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YUKON ALONE by John Balzar

YUKON ALONE

The World's Toughest Adventure Race

By John Balzar

Pub Date: Jan. 13th, 2000
ISBN: 0-8050-5949-0
Publisher: Henry Holt

A fascinating look at the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, a lonely and often dangerous trek in freezing temperatures over 1,023 miles of daunting wildlands from Whitehorse, Canada, to Fairbanks, Alaska. Traditionalists created the Yukon Quest some 15 years ago as a counterpoint to the commercialized Iditarod, and as a way of celebrating mushing in its raw form. A roving correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, Balzar devoted more than half a year getting to know the male and female drivers of the 1998 race and following them along the racing trail. Here he presents a firsthand account of the race, addresses social issues such as the ongoing debate between animal-rights advocates and the partisans of the sport (he sides with the mushers), and offers historical facts about the Yukon Territory—in particular, the Gold Rush of the late 1800s. But Balzar is at his best when he focuses on the mushers, showing the details involved in devising a game plan (from selecting proper equipment to caring for and handling the dogs), and providing clues to the mindset needed to enter and endure such a race. Besides an adventurous spirit and a love for the wild country, mushers must also share a symbiotic relationship with their dog team. And while the drivers can’t truly prepare for such life-threatening problems as losing a dog, succumbing to hallucinations, or becoming disoriented from the cold and exhaustion, they must be prepared to respond to any threat. A harrowing experience by the eventual winner near the end of the race illustrates just how perilous it can be for even the best- prepared. As a bonus, Balzar creates wondrous landscapes of the wild north country, depicting even more dramatically the cold, solitary ordeal of the courageous drivers and dogs who commit themselves to this demanding race. (Maps, not seen)