1991 Hope / Надежда Race

From Nome, Alaska to Anadyr, Russia

Jon Van Zyle’s 1991 poster for the Hope Race.

Since December my research and writing has been focused on the historic 1991 Hope Race from Nome, Alaska, to Anadyr, Russia. The genesis of this book came about during a visit to the Alaskan artist Jon Van Zyle in December, when I commented on an unusual sled displayed on the ceiling of his studio. That led to stories of the race, which led to pulling out a photo album, which led to an hour or more of poring over the photos, more stories, more artifacts from the adventures, and now, a few weeks later, Jon and I are working together on this book.

Jon was one of three people who officially co-chaired the race, the others being Leo Rasmussen from Nome, and Jerry Tokar from Anchorage. As a Race Judge, Jon was the only one of the three who physically accompanied the eight mushers from four countries who competed in the race, along with race Marshal Earl Norris, Race Judge Barbara Moore, Race Veterinarian Jim Leach, official photographer Frank Flavin, and a couple of other people. The race route had the mushers leaving Nome by dog team and traveling to Teller and Wales, Alaska. From Wales they loaded their teams into big orange Russian helicopters for a flight across the Bering Strait to Uelen, and then continued by dogsled through many small villages, through the larger seaport settlement of Provideniya, and finally to Anadyr, the easternmost town in Russia. The total distance was between 1,000 to 1,200 miles.

The mushers in the 1991 race were Scott Cameron (Palmer, Alaska), Nicolai Ettyne (Neshkan, USSR), Kazuo Kojima (Tokyo, Japan), Kate Persons (Sikusuilaq Springs, Alaska), Ketil Reitan (Kaktovik, Alaska), Mary Shields (Fairbanks, Alaska), Peter Thomann (Willow, Alaska), and Frank Turner (Pelly Crossing, Yukon Territory, Canada). Seven Russian mushers also took part in the race.

A photograph of a Russian musher which Jon shared on Facebook.

Jon shared this commentary and announcement of the book project on Facebook in January:

“We sent the invitations to various mushers who would be willing to participate in a ”race ” that was not a race,” but a learning experience for the Chukchi …The Chukchi have driven dog teams for thousands of years, and certainly know how to travel, or hunt, etc. with them … But at that time, they did not understand the ”in’s and outs” of long distant racing … As you know, traveling and racing are two different things … Also, the Olympics were thinking about including dog races in the winter Olympics ( a spectator sport ), as it was in the 1930’s … and I’m sure the Russians had alternative plans to learn the sport from us to win the Olympics … We set the race up for the Chukchi mushers, as a ” learn how to do this, ” (learn feeding, learn conserving dogs, learn ”setting up ” a dog team, etc. etc. ) …and then at two or three checkpoints before the finish, then start ”racing ” … It worked well … Especially in the feeding of their dog teams … Proven by the race results at the finish line … And that the Hope Race is still active, ( albeit shorter ) but it still continues … which is a nice legacy for us all ….”

A photograph Jon shared on Facebook with his post.

Jon has presented me with an incredible array of paperwork, booklets, maps, photographs, statements, news releases, and his personal trail journal for the race, and this is only the beginning of my research. I am looking forward to the journey ahead as I bring this book into print. Those who have followed my work for a few years will know that I have taken on some major subjects in my research, writing, and publishing, but I honestly believe this book about the inaugural Hope/Nadezhda Race will be one of the most historically important, engaging, and enjoyable!

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Alaska & The Klondike

Early Writings and Historic Photographs

“I was so fortunate as to see Anchorage in the stump, tent, and shack stage, though it was growing marvelously fast. I give you my notes just as I penned them when I was on the spot, seeing how Uncle Sam’s engineers and executives were putting through their big job.” —Frank Carpenter, in Alaska: Our Northern Wonderland, 1923

Alaska & the Klondike, Early Writings and Historic Photographs, compiled and edited by Helen Hegener, is an anthology of selected writings by early explorers and travelers in Alaska and the Yukon Territory of Canada. Charting an unknown country, exploring a wondrous land, searching for gold, delivering freight and mail beyond where any roads would reach, these were the exciting subjects of books which became northland classics, with titles such as Ten Thousand Miles with  Dog Sled, Along Alaska’s Great River, and The Land of Tomorrow. Wonderful photographs accompany the often colorful writings of Frederick Schwatka, Hudson Stuck, Robert Service, Josiah Edward Spurr, and many others as they tell of adventure, explorations, fortunes won and lost, and the magnificent promise of our great northern lands. Read the words of those early travelers who accepted the chalenge of the North and left an indelible mark in their writing of it. 

