We're off to Alaska!
March, 2002


This is the first time that we've ever put out a webpage in the future tense.  Cheryl says that "if we get eaten by a polar bear or fall through melting river ice, everyone will know what the plan was."  We're off to help Cheryl's little sister move to her new home.  Sound simple?  Read on.

It all started last Christmas when Cheryl's sister Mick, (Michelle,) called to wish us a Merry Christmas.  We told her we were thinking about coming to Alaska this summer, but she said we ought to come up in March.  Mick moved to Alaska about ten years ago. Lake Tahoe, California was getting too urban and crowded for her.

So off she went to Valdez, Alaska in her pickup truck and a small Airstream trailer.  After a few years there she came across this piece of property 200 miles northwest of Fairbanks, (almost to the Arctic Circle.)  She now owns 320 acres which includes all of this lake, now officially named Lake Eden.  The white arrow is pointing to what I think is her new cabin.  (All of these photos are ones that she sent us with her notes -- we scanned them so that we could share them with you.)
After buying the property, she and her husband, John, spent a week at the lake.  A friend with a float plane dropped them and their supplies off and would return for them in a week.  At that time there was nothing there but raw Alaska land and water. 
During that first week-long outing they saw a large grizzly bear hanging around the area.  One morning, as I understand the story, they were awaken by the sound of a punctured aerosol can from their pack.   The bear had bitten through a can -- which was inside of the tent they were sleeping in.
The back of this photo says "shot from our sleeping bags."

Today she lives in a small cabin outside of Fairbanks.  She has driven large oil tanker trucks for the past few years, but now has saved enough money to quit her job and move to her new property.

Mick is a real pioneer -- the cabin she's lived in for the past few years in Fairbanks has no electricity or running water, but does have a telephone, (go figure.)  She plans on moving to Lake Eden in a couple of weeks for "peace and quiet."  Now, I don't see Fairbanks as being a very crowded place, however, we did hear that there's a Sam's Club there and that a Home Depot just opened. 

We're not sure what to expect.  Everything is still frozen -- it's too early for RV'ers to head this far north -- none of the businesses catering to RV's will be open until May.

So why are we going?  Well, after three years of "sightseeing", Mitch and Max need some real adventure -- something they can really "sink their teeth into."  Cheryl and I both feel that meaningful work and real life experiences provide the greatest education, so how could we pass up an invitation like this?
 

As you can see, they have more than just a tent at Eden now.  I think it's been four or five years and Eden has been slowly turning into the "Homestead".  Here's their horse-drawn plow. 

To get to Eden Lake you drive northwest from Fairbanks 150 miles on a dirt road until the road ends.  Then you travel down a river for 30 miles and finally 20 miles across land.
 

Mick refers to getting stuck on the last 20 mile stretch while hauling in supplies.  This was most likely one of the many spots.  In order to get a bulldozer to the property they built this bridge.

That's John in the background and his son on the bridge.

Supplies are easier to move into this remote spot during the winter when sleds can be used over the snow rather than the bumps and ruts of muddy dirt roads.  It's also more expensive to pay for shipping down the 30 miles of river when it's flowing water instead of frozen ice. 

With the bulldozer, they put in a runway so that John can land his plane when the lake freezes over but the ice is too thin to land on.

Looking at the map, it appears to be about a two hour commute by plane to Fairbanks.

I never did tell you why Mick wants us to come up in March.  Well, after years of preparation she's finally permanently moving to Eden.  But there's one final, big job to do -- that is to bring her herd of young buffalo out.  She said, "come up in March and you can help us move our buffalo to the Homestead."
While the river is still frozen we can use sleds to haul the buffalo to the lake.  John has built a buffalo sled that will be used to haul two in at a time on the fifty mile river/overland trip.  She has 14 head, so I guess that's at least seven days if all goes well. At first Mick said they'd drop us off with the first two buffalo and we could stay at the cabin and guard them from wolves and grizzlies.  (Cheryl says "so what am I supposed to do -- go outside and say "shoo-shoo, go away"?)  But Mick's latest plan is that she, along with Cheryl and the boys, will stay at Eden to guard the herd while I help John transport the buffalo.
In either case I hope they don't have an early thaw this year.  It may be awhile till our next update.  Wish us luck!
 
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