Solo musher, author to visit Juneau

Flowers speaks about her sledding experiences

Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2004

Pam Flowers has trekked across the North American Arctic led by a team of eight sled dogs. She's lived in Alaska since 1981, and she's traveled to about 700 schools across the country. This weekend, she'll make her first trip to Juneau.

Flowers has published two books about her 1993-94 trans-Arctic journey, which followed the expedition of Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen and a journey he undertook in 1923 with a team of scientists and Native guides. She did the trip with the company of her eight dogs.

"No matter how many trips you go on, no matter what you've done with (your dogs), when you come back from a big trip like that, you come home with an even greater respect for your dogs and how smart they are," Flowers said. "They seem to me to be sometimes brilliant."

Flowers will talk about her trip and her dogs at 6:30 and 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 16, at the Fireside Chat at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. On Saturday, Jan. 17, she'll do a family presentation at the Douglas Public Library on caring for sled dogs.

"When I read 'Alone Across the Arctic' I thought it would be a wonderful book to highlight and to have Pam Flowers come talk about her 2,500 miles following the Knud Rasmussen portion of the fifth Thule expedition," said librarian Carol Race, who organized Flowers' visit.

Flowers began mushing soon after she moved to Alaska in 1981. She took two extended leaves of absence from her job as a respiratory therapist to embark on Arctic expeditions, and was told by her employer that if she quit her job a third time, she wouldn't be re-hired, she said.

"I was faced with this big dilemma, which was to face my dream and go across the Arctic, or to keep my job," Flowers said. "So I quit my job."

She set out from Barrow in February 1993 and traveled 2,000 miles before she had to stop in the village of Gjoa Haven on King William Island because of an early breakup of the ice.

For five and a half months, she lived with a Native family in the village. In December 1993 she set off again, completing what remained of her trip to Repulse Bay in January 1994.

When she returned to no job in Talkeetna, she was asked to speak at an elementary school there and found she had a gift for telling her tale. When she realized she could earn a living traveling the country and talking about her trip, she put aside dreams of more trips for a while.

"I'm 57, and the decade of the 50s is dedicated to funding my retirement," Flowers said. "I have two and a half years to go. Then when I'm 60, I want to get some more dogs and start getting back into it."

When she speaks to adults and children, Flowers touches on three main themes, she said: Arctic geography, Native culture and her dogs.

"My dogs had to behave in order for us to do this," Flowers said in an interview from her home in Talkeetna. "They could not get into fights, they could not steal from one another ... and even if they were not in a good mood they still had to work together. We still had to be a team."

• Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.



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