The UP200 is one of the top 12-dog mid-distance races in the Midwest, as well as being an Iditarod qualifier. The UP200 trail covers 250 miles of challenging terrain from Marquette to Grand Marais, Michigan and back again through forested land and near-wilderness. Mushers face hills, creek crossings, deep snow, and isolated trail. This is a true test of skill and stamina! The first leg of the trail is from Marquette to Wetmore, a distance of approximately 68 miles.
The timing gate at Wetmore is at Hiawatha Log Homes on M-28. From here, the teams will be escorted across highway M-28 to an area behind Biff’s Military Surplus. This is an unassisted checkpoint and only the musher may interact with the dogs, although a dog may be dropped from the team at that point and will be transported by truck to Grand Marais. THe teams will leave from this area and re-join the trail to Grand Marais. From Wetmore, the trail winds through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and continues on to Grand Marais, approximately 57 miles. The Grand Marais checkpoint is the midpoint of the race, and offers excellent viewing opportunities for spectators. The local Community Center is the checkpoint headquarters, and visitors can have lunch, bid on items at a silent auction, and see the teams up close. Here the mushers will rest and feed their teams, be checked over by vets, and plan their strategy for the second half of the race.
A total rest time of 16 hours is required, and the mushers decide how much rest time they will use at each checkpoint. A minimum 5-hour rest is required at the Wetmore checkpoint on the upbound leg to Grand Marais, but after that, it is up to the musher to decide when and where to take the remainder of the rest.
The return to Marquette is over the same trail. On the down-bound trail, Wetmore is an assisted checkpoint and handlers may help the teams. Dogs may be dropped from the team at any of the checkpoints. The UP200 ends on Sunday afternoon when the mushers cross the finish line in Marquette. This race is a test of the musher’s skill in navigating and the team’s stamina and fitness. If you’re a musher, you won’t want to miss it, and if you’re a spectator, come join the thousands of people who gather to cheer the teams out of the starting gate in Marquette! The race starts on Friday evening, February 12th, 2016 and is limited to 40 teams, so mushers are encouraged to register early.