Sigrid Ekran Age 28, Norway
REFLECTIONS OF A YOUNG EXLPLORER, by Sigrid Ekran
I grew up on the family farm in Norway. My family always enjoyed an active outdoor lifestyle. Now I live a subsistence lifestyle in Alaska, and I hunt, fish and trap most of the food that I need. I live in a cabin with no running water or electricity, and depend on fetching water from the creek that I heat on a wood-burning stove.
I was inspired to move to Alaska by famous Norwegian adventurer Helge Ingstad. During my first winter in Alaska when I was an exchange student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2003, I was asked to assist the Norwegian mushers in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Working with two-time Iditarod champion Robert Sørlie and his team members gave me valuable experience of the Iditarod trail.
After the 2005 race, I decided to start mushing dogs myself. Team Norway gave me four dogs, Helene, Sabena, Saesar and Othello. That is how I started building my sled dog team.
I found great inspiration in working for one of Alaska’s most famous female mushers, Susan Butcher. She won the Iditarod four times and was a great dog person. She is one of my mentors for racing sled dogs and living the subsistence lifestyle.
I spent the winter of 2006 working and training with Iditarod veteran Louis Nelson, Sr. at his Snowy River Kennels outside Kotzebue on the Alaskan west coast. Louis is an Inupiat Eskimo. I learned a lot about the subsistence lifestyle and about native knowledge from Louis and his family.
I ran my first Iditarod in 2007. It was a great experience and I really enjoyed the race. I broke my nose and got very sick, but I was very determined to continue racing as long as the dogs were having a good time. That got me all the way from Anchorage to Nome. I won the title of Rookie of the Year and finished the race as the best female musher.
This winter, I have been living with my 30 dogs in Eureka, Alaska, on Susan Butcher´s old training grounds. I think I am very fortunate to be able to live this close to the wilderness with my dogs. We are out on the trails every day, running and having fun with each other. I finished Iditarod 2008 in 24th place, with a faster race time than last year.
I enjoyed my time as an exchange student in Alaska so much that I decided to stay on for a Masters Degree in Northern Studies, and graduated in September 2007. These studies add to my undergraduate degree in forestry and conservation management and to the knowledge I gained studying wolf pack dynamics and malamute dog behavior after I graduated from high school.
I am very excited to be a team member of the 2008 Ellesmere Expedition. The expedition will be a life changing experience where I will learn a lot and be able to use my skills as a dog musher, as a wildlife biologist and as a subsistence hunter. I am very inspired by the expedition leader Will Steger and all the team members, and it will be fun to share all our knowledge and experiences on Ellesmere Island with everyone that will follow us on the expedition. I hope that I can help inspire young people to be interested in wildlife and environmental issues, and that you will all enjoy following us on the trail.