Cook County mushers take both titles in 2023 Gunflint Mail Run sled dog race
WTIP file photo

Cook County mushers take both titles in 2023 Gunflint Mail Run sled dog race

With sparkling pines from hoarfrost decorating the Gunflint Trail area Saturday morning, a collection of local, regional and national mushers took to the trail for the 2023 Gunflint Mail Run sled dog race.

In the end, two Cook County mushers were the top finishers in both categories this year. And they happen to be married to one another.

Matthew Schmidt won the 12-dog race. Erin Altemus took first place in the shorter distance eight-dog race.

Schmidt finished with a time of 6 hours, 31 minutes and 08 seconds. This is his second consecutive Mail Run victory.

Altemus finished in 6 hours, 07 minutes and 17 seconds on the shorter track.

Altemus and Schmidt form the mushing team Sawtooth Mountain Racing. They are established in the local mushing community and beyond, competing annually in races across the country, including the upcoming John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in northeastern Minnesota.

Well-known Alaskan musher Ryan Redington finished second in this year’s Mail Run. Redington finished in 7 hours, 2 minutes and 43 seconds. All of the race results were still unofficial as of 8 a.m. Sunday, though the final leaderboard was posted at Trailcenter Lodge on the Gunflint Trail.

WTIP staff spoke with two mushers following the race this year. Both mushers noted a water hole that opened on the course that led more than a dozen teams to scratch. The water made it difficult for many of the teams to complete the course, though approximately 15 teams did cross the finish line this year.

When it comes to the setting for the Gunflint Mail Run, Schmidt says the Gunflint Trail community is emblematic of what generosity and looking out for one another are all about.