Yukon AloneYukon Alone
The World's Toughest Adventure Race
Autor: John Balzar
Twelve dogs, a sled, and your wits versus 1,023 miles of danger, snow, ice, and wilderness. The Yukon Quest is possibly the toughest race on earth. Held earlier, farther inland, and at a more northerly latitude than its famous cousin, the Iditarod, mushers on the Yukon Quest routinely experience temperatures dropping to 40 below zero, with 50 below not uncommon. Winning isn't everything; just finishing is an achievement in itself. John Balzar tells the story of the Quest, the dogs, and the mushers in Yukon Alone.
Balzar, a roving correspondent for The Los Angeles Times, volunteered to act as the press liaison for the 1998 Yukon Quest. As such, he traveled the length of the trail, sharing cabin floors with resting mushers, shivering as temperatures dropped to 50 below, and becoming somewhat delirious from sleep deprivation. Balzar does an excellent job of capturing the frozen feel of the race:
The visibility worsens and now Bruce cannot see his leaders in the swirling merger of snowpack and wind. He searches anxiously for a glimpse of a wooden stake that will tell him that his dogs have not wandered off the trail, perhaps to the edge of a cliff. Bruce is not conscious of time or of distance, but only of the wind in his face. The dogs appear to be moving forward, but there is no way to measure progress.
He also paints warm portraits of the mushers--men and women like Mike King, a 37-year-old biker with a Harley-Davidson patch on his sled bag and a tattoo of the Quest trail covering one third of his back; William Kleedehn, who finished seventh in the 1998 race despite his prosthetic leg; Aliy Zirkle, a rookie musher who recovered from losing a dog to finish the race.Balzar describes the Quest as "a mixture of celebration and ordeal"; Yukon Alone will inspire a mixture of envy, admiration, and relief. Envy of the free-spirited mushers, admiration of their strength and dedication, and relief that they're the ones fighting their way up American Summit in a blizzard with a 70-below wind chill. A gripping read. Mush on! --Sunny Delaney