A unique opportunity to send mail by dog sled team is fast approaching.
Mushers from near and far are preparing to carry your mail by dog sled team in the 2019 Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run, which will take place Jan. 25-27, and time is running out to purchase the unique Mail Run envelopes that will be carried along the Gold Rush Trail from Quesnel to Barkerville.
Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run envelopes can be purchased and dropped off in special Mail Run mailboxes at the Quesnel Post Office on Reid Street, Shopper’s Drug Mart Postal Outlet, BNC
Mercantile in Wells, Bosley’s Pet Food Plus, Four Rivers Co-Op, Jack O Clubs in Wells, Rocky’s in Bouchie Lake, and Total Pet. Envelopes are $3 each or five for $12, and postage is not included. Envelopes must be dropped off by Wednesday (Jan. 23) at noon at the outlets and Thursday (Jan. 24) at noon at the Main Post Office. This year’s envelopes feature artwork by Christine Yaffe.
Jeff Dinsdale, who is an avid dog sledder and is one of the Mail Run organizers, says preparations are going well for this year’s event.
“A small group of very dedicated Mail Run organizers have been working hard for months, and the dog mushing gods seem to be smiling,” he says. “There is lots of snow and hopefully a continuation of reasonable temperatures.”
An annual event since 1993, the Mail Run has evolved over the years from a gruelling 250-mile competition that was a qualifying event for both the 1,000-mile Alaska Iditarod and the Whitehorse-to-Fairbanks Yukon Quest to a more relaxed and fun-filled winter weekend, according to Dinsdale.
“The cornerstones of today’s Mail Run are a combination of participation, winter family fun, Cariboo Gold Rush history and the Canadian tradition of delivering regular Canada Post mail by dog team,” he says.
For the past 26 years, on the fourth weekend of January, dog teams and mushers who have been sworn in as official mail carriers have carried Canada Post mail in their dog sleds over the Gold Rush Trail from Quesnel to Barkerville. Special Mail Run envelopes are designed each year with artwork by local artists, printed and sold online and at local outlets, stamped “Carried by Dog Team” and hand-cancelled by volunteers in Quesnel, Wells and Barkerville, the three post offices along the route. Once delivered to Barkerville, this mail enters the regular mail system for delivery anywhere in the world. In past years, these envelopes have ended up in more than 60 different countries, according to Dinsdale.
On the trail, dog teams, will be joined by skijors, cross country skiers, kick sledders, snowshoers and even fat tire cyclists, as they travel groomed trails along three large loops.
“It’s a lot of fun for the skiers to be out on the trail,” says Dinsdale. “Being passed by a dog team or a dog team passing them is quite exciting.”
The official mail carriers will be sworn in and mail bags will be distributed Friday, Jan. 25 at 9 a.m. at the Quesnel Post Office on Reid Street.
The “on-trail” activities are staged at Umiti Pit north of the Cottonwood River on Friday, Jan. 25, at Troll Resort on Saturday, Jan. 26 and in Wells and Barkerville on Sunday, Jan. 27.
There will also be a number of other events in addition to those that will be taking place on the groomed trails.
Stage 1 of the Mail Run begins Friday, Jan. 25 at Umiti Pit Rd., 17 kilometres north of Quesnel, at 11 a.m.
A spaghetti dinner hosted by the Girl Guides Friday at 6 p.m. at the Barlow Creek Hall will offer a chance to meet the mushers and skiers. Tickets are $10 and are available online through dogsledmailrun.ca.
On Saturday, Jan. 26, spectators will be able to meet the sled dogs and their owners as they take part in Stage 2 of the Mail Run at Troll Ski Resort, starting at a11 a.m. From 2 p.m. on, Troll will host the Musher’s Sports Competition, and there will be a social supper, auction and awards that evening, starting at 5 p.m. All members of the community are encouraged to consider taking part. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for children and are available online at dogsledmailrun.ca.
On Sunday, Jan. 27, mail carriers will start off at Barkerville on a trail that will eventually loop back through Wells. At noon, these dog teams, skijorers and skiers covering the whole trail will be joined at the Jack ‘O Clubs in Wells by even more participants, and, together, everyone will take part in the Barkerville Dash, a fun race to Barkerville. Racers are expected to arrive at the finish line in front of the Barkerville post office between 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.
“The combination of snow-covered trees and mountains, sled dogs, Cariboo history, historic Barkerville which is the site of B.C.’s fifth-oldest continuously operating post office, the sled dog mail and the smiling faces will be hard to beat,” says Dinsdale.
The mail will be handed off to Canada Post officials on Barkerville’s main street in front of the Barkerville Post Office. The wind-up for the weekend will then shift back to the Jack ‘O Clubs in Wells.
“The setting is wonderful,” says Dinsdale. “Running into Barkerville is really thrilling. I’ve had lots of great experiences with my dogs, like running along the Yukon River into Whitehorse, and Barkerville far exceeds it.”
Dinsdale says this year, mushers are coming from as far as California, Montana and Washington, as well as from all over B.C.
“We tend to have a lot of families, such as fathers and sons running a team,” says Dinsdale. “It’s very much a family event, it really is. The emphasis is on participating, not on competing or winning.”
Dinsdale says Mail Run organizers are still looking for volunteers, including people to help cancel envelopes at the post office, help with the events such as the Social Supper and Auction at Troll and help set up and take down at the different venues, and he says people who have snowmobiles would be helpful on the trail as safety people. Anyone who is interested in volunteering can contact the Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Association at 250-992-2730.
For more information, visit dogsledmailrun.ca.