20TH ANNIVERSARY GOLD RUSH TRAIL DOG SLED MAIL RUN
These early races were adventures, with trail spotters setting up camps along the route and spending nights camped in the snow. There were years when the temperature dipped below minus 40 degrees Celsius and years when it rained. The route runs from west to east, with a continuous rise in elevation, and this has always guaranteed great snow conditions beyond Cottonwood, but usually for the whole route. The fact that this event has been run year after year is a great testament to the incredible volunteers who have worked selflessly over the years to see this event happen, because they believe in it and want to celebrate "all that the Cariboo has to offer in the winter".
Eventually the decision was made to shift the focus of the Mail Run from a competitive to a participation event. Money prizes for winning were replaced with participation awards for taking part. Volunteers and dog mushers are all participants, each taking part in their own way. In addition to dog teams, participants have skied, skijored and snowshoed all or part of the route. Kick sleds have covered part of the route, runners have taken part and one participant even started off on his bicycle. Volunteer snowmobilers ensure that there is a broken, packed and marked trail as well as offering a measure of safety in the event of an emergency.
Some special traditions have developed over the years. Coveted awards in the form of perpetual trophies are given out each year, the banquet and auction, the Barkerville Dash and the Mushers' Sports competition are an integral part of the three day Mail Run celebration. Today, participants and volunteers may choose to camp out at the checkpoints or to crash at the Cottonwood Community Hall or on the floor of the Troll Ski Resort.
The trail goes through the heart of Cariboo gold country taking participants through or past the sites of legendary Gold Rush communities like Stanley, Van Winkle, Richfield, Cottonwood and of course Barkerville. You may read about the history of the Cariboo Gold Rush on the Mail Run website at www.dogsledmailrun.ca. In 2012, as part of the 20th Annual celebration, a race will once again be incorporated into the Mail Run and the prize will be pure Cariboo gold.
The Mail Run envelopes each feature unique artwork and have become cherished collector's items. The artist for the 2012 envelope is Denise Unley of Hudsons Hope British Columbia and the scene depicts a smiling young musher making her way over the trail. If you look closely you can see the Canada Post mail pouch poking out of her sled bag. A full set of envelopes as well as information about the history of the delivery of mail in the Cariboo region of British Columbia can be viewed on the Mail Run website. Carrying the mail is an honour and the mushers take the task seriously. The envelopes routinely end up in over 20 different countries and the stories received from grateful recipients are heartwarming.
And then there are the dogs, these incredible animals that are loved and respected by all of us. Sled dogs have made life possible throughout Canada's north for hundreds and even thousands of years. Today's sled dogs are carrying on this deeply engrained desire to pull. Their amazing capacity for work combined with their loyalty and their wonderful individual personalities make them very, very special.