Threatened by a lack of snow, the Siskiyou Sled Dog races went on as scheduled, and though turnout was lower than hoped, the event was considered a success. 
Sponsored by the Siskiyou Snow Dog Sporting Association, the four-day event drew considerable interest from both experienced mushers as well as those simply curious about the somewhat obscure sport.  
Beginning on Thursday, the races included a 210-mile Iditarod qualifying race, the first ever held in California, as well as a 105-mile race and a series of shorter races. Also on the agenda were the skijoring races, a sport that involves a skier being pulled by a team of one, two, or three dogs. 
Though the weather was warm in town, with rain prevailing for much of Friday and Saturday, the conditions at the Deer Mountain/Chuck Best Snowmobile Park were still winter-like, though it was only in the last few miles before reaching the race  site before the rain turned to snow.     
Walking form vehicle to vehicle, spectators were afforded the opportunity to visit with the racers and learn more about the sport.   Though the enthusiastic bays of dogs sometimes muffled conversation, race participants mingled with audience members, posing for photos and providing impromptu demonstrations.   
For Liz Simpson, 19, from Grass Valley, the 5 mile sprint race was an opportunity for her to gain more experience in the sport she has grown to love. Though the former Mount Shasta resident came in last place out of five teams, she did not appear disappointed. “I got last and that’s OK. For me the success was in just finishing the race.” Simpson noted that she had been working hard to train one dog in particular that she had rescued and that the success she has experienced with the animal makes it all worth it. “Just staying on the course and getting turned around without mishap was an accomplishment,” she said.
The upbeat and friendly energy of the event seemed to underscore the idea that it’s not really about winning. Barbara Schaeffer, also from Grass Valley, spoke of her 21 years of experience racing Siberian Huskies and of the spirit of camaraderie that prevails at all the events she attends. She spoke highly of the Siskiyou Sled Dog races, noting, “I love this racing community here.”
Jane Devlin of Bend, Ore., reiterated the sentiment that there is a special quality to the Siskiyou event.  Devlin, who competed in the six-dog sprint category, travels to events such as this throughout the Pacific Northwest and noted, “The people who put this event on really put their heart and soul into it.”
Though most of the competitors opted to travel with their dogs in specially outfitted campers that provide each dog with their own compartment, Devlin appeared to take a more relaxed approach with her seven dogs piled in the back of her canopied truck (a veritable dog pile) enjoying a brief respite after their hard earned third place.
As the start of the 18-mile mid-distance race drew closer, the natives became restless, in this case various breeds of huskies, Alaskans (which are mixed breeds) and Siberians. Tugging on the chains that tethered them in place, the dogs knew they were soon going to be pulling a sled, the job that they love most. 
With crowds on both sides of the start, the exuberant canines were released, at two-minute intervals, to the cheers of the enthusiastic crowd.
Meanwhile, the 210-mile racers were out on a Mt. Shasta odyssey, not slated to return until after midnight on Saturday at the earliest.  These 12-dog teams run at an average of 7 to 12 miles per hour. 
For some, this race  will be counted as one of the two qualifying races required to enter the granddaddy of all sled dog races, the Iditarod. No small undertaking, the Iditarod is an 1150-mile race that runs from Anchorage, Alaska to Nome, Alaska. With consistent sub-zero temperatures, little daylight, and the physical and mental stressors of the enormity of the route, it stands as the penultimate sled dog race.
More information about the Siskiyou Snow Dog Races can be found at www.siskiyousleddograces.net.
2009 Siskiyou Sled Dog Races results
Friday, 2 p.m. start
12 dog — 200 mile
1st, Katie Davis, Whitefish, Mont., Sat. 11:08 p.m., 21:08:00; 2nd, Bino Fowler, Bend, Ore., Sun., 2:24 a.m., 24:24:00; 3rd, Chris Miller, Wellington, Nev., Sun., 2:48 a.m., 24:48:00; 4th, Trent Herbst, Ketchum, Idaho, Sun. 6:10 a.m., 28:10:00; 5th, Pat Campbell, Etna, Sun., 7:12 a.m., 29:12:00.
Sprint
Saturday, 4.1 mile hill
Sunday, 5.4 mile flat loop
1st, Lance Christenson, Colton, Ore., 51:13; 2nd, Cary Gatton, Bend, Ore., 58:30; 3rd, Jane Devlin, Bend, Ore., 1:05:57; 4th, Barbara Schaefer, Grass Valley, 1:07:07; 5th, Liz Simpson, Grass Valley, 1:19:42.
Mid-distance — 20 miles
Saturday and Sunday
1st, Greg Lawler, Millikan, Ore., 4:00:25; 2nd, Rick Johnson, Powell Butte, Wash., 4:08:14; 3rd, Trevor Mitchell, Dunsmuir, 4:18:03; 4th, Barbara Schaefer, Grass Valley, 4:29:29.
Skijor — 6 miles
Saturday and Sunday
1st, Chris Ball, Fort Jones, 1:15:50; 2nd, Doug Hake, Mount Shasta, 1:30:28; 3rd, Katie Renault, Ashland, Ore., 1:52:18.