Beargrease day two brings fast trails, more cold temperatures

Beargrease day two brings fast trails, more cold temperatures
Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 2:53 PM CST
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - It was a quiet and calm start to the second day of the 2023 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.

In the early morning hours on Monday, mushing teams tucked themselves into the wooded rows at the Sawbill checkpoint to recover and refuel after the fast trails brought by the front half of the race.

“Fast is good, but it’s easier for you to burn up the dogs if you go too fast,” said marathon musher Nick Vigilante.

Nick Vigilante of Ely is trying his hand at his second full Beargrease Marathon.

Having to scratch last year, he is thankful for better trail conditions and an A-class team.

“I was supposed to run Nathan Schroeder’s B Team, but he has to get a new hip here in a couple of weeks, so we did a beginning of the season switch out,” said Vigilante. “So I got the pick of the litter for his kennel.”

Sawbill is an unassisted checkpoint meaning instead of mushers relying on their usual handling teams; they are relying on the volunteers who call themselves the Sawbillies.

Mark Oldenkamp is the longest-serving Sawbilly in the bunch.

He has spent the last 20 Beargrease’s at the beautiful remote checkpoint. He has chopped wood, pulled countless sled dog teams, and cooked lots of bacon in his time at Sawbill, but the people and the dogs keep him coming back.

“Watching these huskies going ‘let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,’ and just the drive they got.,” said Oldenkamp. “It’s exciting to see that; you just feel the energy from them.”

Teams with renewed energy after their mandatory four-hour pit stop leave the Sawbillies behind to finish the back half of the race.

Mushers left Sawbill and headed towards their next checkpoint at Trail Center Lodge.

For live tracking of the Beargrease Marathon, click here.