● By Melissa Gulden
SISKIYOU SLED DOG RACES
Story: Melissa Gulden
The majestic snow-covered mountains whiz by at 20 mph. The breathtaking sights of Mt. Shasta, Mt. Lassen and Castle Crags become merely a flash of white as the sun hits the ice, creating a sparkle in the frosty winter morning. You become one with nature.
Sound amazing? It is, but not as amazing as the athletes behind this scenic winter wonderland. They are sled dogs, and Pat Campbell knows how to make magic with these animals. Thanks to the Dogsled Express, anyone can become a part of the fairy tale by making the short drive to the Nordic Center at the Mt. Shasta Ski Park, where Campbell runs his business.
“The dogs are exciting,” he says. “Unless you’ve seen it, you just can’t believe it. They go crazy when they see that harness. It’s as if they were born to do this.”
Campbell’s been mushing since 1991 and running his business since 1994, enjoying the exclusivity of being the only dog sled company in the North State. Five days a week, Campbell and his beautiful team of dogs offers rides from 9 am to 3 pm, Wednesday through Sunday. Last year, Campbell guided about 350 visitors and hopes to double that number this year.
Adding to the excitement of the dogsled business is the Siskiyou Sled Dog Races, held January 22-25 at the Deer Mountain/Chuck Best Memorial Snowmobile Park in Siskiyou County. The dogsled races promote not only the sport, but also the area. People come from all over to check out the scenery and to see these furry athletes in action. For the first time, this year’s longdistance race is 220 miles instead of 135 miles, making it an official Iditarod qualifier. The distance race is televised from the trails, so spectators can be involved every step of the way. The long-distance race starts Friday at 1:30 pm, where each team travels through three national forests to qualify for Alaska’s great race—the ultimate test of human and dog endurance.
This family event focuses on promoting dog sledding through education. “We’re not just putting on a dog race,” says Campbell. “We focus on the care of these amazing animals. They’re my kids. I’m there when they are born, and when they pass on.” Ask Campbell which award makes him most proud and he eagerly says the Veterinarian Award for Dog Care. To Campbell, these are more than animals; they are his life, his passion. “No other athlete can compare to a sled dog,” he says. “They truly are amazing animals.”
For more information on guided dogsled tours, go to www.dogsledexpress.com
For race information, including a schedule of events, check out www.siskiyousleddograces.net