Schroeder looking to take back Beargrease title

Warba native, Nathan Schroeder hopes to take back title at the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon this weekend. Schroeder, born and raised in Warba, has many accolades relating to sled dog racing. He has placed first in the Beargrease three times and achieved rookie of the year in the Iditarod, a 1,000 mile sled dog race through Alaskan terrain.“Hard work, determination and persistence have been the key to Nathan’s racing success,” said Vern Schroeder, Nathan’s father,, who placed second in last year’s Beargrease, has been racing for almost 25 years.“The Beargrease is my favorite race because it is in my ‘back yard’ and the quality of the competition is just as fierce here as it is in the Iditarod,” said Schroeder, in 1980, the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is the longest sled dog race in the contiguous states. World class mushers including Susan Butcher, Jamie Nelson, John and Jason Baron have competed in the nearly 400 mile event according to the Beargrease website. In fact, Jamie Nelson of Togo was a mentor for Schroeder in his early days of racing.The extremes of northern Minnesota weather and the deceivingly rugged terrain of the trail make a difficult race. The Beargrease is a qualifier for the famed Iditarod race in Alaska and close to 500 volunteers from around the country come together each winter to assure the event happens.“It’s always been a dream to run the Iditarod. This will be my third race. After last years’ race at the finish line, I absolutely needed to return! So here we go again!” explains Schroeder, Beargrease, born in Beaver Bay in 1858, was the son of an Anishinabe Chief, Moquabimetem. According to John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon history, the family lived in a traditional wigwam and survived through their traditional practices of hunting, fishing and trapping.For almost twenty years, between 1879 and 1899, John Beargrease and his brothers delivered the mail between Two Harbors and Grand Marais. With the limited equipment available and loads weighing as much as 700 pounds, the trip was made once a week.Beargrease himself was best known for his winter travels by dogsled. His sled looked more like a toboggan than today’s sleds and he ran with teams of only four dogs. His fastest trip on dogsled was 28 hours from Two Harbors to Grand Marais. Without the weight, and with today’s advances in technology, Beargrease mushers can accomplish the same trip in better time, with teams of up to sixteen dogs according to the John Beargrease Sled Dog website. The annual John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is held in remembrance of the pivotal role Beargrease played in development of the North Shore of Lake Superior.According to Beargrease’s biography, he made his home in both Beaver Bay and among his people in Grand Portage. He never forgot how much the people living on the North Shore depended upon the mail. One day in 1910, he went out in a storm to rescue another mail carrier whose boat was caught in the waves off Tamarack Point, near Grand Portage. He caught pneumonia after the ordeal and died soon after. His grave can be seen today at the Indian Cemetery in Beaver Bay.The John Beargrease Sled Dog Race currently celebrates Beargrease’s life by hosting a grave site ceremony for him at the Chippewa Indian Cemetery in Beaver Bay. The ceremony precedes the sled dog race and will be held at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30. Opening ceremonies for the event will begin 5:30 p.m. Jan. 30 and the race begins at 9 a.m. on Sunday Jan. 31.According to the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon website, all check points and road crossings will be easily accessible to the public.For more information about the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon visit more information about Nathan Schroeder or to help support his team visit


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