the animal's journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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jennypenny
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by jennypenny » Mon Jul 18, 2016 2:01 pm

Cabin A sounds good and would give you a place to practice some construction skills (always better to practice on someone else's place ;) ).

If the owner is really a billionaire, he won't think in terms of rents and contracts and such. People at that level think and act differently. I wouldn't stress over that too much.

Augustus
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Augustus » Mon Jul 18, 2016 10:23 pm

jennypenny wrote: If the owner is really a billionaire, he won't think in terms of rents and contracts and such. People at that level think and act differently. I wouldn't stress over that too much.
That's kind of what I was getting at. They think differently, who's to say he won't change his mind on a whim, or have so much on his mind he forgets to notify months ahead. To get that far I think you have to be a rule breaker by nature.

If it's no biggie and you have a place to go if that happens it's a great deal. Hopefully he's a great guy and that won't happen. On the flip side, being a house guest doesn't give you much leeway if you're asked to leave, if that means freezing your ass off in an Alaskan winter it's worth keeping in mind.

saving-10-years
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by saving-10-years » Tue Jul 19, 2016 1:46 am

If it's no biggie and you have a place to go if that happens it's a great deal. Hopefully he's a great guy and that won't happen. On the flip side, being a house guest doesn't give you much leeway if you're asked to leave, if that means freezing your ass off in an Alaskan winter it's worth keeping in mind.
Maybe Cabin A needs an 'in case' back-up plan? The amount you are saving instead of playing Cabin B rent will pay for something else if you need it. I know @TheAnimal is pretty creative and inventive and connected (he came up with not one but TWO options here and both pretty good). But also I am guessing that the billionaire needs some goodwill in an community which he visits infrequently. Throwing someone out at short notice seems unlikely for anyone.

Is it worth exploring whether house guests are allowed? If you are pretty isolated there then you may want someone to stay over sometimes. I agree that getting some take on the ground rules and expectations is key.

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theanimal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by theanimal » Thu Jul 21, 2016 4:51 pm

Thanks for the thoughts everyone.

He is actually a billionaire. There are interviews where he talks about his trust fund and his family also used to own an NBA team. There are some factors in my favor that limit the possibility of him kicking me out on short notice. He has a wife and 2 kids. The cabin is ~220 sq ft. And the last time his wife came here she wouldn't go in the cabin and slept in their camper van outside. That was 11 years ago, he hasn't returned since. He said he's planning on coming next year or the following year but we'll see. It'd be just to visit anyways. It seems highly unlikely that he'd live here full time.

I do have at least two areas I can go in case I do end up getting kicked out on short notice. I won't be stranded out in the snow.

I've been cutting quite a bit of wood the past three days. I now have about 2.5 cords. The cabin doesn't take much to heat, only about 3-3.5 for a whole winter. The roof was replaced a few years ago and is in great condition, the walls are solid and well insulated and I just adjusted the door. I could move in now if I wanted to. What is holding me back is lack of power and water. Those are the top 2 tasks on the agenda for the next month or so. Other than that, I'll finish cleaning up the inside, clear up quite a bit of brush from the surrounding area and lots of trash from a past resident. Lots to do!

In non cabin news, blueberries are out in abundance. I've started picking those and have slightly over a gallon so far. Ideally, I'd like to get 10.

arebelspy
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by arebelspy » Wed Aug 03, 2016 8:55 pm

Take Cabin A. Sounds way better, and save the difference in rent in case you need to go rent a hotel for a week or two while they use it, no biggie.

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theanimal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by theanimal » Sat Aug 13, 2016 5:42 pm

Summer is over in the Arctic and we are well underway into fall. Colors are changing on the leaves and it's finally dark again. I haven't seen them but we the first stars, since the end of April, were able to have been seen as of the 10th this month. Things are plodding along. I spent much of July still recovering from the race in June and am happy to say that I am back to about 99% of full health. Financially, things are still going OK. I saved 90% of my pay in July. I've also picked and stored just over 10 gallons of blueberries in the past few weeks. I'd like to get a few more but we'll see. I'm tired of picking berries.

Image
It doesn't get much better than this.

I find myself at a crossroads. I'm burnt out on my current job. The work is repetitive and basic. There hasn't been any growth in this department for some time. I don't think I place much identity in my work, but I'd like to do something that provides value if it takes up a good portion of my days.

