As the Alaska sky gradually turned indigo in the fading light, the scraping of ice and frantic unheeded commands to my sled dog team broke the stillness. Thundering down the frozen waterway in the sub-zero temperature, I snatched glimpses over my shoulder. Where was Mike, my guide? How far had we come? And was he aware I was now some miles away, with the gap increasing by the minute?
Out exploring in the early evening, an irresistible scent had wafted by my lead dog’s keen nose. Following primal instincts over my instructions, he wheeled around and led the obliging pack in the opposite direction at full speed. Applying all my weight to the hook brake barely scratched the smooth surface of the ice. It saved me from fishtailing wildly from side to side, but did nothing to slow the charge.
The evening chats with Mike over the last few days had provided enough insight to know that if we lost each other entirely, I was in trouble. I had nothing – no extra clothing, no shelter, but more importantly, nothing to start a fire. We had seen wolf tracks regularly, so fire seemed particularly important to me at that moment.