One of the Cariboo’s most charming traditions is mushing towards us.
Now in its 27th year, the Sled Dog Mail Run celebrates the history of the use of sled dogs for delivering mail in the north.
While the event has left its racing roots behind, it still carries official Canada Post mail along the Cariboo Gold Rush routes.
“I like the fact that it’s a connection with history,” says avid dog sledder and event organizer Jeff Dinsdale.
“I also like that it’s an outdoors event and a really positive family event.”
Around 30 participants are expected to join in on the fun this year.
In addition to dog sledders, some cross country skiers, snow shoers, kick sledders and skijor-ers ( skiers pulled by dogs) have been known to take part. In one instance, someone even attempted the run on a bicycle.
Those who do not want to brave the outdoors, or simply prefer to do their travelling by warm car in the winter months, can still participate by sending their mail in special envelopes, which will be available for purchase in Quesnel and Wells.
Each envelope will have sled dog-related artwork as well as an insert explaining the tradition.
Volunteers apply a cancellation stamp for Quesnel, Wells and Barkerville post offices to the mail a few days before the run and it is then distributed between the participants.
Mail carriers will complete three loops. One in Umity Pits, just north of Quesnel; another around Troll Mountain and finally a Barkerville/ Wells loop.
The final leg of the run is called the Barkerville Dash, the only competitive section of the run, and often the most fun.
Dinsdale says the dash, which is open to anyone, can bring out some great characters.
“One lady who was fairly elderly had this big clunky dog and there she was with her little sled and this one dog and she was determined to do the dash,” he recounts.
“Another woman showed up with two huskies and a sled with two big stuffed animals in the sled, so it was stuffed dogs in the sled and real dogs pulling it.”
He adds the final portion is often his favourite.
“It’s the real climax,” Dinsdale says.
“To run my dog team down the main street of Barkerville is a really thrilling experience for me.”
Once the mail carriers make it to Barkerville they ceremoniously hand off their sacks to the town’s postmaster and the mail is entered back into the Canada Post stream to travel all around the world.
Dinsdale says it is typical for the mail to travel to more than 60 countries each year.
The event will take place January 24-27.
For information about the run or to find out where to buy the mail run envelopes, visit www.dogsledmailrun.ca