Musher still missing, but hopes remain

Posted: Friday, February 04, 2000

ANCHORAGE - The search for a musher missing on the Kenai Peninsula entered its sixth day today with still no sign of the man or his team of 10 dogs.

Rod Boyce, 38, of Two Rivers was last seen shortly after midnight Sunday while competing in the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race. He passed through a checkpoint, but failed to reach the next checkpoint 18 miles away.

Dog prints found in the snow Thursday swelled hopes that searchers might have found their first hint of Boyce's whereabouts, but the prints led to a pack of wolves in the Caribou Hills.

Ed Borden, the Tustumena race marshal, one of the searchers, said Alaska State Troopers coordinating the search for the city editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner were running out of ideas on where to look.

``We've covered everything, and there's nothing,'' Borden told the Anchorage Daily News. ``We're really just spinning our wheels out there now.''

Meanwhile, the News-Miner was sending a couple of reporters down to the Kenai Peninsula to ask residents to help locate Boyce, said Managing Editor Kelly Bostian.

``The window of opportunity is closing, but it's not closed,'' Bostian said today.

Snowmachiners involved in the search planned to stop along trails and then work on foot.

Troopers were widening the search area, and asking locals familiar with the Caribou Hills to join in the effort.

Alaska's close-knit mushing community can't remember another time when one of their own was missing for as long as Boyce has been.

Mushers frequently get stuck in bad weather for a day or two, they say, or take a wrong turn, and when found are just fine.

Col. Norman Vaughan went missing for four days during the 1976 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race when he took a wrong turn approaching Rainy Pass in the Alaska Range. When he was found, he was OK.

``He was none the worse for wear, a little hungry, a little tired ...,'' said Jack Niggemyer, Iditarod race manager.

Two helicopters, one with heat-seeking equipment, flew grid patterns Thursday across 380 square miles in the Caribou Hills, and more than 30 snowmachiners traversed the many snowmachine trails and logging roads in the area.

``I believe it is as well-searched as we can at this point,'' said Trooper David Tracy.

Troopers and race officials suspect Boyce took a wrong turn in blizzard conditions onto one of the many snowmachine trails in the area. He was carrying survival equipment and enough food for himself and the dogs to last two days.

The area received more than 8 feet of snow over a week before the snow turned to rain, compacting the snow and making it easier for snowmachiners to look off-trail.

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