Tonje Blomseth: From Norway to Alaska

Portrait of Tonje Blomseth

“When the decision to part ways after five years as a couple was made, I needed to get away.”

Rumors were flying around like bugs in the small Norwegian town I lived in, and among people I didn’t necessarily want to run into at my local grocery store. I needed a break. When the opportunity to leave for a few months arose, I booked the first flight I could—a one-way ticket to Alaska. It was now just me and my dogs, a team of nine malamutes.

“Obviously, my love for nature and adventure is ever-present, but Mother Nature is also cruel and can show no mercy to travelers.”

The plan was to mush from Eagle Village by the Canadian border to Nome on the west coast. An extended expedition, but not impossible to do over a single winter. In hindsight, it was a roller coaster of emotions—happy, sad, and back again. Not giving myself time to process the separation before heading out on such a physical and mentally challenging trek wasn’t ideal. However, I managed to drag my ass and my dogs to Ruby Village, located on the Yukon River. It was now late March, and an exceptionally early and warm spring. I never made it to Nome and had, instead, decided to make the move to Alaska permanent. At least for a little bit. The next step was shipping all ten of my dogs across the ocean, together with some of my belongings, determined to start a new chapter of my life and a journey across Alaska.

Tonje Blomseth holds animal rib cage to feed to her dogs
Husky easting raw meat

Since leaving Ruby, there have been many adventures, big and small, and I’m now about to set off again. Hopefully, freeze-up will be efficient and quick this year, so I can head out in January and spend the entire winter sledding with my dog’s hundreds of miles until spring. I will then exchange the dog team for skis and a little sled like a true Norwegian until there’s not enough snow to carry me anymore. From there, I aim to try to climb up Denali with my Norwegian landlord. He casually asked me to join him on his third trip over a coffee a few months ago, and I could do nothing but say, “Well, of course.”

Evening light on Mt. Denali

In truth, I would never have done anything so long and extravagant if it wasn’t for the dogs. The company they give, the work they put in, and the bond we form—it’s what makes it all worthwhile for me. Obviously, my love for nature and adventure is ever-present, but Mother Nature is also cruel and can show no mercy to travelers. It is in those moments I find some comfort in suffering alongside my dogs. I find so much comfort in their bushy tales when the wind is howling in my ear. The same goes for those beautiful days with sunny weather, when we lunch for hours curled on top of each other, soaking in every bit of warmth. Some dogs panting, others laid out like a starfish in the snow. As the infamous Norwegian adventurer, Helge Ingstad once said, and I will try my best to translate it faithfully,

“When my dogs cheerfully ran in front of the sled with their bushy tails up in the air, headfirst into a virgin-like wilderness spread out on every corner, then I felt as if I couldn’t have it any better, and the good citizens in the dusty cities surely were not to be envied.”

Portrait of Tonje Blomseth


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