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home : sports : sports May 24, 2016

4/8/2014 12:12:00 PM
Mushers run on Sisters Country trails
Connie Starr’s dog team gets underway in the first Mush Without Slush run at Zimmerman Butte. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee
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Connie Starr’s dog team gets underway in the first Mush Without Slush run at Zimmerman Butte. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee

By Jodi Schneider McNamee

The weather was a tad warm, at 35 degrees, Saturday morning for the fourth annual "Mush without Slush" based at Zimmerman Butte just west of Sisters. Sled-dog enthusiasts and their eager dogs were getting geared up for a snowless "fun run" on forest roads and trails.

Polly Riley, Mush Without Slush timer, commented on the weather as she handed out purple-and-white bibs with numbers for each participant.

"We would like it to be a little cooler; it's better for the dogs," she said. "During the winter races it's usually below freezing. These dogs get warm after racing nine miles."

Mush Without Slush is a dryland sled-dog race geared for novice mushers, so that they can gain experience in a low-key, fun environment. The race is sponsored by Pacific Sled Dog & Skijor Association (PSDSA). The event is not only enjoyable for the newer mushers; the experienced mushers can sharpen their skills as well. The novice mushers get to experience the format of a race, but in a relaxed atmosphere with lots of mentoring available from the more experienced folks.

The event had four different classes based on distance: a 1.6-mile course, a 4.1-mile course, a 6.3-mile course and a 9-mile course. Each participant chose their own course.

Barking, howling and yipping were music to the mushers' ears as their dogs (predominately huskies but other dog breeds as well) got harnessed and ready to race. Mushers approached the starting line one team at a time with scooters, dog carts, bicycles and motorless ATVs.

"There are one-minute intervals between teams. Since dogs like to chase, they'll do whatever they can to catch up to the team in front of them," Riley said.

Rohan Prull, a 9-year-old from Bend, was enthusiastically waiting for the race to start with his mom and uncle, Chris.

"It's going to be fun because I get to ride in the front with my uncle with our two huskies pulling us," Rohan said.

Karen Yeargain, musher, instructor, and Mush Without Slush founder/organizer, hopped on her ATV, ready to roll.

"Being the trail boss, I set up the markers on the course and make sure that everything runs smoothly with the dogs and mushers, especially when they're making the turns out on the trails," she said. "I have three students of mine racing this year. We have 40 participants this year, it grows bigger every year."

Connie Starr, an experienced musher from the small town of Cle Elum, Washington, was getting her five huskies harnessed and ready to pull her on the big red scooter she brought along for the weekend.

"I have been racing for eight years all over, but this is my first time racing in Sisters," she said. "We are first up in the race, since we're on the nine-mile course. The trails are great and they've done a wonderful job of organizing this event."

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