Hiking is one of the best ways to interact with nature. You hear the crunch of the dirt or snow beneath your boots and embrace sights you won’t find on a smartphone app. Truly you experience life in its most basic state—but that can pose some serious problems and dangers. Just ask one girl from the South.
A deaf thrillseeker from Tennessee tackled her most ambitious hike ever when she packed her bags for a three-day solo hike through North America’s toughest landscapes. When an accident put her life in danger, however, a mysterious guardian angel offered her just the help she needed.
Amelia Milling, left, may be deaf, but she’s always up for a challenge. Indeed, the Tennessee native attended the Rochester Institute of Technology in Upstate New York, and constantly pushed herself to do the extreme—sometimes, the very extreme.
John Garay / Facebook
In the summer of 2017, for instance, Amelia spent time hiking through and camping in the gorgeous national parks offered out west—nothing too serious, however. In 2018, though, she planned to outdo herself.
On June 19, 2018, Amelia packed her bags—including an emergency tracker device her mother insisted she bring—and headed to Chugach State Park, right, an expanse of rocky mountain and serene rivers about 30 miles east of Anchorage, Alaska.
There, she hiked on her own along winding mountain paths, which, she noted, taxed her far more than she’d expected. As a Southerner, she hadn’t considered there’d still be snow in June. So she changed her plans.
On the second day of her trip, she descended into the Eagle River Valley. Just four miles into the hike, her walking sticks snapped in two. She slid for 300 feet, smashed into a boulder, then fell another 400 feet down a snowy, gradual slope.
The 21-year-old ended up bleeding and broken, looking up at the mountains—a very dramatic moment. Facing death, the only thing she could think of was that her dream vacation was over. Then she saw something terrifying.
A wolf “appeared out of no where,” and watched her in her state of weakness. Hardly able to stand—and with no one around—she stood no chance against a wolf. But then, she noticed something around the animal’s neck that gave her relief.
What she thought was a wolf wore a bone tag that read “Crow Pass Guide,” along with an address. It was then she knew this was no wolf, but a white husky named Nanook. He’d come to rescue her.
Nanook “gave me the motivation to get up and walk,” Amelia said. So she did just that. With the white husky at her side, she walked back to the trail. When night fell, she set up a tent and invited Nanook inside. The dog declined.
But the dog didn’t go anywhere. “I realized he really was sticking with me when he greeted me in the morning when I unzipped my tent,” Amelia said. “He had stayed the entire night next to me.” He offered more help, too.
Along the trail, Amelia and Nanook encountered the Eagle River crossing: a roiling, swirling, and freezing point of the river. Amelia tried twice to cross it. On the second time, she slipped, and the water pulled her under.
After 15 minutes caught in the swell, Amelia bolted back toward the shore. Nanook had grabbed her backpack and pulled her to safety. Afraid of hypothermia, Amelia curled up into her sleeping bag. There, Nanook kept licking her face.
In fact, he licked her face until she remembered the emergency tracker her mother made her take on the hike. When prompted by Nanook, she activated it, sending alerts to Alaska State Troopers.
Several hours later, trained rescue workers descended on her location in a helicopter before scooping the miserable Amelia and her canine companion up. Rescuers brought Amelia to an Anchorage hospital.
Alaska State Troopers / Facebook
When Amelia recounted her story, the troopers were floored. “Nookie was nothing short of a modern-day Lassie hero,” one rescuer, Alaska State Trooper Lt. Eric Olsen, said. Inspired by the pooch, Lieutenant Olsen personally brought the dog home.
There, the trooper met Scott Swift, Nanook’s owner, left. When he heard what his dog had been up to the past 24 hours? “I was definitely pretty floored,” he said. “It sends chills up my spine when I think about it. I certainly didn’t train him to do anything like this.”
Scott continued, “It’s a pretty powerful feeling that this dog had this instinctual ability to want to go help people.” The state of Alaska recognized that, too, and gave Nanook a special honor for his work…
For his heroics, Nanook was made an honorary Alaska State Trooper! The “free spirit” dog would no doubt look good in the uniform. Amelia couldn’t have been happier for her savior.
Amelia recovered in Anchorage and actually continued the dream vacation she once thought would end violently. She did, however, take plenty of time away from hiking to spoil Nanook with lots and lots of treats!
Because of Nanook’s tendency to wander away for days at a time, his collar has a tracking device in it. That’s all the equipment this incredible dog needs to save lives!
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