Ricq Pattay at the Mush for a Cure
By Pam Landers
After the Mush For a Cure last year, a couple of articles appeared in some Samoyed journals about that fund-raising fun run. Samoyed mushers on Facebook and in e-mails began to imagine how great it would be to bring many Sam teams together at the same event. The Mush for a Cure became the event. Its a relaxed, fun time, not a race, its for a good cause, and relatively centrally located. As the talk went on, Samoyed mushers started surmising “what if”, checked their Mapquests, challenged each other “If you go, I will” and, finally, hit the road, eventually rolling up the Gunflint Trail to the very end in Minnesota within a wolf howl of Canada.
This year, of the 40 teams (24 teams in the long run and 16 in the short run). 12 were all-Samoyed or mostly Samoyed. Of the 12 mushers, 8 were women. They came from all over, driving cross country with their dog trucks; from close by (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota,) and from far, far away (Idaho, Maryland, New Jersey, Washington state, and….Louisiana!)
Pam’s team – Logan and Winter at lead, Trek (Helen Newman’s boy ) and Ari at wheel.
The festivities start on Friday night at the Windigo Lodge when participants check in, turn in their pledges, and join the whole group for dinner. The Mush provides plenty of opportunities for socializing. so the Samoyed dog mushers had time to check in with each other as well as the run. Mushers driving back down the Gunflint Trail to their home lodges had to be alert to avoid the moose crossing the road.
The Mush volunteers had laid the trail for the run the next day through the forested lakes and hills of the Minnesota-Canada border country. We all gathered at the Gunflint Pines resort for a pancake breakfast before the mushers’ meetings. Refraining from staring is difficult because this is the first opportunity to see the wild costumes on both mushers and spectators.
Don going out on the long run
Everyone wears pink. The organization gives a prize to the most Outrageous Pink Outfit. This is rabidly contested. We see fuchia ball gowns and foot high pink wigs, pink mustaches, pink cowboy hats, flying pink capes, pink pajama pants, pink and purple feathery hats, a totally pink Mexican serape and sombrero.
Sled bags were decorated to the nines – pink flower leis, waving pink and purple banners, sparkly glitter, stuffed pink teddy bears.
And the dogs! Pink T-shirts, pink tutus, pink ruffles around their necks, colored pink tails, and even pink and purple glittery flames! Of course, the white Samoyeds showed off this regalia best.
The short course runners started at 10 am, and finished, it seemed, before we knew it. Eight Samoyed teams, including one skijorer, half the short course entry, were running. No formal starts here. We left the starting area whenever we were ready to go. The trail crew had laid out a lovely run through a rolling, forested peninsula, giving on to Gunflint Lake and back towards Gunflint Pines resort to finish. Even without the trail, anyone could follow the course by the line of pink and black booties thrown off by running feet.
Candice going out on the long run
We were all back in time to help the long course mushers ready themselves and their dogs for their noon deadline. The 24-mile run begins with a mass sourdough start out on the lake. The dog trucks are arranged in a wide semicircle facing the start. The dogs are all harnessed and hooked to their ganglines, eager to go. Those of us not running this long course had plenty to do holding dogs and holding down sled brakes. The mushers started by leaping out of sleeping bags and jamming on their boots before they could take off. The paw-parazzi (all of us with point-and-shoots) fired our cameras as the teams took off, one, two, or three at a time, across the snowy lake towards the start line. They disappeared down the trail back towards the peninsula from which the short course runners had emerged.
Four of the 24 teams that made the run this year were made up predominately of Samoyeds. Two of those teams were driven by women. The rest of us were able to watch their progress at points along the Gunflint Trail where the trail came close to the road.
Early in the afternoon, the snow began to fall thickly, adding to the challenges of the day. The run ended three to five hours later for the mushers, depending on their teams and any snags encountered along the way, still in the heavily falling snow.
The run finished at Trail Center, a grocery store, mini-mart, gas station and bar along the Gunflint Trail. Trail crews had set up a large, white tent on the lake where we all gathered to cheer the teams coming in to the finish line. Music and races for kids pulling dog sleds entertained us while we shuffled in and out of the tent to keep warm.
Walter Hermann’s spectacular outfit!
Late in the afternoon, one by one, the teams began to appear around the bend in the lake. We could gradually see them coming through the snow. Large Samoyed teams are few these days. The dogs are so different from the slimmer, longer legged, shorter coated dogs now racing . Watching the white dogs appear as moving shadows in the distance and then grow steadily larger out of the snowstorm, I felt that I was seeing spirit teams from long ago.
Once everyone was in, Sue and Mary presented the awards of the day. Of the more than $34,000 raised by the team pledges, the Samoyed teams contributed over $16,000. Robin Clark from Michigan, driver of a Sam team in the short course, raised over $3000 alone, to earn plaques for The Highest Dollar Amount of Pledges , and Highest Number of Pledges. Of the 15 participants who raised more than $1000 each, 8 ran Samoyed teams. – Robin, Walter Herrmann, Mary Wolf, Don Duncan, Sarah Tragessor, Paul Tragessor, Cheri Hollenback and me. Each of us were able to choose from a variety of great prizes.
Other prizes were for First Team to Trail Center , (not a Sam team), Pink Lantern (last to Trail Center – this was a Sam team) and the crowd – selected Best Dressed Dog Team.
Pam Landers team (front) and Cheri Hollenback’s team (Don’s dogs)
I am honored to say my team won this with their pink and purple NASCAR flames on black jackets.
This year the Most Outrageous Pink Outfit Award went to the musher with the pink sombrero.
On Friday and Saturday, anyone could purchase pink Memorial Sky Lanterns and insert in them a memorial, message or wish. The lanterns were all released at dusk on Saturday, a grand finale for a grand experience.
The Mush for a Cure was memorable, a never-before confluence of Samoyed teams running together, and a wonderful demonstration of what our steady, determined, powerful, happy dogs and their incredible owners can do, both as running teams and fund raisers. As a breast cancer survivor and a musher myself, how grateful I am to both.
Samoyed drivers at the 2013 Mush for a Cure
Samoyed Team Participants: Don Duncan, Candice Smith, Ricq Pattay, Helen Newman, Walter Hermmann, Robin Clark, Diane Geitzenauer, Mary Wolf , Sara Tragesser, Paul Tregesser, Cheri Hollenback, Pam Landers