For extreme sports enthusiasts, part of the appeal is not only pushing their bodies to extremes but also pushing the limits of what’s physically possible. At some point, however, those limits push back.
After discovering a passion for hiking, a 21-year-old Tennessee native spent as much time as she possibly could exploring new, more challenging trails and pushing her body to the limit. Eventually, however, she bit off a little more than she could chew. Fortunately, she managed to avoid disaster thanks to an unexpected guardian angel…
A New Passion
About 5 years ago, a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Upstate New York discovered she had a love for hiking. Over the following years, she spent as much time as possible outdoors hiking on trails and building her endurance.
An Adventurous Spirit
According to her mother, her daughter, a college student is deaf but has never let her stop her from doing anything she set her mind to, like going to college and studying visual media.“She’s adventurous, she’s fearless,” the proud mother said about her daughter…
An Ambitious Hiker
“She doesn’t let her deafness slow her down, nor should she,” the Tennessee woman added. As her daughter’s confidence grew as a hiker, she has continued to challenge herself by planning more ambitious hikes to attempt.
A Summer Tradition
During the summer of 2017, the passionate hiker spent her time away from school traveling and camping throughout the national parks out west. This summer, she decided to spend her time off outdoors yet again, but set her sites for more challenging trails…
Warmup For Alaska
Shortly after the school year ended, Amelia Milling met her father in Virginia and spent the next few days with him hiking the Appalachian Trail as a warmup for the season ahead. In June, Amelia said goodbye to her father and headed off to meet a friend in Anchorage, Alaska.
A Worried Mother
Before leaving, however, Amelia’s mother Sharon Milling, was worried about the trip especially since it was so far from home. She insisted that Amelia take an emergency device that could send out an emergency message or beacon in case something happened to her on the trip…
The Solo Hike
Even though Amelia didn’t think she’d ever need it, she agreed to take an emergency device to ease her mom’s worries. After landing in Anchorage, Amelia set out for a solo 3-day hike on June 18, 2018, and planned to meet up with her friend afterward.
To prepare for the challenging hike on Crowe Pass, a trail in the Chugach Mountains that follows a portion of the original Iditarod Trail, Amelia had practiced a 20-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail and a few short hikes after first arriving in Alaska…
Out Of Her League
At first, the hike along Crowe Pass was going well, however, Amelia quickly realized she was out of her league as there was more snow along the trail than she expected. “It was definitely harder than what I was expecting,” Amelia said.
A Controlled Descent
“I’m a Southerner, so I wasn’t thinking about snow,” Amelia added. On the second day of the hike, Amelia packed up her camp and decided to leave the mountain trail and descend the snow-covered mountainside into the Eagle River Valley with control…
Out Of Control
During the descent, however, Amelia’s trekking poles broke and she lost control. The controlled descent turned into a free fall, and within seconds, she fell about 300 feet down. At that point, Amelia hit a large boulder, which launched her into the air. “I felt like I was flying.”
Amelia slid another 300-400 feet down the mountainside. When she finally came to a stop, she was in shock and banged up, but she miraculously wasn’t badly injured. As Amelia looked around to see where she was, however, she discovered she wasn’t alone…
The White Wolf
A white Husky named Nanook had come running to her side. “That’s when I first saw Nanook and first I thought he was a wolf,” Amelia said. “Then I saw the little collar… it said (the dog) was a Crow Pass guide, and I realized that he was there to help me.”
A Steadfast Companion
Nanook guided Amelia back to the trail and slept outside of Amelia’s tent after she set up camp for the night. When she woke up, Nanook was still there. “When I opened up the tent, he was ready to go. He was just right there and that helped me to have some motivation to keep going,” Amelia said…
A Guardian Angel
On June 20, the third day of the hike, Amelia just wanted to make it home after her close call the previous day. “I really wanted to get out of there,” said Amelia, who followed Nanook as he guided her across Eagle River. When she tried to follow him across, however, she fell into the deep, swift current. As she battled to stay afloat, Nanook jumped in and dragged her to shore.
Calling For Help
Once out of the water, Amelia changed into dry clothes and got in her sleeping bag. She thought she would be able to warm up and continue on, but she quickly became hypothermic and decided to push her emergency locator and wait for help to arrive…
Meanwhile, back in Tennessee, Amelia’s mom got a notification that she had activated her SOS button. “The feeling was sheer terror,” Sharon said. “I did not know if she had fallen and broken something and couldn’t get out of the water. I didn’t know how deep the water was. I didn’t know if she had drowned and this was her pack floating. When mom’s brain took over, I imagined all kinds of horrible things.” About 2.5 hours later, she was contacted by rescuers who explained they found Amelia along the river. She was freezing and a bit bruised but alive.
While being airlifted to the hospital to get checked by a doctor, Amelia told her rescuers what Nanook did for her. “He’s Alaska’s version of Lassie,” said Lt. Eric Olsen from the Alaska State Troopers. After getting Amelia to safety, Olsen returned Nanook to his owner, Scott Swift, and found out that this wasn’t Nanook’s first rescue…
A Natural Rescuer
According to Scott, Nanook likes to go off on adventures with hikers. “He’s been doing it for years now,” Scott said. “This is the second time I’ve heard of he has saved someone from drowning in that river,” he added. The first time, Nanook pulled a 6-year-old girl out of the river just before she drowned. “He just does it on his own.”
A Miraculous Outcome
“I believe the dog is a guardian angel. I told him several times that I love him and I’ll never forget him,” said Amelia, who doesn’t know what she would have done without Nanook’s help. The Alaska State Troopers were also thankful for the heroic dog as they spent their previous 2 rescues retrieving the bodies of a woman and child who drowned and the body of a hiker that had been mauled by a bear. “It was nice to get someone out alive and well,” said Olsen.