Iditarod Qualifier and Yukon Quest Qualifier
200 Mile Race Overview
The trail of the 200 mile Caledonia Classic is an out and back trail run on the lake and through a network of bush trails. The race starts in the town of Fort St. James on the shores of Stuart Lake at the famous Cottonwood beach, Teams leave the starting chute and cross the lake traveling along the shoreline for eight miles passing several homes, a marina and two provincial parks.
After eight miles on the lake teams leave the lake and start in the bush trails. The next 20 miles, teams run northwest paralleling the lake. The trail has rolling hills, narrow sections, bridges and passes through some beautiful Douglas fir stands.
The trail eventually turns to the west and climbs gradually for approximately the next 15 miles. This section of trails is run along old forest service roads and reforested sites. At one point mushers can see three mountain ranges and are in an apex of three watersheds with water flowing north to Mackenzie River, south to the Fraser River system and west into the Skeena River system. This section of trail mushers will also be able to see two First Nations communities: Tache and Binche on the east side of the lake.
Eventually after more ups and downs, mushers will arrive at the “power line” checkpoint. Mushers can choose at this time to take a mandatory two hour rest or save it for their return trip. The checkpoint is primitive and will only provide a fire and water for teams.
After leaving the check point, teams will have a steep hill to climb for about two miles. The hill follows the power line up Mt. Nielsp. Musher fortunately do not have to summit the mountain as the trail turns to the south but continues to climb for about another 3 miles.
Eventually the trail does go down. It has a few hard turns on this section with one hairpin turn bringing teams onto a big cut block with a beautiful view of the Sowchea Creek Valley. Travel about five miles to the bottom of the valley and cross Sowchea Creek on a narrow bridge and start to climb again.
The climb comes to an end at a road crossing. The crossing is marked well but DOES NOT have people stationed at it. The road is not wide and a direct run to the other side is an easy cross.
The next few miles are an easy up and down that come to an abrupt change with an unnatural 200 degree turn. It is a little tricky to make the turn as it on a downhill and teams usually have a lot of speed at this point. It is however marked well and teams have plenty of warning.
The trail continues with gentle hills across what is call “Pitka Connector”. The connector is mostly on old roads and crosses cut blocks. It eventually meets up with the Dog Creek Rd. Teams head south west to the”tent loop.” The loop is 10 miles with one climb and a beautiful long downhill run. The loop will bring teams back to the Dog Creek Rd which they will follow for the next 8 miles to the Dog Creek/Hwy 27 check point.
The checkpoint has water, 2 bales of straw, a wall tent for mushers to sleep in and access to their drop bags. Mushers must take a mandatory six hour rest here. The checkpoint has vehicle access and a vet available to aid the mushers.
After six hours of rest teams get to repeat the adventure!!