Champion Musher to Visit and Give Dry Land a Try at "Dirty Dog"
November 3, 2016
Antigo Daily Journal
Antigo Daily Journal
Champion musher Hugh Neff has logged thousands of miles in his parka, behind his team, slogging through frozen wilderness.
This weekend, he’ll likely be in shirtsleeves and maybe even shorts as he visits the 11th annual Dirty Dog Dryland Derby in Pearson.
Neff will be special guest for the award-winning sled dog dryland race, taking place at the MaKaJaWan Boy Scout Camp.
There is no admission charge, parking is free and there will be plenty of activities to enjoy.
Known formally as Redpaw’s Dirty Dog Dryland Derby, the race was the first event of this type in Wisconsin and continues to be the standard bearing snowless race for mushers and their teams. Carts, bikes and scooters take the place of the more traditionally known sled.
Neff, who grew up in Evanston, Ill., is owner of Laughing Eyes Kennel in Tok, Alaska. Together with his team he affectionately calls “dawgs,” he has competed in 28 1,000 mile races since 2000, including 16 Yukon Quests which run from Fairbanks through Dawson City to Whitehorse and 12 Iditarod’s.
Neff won the Yukon Quest in 2012 and 2016..
He posted top 10 finishes in the Iditarod in 2010 and 2011 and was named race rookie of the year in 2004.
“Not only is it special for the Dirty Doggers but also for Hugh,” race organizers Amy Cooper said. “ While living in Illinois at a young boy Hugh spent many happy hours in Langlade County camping at MaKaJaWan. Several activities are on Hugh’s schedule including a personal guided tour of the camp.”
Although he has participated in many long distance races, Neff will learn first-hand the thrill of racing spirited sprint teams at the Dirty Dog. WC Dog Supply of Bryant will sponsor him in both the four-dog and six-dog cart classes by providing dogs and equipment.
Neff will discuss his career in sledding at a free presentation Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Attendees will have the opportunity to purchase a copy of his book, “Tails of the Gypsy Musher: Alaska and Beyond.” Laughing Eyes Kennel shirts, baseball caps and kennel hoodies will be offered as well.
“His reputation of giving an entertaining and inspiring talk precedes him,” Cooper said.
Racing begins Saturday at 9 a.m. and Sunday at 8 a.m. The first teams on the trail will be the cart classes followed by the scooter and bike racers. Finishing up the racing will be canicross an event that features a person running with a dog in harness.
“The Dirty Dog is set up so it can be enjoyed by both highly competitive drivers of fast teams and more recreational drivers and newcomers looking for a safe and fun trail,” Cooper said. “ Juniors have their own races, too. Additionally we always try to add a non-racing activity to round out the weekend.”
Because of the popularity of the event, organizers said there may be close to 100 teams at MaKaJaWan.
“It takes many people to pull off a quality weekend like the Dirty Dog,” Co-chair Beth Castaldi said. “ Volunteers return year after year to help. For example Pam Krueger from Conklin, Mich.. drives several hours to serve as our Trail Boss.”
“It’s the camaraderie of racers, it’s the great food and the awesome trail that makes me want to come back,” Cooper added. “ I love to spend time with old friends and see well-cared for and loved canine athletes.”
Wisconsin Trailblazers Sled Dog Club is responsible for race management while the Langlade County Sled Dog Club offers support including food service with home cooked items at the Dirty Dog Diner.
Professional racers will be earning points for two different sled dog bodies – the International Sled Dog Racing Association and the US Federation of Sled Dog Sports.
“If you love the outdoors, happy dogs and exhilarating racing it’s the place to be for a few hours or a couple days,” Castaldi said.
MaKaJaWan Boy Scout Camp is located right off County T east of Pearson. Watch for the big sign that marks the driveway.