Author: Dorothy Olmstead (7 posts)


Iditarod Air Force: lifeblood of the race

Forget Alaska-based aviation reality television shows––the Iditarod Air Force pilots are the real deal. With twenty-eight pilots comprising 300,000-plus cumulative flight hours––over 200,000 of which are in Alaska––there is no better group of pilots to call upon to grapple the logistical soup that is Iditarod. These volunteer pilots fly straw bales, drop bags, checkpoint volunteers, …


Heart of the Volunteer

“They’re going to let a guy from Ohio come up here and do this?” Mark Greene couldn’t believe his luck. It was his first year as an Iditarod volunteer and he got the chance to go out on the trail. They stationed him in Finger Lake, and to say Mark loved every minute would be …


Tradition in Kaltag

After a lifetime spent at sea, the ocean-tough salmon battles its way upriver and completes its lifecycle in the spawning grounds where it was born. The fact that this species has no true capacity for recollection makes this tenacious journey doubly remarkable. This knowledge is mapped in its DNA, like an intergenerational memory that echoes …


Huslia: Living with the Land

If you lived without restaurants, supermarkets, and shopping centers would you feel lacking, or could your senses awaken and be nourished by the subtleties of life around you? Might you find richness in the details of the forest or perceive treasure in a beaver pond? How do we determine the value of that which exists …


Thanking Tanana

“It’s 36,” a friend tells Tom Hyslop, who just threw a tarp over raked dog straw with the help of another local volunteer. That means 36 degrees below zero. The morning sun shines brightly on this south-facing village on the Yukon River, nestled about a mile downriver from the confluence of the Tanana River, but its …


A Thousand Miles of Breaking Trail

Today in Tanana, the world will celebrate the first musher to the Yukon, but the award only voices one piece of the story. At nine am this morning the trail breakers departed Tanana on their snow machines and headed down the Yukon River setting the trail for the teams. The spirit of volunteerism permeates every …


Off the Road System

Off the road system. For years, that phrase cast a seductive mystique I had not felt since my early traveling days. At 23, I moved four thousand miles from my childhood home in the Chicago suburbs to Denali National Park, Alaska, and although there was an entire country wedged between the two locations it was entirely …