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Trail tales

Youthful musher learns the ropes the old fashioned way

February 4, 2011
By ANDY NELSON-ZALESKI Journal Staff Writer

RUMLEY - Some things that come to mind when teenager responsibilities and interests are considered include school, work, house chores, watching movies, hanging out with friends and playing sports.

For 15-year-old Caitlin Curtice of Rumley, life is all of this and more, much more.

Curtice is home schooled, she enjoys playing sports including softball and basketball. She likes art, especially painting. But she has found an activity that she is truly passionate about - dog sled mushing.

Article Photos

Caitlin Curtice of Rumley runs her team of 10 Alaskan huskies along a trail near her home Wednesday. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)

"I guess mushing is in my blood," Caitlin said.

She is the oldest of three siblings: Cooper, 13, and Emily, 9, and the daughter of U.P. 200 and Midnight Run winning mushers Pete Curtice and Sharon Nelson-Curtice.

Three years ago she decided to followed in her parents footsteps and taken on the role of a dog sled musher.

Caitlin began competing seriously three years ago when she ran a team of six dogs in the 2009 Jack Pine 30. She completed the race with the fastest time and took first place.

"I couldn't believe it. My first time and I took first place," she said.

The next year, she ran a team of eight dogs in the Midnight Run and placed a competitive 10th.

"My goal this year, while competing in the Midnight Run, is to place in the top five," Curtice said. "But most importantly, I just want to do my best and have fun."

Mushing is a more than just hooking up dogs to a sled and having them pull. There is a great deal of training and conditioning involved.

Training usually begins in September, when the temperatures begin to get cooler. It is a slow and gradual process to get the dogs back into shape after their long summer break.

"I usually will begin running the dogs for about three miles and then gradually building up the distance while also working on speed," she said.

In September, the teams are usually run by four-wheeler and once the snow base has built up, the dogs are attached to the sled.

"It is a big responsibility, because not only do I have to remember to take care of myself but I am also responsible for 30 of dogs," Curtice said.

She spends an hour in the morning and evening each day feeding, watering and checking the dogs. She also has a training schedule of four days running a team of 10 dogs for two to three hours.

Curtice and her team of dogs work on speed and getting the dogs conditioned and trained for mid-distance racing, like the Midnight Run.

This type of racing range anywhere between 40 miles and up to 150 miles.

Curtice will be competing in two races this year, including the Midnight Run and the Tahquamenon Country Sled Dog Race in Newberry.

Andy Nelson-Zaleski can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 256. His e-mail address is



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