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A Bearfoot Travel Guide Story Of Courage: Lemmie Charley, Chistochina Musher, Risked Serious Frostbite To Save A Fellow Musher

Lemmie Charley of Chistochina, Alaska.

Copper Basin 300 Overflow Led To Heroic Rescue That Was All In A Day's Work

A longtime dogmusher from Chistochina, Alaska, Lemmie Charley is an Ahtna Athabascan. He's known for his devotion to this children and grandchildren, and for his kind manner. Here's a story about Lemmie. In 1992, he was mushing a team in the mid-winter Copper Basin 300 Sled Dog Race. Another local musher, Wendy Heaton, broke through an ice bridge into the Gakona River. It was a serious problem, as winter temperatures along the race route easily dip to Minus 20, and even down to Minus 50.

Lemmie stopped in his tracks, and rescued Wendy Heaton, by managing her team, pulling off her frozen boots, lighting up his dog food cooker on the spot, and packing her into his own sleeping bag so she could be freighted by dog sled back to a nearby lodge to safety.

When he arrived at Summit Lake Lodge, Lemmie's boots were frozen to his feet. He had to sit in a bathtub, full of cool water, to peel them off. Fortunately, though his feet turned black, they weren't seriously injured.

Life was tough but fun for Lemmie and other Ahtna kids as they were growing up in the wilds of Alaska's Copper River Valley. When he and other young boys would go out on the trap lines and camp overnight, Lemmie recalls: "We never felt it was hard. We'd have 8 people crowded into a tiny tent. And we'd take off our shoes, like we were in a fancy hotel."

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