Valley dog-sledder places first in Rail Trail 200

East Blackpool dog sledder Steve Mullen recently took first place in the Rail Trail 200, which was based out of Grand Forks and held Jan. 28 - 30.

  • Feb. 28, 2011 5:00 p.m.
Steve Mullen holds one of his sled dogs as they get ready for a race.

Steve Mullen holds one of his sled dogs as they get ready for a race.

East Blackpool dog sledder Steve Mullen recently took first place in the Rail Trail 200, which was based out of Grand Forks and held Jan. 28 – 30.

His daughter Brandi Mullen competed in the shorter 100-mile event but chose not to finish because of the extreme conditions.

“It was the toughest 200 mile race I’ve ever done,” said Steve, who raced dog sleds for 16 years in Alaska before running a sledding business in Clearwater and Sun Peaks for 10 years. “It was like climbing a dozen Raft Mountains, one after the other.”

Mullen said he was extremely proud of how his dogs performed.

“It was snowing so hard you couldn’t see the end of your sled,” he said. “There was at least 15 to 18 inches of fresh snow. The dogs had snow up to their chests and were breaking trail for eight hours.”

Despite breaking trail for the other 12 teams in the race, Mullen took first place with a time of 28 hours 44 minutes, total

running time. He was very proud of his dogs, their effort, and their amazing ability to keep a good attitude, happy and eager to break trail and lead the way for the race!

Brandi ran in the 100-mile (140 actual miles) category of the race, unfortunately being the only team in the category. She had a mandatory layover at her halfway point, and in the midst of the storm was faced with setting out by herself on a seven-dog team to break the trail again. She ran throughout the night, and after about 11 hours of tough trail breaking, she chose not to force her young dogs to continue. This was a decision made at the 100-mile mark on the trail, with 40 miles to go.

Observers said Brandi is to be commended for putting her dogs’ well-being above her personal desire to finish. She showed determination, bravery and maturity beyond her 18 years, in a difficult situation. At one point when the trail got tough she even tied a rope around her waist and pulled to help her team! She should be very proud of the effort she gave, and the love and respect she showed her team.

On Jan. 7 – 9 the father and daughter team competed in a 100-mile race based in Joseph, Oregon called the Eagle Cap Extreme, as a sort of ‘warm-up’ for the start of the season. Each of them ran an eight-dog team, on a well-groomed mountainous trail.

Steve finished in third place with a time of 18 hours 12 minutes, and Brandi finished on her Dad’s sled tails in fourth place with a time of 18 hours 42 minutes.

The last weekend of February Steve Mullen plans to compete in the Caledonia Classic Dog Sled Race near Fort St. James. Last year he took first place in the 200-mile main event while Brandi placed fourth in the 10-dog sprint.

After running a local dog-sledding business for 10 years the Mullens sold their operation at Sun Peaks two years ago so Steve could devote more time to racing.