Call of the Wild: A Trip of a Lifetime

After a year from hell, Peggy Orenstein rejoiced in the bracing cold of the Arctic, the furry warmth of her sled dogs and the chance to come to terms with the body that had betrayed her

by Peggy Orenstein
peggy orenstein dogsledding image
Leader of the Pack: Peggy Orenstein, in front, rushes through the wintry landscape.
Photograph: Michael Todd

Nico’s ice bathwas ready on our last afternoon at camp. Michaela snapped pictures as he streaked to the hole. Somehow he persuaded the other men, one by one, to follow his lead. They returned to the cabin pink and swaggering, urging us ladies to give it a try. “Anyone can roll in snow,” Nico announced. “This is special.” It was 22 degrees below zero outside, but I am a sucker for a dare. So I sat in the sauna until I thought my eyeballs would blister. Then, before rationality could set in, I sprinted, naked and steaming, to the hole’s icy ledge, slipping and sliding my way in. The water was surprisingly gentle on the skin, less scratchy than snow. I dunked to my armpits, grinning crazily, desperate to get out, loving that I was in. Back in the sauna, I felt as shining and phosphorescent as the aurora itself. For months my body’s limits had defined me, but not anymore. It wasn’t that I felt invulnerable—those days are gone. But I was resilient. And in the end, isn’t that better?

Peggy Orenstein’s most recent book is Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture.

Related: Peggy Orenstein's trip in photos
Related: Do You Want to Go Dogsledding?

Next: Where I Find Comfort in a Scary World

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First published in the September 2013 issue

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