Near-perfect weather conditions for 2020 Gunflint Mail Run sled dog race

Day one at the starting line, photo courtesy of Gunflint Mail Run Sled Dog Race.

By Kate Seitz, Contributor

The dogs were eager, ready and pulling on their leads, when the 2020 Gunflint Mail Run sled dog race officially began early on Saturday, January 11. The two-day continuous race starts and ends at Trail Center Lodge, about 30 miles north of Grand Marais, off the Gunflint Trail. There are two legs of equal distance, separated by a mandatory layover, with two race classes: a 12-dog, 100-mile race, and an 8-dog, 65-mile race.

This popular race is now in its fourth year being run by Sarah Hamilton, owner of Trail Center Lodge, and has taken place along approximately the same route each year since 2017.

A consistent trail and course weren’t always the case for the Mail Run, however. When the race was started in 1976 by Bud Kratska of Trout Lake Lodge, with support from the North Star Sled Dog Club of Minnesota, the course ran from the Gunflint Lodge south into Grand Marais, crossing (illegally) into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Some years, the trail was barely visible on race day due to weather conditions and too few volunteers.

Today, the organizers and volunteers work for months ahead of race weekend in order to ensure everything is set. More than 70 volunteers assisted this year including members of the Cook County Ridge Riders Snowmobile Club, who prepared the race course.

Shown: Matt Schmidt from Grand Marais MN. Photo by Nace Hagemann, courtesy of Gunflint Mail Run Sled Dog Race.


Mike Seim and Carl Madsen presented 2020 Volunteer of the Year recipient, Mike Bartz, with his award. Photo courtesy of Gunflint Mail Run Sled Dog Race.


Volunteers are so important to the Mail Run that an award is given to an outstanding volunteer. This year, Mike Bartz received the 2020 Dick Parker Volunteer of the Year award.

Mushers and their teams came from across Minnesota and Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado and Michigan, as well as Alaska and Canada. Many of the mushers who participated this year have run previously. Ryan Redington won the 12-dog race for the fourth year in a row and Joanna Oberg won the 8-dog race after placing second last year.

2020 Gunflint Mail Run Sled Dog Race contestants, photo courtesy of Gunflint Mail Run Sled Dog Race.

While all of the racers and their dogs deserve recognition for competing in this grueling winter sport, some of the athletes stood out for other reasons.

Frank Moe of Hovland, Minnesota (former two term legislator in the Minnesota House of Representatives from District 4A) competed in the 8-dog race. One of his dogs, Indy, is a 7-year-old Husky who is blind. The Gunflint Mail Run was Indy’s first race since going blind, Moe came in 8th out of 14 teams.

Congratulations to all of the participants, and to the organizers and volunteers, for another successful Gunflint Mail Run sled dog race, and we’ll be watching many of the same mushers this week in the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.

Ryan Redington and his team took first place in the 12-dog race, for the fourth consecutive year. Photo via https://www.facebook.com/redingtonmushing/



1st Joanna Oberg – Run Silent Racing – 5:12:37
2nd Erin Schouweiler – Otter Run Kennel – 5:18:10
3rd Brian Bergen – Gone to the Dogs Racing – 5:23:30

1st Ryan Redington – Callin’ Trail Kennel – 8:18:48
2nd Ryan Anderson – Ander Tier Racing – 8:21:43
3rd Rita Wehseler – Stoney Creek Kennels – 8:26:32


More information:
More race photographs by Nace Hagemann

Gunflint Mail Run Race official web site


Map courtesy of Gunflint Mail Run Sled Dog Race.


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