the trails and temperatures hovering about zero, conditions were nearly perfect for the ninth annual Wilderness Sled Dog Race on Saturday in Greenville.
Eighteen competitors — 10 in the Plum Creek 60-mile event and eight in the West Branch Pond Camps 30-mile race — left the starting gate outside of the Leisure Life Resort with more than 100 spectators lined up on both sides of the snow fence to cheer them on.
The first team across the finish line in the 30-mile event was Rico Portalatin of Milo with a time of 1:46:22.
“The only way I could describe conditions today was ideal,” said Portalatin. “The trails had a great snowpack with a really good base. It was good on the dog’s feet and good for the mushers who could brake easily.”
He added that the cool weather was great for the dogs, too.
Martin Massicotte of Saint-Tite, Quebec, captured the winning trophy in the Plum Creek 60-mile race with a time of 5:33:30. He also won the 100-mile event last year and has five Can Am Crown 250 victories on his mushing resume.
The traditional 100-mile race was shortened to 60 miles this year because of the planned expansion of Medawisla Lodge and Camps on Second Roach Pond about 20 miles north of Greenville.
“Another thing that made this race successful was the spotters at all the corners on the route,” Portalatin said. “There was little danger of going off the trail.”
Amy Dionne of St. David, who won last year’s 30-mile race, said that the Plum Creek Wilderness weekend was a good tune-up for the Can Am 250, which gets under way Feb. 28 in Fort Kent.
“My sister [Holly] and I work together and combine [dog] teams,” Dionne said. “We start training them pretty early, and they just love to run.”
The Dionne sisters also like competing in the Greenville races.
“This is my third time down here, and it’s a blast. The trails are in great shape, and the community is wonderful,” Amy Dionne said. She finished fifth in Saturday’s 60-mile event.
Shawn Graham of Fort Kent has been volunteering for the Plum Creek Wilderness Races from the beginning. He and Greenville Town Manager John Simko spent a great part of the day at the starting gate, helping the mushers keep their teams steady until the start signal.
In addition to the individual volunteers, the Moosehead Riders Snowmobile Club and Appalachian Mountain Club also played a major role in keeping things running smoothly.
“I’ve been involved with sled dogs for years, and one of the things I like coming back here each year is the community and the volunteers,” Graham said. “This race is top-notch, and we definitely owe a debt of gratitude to the sponsors, too.”
Jill Carter and Michelle Chase of Beaver Cove volunteered for their second year at the races, helping get teams to the gate and answering questions from the spectators.
“It’s fun to watch something you don’t see on a regular basis,” said Carter. “Most people around here are used to the traditional outdoor events, like snowmobiling and skiing. But you don’t get to see dogsledding very often. It’s interesting to see how the team owners get the dogs ready.”
Chase owns four huskies and said that she likes to do recreational sledding.
“So we’re happy to come out and support this race,” she said.
Jason and Megan Agrell of Parkman usually come to Greenville two or three times per year, especially during the winter months, so the Plum Creek Wilderness races are must-see events.
“I love sled dogs,” said Megan Agrell. “I’ve owned huskies in the past, and it’s great to see these teams up close. Everybody, especially the kids, love this event.”
Her husband agrees.
“This is only our second time up here for the races, and we’ll definitely keep coming back,” he said.
60-mile race results
1. Martin Massicotte, Saint-Tite, Quebec: 5:33:30
2. Andre Longchamps, Pont Rouge, Quebec: 6:10:58
3. Sally Manikian, Shelburne, New Hampshire: 6:22:30
4. Ashley Patterson, Shirley: 6:25:35
5. Amy Dionne, St. David: 6:27:10
6. Becki Tucker, Dorchester, New Hampshire: 6:29:17
7. Mark Patterson, Shirley: 6:32:22
8. Andrew Bartlett, Albion: 7:23:54
30-mile race results
1. Rico Portalatin, Milo: 1:46:22
2. Paul Boudreau, L’Assomption, Quebec: 1:55:33
3. Peter Franke, New Durham, New Hampshire: 2:02:45
4. Ben Morehouse, St. David: 2:03:26
5. Amelie Aubut, Pont Rouge, Quebec: 2:09:16
6. Jaye Foucher, Wentworth, New Hampshire: 2:14:03
7. Steve Renner, Alton, New Hampshire: 2:14:16
8. Caroline Blair-Smith, Albany Township: 2:23:35
9. Dave Punch, Kingsbury: 2:35:21
10. Kaitlyn Sutherland, Jefferson, New Hampshire: 2:45:21