The Way Home

At 17 and 18, Carol and I couldn’t have guessed that, someday, we would be mushing dog teams in Alaska. We’re coming up on 47 years as married partners, and 32 of those years have been spent in the Great Land.

Younger days, younger ways…

Last week, we watched 58 mushers launch off the starting line in Anchorage to compete in the 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The first Iditarod race to Nome began in 1973, the same year Carol and I said, “I do” in a little country church, 2500 miles south. We arrived in Anchorage in 1988, and I joined the staff of the Anchorage Times newspaper—where my adventure gene suddenly kicked in.

Pictures with the huskies.
Sox and Thunder–great retired Iditarod leaders.

I fastened on snowshoes and beat a path away from desks and computers. I bought several retired Iditarod sled dogs and created a mushing adventure park that grew to serve an international clientele—and kept my teenage sons busy and out of trouble—for nearly 10 years.

This year, Carol and I watched the ceremonial Iditarod start from our sofa, and identified with the mushers as they settled passengers into their sleds. My sons and I had carried hundreds of tourists on mushing excursions, and Carol and I laughed at the huskies’ impatience to run. The lead dogs acted like annoyed drill sergeants trying to keep their unruly team members “lined out.”

From our sofa, we “leaned” ‘into corners as mushers planted their boots beside sleds to keep them from overturning. A moose and her calf trotted across the trail in front of one team and rider, and we remembered how dangerous it can be when a cow decides to stand her ground.

On the trail with clients.

We bantered about dog antics and trail conditions, knowing how sled dogs and their musher feel and what they anticipate. We had logged many miles hauling clients, though on less remote and hazardous trails than the Iditarod. We identified with the stamina and dedication it takes to care for 30 or 40 high-velocity Alaska crossbreeds.    

The perils and power that a musher experiences is hard to put into words. Listening to 20 or more paws drum a cadence to whispering sled runners speaks to your soul.

Every cloud and stream counsels you that God has harnessed this amazing encounter to awaken your consciousness to his Son, Jesus—perhaps for the first time.

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him…” [Colossians 1:16]

On the trail a chill may penetrate your bones so that your fingers barely feel the driving bow. You may careen down an incline and find yourself flailing to stay upright—but it’s not the adrenaline rush you savor most at the end of your journey.

What you’ll savor more exquisitely–like snowflakes on the tongue– is a deep appreciation of arriving home SAFELY–dogs unhurt, sled intact, and your body, sore, but uninjured.

And so it will be at the end of our lives: We have thrilled to delights and endured hardships, and say, “It’s been a great ride.”

But our passions and adventures will pale in comparison to knowing the One who broke trail for us, and welcomes us home.

Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting–you are God.
[Psa. 90:2]

Along the Knik Arm.

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