Kaylene Johnson: Writer and Photojournalist

Our Perfect Wild

An unlikely couple—a wild boy and a good girl—Ray and Barbara Bane, both teachers, set off from the sooty landscape of West Virginia into the snowy panoramas of Alaska. There they make another unlikely commitment: to learn the Old Ways of the land they come to adopt—and defend. With her characteristic poise and bravery, distinguished Alaskan journalist Kaylene Johnson-Sullivan chronicles the Banes’ story of environmental gumption in the wilderness.

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--Molly Peacock, The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72 and Paradise, Piece By Piece.

A Tender Distance
Adventures Raising My Sons in Alaska

Valentine #24: A Memory

February 25th, 2014 by

sleddog raceWhen we first stepped off the plane in Alaska nearly thirty years ago, the headline of the Anchorage Daily News announced “BUTCHER FINALLY WINS IT!” It was the first year Susan Butcher won the Iditarod (’86) and we were immediately caught up in the excitement of the world’s longest sled dog race. When my son, Erik, was five or six years old he made up his mind to build a dog sled of his own. He took a pair of old wooden skis, some scraps of 2x4s, a hammer and a coffee can full of nails and got to work in the garage.

Several hours of intense hammering later, he came in asking for some paper towels. The sled wasn’t looking so good. He thought if he added a sail made of paper towels, maybe the wind could help move the contraption across the snow. Sweet Erik. It would be another half-dozen years before he would take those very same skies, and with the help of a Boy Scout leader, build a respectable-looking dog sled.


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  • About Kaylene

    Kaylene Johnson-Sullivan is a long-time Alaskan who makes her home in Palmer. She has found adventure on Denali, the Chugach Mountains, and as a wrangler and cook in the Brooks Range. Her award-winning articles have appeared in Alaska magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the Louisville Review and other publications. Her books include Our Perfect Wild: Ray and Barbara Bane's Journeys and the Fate of the Far North; Canyons and Ice: The Wilderness Travels of Dick Griffith; A Tender Distance: Adventures Raising My Sons in Alaska; Trails Across Time: History of An Alaska Mountain Corridor; and Portrait of the Alaska Railroad.

    She holds a BA from Vermont College and an MFA in Writing from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky.