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Observations placeholder

Bowers, Don - Idatarod Trail sled dog race



Type of Spiritual Experience


Number of hallucinations: 1


Don was competing in the Idatarod Trail sled dog race the gruelling 1,100 mile race with both dangers and difficulties.  He was physically exhausted from the effort required and suffering from great pain from his hand.  Sleep deprivation is contributing to this, but it is the amount of physical effort needed when he actually wanted a rest that is probably the greatest contributory factor – and maybe the northern lights….

A description of the experience

From Back of the pack – Don Bowers

As night gathers around the hills the road becomes increasingly spooky, with half-concealed old cabins and buildings and mining works scattered along its unplowed route. My acute lack of sleep, aggravated by the increasing pain in my hands despite the naproxen, isn't helping matters and I'm starting to hallucinate.

At least once I stop the team and try to pull them onto the shoulder to let an imaginary truck by. Another time I find myself carrying on a conversation with someone walking alongside the sled; the dogs slow and stop, wondering what strange commands I'm giving them.

As we work up onto a pass well above timberline (for some reason I remember this on a map as The Hub Hill) the northern lights launch themselves across the sky in ever-intensifying waves of writhing incandescence. Staring at them as the dogs float ahead of me I know I am losing my grip on reality but there is absolutely nothing I can do.

My sleep-starved mind goes into a sort of free fall, a truly strange but somehow not frightening state in which images and ideas and words and sounds all float together in a primordial mental stew.  Hurtling from this free-association zone come combinations which could never have been formed without a breakdown of normal mental barriers. Some are bizarre, some are beautiful, - some are surprisingly logical, some are simply improbable. They all sail past my helpless consciousness as I try to grab even one or two to hold on to.

Through all of this I have intervals of lucidity, apparently frequently enough to ensure the team continues to run smoothly on the road. And the hallucinations continue to pop in and out of focus as well, aided by the powerful stimulus of the undulating aurora overhead.

At one point I go for several miles down the road wondering why I haven't gone under what is unquestionably an illuminated overpass ahead , finally I realise it is the arch of the northern lights.

The source of the experience

Bowers, Don

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps