Friendship knows no borders

by EVAN MATTHEWS

When most people pull over at one of the many interest points throughout Jasper National Park, lifelong friendship and the trip of a lifetime, typically, isn’t a person’s motivation for stopping.

But for one German girl, that is exactly what she got.

Twenty-four-year-old, Stephanie Schürbrock, is travelling through Canada and the U.S., and she says she was driving through the Icefields when she stopped at a point of interest along the highway.

A 71-year-old man, who introduced himself as Ed Mulrenin, had also stopped.

Schürbrock and her friend had rented a vehicle painted entirely in a Jurassic Park theme, and the vehicle sparked many conversations.

“We just started talking because my friend and I had rented a really cool car,” says Schürbrock.

“He told us he was coming from Washington, D.C., and he was driving all the way to Denali National Park, in Alaska,” she says, which is located inside the Arctic Circle.

The trip sounded like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to Schürbrock, she says, and she expressed her interest to Mulrenin. Mulrenin mentioned he had a free passenger seat, and she was invited to go with him if she chose to.

It was a quick five-minute conversation, Schürbrock says, and the two got in their separate vehicles and parted ways.

“I thought I would never see him again,” says Schürbrock. “I just thought he was such an interesting person… he gave me a good feeling.”

Mulrenin’s reason for going to Alaska, according to Schürbrock, was to commemorate the life of his dog, Sonntag, who died some years prior. Sonntag’s ashes were spread at a specific point along the highway.

“I checked my emails and found one from Stefanie asking if the invitation was still open,” says Mulrenin via his blog. “I wrote back saying it was, and I invited her to join me on the Dalton Highway.”

Forty-eight hours later, Schürbrock had met Mulrenin in Fairbanks, Alaska.

“He wanted to go back to the specific point along the highway because it was a turning point in his life,” says Schürbrock. “He hasd (already) done the trip several times.”

The passing of Sonntag was difficult on Mulrenin, according to Schürbrock, as he had quite the relationship with Sonntag.

The dog was paralyzed, and Mulrenin built a wheelchair, so the dog could walk, she says.

In the early 2000s, a journalist from National Geographic contacted Mulrenin, and asked to accompany him and Sonntag to Alaska, she says. Mulrenin agreed, and photos of he and his dog were published in National Geographic.

Mulrenin’s relationship with Sonntag, according to a couple different blogs, changed the way many people viewed relationships with their pets.

One other guest rode along on the trip with Mulrenin and Schürbrock this time, named Donner, who is Mulrenin’s current dog.

Though the weather was horrible and visibility was low due to fog, Schürbrock says the three travel mates became close, describing their connection as spiritual.

“The trip was very emotional,” says Schürbrock. “Especially as we neared closer to the spot where he layed (Sonntag’s) ashes.”

Schürbrock’s motivation for going on the trip, mainly, was to see Denali National Park, and while the adventure was worth it, she says the Arctic (maybe) was slightly underwhelming due to the weather.

“I’ve always wanted to go to the Arctic Circle, but it was just a sign saying you’re there, and that’s pretty much it,” says Schürbrock, noting there were very few people between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Anchorage, Alaska.

In between the two, you have Denali National Park.

The trip of a lifetime Schürbrock says she hoped for, she got, but what she values the most out of the experience surprises her.

“It was about the person,” she says. “To connect with someone, and make a friend for life.

“It was nice to have the environment around, too, but it was about the relationship,” she says.

Clearly, Mulrenin agrees.

“If I had been writing this blog as a novel, I could not have created a more perfect companion for the most adventurous parts of this trip than Stefanie,” he writes via his blog.

“She got an adventure she will remember for a lifetime. I, in turn, got a trip that was heightened significantly by a smart, fun, personable companion with whom I shared this experience,” he writes.

The two have exchanged information, and they keep in touch, according to Schürbrock.

The pair has also extended invitations to one another to visit their respective homelands, and Schürbrock says having gone all the way to Alaska together, she fully expects the offers to become reality.

“Stefanie thanked me repeatedly for the invitation, and told me often how lucky she was, but I was the luckier one,” writes Mulrenin via his blog.

“Having met her, I like myself better than before.”

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