Make Yourself Useful -- You don't have to see Alaska only as an observer -- you can be a participant. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race (tel. 907/376-5155; www.iditarod.com), the 1,000-mile trek from Anchorage to Nome in March, uses volunteers at the start and finish and, for those who work their way up through the ranks, in the remote villages along the way. Visitors can be part of it, and become a part of the real Alaska, contributing only their time and travel to the state. Find the application on the website and act early; they get more volunteers than they can use. Other races and events also use volunteers but don't have a formal program like the Iditarod's.
Two facilities dedicated to study and rehabilitation of wildlife also take volunteers. You might not end up working directly with the creatures, but you can work behind the scenes and get much closer than a casual visitor -- while contributing to a good cause.
In Seward, the Alaska SeaLife Center (tel. 888/378-2525; www.alaskasealife.org) studies, exhibits, and heals marine mammals, birds, and other wildlife and makes extensive use of volunteers.
The Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka (tel. 800/643-9425; www.alaskaraptor.org) takes in injured eagles, owls, and other birds of prey and nurses them back to health in an impressive facility set along a rainforest stream. Volunteers work side-by-side with staff doing everything from selling T-shirts to working with birds.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.