An excerpt from The Land of Nome: A Narrative Sketch of the Rush to our Bering Sea Gold-Fields, the Country, Its Mines and Its People, and the History of a Great Conspiracy, by Lanier McKee, 1900-1901. “Hundreds were living in tents upon the beach, thanks to the clemency of the weather. Within a very short distance from our camp, with their freight piled about, were the ‘syndicate,’ and quite unenthusiastic. There was defection in their camp. Actually, the “syndicate” were selling out, and without a struggle. Several of its members very soon bade us farewell, and pulled out for what they thought the ‘real thing’—quartz-mines in Oregon. And yet some of the mines on Anvil Creek even then, and with only a few men shoveling the pay dirt into the sluice-boxes, were turning out from ten to fifteen thousand dollars a day. To be sure, this was for the very few only, but, at the same time, it went to prove that the country was not a fraud. Even the dirt in those miserable Nome streets contained ‘colors,’ or small particles of gold; and it is an incongruous thought that, of all the cities of the world, Nome City, as it is called, most nearly approaches the apocalyptic condition of having its streets paved with gold!”

Selected excerpts are from the following books:

• Golden Alaska, by Ernest Ingersoll
• The Land of Tomorrow, by William B. Stephenson, Jr.
• The Spell of the Yukon & Other Verses, by Robert Service
• The Ascent of Denali, by Hudson Stuck
• From Paris to New York by Land, by Harry DeWindt
• Through the Yukon Gold Diggings, by Josiah Edward Spurr
• A Woman Who Went––To Alaska, by May Kellogg Sullivan
• The Land of Nome, by Lanier McKee
• Ten Thousand Miles with a Dog Sled, by Hudson Stuck
• Along Alaska’s Great River, by Frederick Schwatka
• Alaska: Our Northern Wonderland, by Frank Carpenter
• A Dog-Puncher on the Yukon, by Arthur Treadwell Walden

Alaska & the Klondike: Early Writings and Historic Photographs

“Alaska & the Klondike: Early Writings and Historic Photographs,” compiled and edited by Helen Hegener, published in May, 2018 by Northern Light Media. 320 pages, over 100 b/w photos, ISBN-13: 978-1717401991. $24.95 plus $5.00 First Class shipping. Also available as an eBook.


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Northern Journey

Northern Journey: A Report from the Frontier is a new book from Northern Light Media by award-winning author Lew Freedman. A familiar name to most Alaskan readers, the long-time journalist and author has written more than 100 books, and he has received more than 300 journalism awards for his wide-ranging books and articles on everything from mountaineering to hockey, from rodeo to stock car racing, and from the history of baseball to long-distance sled dog races.

Now Lew has written a memoir of his northern travels, his adventures, his hits and his near-misses, and the infamous ones that got away on Alaska’s Kenai River. Beginning with his move to Alaska in 1984 with a wife and a young daughter, Lew became the sports editor for the Anchorage Daily News at a time when the legendary greats were racing the Iditarod, that 1,000-mile trek from Anchorage to Nome via dog team which captivates Alaskans–and much of the rest of the world–for two weeks every March. Lew wrote books about some of the sport’s greatest heroes, mushers such as George Attla, Joe Redington Sr., Dick Mackey, DeeDee Jonrowe, and Mike Williams Sr.; and he profiled dozens more in several books about the Last Great Race on Earth.

Lew also wrote books with the noted adventurer and explorer Bradford Washburn, and co-authored an autobiography with Barbara Washburn, the first woman to climb Denali (then Mount McKinley) in 1947. He wrote books about Vernon Tejas, the first man to ascend Mount McKinley alone in winter; Lowell Thomas, Jr.’s adventures around the world; the 1964 Alaska earthquake, and fishing Alaskan rivers such as the legendary Kenai, in pursuit of the great king salmon. 

