Eastern Oregon is known for its wild mountain peaks, but it’s also making a name for its wild mountain race — the Eagle Cap Extreme Sled Dog Race. January 18 through 21, 2017, scores of mushers and hundreds of dogs will fill the streets of Joseph and Enterprise in preparation for three thrilling races — the 62-mile, 100-mile and the 200-mile. The races start at noon on Thursday, January 19 at the Ferguson Ridge Ski Area.
Troy Nave, coordinator for the volunteer-run event, says the experience is unforgettable. “At the start, once the first team gets into the harness, they start howling, and pretty soon the entire parking lot at Fergi Ski Area is howling,” he says. “It’s my favorite part of winter!”
Spectators have plenty of opportunities to join in the fun. The streets of Joseph and Enterprise close down for pre-race vet checkups on January 18. Families can meet the mushers and pet the Alaskan and Siberian Huskies. Mushers mingle with the public at a community potluck the night before the first race and at the post race banquet.
Since 2015, the event also includes a juniors race for novice mushers aged 14 to 17 years old, racing four to six-dog teams. Visitors can watch the exciting race starts from Ferguson Ridge Ski Area, or get a view of the racers in progress from Salt Creek Summit Sno Park.
The athletic undertaking is impressive with routes going deep into the rugged Wallowa Mountains, along the Imnaha River and as far as Twin Lakes. The 200-mile race has an elevation gain and loss of 26,000 feet. “Many mushers describe it as one of the most challenging if not the most challenging mid-distance race in the lower 48,” Nave says. “And the dogs love it. The only really upset sled dogs I’ve seen are the ones who get left in the truck.”
Eagle Cap Extreme Sled Dog Race is the only Oregon qualifier for the Yukon Quest and Iditarod and one of only five in the mainland U.S. “This is something for our community and Oregon to proud of,” Nave says.