The Tahquamenon Country Sled Dog Race is the first of the year in Upper Michigan. More than 70 sled dog teams are expected to compete this year, but after the Duck Lake Wildfire, the 14th annual race will not be like the previous 13. The fire destroyed the Rainbow Lodge, the course's normal starting point, along with 90 percent of the trails. That area of forest is still heavily damaged and dangerous.
"With the damage to the trees, the trees can fall over at any time with a snow load or any sort of wind," said David Dake, Race President.
Dake was forced to find a new location. He went to the nearby Muskallonge Lake State Park for help. The park managers are happy to host the race.
"We're very optimistic that this is a great venue right along the shores of Lake Superior and Muskallonge Lake. It's a beautiful spot here in the winter, so I think it's just a great location," said Jim Dzelak, Park Manager.
One of the biggest concerns with this year's race has been the lack of snow on the trails, but recent snowfall has organizers optimistic.
"The trails are in pretty good condition right now. I anticipate the trails will be really good for them," Dzelak said.
The new course is reportedly more scenic than its predecessor, with more valleys, hills, and rivers, all of which make for a more challenging race. One drawback is that it's limiting to spectators.
"It's going to be very difficult to have any sort of spectators see anything but the start or the finish of the race. The county roads are not plowed during the wintertime out there," Dake said.
The Tahquamenon Country Sled Dog Race starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.