Sled dog races bring fun to Lake County

SWEETWATER TWP. — Even though winter is finally coming to an end, several enthusiastic individuals hit Lake County's trails to get in one last big hurrah before spring. They are some of the few and proud members of a sport that has a surprisingly large following in Michigan: dog sled racing.

The Sterns Siding Sled Dog Race was held on March 7 and 8, on the trails of Sweetwater Township. Events including four-dog sled, six-dog sled, 10-dog sled and Skijor (cross country skiing with two dogs helping to pull). More than 45 racers participated.

"Everyone always asks me why I do this, but it's been my goal my whole life," explained Skijor racer Kerry Mosko. "This is always what I wanted to do."

Teams of dogs barked and yelped nonstop over the sounds of excited conversation, cheering and sleds flying across the snow. Lake County is no stranger to this unique sport. It's extensive trail system, proximity to the Manistee National Forest and large areas of undeveloped land make it an ideal spot for races.

"We heard Baldwin has a really nice trail system and with the temperatures going up next week we wanted to get the dogs out one more time," said Mike Marsh, a six-dog racer who came all the way from Neillsville, Wis. for the race. "We love racing in Michigan. You guys have been great hosts."

For many, sled dog racing is a great subculture and an incredible community that brings people together out in nature with their beloved pets. There, they can meet like-minded souls who share their passion.

"It's a great sport, but it's also about the camaraderie and meeting all the people at events like this," said Marsh. "I'm helping Doug here with his sled and I wouldn't have gotten to meet him if we weren't both racing today."

For others, it's all about the thrill of the race and the wind in their face.

"I love it, it's all about the adrenaline rush," remarked 10-dog racer Marilyn Horstmyer.

Whether they won or lost, everyone agreed the two-day event was a huge success.

"It's a great trail here. We had wonderful conditions today," said Dianna Koteskey after finishing the Skijor race. "It's a lot warmer compared to other races this year, but that worked to our benefit today. We all had a lot of fun."

Race results can be found in the Star's sports section.