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Running North: A Yukon Adventure [Paperback]

Ann Mariah Cook
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 11 1999
What happens when a woman and her husband move their family from New Hampshire to Alaska to train a team of purebred Siberian Huskies for the world's toughest dogsled race, the Yukon Quest? They endure thousands of miles of lonely training in the Yukon trying to avoid thin ice, wolves, and rogue moose; they put up with the amused skepticism of Alaskan locals; and they pit themselves against the ultimate, fickle adversary--nature. RUNNING NORTH is the true story of how Ann Cook, her husband, George, and their young daughter, Kathleen, moved to Alaska and how their Siberians became the first team from the lower forty-eight states to finish the Yukon Quest. It tracks George on his horrific journey through the Yukon, recording the frostbite, the hallucinations that come with exhaustion, the wolves, and the nights out on the ice at minus ninety degrees Fahrenheit. This is the great story of man struggling against nature and surviving. But unlike most accounts of high adventure that center solely on the adventurer and the quest, RUNNING NORTH is also the story of Ann Cook, who drove the truck and carried the gear and kept the family together. In the tradition of MY OLD MAN AND THE SEA, she tells both stories in simple, elegant prose that reveals the tragedy, joy, and folly that lie on either side of the curtain separating the adventurer from the world left behind. They run up against crazy landlords, win over gruff neighbors, drive a broken-down truck that sucks oil like Alaskans suck coffee, listen to a radio show that keeps trappers in contact with the world, meet mysterious fishermen who appear without notice and disappear without a sign, fight with a young cousin who will betray them in the end, protect their young daughter from the dangers of their new wild world, and stare awestruck at the wide sweep of Alaskan landscape. RUNNING NORTH is the story of two very different adventures on the edge: one among the racers braving the Yukon and the other among the people they leave behind.

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From Amazon

Alaska is more than just the largest state in the Union; it's also a state of mind, as Ann Mariah Cook found out. Together with her husband, 3-year-old daughter, and 32 purebred Siberian huskies, she moved there from New Hampshire in order to train for the legendary Yukon Quest, the most rigorous sled-dog race in the world. Her tough, thoughtful memoir, Running North, chronicles the ordeals as well as the rewards of their mushers' life. In the course of their transformation from cheechakos, or greenhorns, to sourdoughs, or seasoned Alaskans, Cook and her husband learned to defend themselves and their dogs from extreme weather, adapted to mushing in Alaskan conditions, and even absorbed the niceties of Yukon social customs (hint: always put on a pot of coffee for visitors). The book ends with a harrowing account of the race, complete with packs of wolves, howling blizzards, minus-60-degree temperatures, and a few narrow escapes. But this is as much Ann's story as it is her husband's, and as a result it goes far beyond the confines of a simple adventure story. Full of intriguing glimpses into sled-dog (and musher) psychology as well as lyrical observations about the beauty of the Yukon landscape, Running North is as much concerned with the who and why of adventure as with its how and when. Leaving behind the comfort and security of Cook's New England life required a multitude of adjustments, from the design of the dogs' booties to a new appreciation of interior decorating, Alaska-style. In the end, however, it was going home that proved hard: "Returning to New Hampshire, I saw my life as a stranger might view it. I could not get used to so many houses, so many neighbors, so many social demands. Everything in my life had been redefined in only seven and a half months." --Mary Park --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In the world of sled-dog racing only three long-distance courses count: the Iditarod, the Alpirod and the Yukon Quest. The last is dubbed "a thousand miles of Hell" for its 1000-mile course across moutainous Alaskan terrain, its requirement that mushers pack every necessity at the start and the fact that there are only six checkpoints in 16 days, leaving entrants alone and unaccounted for over vast stretches of wild, icy land. In 1992, amateur racer George Cook took on the Quest, with Ann Mariah, his