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book review: "Fast into the Night"...

Wednesday, November 30, 2016
...with a subtitle of ' A woman, her dogs, and their journey on the Iditarod Trail', by Debbie Clarke Moderow, copyright 2016. You've already figured out what the fascinating book is about, but might be surprised to know that it was such a good read, I would take it to work, and read during my lunch break, instead of eating. (The fact that I might have nibbled quite a bit on juicy, ripe, sweet pineapple chunks most of the morning might have a part in the lack of lunch.)

She grew up in the New England states, Conn. or Vermont I think, and went to Alaska on a lark to meet some friends for out door adventures. She was living in Wyoming at the time, but when she went to a party and met her man, Alaska became her home and lifestyle. She had two children, with the family enjoying out door life. Her devotion to dogs began when someone gave her a 'retired' sled dog, that soon became part of the family.

The first time she attempted the Iditarod, it was an unseasonably warm winter, and the thousand mile trail was altered due to some rivers not freezing enough to be traversed by sled. At one point, at least half way into the trip, the dogs balked. Sat down and refused to travel on towards Nome. The team was willing to turn around and return to the previous check point, but would not complete the challenge. It was understandably humiliating, for her to not be able to control or make demands of the team she had worked for many months and miles to train.

Her son, young and adventurous in his twenties, decided to make an attempt, and with many of the same dogs as part of his team. He succeed in completing the Iditarod, all the way to the finish line in Nome. Debbie took some shorter trips, other challenges, over time, reassessing the makeup of her group of dogs.Her awareness of the individual personalities, and quirks of each of her team was fascinating. It obviously takes a tremendous amount of time devoted to interacting with these animals to be so fully aware of their likes/dislikes and individual abilities.  She talked to some experienced breeders, trainers, and mushers hoping to find the right combination of dogs to make a second attempt. No spoilers here....

Some of the descriptions of the landscape are so well written, reporting on the brilliance of the starlight on a cloudless night, with temperatures at twenty below freezing, the air so clean and clear it hurts to breathe. The team of dogs determinedly trotting along across mile after mile of snow and ice, with only her headlamp to reflect on trail markers as a guide. She tells of seeing the colorful display of the Northern Lights, with constantly changing shades, so glorious in their shades of the rainbow, colors that adjectives cannot adequately describe. Traveling along rivers, frozen solid, hearing the ice creaking and groaning. And running all night in the complete silence of the north, with moon light so bright the dogs cast shadows as they run in unison, huffing clouds of steaming breath.

I've read a couple of other books about dog sledding, living with huskies, traveling in the land of ice and snow. By people who loved that life of being outdoors in minus-degree temperatures, in the mountains of the north or west. And would love to go to Alaska, or someplace where the stars are as brillant as a spilled bottle of sparkling glitter. Where the Milky Way is visible in all its splendor, with no light pollution to interfere.

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