FORT KENT, Maine — Mushers in the Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Races set off early Saturday morning under bright blue and sunny skies expecting excellent trail conditions.
The streets of Fort Kent were packed with spectators for the initial group of dog teams that eagerly bolted down the main road to run the 2022 Can-Am Crown 100. Jared Ashley of Fort Kent led the racers, taking off at 8 a.m.
Caleb Hayes, 17, of St. David — the teen who shot the moose that attacked his dog team last week — was back on the runners and taking off with the rest of the mushers in the 100-mile trek. Hayes had been uncertain he would compete after the moose incident. Amy Nichols from Native Dog Food rode with Hayes.
One racer moved to the United States from New Zealand three years ago along with 10 dogs with a goal of rebuilding his kennel and competing in several races in the northeastern United States. Mark Roberts said he moved to Dalton, New Hampshire, 18 months ago for better training conditions.
“Our goal is to enjoy nature, spending time with our dogs racing with us, being centered on the dogs at all times and by all means, having fun,” Roberts said.
The racers for the Can-Am 30 took off at 9:10a.m, and the mushers in the 250 mile race were set to take off at 10:20 a.m.
First of the mushers to take off for the Can-Am 250 was Gregg Vitello from Milan, New Hampshire.
Following Vitello was the trend setter for the race, Tristan Longchamps from Pont-Rouge, Quebec, with his dogs all sporting neon booties. Longchamps’ colorful team wasn’t the only one running with bright feet.
In fact his brother Andre Longchamps, along with mushers Katherine Langlais of Glenwood, New Brunswick, Gilles Harnois of St-Alexis des Mont, Quebec, Amy Dionne of Madawaska and Becki Tucker of Fort Kent all ran out of the gates with their teams wearing the neon booties.
Some mushers like Jessy Theriault from Sioux Lookout, Ontario, came to race the Can-Am 250 for the first time right off the back of running another 200-mile race in Saskatchewan. For Theriault, placing in the race isn’t his main objective.
“I just want to try to have a good run,” Theriault said. “I want to have a good finish, finish strong. I want to be competitive but more than that I just want to finish the race.”
The same goal rang true for Becki Tucker, a nurse at Fort Kent Animal Hospital who moved her team from New Hampshire after falling in love with the Can-Am community. It has been two years since Tucker and her team competed in the Can-Am 100.
“Finishing this race has always been phenomenal and it’s been a different year for training now that I’m working full time,” Tucker said. “I’ve got four new dogs that have never been anywhere but their dog yard for two years. And I’ve got two, Frenzi and Chrome, it’s their last race so we really just want to have fun, do the best we can and enjoy our time out there.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the musher in the featured photo.