Author: Dorothy Olmstead (13 posts)


Unalakleet: a Cultural Crossroad

  In Kaltag, the Yukon River takes a sweeping turn away from the Iditarod trail and mushers enter a new phase of the race. From here they continue overland through the Kaltag Portage, an 82-mile corridor through the Whaleback mountains that leads to the Bering Sea Coast. As mushers approach Unalakleet, the dense mountains that …


Lifeforce of the Yukon River

  Flying from Iditarod to Kaltag, Bruce Lee sits behind me, scanning the land for animal tracks. After spending many winters subsisting off the Kobuk River, Bruce is always on the lookout for food roaming the land. If he should ever be stranded somewhere, it’s good to know where a meal might be walking around. …


Iditarod: Gold Rush to Ghost Town

  As quickly as it boomed, the town of Iditarod––where many mushers are now headed––vanished. In the span of a few years, what began as a tent camp flourished into a bustling town in the gold rush, sharply died off as gold deposits diminished, and eventually faded all together with the onset of the first …


Wild Rohn: The Story Behind the Remote Checkpoint

  The Dalzell Gorge cascades down from the Alaska Range into a narrow river valley, which the Tatina river still carves at a geological pace. Down-valley, the river passes Egypt Mountain, an iconic cornerstone at the north end of the Alaska Range where the valley dramatically opens up into the wide expanse of the Alaskan …


Volunteer Spirit Runs Rainy Pass Checkpoint

  Between Willow and Nome rises one of the greatest geological features in all of Alaska: the Alaska Range. It is the gateway to the Alaskan interior; a weather break that separates the relatively warm and wet climate to the south from the colder, arid expanse to the north, where annual rainfall is comparable to …


Watching Iditarod from the West

In Native Alaskan villages, landscape dictates the calendar. Certain events mark the year such as late-summer berry-picking, fall caribou and moose hunting opportunities to harvest meat for food and hides for warmth, and river freeze-up which connects surrounding villages for easy travel by dog team and snowmachine. Out here, in rural Alaska, the school year …


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 …