Helen Thayer is comfortable at the North Pole, in the Gobi Desert and even living with wolves.
But the famed explorer and author is even more comfortable talking about her love affair with animals.
Thayer, involved in many National Geographic expeditions, shared her affinity for the animal kingdom last weekend at the Bark and Wine Boogie Ball in Durango, the annual benefit for the La Plata County Humane Society.
Her presentation at the La Plata County Fairgrounds focused on her recent book, Polar Dreams, and the dog who accompanied her on the trip to the magnetic North Pole.
Charlie was a very unusual dog, Thayer said in an interview with The Durango Herald.
He made the whole trip. He made the trip possible, she said.
He protected me from the polar bears. There were seven up-close encounters, I would say, said Thayer, who also has written about crossing the worlds deserts.
This is my very personal story about a relationships with ... my dog and these polar bears.
I was out there in their world. They could have ... eaten me at any time. I was simply another item on their menu, Thayer said.
But Charlies presence and her own extensive experience with animals enabled the group to have a safe trip to and from the North Pole.
Born and raised in New Zealand, I was around animals my entire life, Thayer said.
Her connection to the animal world, she said, was enhanced with the experience that led to her book, Three Among the Wolves.
The book chronicles a year of living in the wild with wolves.
Thayer and her husband of 49 years, Bill, currently run an animal rescue operation in Washington state in the foothills of the Cascades.
The trip to Durango to address the local Humane Society was a labor of love, Thayer said.
I love talking to ... these groups. These people understand, she said.
She said the human interface with wildlife also is an issue that must be addressed, particularly in places like Durango and her home in the Cascades.
Weve got to sit down with ourselves if were going to figure this out, Thayer said.
People are moving into their territory ... somehow, we have to learn to coexist, said Thayer, who will leave Nov. 2 for an expedition in Africa.
The explorer already has hiked more than 8,000 miles on the African continent.
Shell add 800 more on this trip.
And shes even more excited about her trip to Africa than she was the last time around.
Animals are the most remarkable creatures.
Chris Nelson, the director of the Humane Society shelter in Durango, said, She (Thayer) is perfect fit for our community ... an avid adventurer, continuous learner and a testament that life can begin at 50.
Since she made history by walking on the magnetic North Pole, shes traversed the Gobi, Mojave, Sonora and Sahara deserts, lived for a year with a pack of wolves, walked Death Valley and made a journey to Antarctica, Nelson said. Shes an amazing woman.