Well our little musher, Hurricane Harleigh (a name she has earned from fellow competitors) had another successful season.
She was able to compete in five races throughout this past season from Alberta, Canada to Priest Lake, Idaho.
She started her season in Didsbury just north of Calgary, Alberta and raced in -22 degrees to claim fourth place in the junior class.
Even though she was all bundled up, she came in the second day with frostbite on her lip.
It was cold like we’ve never seen, even the dogs weren’t used to that kind of cold, but they did great on a difficult trail.
Next up was the Dogtown Winter Derby in Cle Elum, Wash., where she was bumped up to the novice sled class.
Her two-dog team placed first against a teenage boy racing with four dogs and an adult.
I had to laugh when I asked the adult that started ahead of her how her dogs would react at being passed.
She turned and got a glimpse of who was starting after her she said, “oh there’s no way she’ll catch me.”
Harleigh caught them before the halfway mark and was within about 20 feet of catching the team that started two minutes ahead of her when she crossed the finish line.
A first-place finish for Harleigh and her two boys, Vlad and Denali.
Her next race was what we call our “home” race in Priest Lake, Idaho, as it’s the closest to home for us.
Again, we got her approved to bump up to the novice sled class, where she raced her three-dog team, placing first against two teenagers.
It was the first race for her pup, Aspen, who was just 9 months old at the time.
She was flying and caught the team ahead of her within the first mile.
Our next adventure took us to the woods of Olney, Mont., for the Flathead Classic Sled Dog race.
This was the first year they have offered a two-dog junior class, so it was a must-go for us.
We had heard so many great things about this race and one of the prizes is a growler of root beer from the Great Northern Brewing Company in Whitefish, something Harleigh was defiantly into.
It was a difficult trail with some dangerous turns, and out of all the races, she made us the proudest on this one.
It was her slowest race of the season, but when she came to the dangerous section, she used her head and asked for help from some volunteers to make sure she and her dogs stayed safe.
She learned a lot in this race, as the second day came, her puppy Aspen became tangled and some volunteers were trying to help with the tangle and accidentally unhooked Aspen from the team.
They spooked her and she ran away from them.
Aspen managed to find her way back to the finish line before Harleigh came in.
That was really hard for her dad and I, not knowing what happened and why was one of her dogs loose and where was Harleigh.
But we had faith in her and her team that the dogs would take care of their kid and they did not let us down.
Harleigh did great by not loosing the rest of her team or her sled and managed to crossed the finish line with her two boys.
She was so relieved to know that Aspen had already found her way “home” and was waiting for her.
She got first place once again and she earned her growler of root beer.
The growler is her most treasured prize, as it was sponsored by some very dear friends of ours that lost their son, also a musher, last summer.
The Flathead Classic was his favorite race and the root beer was also his favorite prize.
It will forever be cherished and it was hard for anybody to keep a dry eye during the awards ceremony.
The last race for Harleigh was the 2017 Iron Paws Stage Race.
It’s a race that spans over the course of nine weeks and has competitors from all over the world.
Individuals compete for points by logging miles during training runs, races and training with friends.
It was started four years ago as a way to get dog people out with their dogs and train and condition their dogs throughout the season, not just for races.
Harleigh was the only kid to compete out of the 111 that signed up.
Out of the 111, only 83 teams finished the race and there were 10 competitors in Harleigh’s class, the 2-dog sled class.
Harleigh and her team finished second in her individual class and 13th overall in the world.
Not too bad for a 6- year old, who is only able to train while not in school.
We hit the trails hard this year and made the most out of all the snow we got this winter and she needed to make her sponsors proud.
She is always looking for more sponsors and is already out seeking sponsorship for next season.
You can follow her team through their Facebook page: Yukon Denali Sled Dog Team
Harleigh Dutton lives in Pinehurst, Idaho and is a first-grader at Canyon Elementary.