A rear view from a dog sled
The view from the middle of the pack: sled dogs from Nature’s Kennel

Get Your Mush On

Some creatures actually thrive in this weather, among them: sled dogs. This weekend is prime time for huskies as the UP 200—Michigan’s annual mini-Iditarod—takes off in Marquette and runs for 240 miles in a loop through the Upper Peninsula. And, there’s a wealth of dog-related adventures in the area, all centered on the race. Headquarters for the UP 200 is the Marquette Holiday Inn, where teams of dogs and their drivers will start checking in Wednesday morning. From 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 9 a.m. until noon Sunday, the Holiday Inn lobby and conference rooms will be given over to be displays on dog racing, souvenirs, and UP 200 merch. Now’s your chance to get up close and personal with a few hundred galloping canines.

Friday, February 18th

  • 6 to 10 p.m.: Race viewing station (with hot chocolate and cookies) at the Marquette Welcome Center, 2201 U.S. Highway 41, Marquette.
  • 7:10 p.m.: The UP 200 starts in downtown Marquette.
  • 7 to 11 p.m.: Winterfest party at the Upfront & Company restaurant (102 E. Main St., Marquette; 906-228-5200). The restaurant overlooks Lake Superior and a portion of the racecourse.
  • 7:30 p.m.: Prince of Peace Church on M-28, Harvey. A bonfire will rage while spectators watch the race. Refreshments will be served until the last team passes.

Saturday, February 19th

  • 9:30 a.m.: Jack Pine Race, a 30-mile course, begins at Gwinn High School.
  • 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.: The Grand Marais Commons (in tiny Grand Marais) becomes the mushing hotspot as the teams strategize at the checkpoint there throughout the day. Spectators can take photos of the dogs and talk with the drivers. For more information, go to grandmaraismichigan.com.

Sunday, February 20th

  • 8 a.m. to noon: Viewers can watch the mushers return to Marquette from the Wetmore checkpoint.
  • 11 a.m.: At Mattson Park in Marquette, the winning teams could start coming through as early as 11 a.m. The closing ceremony time will be announced after the top five mushers finish.

Where to stay and dine: The Marquette Holiday Inn (1951 U.S. 41 West, Marquette; 906-225-1351, holidaymarquette.com) is official HQ for the UP 200; rates start at $135. The Upfront & Company Restaurant and Lounge (102 E. Main St., Marquette; 906-228-5200, upfrontandcompany.com) provides a casual atmosphere with views of Lake Superior and portions of the race trail.

GO UP 200, Marquette, Michigan; 906-225-9170, up200.org

Bonus activity! Joining the pack

Nature’s Kennel in McMillan, Michigan offers half day ($150 person), full-day ($275) and overnight ($450 to $500) sled trips. Suit up and you can drive your own dog team in 10-, 20-mile loops in daylight hours or go along for the ride under the stars. Each ride includes instruction and a kennel tour. The overnight riders will mush dogs over a 20-mile course and stay in heated tents in the Upper Peninsula. (Kennel owner Ed Stielstra has run the Iditarod five times and won the UP 200 in 2008.)

Where to stay: The Sandtown Farmhouse Bed & Breakfast (W. 14142 Sandtown Rd., Engadine, Michigan; 906-477-6163, sandtownfarmhouse.com) is convenient to Nature’s Kennel; rates are $85 to $95 per night.

GO Nature’s Kennel, McMillan, Michigan; 906-748-0513, natureskennel.com