Many a man, woman, sled dog, and snow machine driver, have done the thousand mile Ididarod Trail to Nome, but only one man has walked the Ididarod alone, pushing a sled.
That man, now known as the "Ididawalker" is Soldotna's own Denis Douglas, owner of Musselman Seafoods and a shellfish farmer in Jakolof Bay.
The 50 year old Douglas is not satisfied having completed the grueling trek twice; he's already planning to do it again.
Ten years ago Douglas wanted to help a friend who had a brain tumor and no medical insurance, so he decided that walking the Ididarod Trail to Nome was something that he could do to raise funds for his friend. "In my mind I would have Richard in the sled that I was pulling and it made me feel that I was helping to pull him along in his struggle," said Douglas. That first trip took Douglas 63 days.
When the terrorist attack happened on 9/11, Denis again thought walking the Ididarod was something that he could do to help raise money for the victims. Even though he suffered an injury the second day this time, Douglas took 19 days off his original time, completing the trek in 44 days, "I had hoped to do it in a month this trip, but after I fell it slowed me down a bit. I had to eat a lot of Aleve, but I'm glad I kept on going," said Douglas, who walked without a phone or GPS device.
"The Fire Department sent food items to the villages, and I'd pick those supplies up at the schools generally. I carried everything with me in the sled, I kept my sleeping bag rolled out in the sled so that when I got tired I could just jump right in the sack," added Douglas, who never left the trail after starting out.
His best day Denis, pushing the 130 pound sled, walked 58 miles over Little Denali, a mountainess section of the Ididarod trail.
Last week, June 6th, Douglas was in Anchorage to receive a special recognition award from the Red Cross for his outstanding service to others. At the presentation ceremony Denis said that he hoped to read a poem that he had written while on his second Ididawalk, "I was reading a magazine and saw a picture of four firemen walking toward the camera apparently taking a break from recovering bodies and there was an American flag superimposed behind them and above it was written How do you choose among heroes? That's what inspired me to write my first serious poem, and that's what I called it. I think it turned out pretty good," said Douglas.
Looking for a worthwhile charity, Douglas is looking forward to his next Ididawalk, "Hopefully we can raise a bunch of money for a good cause," added Douglas. He's not opposed to having others join him on the next Ididawalk, "I've talked with a couple of people, but they think I'm nuts, so I'll do it alone again." Next time you hear Hobo Jim's famous Ididarod song, think of Denis Douglas, Soldotna's "Ididawalker."
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