Sleddoge racing

Young musher Hayes ready to tackle Can-Am Crown

BAHS student-athlete to run 30-mile race with Seppala Siberian sled dogs, same as in Disney movie 'Togo'
By Ken Waltz | Jan 24, 2020
Courtesy of: Jonathan Hayes Caleb Joshua Hayes.

Northport — “My greatest fear was to be in the cold, dark, wilderness alone, until I did it with my dogsled team. And it was magical. I had never felt more alive. I love it.”

Those are the mature, confident and inspirational words of 15-year-old Belfast Area High School student Caleb Joshua Hayes, who will compete in the historic 30-mile Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Race on Saturday, Feb. 29 in Fort Kent.

The younger Hayes, whose father, Jonathan, is a 20-year musher, will compete in his first dog sled race in Fort Kent.

The Can Am race is limited to 30 participants and Hayes will be the youngest musher in the race. His competitors will be some of the best teams from across North America, with teams coming from as far as the northwest of the United States and Canada.

The young Lion wrestler, who will wear bib number 13 in the Can-Am race, has been raising and training Seppala Siberian sled dogs with his dad since he was old enough to walk.

Hayes has accompanied his father to races in the past as a handler but this will be his first dog sled race.

When Hayes is not running sled dogs, he enjoys wrestling for BAHS and attends church with his family.

His future goals include additional sled dog races. In fact, he has begun planning a "serious" dogsled expedition with his 13-year-old brother, Christian, an Edna Drinkwater Elementary School student.

Jonathan said, "We are one of only a handful of kennels still breeding and racing Seppala Siberian sled dogs. What that means is this: all Caleb’s dogs are direct descendants of the team Leonhard Seppala used in 1925 to save the children from diphtheria, as is represented in the Disney movie "Togo."

Jonathan explained that as purebred traditional arctic dogs, they are not as fast as some of the crossbred Alaskans (bred with greyhound and German pointer for speed). "So it isn’t likely that [Caleb would] win against these hybrid teams, but he is carrying on a legacy of a heritage breed," the dad said.

Another little known fact: after the events of “Togo” the movie, Leonhard Seppala, Togo, and the rest of the team settled in Maine, as Togo lived out the rest of his life in the Pine Tree State, Jonathan said.

Jonathan said his son's team is the only pure Seppala team left in Maine.

The Can-Am Crown is an international sled dog race annually held in Fort Kent and usually takes place the first Saturday in March — which also is the day the historic and world famous Iditarod dog sled race begins. But this year the Can-Am event will be held the end of February.

The Can-Am races include 250-, 100- and 30-mile distances.

Caleb Joshua Hayes, (Courtesy of: Jonathan Hayes)
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