Amy Varsek ’94 loves the wilderness, so much in fact that she embarked on a 98-day voyage of skiing and dog sledding through snow, ice, wind and freezing temperatures.
In January 2004, Varsek was part of a quartet of women, including Sarah Lakosky, Suellen Sack and Jodi Swanson, who ventured on a 1,250-mile journey, with two sleds and 20 huskies, across northern Canada, beginning in Yellowknife and ending in Churchill. The women named the expedition Arctic Quest 2004.
Developed by the four women, who were instructors at the
Voyageur Outward Bound School in Ely, Minn., Arctic Quest provided an opportunity for them to challenge themselves physically, emotionally and socially. The trip was a first for Varsek, who has been dog sledding and cross-country skiing for the past five winters. She took a seven-month hiatus from her job as a medical screener to train and prepare for the expedition, a four-year project in the making.
“We raised our own dogs, developed a route, built our own equipment and started a scholarship fund for low-income students attending the school,” she said.
After arriving in Churchill on April 28, 2004, Varsek was greeted with feelings of exhilaration and melancholy as well as dozens of supporters and gifts, including a 40-pound block of frozen meat for the dogs. “It was crazy,” she said.
Varsek, once the Outreach Coordinator at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago, joined the Outward Bound school in 2001, helping to train dogs for expeditions and spending her days on the slopes.
“When I’m skiing, I always want to find out what is around the next turn,” she said. “I have a hard time stopping at the end of the day.”
The biology major from Joliet, Ill., said the school encourages its staff to do personal expeditions for professional development. In the future, Varsek said she would like to plan another expedition — Greenland, Baffin Island, Ellesmere Island and Lapland are at the top of her list.