Wyoming Part V, January 28, 2022
Downton Jackson, Town Square to Snow King
After 4 days of exploring Wyoming, the purpose of the trip was finally here! Friday was the big day of the Pedigree Stage Stop Race. Ian had several events to attend, so we were up early to prep for Ian’s day in the Junior Musher Program.
Bonnie and Jim arrived the evening before, and joined us this morning for breakfast before vet checks. I will forever appreciate the travel advice to seek a rental that includes a kitchen. Frying up a skillet of bacon to go with toast and eggs saved us a lot of time. After a pleasant breakfast catching up, it was time to suit up in all our layers to brave the cold walk over to the vet checks for mushing teams. Junior mushers were invited to come observe the vet checks to learn about the process, and to meet the musher that each child had been assigned to ride with for the evening.
The very first musher to arrive was Ms. Geneva Lyon from Oregon. She was quite gracious to us and spent time sharing her wisdom. She even pulled one of her dogs off her truck so Ian could get in some furry snuggles. He was missing Balto and Jenna quite a bit at this point. She also talked to us about the eating habits bred into northern dogs and how this explains why several sled dogs will eat their booties if a musher is not careful!
A little later, and Ryan Beaber pulled in with his dogs. He and his partner, Sarah, kindly embraced our enthusiasm and answered our many questions. They politely worked around us as they prepared for vet checks and attended mushers meetings and handler meetings. Ian got to meet all the dogs and learn their feeding and snacking schedule. Sarah also pulled out their vaccinations book and showed us how they organize all of the health records on their dogs. This lesson stuck with us, and Ian and I used it as the model for putting together his own vaccination book in the future.
Before long, it was time for the Junior Mushers meeting with assistant race director, Ms. Dianna Lehn, and teacher on the trail, Ms. Katie Williams. Ian received a generous gift bag full of goodies from the race committee, as well as instructions for the evening. After the kids posed for pictures, it was time to get Ian back to Antler Inn to try to get some fuel in him.
It’s hard to convince Ian to eat much when there’s something exciting happening. He needed something simple to eat, but also something that would fuel him for a bit. Carbs to the rescue! Pearl Street Market was situated right next door to our suite, so on the walk back, Ian and I popped in to find a package of fettuccine noodles. Ian settled down to rest for a bit while I boiled up a giant bowl of noodles, and he hung his outer layers on the stair rail to dry out before we headed back into the snow. Once he’d had a little down time and filled his belly, it was time to pull on some fresh socks, stuff his pockets with hot hands, and head over to the town square to meet up with the other junior mushers.
What a party Jackson put on! Tents were set up with volunteers handing out hot cider and cocoa, bleachers had been set up on the sidewalks, and the streets were filled with trucked in snow. Already a good sized crowd was filling in around us. Before long, darkness had fallen and it was finally time to start this race! Lasers lit up the sky while a show played on the big screen and music boomed around us. The kids were buzzing with excitement and the crowds eagerly waited to see the dogs. And then they were coming through! Two dog teams at a time pulled up to the chute. Kids were loaded into the sled baskets, the crowd counted down, then dogs were zipping down the street!
Ian didn’t have to wait long before his turn. Ryan wore bib #6, so he was in the third pair to come to the chute. Ian tried to squeeze into the sled bag, but he didn’t fit! For a moment, I panicked and thought Ian was going to miss his big opportunity to run in the race he’d been looking forward to since October. But mushers are much better at thinking quickly than I am, and Ryan pulled Ian onto the runners to stand in front of him. It seemed like only a second later that they exploded forward and dashed out of sight.
Ater months of planning, saving, and anticipating, it all happened. Ian was able to stand on the runners of a real racing team and rocket around turns. I later asked him if he was disappointed that he didn’t get to ride in the sled bag, and he looked at me like I was crazy. He insisted that riding the runners was way better, but he did concede that he would’ve fallen off for sure a few times had Ryan not held on to him. Brinn and Grandpapa stayed to watch a few more teams come through the chute, but I took off on the now familiar hike to Snow King. Mushers finished their run at the foot of the mountain, and the race committee had a camper set up with heaters going for the kids to hang in while they waited on parents to come collect them.
And there we were, after all the planning and traveling, Ian had participated in his first dog sled race. It seemed a bit surreal walking the icy sidewalks on our way back to Antler Inn. As all the dog teams were finished running, the crowds had retreated to the restaurants and bars, the mushers were tucking their dogs back into their boxes, and traffic was non-existent. With the adrenaline receding, Ian’s energy level drooped and he didn’t have a lot to say. It was a very peaceful walk home, despite slipping a few times, and a very fitting way to end such an exciting day.