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They're finally mushing again in Chemult

Mushers will be heeing and hawing through the woods outside Chemult this weekend for the first time in three years as a sound snowpack has allowed the annual Chemult Sled Dog Races to resume.

A dearth of snow caused race organizers to cancel the event three of the past four years. But a healthy snowpack now means the 22nd annual races can resume, much to the delight of area mushers and those who trek to Chemult to see the snowy spectacle of these four-legged athletes towing their people through the course.

"It's a wonderful thing for us and for the community," says Medford musher Allyson Griffie, who is also the new president of the Pacific Sled Dog and Skijor Association, which co-sponsors the event.

"We haven't been able to race for so long, I have a 3-year-old that hasn't had his first race yet," Griffie says. "It's a place where a lot of us from Southern Oregon got our first race, so it's near and dear to us." 

The races run from 8:30 a.m. into early afternoon each day and feature six sled-dog races and two skijoring races.

Skijoring is the discipline of having a musher on cross-country skis get pulled by one or two sled dogs.

The races are centered around the Forest Service's Walt Haring Sno-Park along Highway 97 about a quarter-mile north of Chemult, which is about halfway between Bend and Klamath Falls.

The events are free, but visitors must have a $5 sno-park parking pass, which can be bought at the event.

Mushers from as far away as Arizona, British Columbia and Michigan were scheduled to be at the two-day event.

Race organizer Erin Sutton says organizers expect about 30 mushers and skijourners to take part, but the lack of events over the past two years could push participation up to 50 teams.

"Everybody's kind of out of practice, I think," she says.

The event has been held for 20 years on the Fremont-Winema National Forest near Chemult.

A low January snowpack in 2012 and again last year led to the cancellation of the entire Oregon dog-mushing seasons.

Like everywhere in Oregon, however, this year's snowpack around Chemult is well above average, Sutton says.

"We have about four-plus feet of snow, so it's looking pretty good," Sutton says.

Steelheaders to hold seminar on yarn-ball fishing

The Grants Pass-based Middle Rogue Steelheaders will present two free seminars Saturday at Sportsman's Warehouse on how to make and fish yarn balls as steelhead bait.

The seminars will be from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the store, 1710 Delta Waters Road just off Crater Lake Highway.

Club member Chuck Closterman will present information from an article he wrote about yarn balls for steelhead in the December edition of Salmon Trout Steelhead magazine.

Yarn balls primarily are yarn clusters tied and fished to imitate single salmon eggs or egg clusters that steelhead will bite regularly on streams like the Rogue River.

Closterman's presentations will cover the colors and sizes of yarn balls to use under specific water conditions and what scents to use.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.