By: Korie Marshall
They were supposed to be giving dogsled tours on the lake to a group of politicians. Instead, Emelia Cinnamon and Angela Brennan entered their first ever dogsled races – and not only did they finish, they won cash prizes.
Cinnamon has been working with Amanda Sinclair and Darin Summerhays at Coldfire Creek Dogsled Tours for about eight years. It’s Brennan’s first year dog sledding. Coldfire Creek was in Fort St. James providing sled tours to the public during the Caledonia Classic at the end of February. It’s the only race in Canada that combines sprint, mid-distance and long distance races in one weekend. It offers a combined purse of $14,500 and is a qualifier for the Iditarod, the world’s foremost dog sled race.
The plan had been to take a group of politicians out on Stuart Lake, says Brennan. But with the “pineapple express” winter we’ve had in BC, Stuart Lake was not stable enough, and the politicians weren’t really interested in doing the alternate trails in the woods.
“With the politician thing canceled, Amanda said to us we should race. And I said ‘I don’t know what I am doing, but I think I should give it a try,’” says Cinnamon.
Sinclair has been running the tour company since 1998, and she handled dogs for a racer the year before.
“That is why we use Alaskan huskies,” says Sinclair. “They are bred for performance, not looks. We want dogs that work hard, love their job and have good attitudes.” Most of her dogs are either retired racers or the decedents of them. Brennan says most of them are working dogs, though a few are retired, and the retired dogs’ job becomes socializing the puppies. The team brought 40 dogs with them to Fort St. James, almost half of the kennel – 30 for the public tours and 10 for the races.
“The dogs just want to go, whether you are ready or not,” says Brennan with a big grin. “Racing is very different from trail rides.”
She says the racing sled weighs about the same as a bag of potatoes, and you really have to use your weight to turn it, or you might end up off the trail with the dogs still going. She would have been happy just finishing her four-dog, four-mile race, but Cinnamon and Sinclair told her she’d come in third. When she was rounding the last corner, she knew she was in fourth but coming down the hill, could see them, and was determined – with a last push, she overtook the next racer and finished third.
Cinnamon ran in the six-dog, six-mile race and came in second, winning $450. Did Sinclair race as well? I asked.
“Mandy just wants to see others perform, to set them up to achieve,” Brennan and Cinnamon both say.
So will they race again?
“For sure!” says Cinnamon with a bright smile.
“The Iditarod is a goal, way down the end of the line now,” says Brennan with a sparkle in her eye.