The artwork for the 2021 mail run was drawn by Sonja Maas, a German student who spent last winter in the Cariboo on a ranch which trains sled dogs. (Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run)

The artwork for the 2021 mail run was drawn by Sonja Maas, a German student who spent last winter in the Cariboo on a ranch which trains sled dogs. (Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run)

Sled Dogs to hit the trail without spectators

The mail run from Quesnel to Barkerville will be limited in scope because of pandemic rules

When picturing the mail mushers of the gold rush, images of a lone team trekking through the mountains come to mind.

While the annual Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run tries to capture that feeling, the specators, skiers and dozens of teams carrying the mail that usually mark the event take away from that romantic image.

In 2021, that image will return. According to the president of the Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Association, Ric Raynor, limited teams will be making the trip from Quesnel to Barkerville in a single day, delivering the mail.

Raynor wasn’t sure if a single team could handle the mail, but said three teams at the most would be making the trip.

“I don’t think the mushers in the days of old ever carried that much mail,” he joked. “Even when Barkerville was the biggest city in B.C., I don’t think they carried that much mail.”

The change in style and publicity was driven by COVID-19 pandemic rules.

“As per provincial health orders, there will be no spectators, so we’re reluctant to give out any dates as to when the mail will be delivered,” Raynor said. “We don’t want any spectators to attend. We have to comply with all of Barkerville’s rules, and we want to respect that because we don’t want to be putting Barkerville at risk.”

Pandemic rules also mean a change in how the mail is organized and prepared for delivery, with organizers ensuring all activities related to the run follow the rules.

All the mail might not be delivered in the first trip, so the association is considering adding another run in Feb., after restictions might lift.

“What our provincial doctor does in February is anyone’s guess,” “We’re dancing on eggshells right now, so to speak. We want to give people the opportunity to still buy the envelopes.”

The mail run has always been run in late January, because it was once a qualifier for the Idiorod and Yukon Quest. The pandemic has given organizers a chance to experiment with the run’s format.

READ MORE: Organizers cancel 1,000-mile Yukon Quest sled dog race for 2021

“Rather than looking at this as a challenge, we’re looking at it as an opportunity,” Raynor said. “We know snow conditions are better in February, we know there are a lot of other advantages moving to February.”

A run in January gives organizers only a few weeks of promotion and hype after the Holidays. Raynor hopes a move to February means more mail sold, and more attention for the run.

The first run of the year will happen before the beginning of February.

PHOTOS: Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run attracts long-time and new mushers

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