On a bright, warm July afternoon, Mac Hollan, 36, an elementary school teacher, was cycling along Route 1 in Canada’s Yukon, midway through a 2,750-mile bike tour from his home in Sandpoint, Idaho, to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.
His riding companions, Gabe Dawson and Jordan Achilli, both 36, had stopped to make a minor bicycle repair, but they had encouraged Mac to carry on, figuring they’d catch up with him soon. They were each hauling some 30 pounds of camping gear, clothing, and extra food, so nobody was moving very fast. As Mac pedaled along alone, he thought fondly of his wife and two young daughters at home. He hoped to show them this beautiful place someday.
Then Mac heard panting behind him. Man, that’s a big dog! he thought. But when he looked to the side, he saw instantly that the canine wasn’t a dog at all, but a timber wolf, quickly catching up with him.
Mac’s heart jumped. He reached into his handlebar pack to fish out his can of bear spray. With one hand on the bars, he fired the spray at the wolf. A bright red cloud enveloped the animal, and to Mac’s relief, it fell back, snorting and shaking its head. But a minute later, it was by his side again. Then it lunged at the back of Mac’s bike, tearing open his tent bag. He blasted the wolf a second time, and again, it fell back, only to quickly resume the chase.
Mac was pedaling hard now. He waved and yelled at passing motorists but was careful not to slow down. He rounded a bend in the road to see a steep uphill climb before him. He knew that once he hit the hill, he’d be easy prey. Mac imagined the wolf’s teeth tearing into his forearm as he tried to fend the animal off.
Paul and Becky Woltjer were driving their RV down Route 1 on their way from Pennock, Minnesota, to Alaska. They didn’t think much of it when they saw two cyclists stopped on the side of the road. A bit later, they spotted what they, too, assumed was a dog loping with immense strides alongside a man on a bike. As they got closer, they realized the dog was a wolf.
Mac heard a large vehicle rumbling up behind him. He pulled in front of it as the wolf was bearing down, just a dozen yards away now. The Woltjers veered around the cyclist, then abruptly stopped in front of him. Mac jumped off his bike and dashed for the back door of the RV. It was locked. He ran around to the passenger door, but it was locked, too, so he began to clamber through the open window. Paul quickly unlocked the door, and the frightened man dived in, slamming the door behind him.
Becky looked out the back window and saw the wolf standing over Mac’s bike as if it were a kill. Shortly after, the animal ran off.
A few minutes later, Gabe and Jordan rolled up. Mac emerged from the RV and hugged Gabe. “I thought I was going to die,” Mac told him.
Mac retrieved his bicycle, and the three men resumed their road trip, agreeing to keep in one another’s sight line. A few miles down the road, Mac pulled over and cried.
“The rest of the trip was amazing, but I had to let that emotion out.”