childhood sweetheart and wife, serving as his handler. This is her fast-clipped account of their seven-month Alaskan sojourn, most of which was spent in a small town outside Fairbanks, Alaska, where they forged a home/training camp for their three-year-old daughter, a college graduate niece and the 32 Siberian huskies they brought with them. Considered inferior sled dogs by Alaskans, the huskies are among the book's most intriguing characters. Cook strikes a smart balance between reports of George's training with sketches of her own experiences as support staff. The book hits its stride when explaining their exacting logistical preparation. From frozen lamb cubes and salmon jerky to the best style of dog booties and clothing items like parkys and muklaks, the details are precise and absorbing. Cook doesn't bring the same vitality to her descriptions of, or reflections on, the Alaskan wilderness, but she successfully captures the social idiosyncrasies of her diverse cast. From Sten, a neighbor whose failed Quest attempt haunts him still, to Martha, an Alaskan who sews exquisite mitts and wastes nothing of her beaver pelts, the state's hale souls appear as particular as the untamed land they've claimed for home.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Hardcover
Subtitled, "A Yukon Adventure," Ann Mariah Cook's fascinating 1998 memoir chronicles the time in 1992 that she, her husband George and three-year old daughter moved to Alaska to participate in the Yukon Quest, the toughest sled dog race in the world. It was George who ran the race; Ann was the one who drove the truck, carried the gear, took care of their daughter and gave him moral support through the long months of training, and eventually through the grueling event.
I've read other books about dog mushing, but this one had the unique point of view of a woman who, while not actually on the sled during the race, experienced her own Yukon Quest experience. She writes clearly and honestly, not shying away from the disagreement that she had with the young woman they brought with them to act as the official "handler" of the dogs. She writes about George's experience on the trail, his frostbite, fatigue, narrow escapes and indomitable spirit as he pitted himself against natural forces over which he had little control. She writes about the dogs, their personalities and backgrounds and about the tough choices she and George had to make when it came time to pick the actual team of 12 out of their much larger group. She writes about the people they meet along the way, her Alaskan neighbors, fisherman, storekeepers and the other mushers. And she writes about Alaska itself, making me yearn to experience its beauty and majesty.
There was one small line drawing of the Yukon Quest trail and I kept returning to it again and again as the book moved along and the tension mounted. There is also a photo of Ms. Cook and one of her dogs on the back cover. I wish there were more photos, but I didn't really need them because her descriptions were so clear. Recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly Enjoyable Feb. 12 2001
Format:Paperback
Ann Mariah Cook opens up more than one would expect as she leads you from their home in New Hampshire to the rougher world of Two Rivers, Alaska. They're a principled couple, their dogs are Siberian Huskies and they have certain dog-loving standards. They know they're at a disadvantage speedwise to the other teams entered in the Yukon Quest, many with hound-huskie mix packs. They adapt and yet prevail. I am interested in how they differ from the other racers, and wish Ann would have told more about how she and George saw things after the race. Also her vignettes about some of the individual dogs made me want to know more about the dogs.
Ann is understandably wrapped up in the mom thing with 3 year old daughter Katherine. At the same time Ann adapts to Alaskan musher culture, cares for her dogs, and preps husband George's provisions, all the while trying to puzzle out handler, cousin Sandy's behavior changes. There is so much sled dog lore that barely gets touched on. The book is a page turner once the race actually gets on. Ann could have made the book twice as long, because she does such a good job with what she chooses to write about. She needed to tie up loose ends. The only thing that drags is her apparent cluelessness about Sandy.
I checked the Yukon Quest website, and the Cooks didn't make the "most helpful" or the "best dog treater" for the year that George and their pack raced. But it verifies that they were in the race and certain things did happen.
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By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
While this was an interesting read, I was anticipating much more. This story lacked the pace and attention grabbing anecdotes of similar novels. Far too much time was spent on descriptions of preparing for the race--the race didn't even start until page 175 out of a 312 page book! And then once the race did begin, I felt that it was rushed over. Also, a few big holes were left unaswered, such as what happened between Ann and Sandy after the big fallout? At some point they must have spoken again, but Sandy never reappeared. It's been seven years since the race, they had to have some interaction since then. Ann spent too much time developing the aspects of the relationship and tension build-up and then just dropped it. I felt their's was the most interesting relationship in the book, and it wasn't fair to have the final outcome ignored. I was also a little bothered by the general attitude of dogs as productive property rather than living creatures, and both Ann's and George's obsession with the race over their concern for their own daughter. Here are a couple of examples: "With Kathleen in my arms, I jogged down to the parking lot to see our team coming in." Please note that she is running around in arctic temperatures while Kathleen is sick with a high fever and severe vomiting spells. She was always shuffling that poor little girl around like that. "The sight of her made George think of Kathleen. She hadn't crossed his mind in days......He pushed the subject from his mind. It brought on worries about things he couldn't control and took his thoughts away from the race." It's the race above all else, I guess. Still, all in all I found the general focus of the story intriguing and it does adequately cover the emotions behind adjusting to such isolation. I would definitely recommend it, but I wouldn't insist on it.
Was this review helpful to you?
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
While this was an interesting read, I was anticipating much more. This story lacked the pace and attention grabbing anecdotes of similar novels. Far too much time was spent on descriptions of preparing for the race--the race didn't even start until page 175 out of a 312 page book! And then once the race did begin, I felt that it was rushed over. Also, a few big holes were left unaswered, such as what happened between Ann and Sandy after the big fallout? At some point they must have spoken again, but Sandy never reappeared. It's been seven years since the race, they had to have some interaction since then. Ann spent too much time developing the aspects of the relationship and tension build-up and then just dropped it. I felt their's was the most interesting relationship in the book, and it wasn't fair to have the final outcome ignored. I was also a little bothered by the general attitude of dogs as productive property rather than living creatures, and both Ann's and George's obsession with the race over their concern for their own daughter. Here are a couple of examples: "With Kathleen in my arms, I jogged down to the parking lot to see our team coming in." Please note that she is running around in arctic temperatures while Kathleen is sick with a high fever and severe vomiting spells. She was always shuffling that poor little girl around like that. "The sight of her made George think of Kathleen. She hadn't crossed his mind in days......He pushed the subject from his mind. It brought on worries about things he couldn't control and took his thoughts away from the race." It's the race above all else, I guess. Still, all in all I found the general focus of the story intriguing and it does adequately cover the emotions behind adjusting to such isolation. I would definitely recommend it, but I wouldn't insist on it.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book!
Running North is an excellent book for anyone interested in Alaska or mushing. Ann Mariah Cook captures the feel for Alaska and dog sledding perfectly. Read more
Published on June 4 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars awesome
This book was one of the greatest ones I have ever read. I race sled dogs, and I found it so interesting...I could and have felt everything they go through. Read more
Published on Sept. 27 2000 by Laura
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Adventure
What a pleasant surprise to read a literary and exciting story of Alaska and dog-racing. Thoroughly enjoyable. I totally recommend this book to all adventure lovers.
Published on Dec 25 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars Enduring Determination
Fascinating details of the "Cook Team" in the greuling Yukon Quest are revealed in this book. Read more
Published on Dec 12 1999 by A. Heusser
5.0 out of 5 stars Run to read Running North
A wonderfully written account of mushing in Alaska with adventure in the bitter cold, warm human relationships and touching insights into the devotion and love given by dogs to... Read more
Published on Nov. 25 1999 by Peter Hildt
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story of musher & dogs succeeding by mutual trust&love
A beautiful story of a family's devotion to each other to accomplish their goal. It's obvious from the attitudes put forward by the author that the well being of their dogs &... Read more
Published on Sept. 5 1999 by Woodman
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad but the perspecive was very female.
The book was well written but gave little in perspective from the point view of the person who endured the actual event. Read more
Published on Feb. 21 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars could not put it down
loved this book. cant start another one until i have time to think this one over.
Published on Feb. 10 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars You won't put the book down.
This is more than the story of a sled dog race. It is about the interaction of people to people and people to the environment. The author has a nice flowing writing style. Read more
Published on Jan. 26 1999
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