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Feb. 10, 2006

Oswego County is a Haven for Sled Dog Racers

The rolling hills of northern Oswego County will echo with the yips and howls of hundreds of Alaskan malamutes, Siberian huskies, and other sled dogs in February and March, when the Pennsylvania Sled Dog Club holds three competitive sled dog events.

The Tug Hill Challenge takes place at Winona State Forest Recreation Area Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 18 and 19. The Winona Forest Sled Dog Derby is the following weekend, Feb. 25 and 26. And the Salmon Hills Skijor Race takes place March 11 and 12 at the Salmon Hills Outdoor Adventure Center in Redfield.

The events, which are free for spectators, offer plenty of opportunities to experience the excitement of competitive sled dog racing and skijoring, increasingly popular winter sports on the Oswego County edge of the Tug Hill Plateau.

"The Tug Hill is uniquely well-suited for dog sledding," said Christine Gray, director of the Oswego County Department of Promotion and Tourism. "That area of Oswego County has received several inches of new snow, and conditions look good for the sled dog events. We're excited about watching amateur and professional teams at all levels compete against each other."

The Tug Hill Challenge on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 18 and 19 will start and end at the CCC Camp at the edge of Winona State Forest in the Jefferson County town of Lorraine. The races are sanctioned by the International Sled Dog Racing Association and will draw amateur and professional teams purebred and sportsman classes at all levels and ages. Races start at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Jo Lynn Stresing of Fulton, owner of Kindred Moon Kennels and one of the race organizers, said spectators would have a chance to see a unique, fun and exciting sport, with beautiful teams of dogs from as far away as Michigan and all over the east coast. Stresing, who raises Siberian huskies, said between 80 and 100 teams are expected to compete both weekends. She's been involved in sled dog racing for 20 years, and said the dogs are agile, fast, and love to run.

The Tug Hill area, said Stresing, is "a wonderful place" to train sled dogs as well as to run races. Winona State Forest contains more than 9,000 acres and more than 30 miles of trails that meander on park roads and through wooded areas.

Teams of up to eight sled dogs will compete in a variety of races ranging from 2.3 to 9.8 miles. Viewers will also have a chance to see skijoring, where experienced cross-country skiers are pulled by teams of one, two or three dogs.

Viewers will have an opportunity to watch the action along Mannsville Road in Lorraine at several points, and just south of North Church on Bargy Road in the town of Boylston. The best parking and viewing is on Mannsville Road. Spectators can also park at North Church and walk south to the course on Bargy Road.

Stresing said that mushers are very excited about the Tug Hill events. Spectators are welcome. "It's nice to come out and see things that are special to our area," she said.

The Winona Forest Sled Dog Derby will take place in Winona State Forest Feb. 25 and 26. Training will be held Saturday, Feb. 25, and races will take place Sunday, Feb. 26. Races will start and end at the CCC camp. Competitors may accumulate points to qualify in international races sponsored by the International Sled Dog Racing Association. The event also features sanctioned weight pulls and skijoring.

The Salmon Hills Skijor Race is billed as the third leg of the "skijor triple crown" events held this winter in the Northeast. Races will be held on groomed trails at the Salmon Hills Outdoor Adventure Center on Noble Shores Drive in Redfield Saturday and Sunday, March 11 and 12.

Events begin at 9:15 a.m. both days. Expert cross-country skiers, harnessed to teams of dogs, will race on a 6.3-mile course. Novice and youth classes will race 2.9 miles.

Additional information about the three dog sledding events is available on Pennsylvania Sled Dog Club Web site at www.pennsleddogclub.com.

Winona State Forest Recreation Area is located in the towns of Boylston and Lorraine. To reach the CCC camp in Lorraine, take I-81 to exit 39 at Mannsville. Turn east at the stop sign, go straight through intersection at US 11 to county Route 90 (Mannsville Road), and follow the signs to the CCC camp. The camp is on the left hand side of county Route 90. Refreshments will be available at the CCC camp. For more information on Winona State Forest Recreation Area, visit www.dec.state.ny.us/website/reg6/dlf/winona.html

Kindred Moon Kennels offers tours, rides, and dog sledding lessons by appointment. Call (315) 598-4152 or e-mail kindredmoon@hotmail.com

For places to stay and other events this winter in Oswego County, call the county Department of Promotion and Tourism at (315) 349-8322, or visit www.oswegocounty.com

MUSH! - Beautiful Siberian huskies like Kindred Moon's Irene will enjoy the trails at Winona State Forest and Salmon Hills Outdoor Adventure Center in Oswego County this winter. The Pennsylvania Sled Dog Club will hold three events on the Tug Hill in February and March. (Photo by Shawn Cassey Photography.)

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