IN THE TRADITION OF INTO THE WILD, HERE IS A STORY OF DARING AND DETERMINATION IN ONE OF NATURE'S HARSHEST, LONELIEST, AND MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES.
The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race is among the most challenging and dangerous of all the adventure contests in the world. In February, a handful of hardy women and men set out from Canada's Yukon Territory for Alaska's remote Interior with teams of fourteen dogs. Ahead of them lie 1,023 miles of frozen rivers, icy mountain passes, and spruce forests as big as entire states. Some mushers will try for victory. Many hope simply to finish. In the darkness of seventeen-hour nights, temperatures drop to 40 degrees below zero, and sometimes rescue may be days away.
Why would anyone want to run this race? To find out, award-winning journalist John Balzar, himself an adventurer, moved to the Far North months in advance of the Quest. He trained and lived and caroused with these intrepid people who have abandoned the comforts and routines of the lower forty-eight states. The result is a vivid day-by-day account of this adventure that also offers an insightful look at the exhilaration and travail of life on the distant edge of the North American frontier.
Among the colorful personalities competing in this year's race is Aliy Zirkle, a twenty-eight-year-old former college track-and-field hammer thrower and a sometime wilderness biologist. Aliy is one of four women, all rookies, who will be running the Quest this year. Like a lot of "new" Alaskans, Aliy came north for what was going to be a temporary stay. She ended up settling above the Arctic Circle in the village of Bettles, population 45. We also come to know Paddy Santucci, who embodiesthe character of the Far North: at thirty-seven years of age, he is an accomplished mountaineer, hunter, bush pilot, construction worker, and dog driver. Paddy never seems to eat or sleep, seldom speaks, rarely smiles, but has rigorously prepared for the race and commands respect from those who understand the life-and-death arts of winter bushcraft. As we follow Aliy and Paddy and others, we are given an understanding of the fascinating bonds between humans and the majestic dogs whose strength and devotion have made them the true heroes of the story.
Yukon Alone tells a tale that has all the danger and drama of the landscape through which the mushers and their dogs run. Anyone who has ever dreamed of wild country will be inspired and entertained by this adventure of a lifetime.