April 05, 2020

Dog sled journey reaches 1,000-mile point > Truck rollover fails to ruin travelers’ spirits during fund-raising trek for cancer research

Wendy Smith, the British cancer survivor who left Searsport Nov. 15 on a dog sled quest across North America, crossed the border Friday into the Canadian province of Ontario, passing the 1,000-mile mark on her 6,000-mile journey.

An update posted on the dog trek’s Internet site early Monday gave the team’s location as Cochrane, Ontario, where temperatures were -20 to -25 degrees Celsius. Smith, 36, her four-member support team and 20 Alaskan huskies spent the month of December traveling 850 miles across the province of Quebec.

Smith’s goal is to continue mushing 50 miles a day, west across Ontario to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, and north through the Yukon Territories to Nome, Alaska, by April.

A former Outward Bound instructor and Army officer, Smith is cancer-free 10 years after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Her coast-to-coast trip, intended as a celebration of life after cancer, would set a distance record and is being widely publicized in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States in hopes of raising more than $300,000 for cancer research.

Supporters following its progress via the World Wide Web — at www.dogtrek97-98.eu.inter.net — have already heard of the sledders’ most dramatic misfortune. On Dec. 22, the truck carrying their equipment and dogs in box cages went off an icy road and rolled over down a 10-foot bank. No one was hurt.

“My first thought was the dogs,” Smith wrote the next day in her Internet diary. “I knew immediately that the underside was buried in snow, and even if the dogs weren’t hurt from the crash, they could not get out and, much worse, would have no air … I was frantically trying to calculate how long the dogs under the truck could survive while we waited for a tow truck.”

Fortunately, a truck arrived within 15 minutes, and while the younger dogs were shaken, none was injured. “In their inimitable way, the huskies were hardly fazed by the whole affair,” wrote Smith, who trained briefly in Newburgh before starting the trip. “Even tumbled upside down in her box, Tweed had just shifted her position and gone back to sleep.”

Damage to the truck was severe, and repair time was estimated at two to three weeks because of the holidays. The group spent Christmas in a chalet on Lake Perron, donated by a Montreal businessman, and another local man donated a vehicle to continue the trip on schedule.

“It looks like we will get today’s mushing done,” Smith wrote the day after the crash. “I think it is really important to carry on, not only to show everyone how strong and determined we are, but because so many people are depending on us.”

The oldest dog on the trip, Man, was handed over to a recreational musher in Chapais, Quebec, last month, ending his struggle to keep up with the others. Another dog, Roscoe, was due to see a veterinarian Monday for a precautionary heart checkup, according to the latest log entry.

Donations to DogTrek 97-98 may be sent to the project’s Alaskan coordinator, Dario Martinez, at HC 52, Box 8621, Bird Creek, Alaska 99540. In the United States, the trek will benefit the Maine Children’s Cancer Program, 100 U.S. Route 1, Scarborough 04074.

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