In Northern Journey Lew tells the stories behind the adventures which became his award-winning books and articles, and he gives his readers an inside angle on what Alaskans do to land the Big Ones, how to survive the sub-zero temperatures, what it’s like to stand under the shimmering northern lights, and how northerners entertain themselves during the long winter nights (try ear-pulling and knuckle-hopping). He shares tales of learning the language of northerners, racing on snowshoes, facing down moose, engaging in polar bear swims, and noting that the river ice under his 5,000-pound taxi is very close to breaking up. 

Venturing further afield in the North, Lew tells of adventures to Greenland, Iceland, the Northwest Territories, and in various provinces of Canada, leaving his readers with memorable descriptions of each place and the people who live there. 


Northern Journey

In Northern Journey Lew Freedman tells the stories behind the adventures which became his award-winning books and articles. 238 pages, 6″ x 9″ format, more than two dozen b/w photos. $24.95 plus $4.50 shipping. Available from Northern Light Media, Amazon, or via any bookstore with ISBN no. 9798373238281.


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50 Years of Iditarod Adventures

“If you’re a race fan, you need this book. Kudos to Freedman for putting together his love and extensive knowledge of the sport together in such a readable, usable fashion.” -June Price, Sunhusky Reviews, on Amazon

Author Lew Freedman reported on the Iditarod during its heyday as the sports editor of one of Alaska’s major newspapers, and now he shares the details of fifty years of race history, with insightful essays on each year’s race to Nome!

Complete records of every race, including mushers who scratched or were withdrawn; each award winner and every special presentation; biographies of mushers who became household names and stories of the families who contributed to make the Iditarod what it is today, a worldwide phenomenon and The Last Great Race on Earth.

The cover art is by Alaskan artist Jon Van Zyle, a two-time Iditarod finisher (1976, 1979), a member of the Iditarod Hall of Fame, and the Official Artist of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

50 Years of Iditarod Adventures

“50 Years of Iditarod Adventures, The First Fifty Years of the Last Great Race,” by Lew Freedman. Published in February, 2022 by Northern Light Media. 310 pages, over 80 b/w photos, $24.95 plus $5.00 shipping. Also available from Amazon.


Amazon Review:

June Price

5.0 out of 5 stars Top notch overview of 50 years of Iditarod adventure

Reviewed in the United States on February 26, 2022

Having moderated a couple Iditarod related online groups in the past, I can attest to the fact that author Lew Freedman has managed to answer most of the FAQs that pop up, well, frequently. It will be a handy, easy to read resource for fans. Lots of lists of who ran/won/placed/won awards and more. Freedman has also taken a look at some of the memorable characters of the sled dog race, including families who have become a part of race lore, the Mackey and Seavey families. Lots of photos, too, including I should probably admit, one of my own, and maps. If you’re a race fan, you need this book. Kudos to Freedman for putting together his love and extensive knowledge of the sport together in such a readable, usable fashion.

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The History of Sled Dogs

The History of Sled Dogs in North America: From the Bering Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, by Helen Hegener and several contributing writers

Now available to order, The History of Sled Dogs in North America, by Helen Hegener and several contributing writers, showcases the history of the working sled dogs which helped shape the future of the North American continent.

This full-color, elegantly illustrated book features historic photographs, illustrations, and beautiful art, such as the splendid “Northwoods Journey” on the cover, by Colorado artist Veryl Goodnight. This one-of-a-kind book will become a landmark reference on the interdependence of men and dogs, from their first steps along the shores of the Bering Sea to the exciting races of New England and eastern Canada in the 1930s.

Included are stories of the great fur trapping and trading empires of the Hudson’s Bay Company, the life-saving Serum Run to Nome in 1925, the great teams of the Arctic explorers, the sled dog teams who served in the military, the intrepid mushers who drove their dog teams thousands of miles for fun and profit, the sled dogs of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the dog teams which delivered the mail from Maine to California and to the farthest reaches of the North! 

The History of Sled Dogs in North America

Softcover paperback printed in full color on premium stock paper, 416 pages, 8.5″ x 11″ format, dozens of b/w and color photographs, images, and artwork, extensively annotated, resources, bibliography, indexed. Published by Northern Light Media. $69.95 plus $6.50 shipping and handling.


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Spirit of the Wind

Sorry, this DVD has sold out again! The film is available to watch on YouTube at this link.

Now available again from Northern Light Media for the first time since 2015, all profits from the sale of these DVDs goes to support youth programs for future mushers:

The award-winning 1979 movie Spirit of the Wind is based upon the early life and rise to prominence of the legendary Athabaskan trapper and dog musher George Attla, Jr., who won the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous World Championship race an unprecedented ten times between 1958 and 1982. The film, on DVD, tells the story of young George Attla growing up in the interior village of Huslia, running a trapline with his father until being diagnosed with tuberculosis and spending several years away from home in a Sitka hospital.

Upon returning to his village he struggled to rejoin the cultural fabric, and fast sled dogs became his saving grace, taking him to ten World Championships. He also won eight championships in the Fairbanks Open North American Championship race, and in 1973 he ran the inaugural 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, placing fifth even though his experience was in sprint racing, and not long-distance mushing.

With dramatically beautiful photography and a haunting musical score, Spirit of the Wind won the Best Picture Award at the 1979 Sundance Film Festival. It was an unexpected hit at the Cannes International Film Festival the same year, and was hailed by the New York Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and many others as a stunning achievement in cinematography.

Posted in Alaska History, DVD & Video, Iditarod, Movies, News & Information, Sled Dog History, Sled Dog Races, Transportation, Uncategorized, Videos | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Review of Dr. J. T. White’s Diaries

A good review of Dr. Gary C. Stein’s 2021 book, “I Wish You Could Come Too”: The Alaska Diaries of Dr. James Taylor White 1889, 1890, 1894, 1900-1901, by Fairbanks-based reviewer David A. James, appeared in the Sunday, November 20, issue of the Anchorage Daily News. James describes Dr. White as “a physician who made multiple journeys north to Alaska as a member of various Revenue Cutter Service crews, and who kept personal records of what he encountered along the way.” He adds, “He had a highly observant nature and interests in botany, ethnography and other fields that educated persons of his era were drawn to. Even more so, he had a sense of adventure, and the sea was his calling.”

At the recent Alaska Historical Society’s annual awards recognizing accomplishments in history, the late professor Gary C. Stein was recognized for work as an Alaska historian in the 1970s and 80s and service as Alaska Historical Society president.

Dr. Gary Stein published numerous articles and book reviews in the Society’s journal and published his seminal work on Dr. James Taylor White of the U.S. Revenue Marine Service in Alaska with Northern Light Media, in January, 2021. He would have smiled to read David James’ review of his book, especially the last two sentences: “Stein didn’t live to see it published, but he’s left us a gift. This book will be referenced by future historians for decades to come.” The review can be read online.


The Alaska Diaries of Dr. James Taylor White

“I Wish You Could Come Too,” The Alaska Diaries of Dr. James Taylor White, by Dr. Gary C. Stein. $29.95 plus $6.00 shipping from Northern Light Media. Published in January, 2021, 412 pages, over 45 photographs, images, and maps. 6″ x 9″ b/w format, extensively annotated, bibliography, indexed.


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The Alaska Railroad 1902-1923

The Alaska Railroad

ARR Cover

The Alaska Railroad: 1902-1923, subtitled Blazing an Iron Trail Across The Last Frontier, shares the compelling story of the construction of the Alaska Railroad and its predecessors, from 1902, when John Ballaine built the Alaska Central Railroad; through 1923, when President Warren G. Harding drove the Alaska Railroad’s ceremonial Golden Spike in Nenana.

Bartlett Glacier postcard b:w

This 400-page book by Alaskan author Helen Hegener, published in 2017 by Northern Light Media, is a wide-ranging look at Alaska’s growth and development, and the many ways in which the railroad played a major role. From dynamiting the railbed out of the rocky cliffs along Turnagain Arm, to spanning the deep chasm of Hurricane Gulch, and from crossing the endless miles of muskeg swamp to bridging the mighty waters of the Tanana River, the story is told through historic documents, photographs, and publications.

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 12.15.19 PM

This is more than the story of constructing the railroad, however…. This is also the fascinating story of how the U. S. Government built towns and cities across the territory, including Seward, Anchorage, Palmer, Wasilla, Talkeetna, Nenana, and Fairbanks. It’s the story of coal mining in Alaska, from the Guggenheim Syndicate’s notorious attempted monopoly of Alaska’s resources, to the government’s own private coal mine to service the U.S. Naval fleet in the Pacific. It’s the story of steamboat travel on Alaskan rivers, and how the railroad’s own fleet of steamers and gas-powered “tunnel boats” came to dominate the watery transportation corridors. It’s the story of the role a fledgling conservation movement played in dividing a major political party. And it’s the story of how steam shovels which dug the Panama Canal were brought north to claw at Alaskan hillsides.

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 12.28.15 PM

The 500-mile long Alaska Railroad runs from the seaport town of Seward, on the Kenai Peninsula, to Fairbanks, the Golden Heart of Alaska. Along the way it crosses two formidable mountain ranges, several broad and daunting rivers, and numerous deep gorges and canyons. It winds along the tidewater edge of Turnagain Arm, past Bartlett and Spencer Glaciers, and skirts the highest point on the North American continent, the Great One, Denali. From running its own opulent luxury hotel—literally in the middle of nowhere—to developing the telephone, water, and sewer systems of Anchorage, the history of the railroad is largely the history of Alaska. Take a ride on the northernmost U. S. railroad, and gain an unusual perspective on a richly fascinating period in America’s past.   ~•~

The Alaska Roadroad 1902-1923

The Alaska Railroad: 1902-1923, Blazing an Iron Trail Across The Last Frontier, by Helen Hegener, published in May, 2017 by Northern Light Media. 400 pages, over 100 b/w historic photos, maps, bibliography, indexed. The book can be ordered for $24.95 plus $5.00 for First Class postage.


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Alaskan Roadhouses

This 284-page book by Alaskan author Helen Hegener, published by Northern Light Media in 2016, presents stories and photos of dozens of historic roadhouses found along Alaska’s roads and trails. Detailed descriptions, locations, historic ledgers, documentation, records, maps, menus and more. Compelling first-hand accounts from people who traveled the early roads and trails and stayed at the roadhouses, including the Reverend Samuel Hall Young, Judge James Wickersham, Leonhard Seppala, Frank G. Carpenter, Col. Walter L. Goodwin, and Matilda Clark Buller, who opened a roadhouse near Nome in 1901, at the height of the Nome Gold Rush. An excellent gift for travelers and history buffs!

Alaskan Roadhouses

“Alaskan Roadhouses, Shelter, Food, and Lodging Along Alaska’s Roads and Trails,” by Helen Hegener, published by Northern Light Media in 2016. 6″ x 9″, over 100 black/white photographs, 284 pages. $24.95 plus $5.00 for First Class shipping.


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Dr. Gary Stein Honored

At the Alaska Historical Society’s annual awards recognizing accomplishments in history, the late professor Gary C. Stein was recognized for work as an Alaska historian in the 1970s and 80s and service as AHS president. He published numerous articles and book reviews in the Society’s journal and published his seminal work on Dr. James Taylor White of the U.S. Revenue Marine Service in Alaska. 

Published in 2021 by Northern Light Media, “I Wish You Could Come Too,” The Alaska Diaries of Dr. James Taylor White, by Gary C. Stein, is a first-hand look at life aboard a revenue cutter during Alaska’s formative early years, as Dr. White, a bright and engaging young physician, served aboard and recorded his adventurous work in personal correspondence and journals.

The book is 412 pages, with over 45 photographs, images, and maps. 6″ x 9″ b/w format, extensively annotated, bibliography, indexed.

Read more information about the book in this post from September, 2021. Click here to order.

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