Missing Iditarod Musher Melanie Gould Found Alive

Missing Iditarod musher Melanie Gould turned up today, 12 days after she'd last been seen and two days Alaska officials had given up the search for her.

Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that Gould contacted authorities today, but beyond that provided few details.

"She seems to be in good condition," Peters told the newspaper.

She would not say where Gould, 34, had been during the time she was missing, but did say that she had seen the police and volunteers looking for her but had "decided to stay away."

Gould's friends had become worried about her when she didn't show up for work at the Talkneeta Roadhouse on May 31 without checking in, but when they realized the veteran musher's sled dogs uncared for in her empty home, they feared something was really wrong.

Talkeetna Roadhouse owner Trisha Costello said it raised flags when she didn't show up for her shift.

"We talked Monday night [May 30], she even offered to stay late to help me," Costello said. "She's reliable and conscientious. She would be mortified to know I had to work the whole day without her."

Friends went to her house to check on her. Instead, they found her sled dogs in the empty home, food on the table, her cell phone on the counter and laundry hanging dry.

"It looked like as if she just walked away," Costello said.

Neighbors said they saw Gould leave her house the night of May 30 around 8 p.m. A local taxi driver reported seeing the woman driving north toward the Denali park entrance later that night, according to Costello.

Her abandoned truck was found June 4 on a mining road off the remote Denali Highway near Mt. McKinley, but there was still no trace of the woman herself.

Gould is a seven-time veteran of the Iditarod Trail Dog Race. She last competed in the race in 2007. According to friends, her sled dogs are everything to her, so leaving them alone was completely uncharacteristic.

"It's beyond normal. The fact she left her dogs, especially (Jane). She loved that dog," Costello said. "It's highly unusual for her to leave them without asking anyone to care for them."

Talkeetna is small close-knit community about two hours north of Anchorage. The town of about 900 is a popular tourist location during the summer and a training ground for dog sledding, according to locals.

Neighbors said Gould does not have any family or partner in the area.