Kinds of Winter
Four Solo Journeys by Dogteam in Canada’s Northwest Territories
After a fifteen-year career as a sled dog racer, musher Dave Olesen turned his focus away from competition and set out to fulfill a lifelong dream. Over the course of four successive winters he steered his dogs and sled on long trips away from his remote Northwest Territories homestead, setting out in turn to the four cardinal compass points—south, east, north, and west—and home again to Hoarfrost River.
His narrative ranges from the personal and poignant musings of a dogsled driver to loftier planes of introspection and contemplation. Olesen describes his journeys day by day, but this book is not merely an account of his travels. Neither is it yet another offering in the genre of “wide-eyed southerner meets the Arctic,” because Olesen is a firmly rooted northerner, having lived and travelled in the boreal outback for over thirty years. Olesen’s life story colours his writing: educated immigrant, husband and father, professional dog musher, working bush pilot, and denizen of log cabins far off the grid. He and his dogs feel at home in country lying miles back of beyond.
This book demolishes many of the clichés that imbue writings about bush life, the Far North, and dogsledding. It is a unique blend of armchair adventure, personal memoir, and thoughtful, down-to-earth reflection.
- Winner, NorthWords Prize 2015
“A vivid ‘armchair traveler’ experience like no other, Kinds of Winter is highly recommended.”- Midwest Book Review
“Dave Olesen’s four midwinter dogsled journeys project struck me as a wonderfully sane choice of place- and self-exploration, reminding me of how Thoreau walked many days across thickets and swamps exploring his homeplace. But what a vast landscape Dave lives in! And what mindful and sympathetic attention it took to pack and plan for not just himself but a whole team of tough and dedicated dogs. I understand why he did it, but the details of how is an education in itself. The book’s back matter on winter camping, and on the care of dogs, alone is worth it. The relaxed but steady frame of mind in which he packed and travelled is the key. I salute this man and his passion, and his family for giving him space to explore it. An old Inupiaq Eskimo once said to me as I set out in a canoe on a September river, “Don’t have any adventures!”- Gary Snyder, poet and professor of English, UC Davis
“Dave Olesen is a thoughtful, articulate adventurer who closely notes the details of an extraordinary existence in which the mundane chores of daily life entail severe consequences for inattention, keeps track of his experiences and observations in journals which he turns into books to share with fortunate readers. His latest book Kinds of Winter is, to sum up, beautiful.... The adventure alone makes Kinds of Winter worth the read, but Olesen is no chest-thumping conqueror of the extreme compiling a resume of achievement for the reader to admire. Olesen, like his literary/spiritual predecessors Muir, Thoreau, Leopold, Abbey and Snyder is reminding himself and the reader of Muir’s admonition: ‘Keep close to Nature’s heart...and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean’... We should all be happy for Dave Olesen who has the skills, discipline and insight to make every reader happy he and she took the time from the ticking clock to read Kinds of Winter.”- Dick Dorworth, Mountain Gazette
“This is a wonderful book, telling the story of four incredible journeys by a remarkable man.”- Kathleen Coskran, author of The High Price of Everything
“Working animals were once a staple of town and country life: pit ponies, sheep herders, warehouse mousers. All lesser mammals were bred for chores or meat. ‘The main thing to remember,’ says a friend who’s spent a lifetime with horses, ’is that they don’t care about your feelings.’... ‘To watch huskies scrap with each other, or to watch dogs go after a teammate who has for some reason become a scapegoat, is sobering to anyone who tries to mold dogs to a human model or to elevate them to a preconceived notion of furry nobility,’ Olesen writes. ‘They are physical, and we must relate to them on that level.’... Olesen’s book is a crisp account of a world now gone in urban Canada, when animals worked as hard as their owners.”- Holly Doan, Blacklock’s Reporter
“Kinds of Winter is a chronicle of the beauty, the lore, the why, and the dog sled adventure of travelling across the Barren Lands. It is written by a master of winter travel by dogteam. To anyone who loves the north or who has a curiosity about living in the cold this is a must-read.”- Will Steger, polar explorer and educator, www.willstegerfoundation.org