Under my current plan, I'd live in this area in the cabin mentioned above, but only work for about a month or so over winter during the busy aurora season. I'd have lots of time for reading, learning and enjoying the surrounding area. I'm also planning on going on some longer ski trips and a bigger trip next summer. There are some downsides to this plan that I've somewhat sidestepped.

1.Limited financial viability going forward. There is not much economic opportunity available up here. Everything essentially centers around tourism, with a fairly decent sized number of people travelling through the area for about 5 months of the year (4 busy mos in summer, 1 in winter).
2. Social isolation- The area I currently live is somewhat of a shared living situation. There are about 40 people living here in the summer. Everyone lives close by and there are opportunities to eat and socialize with others whenever you want. In the area where the cabin is, there are 12 people divided into 5 different households. It's much more individualized. Everyone knows each other and is generally friendly (and I get on great with a few of them) but social interaction is limited. I'd imagine that most days living there it'd be interaction with others for maybe 10-15 min/day with some days potentially being 2-3 hrs. This thought has worried me since the guy agreed to let me "rent" the cabin. There's potential for dissatisfaction and interpersonal regression, which I am worried about.

So the idea that has been going through my mind is moving to Anchorage. I think I'd pursue an electrician apprenticeship with work on the side in different fields. Try to find and buy a fourplex, live in one unit and rent the rest out. The advantages of this idea (in moving) would be a greater likelihood of finding a community/others to participate in outdoor activities with, ability to learn new skills and greater financial success than in my current position. The cons would be leaving this area to live in an urban setting and having to give up the idea of longer outdoor trips for about 4-5 years.

There aren't many people that I can relate to and would understand the different aspects of my life that would play into a decision like this, which makes a decision like this fairly difficult. I love the area I'm in now and have a good amount of social capital built up, but it's not looking viable at the moment. I feel like this is a somewhat similar situation that Mike from LackingAmbition faced after his year in the desert. I've found somewhat of an ideal area, but not from an economic perspective. Is it worthwhile to go away for a few years and be able to come back in a better position later? Will I want to come back? Will I still want to do longer trips then?

These are all questions that I'm trying to wrestle with at the moment. Human feelings and attitudes are somewhat of a wonder. During and after the race for a couple weeks I felt as if I reached the pinnacle of life. The peak of fulfillment. That has waned down and now I find myself in search of fulfillment again. Such is life I guess.

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Viktor K
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Viktor K » Sun Aug 14, 2016 1:58 pm

That really is how life goes. It has been great reading your journal. Best of luck in figuring out what to do next :)

Augustus
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Augustus » Sun Aug 14, 2016 11:23 pm

Don't know much about Anchorage real estate, but it sure seems like it would be a pain in the ass to manage a unit in Alaska if you ever decided to head back to the lower 48. Is the labor market really good? If not, why not accumulate faster somewhere else?

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Seppia
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Seppia » Sun Sep 04, 2016 4:03 pm

just finished reading your journal from start to finish.
What a powerful experience!
Thanks for the great read

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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Matty » Wed Sep 07, 2016 1:32 am

Hey mate, I can appreciate the point you made about not having many people to relate to regarding big life decisions. Lucky we have these forums, with so many people treading their own path, to inspire and motivate us!

I’d say getting a trade would be a good investment. Once qualified you would have a lot of flexibility in terms of income – full time work to boost the savings, short term contracts between adventures, odd jobs for cash, starting up your own business etc.

Why not take one of those longer trips with some of the money you have saved up and then come back to an apprenticeship once you’re done?

I look forward to hearing about what’s next!

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theanimal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by theanimal » Thu Sep 22, 2016 4:25 pm

Thanks for the responses everyone. I'm going to go forward with things as planned.

More of the same over the past couple months on my end. I spent some time cutting wood for the winter and probably have around 4 cords, more than enough for my needs. Otherwise life has been filled with work, getting my cabin ready and trying to enjoy the surrounding area. I'm moving into my cabin in about a week and a half from now. Just about everything is in order. The outhouse is all set, logs are dusted and cleaned, insulation is where it needs to be and some decorations are in place.

I went to town last week and stocked up on food and some supplies for the winter. It was a reminder of how much I hate going to town. I felt pretty frazzled after a few hours and scrambled out of there. It is unnerving now to be in such an artificial environment.

Hunting season is in full swing up here and coming to a close in a few days for some of the animals. I've been hunting small game again and went hunting for spruce grouse. They are much easier to hunt than the ducks and I had a lot more success. I feel somewhat bad for them because it really doesn't involve much skill at all in killing them, but it is what it is.

At the start of hunting season, I left a message with the local trooper saying that I'd take any meat if he acquired any he needed to discard. Yesterday, he came looking for me with some meat. He had confiscated a moose from hunters who killed it in a closed area. Score! So I now have almost an entire ~5 yr old bull moose minus the head, neck, some ribs and some meat the hunters left in the field. It's a ton of meat. One of my friends in the area helped me construct a meat pole behind my cabin and we hung up the quarters. I tossed the other pieces in the freezer as they'd been out too long to really hang up and dry.

My natural bank account is pretty large right now.. a few hundred pounds of moose meat, 10 gallons of blueberries, ~3 gallons of lingonberries, and ~4 cords of wood. Not bad at all.

The only significant project I have left to do is finish setting up the electrical system. I have two 6v deep cycle batteries (420 ah). I have to connect them to an inverter and I'll also be running my lights right off the battery. I have a 140 watt solar panel as well that I have to set up but I'm in no rush for that yet. I'll be able to power with solar from Mid February to mid October. The other 4 months I have a generator I'll run every other day or so for a couple hours to charge up the batteries.

Outside of cabin work, I went on another multi day trip towards the end of August. A packrafting trip on 2 of the most intense rivers in the nearby area. It was a ton of fun. Just beyond my comfort level so I learned a lot during the experience, without swimming as well! Bonus. I have more longer trips planned throughout this upcoming winter.

Work has been really busy the past few months which isn't great, but it allows me to keep squirreling away funds. I haven't had much in terms of time off over the past month or so but that will change here shortly. I'm finishing work on October 3rd and won't be working again until sometime in January. I'm looking forward to it.

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Kriegsspiel
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Kriegsspiel » Thu Sep 22, 2016 5:49 pm

animal, didn't you used to be vegan? When did you start eating meat?

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Re: the animal's journal

Post by jacob » Thu Sep 22, 2016 6:07 pm

@Kspiel - We fed him some chicken during an ERE meetup and he was being very polite/demonstrating adaption given how many years it had been---it might have turned him :-) ... Seriously, though, being this far north, it seems that adding meat and milk (and blood) is the way to go. Pretty sure @theanimal is just adapting to his environment.

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Kriegsspiel
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Kriegsspiel » Thu Sep 22, 2016 7:25 pm

That's how it always works, isn't it.

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theanimal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by theanimal » Thu Sep 22, 2016 8:36 pm

@Kriegspiel- Yes. I started eating vegan as of late 2012. Towards the end of last year, friends in this area started to give me a pretty decent amount of caribou and moose. Decent in the sense that it'd make up a meal for 1-2 days a week. I don't consume domesticated meats. Outside consuming that wild meat, I still eat vegan. I do not consume dairy products, nor do I plan on consuming them anytime in the indefinite future. I think dairy is the devil, meat I'm not so sure about. I don't consume any poultry either. Besides the stray attempts where people like Jacob and DW try to sway me to the dark side :lol:

Jacob's right in that I'm trying to adapt to my environment. You can be vegan or vegetarian up here but it's a lot more difficult. There's a reason why the Inuit people ate mostly meat. Gardening is limited and the season is short. The nearest grocery stores are 250 + miles away, so there's no fresh produce outside what you grow or gather yourself. Goods obviously can be imported from elsewhere but are $$$. If I was in an urban environment, I would not be eating meat.

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theanimal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by theanimal » Sun Sep 25, 2016 7:28 am

Here are photos for context:

Image
This is my cabin. 18 x 12 ft. There was someone who started an addition on the initial portion about a decade or so ago. I've been finishing up what they didn't complete. The original log structure was built in the 1930s. The roof is about 10 yrs old.

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A view outside the front door of my cabin. Taken 2 months back. None of those cabins are lived in year round.

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Some of the wood I cut for this winter. This is birch, but spruce is mainly used. Due to a one time event in this area, there was a surplus of birch. I scored the chunks to allow them to breathe without immediately splitting.

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A view of the living room and a peek into the front entry. There will be a kitchen table going in between those two chairs.

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A view of the kitchen, bedroom and living room. The large white rectangle is my solar panel. I haven't gotten around to installing it yet. On top of the desk it's leaning on is a propane stove. I plan to use a mixture of cooking with propane and off my woodstove. Ideally, transitioning to mainly woodstove by the end of the winter. In the summer, I intend to cook mainly outside.

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A couple spruce grouse from a successful hunting trip.

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Moose hanging up on my new meat pole. Poor picture but you get the idea. The bottom portion of the quarters is about 10 ft off the ground to prevent bears from getting into the meat. I had the meat exposed for 2 days to allow it to dry out. Now the quarters are all covered with sheeting as you can see with the one in the rear.

Image
A photo from last week of a mountain nearby. Birch in yellow with snow down to the valley floor.

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cmonkey
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by cmonkey » Sun Sep 25, 2016 11:38 am

That looks great, thanks for sharing some photos. I really like that photo of the mountain.

How structurally sound is the cabin? It looks like the roof line might be sunk a bit. You probably get some pretty heavy loads of snow up there?

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GandK
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by GandK » Sun Sep 25, 2016 1:42 pm

Great pictures! Love the remoteness.

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Re: the animal's journal

Post by sky » Sun Sep 25, 2016 1:48 pm

Looking at that moose leg, I would probably become a vegetarian. How many months of cold weather will you spend in the cabin?

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theanimal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by theanimal » Sun Sep 25, 2016 2:57 pm

@Cmonkey- I think it is pretty structurally sound. One of my friends in the area who's skilled in this sort of thing came by and looked at it and he thought the roof was in good shape. I'll take a look again.

@GandK-Thanks!

@Sky- Well, winter should be starting in the next couple weeks or so. Temps are just above freezing in the day now and below at night. I'll be moving in next week. I'll be leaving for a few weeks to head to the Chicago area to visit family but outside that I'll be here. Winter should end in late April.

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Re: the animal's journal

Post by steveo73 » Sun Sep 25, 2016 4:33 pm

That looks freaken fantastic. It does look cold though.

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Seppia
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Seppia » Thu Sep 29, 2016 5:24 am

This is the most fascinating of all the great journals here.
The wilderness is amazing.

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Re: the animal's journal

Post by IlliniDave » Thu Sep 29, 2016 6:57 am

I know what you mean about grouse--I came up on several in my recent trip to the Great Lakes northwoods. In the summer they are pretty scarce, I suppose because they are raising young. But they seemed to be everywhere in September. I'd encounter them hiking/exploring and they'd just stand there and look at me, then walk off. I've never hunted them, but talked to a guy up there who has. He says there's not a ton of sport to it, but that they are tasty. Not sure if the grouse there are the same species as further west.

You journal is great. You are living the life that it took all the courage I could muster to make a half-a$$ed approximation to.

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anomie
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by anomie » Sat Oct 01, 2016 6:28 pm

+1 on comments of the wilderness photography! They are amazing.
Fresh reminders of the world around us.
wow! Keep them coming.

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theanimal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by theanimal » Mon Nov 21, 2016 6:32 am

Thanks for the comments all. My brief forays into civilization remind me how lucky I have it. My life and the conversations I have with others revolve around the natural world. Wondering if the creek has good ice for skiing? Or if anyone else saw the fresh wolf tracks on the river? What are the caribou, sheep and moose doing? I guess it's the simple things.

As evidence to that, this is an example of a pretty typical sunset at this time of year (taken a month or so ago).
Image
And this is only exhibiting the view to the south. To the north, the sky turns purple and pink.

----------------------------------------------------------------

I have been living at my outpost on the edge of big wilderness for about 7 weeks now. It seems much longer than that as time moves slow in the Arctic, especially nearing the solstice as the seemingly endless nights encompass the landscape. The experience has been humbling, to say the least. Much of this time has been spent learning what I don't know. Stumbling in different tasks as I try to etch out a life that I can call my own.

One of the major tasks upon moving into my cabin was setting up my electrical system. The core of my system are two 6 volt 420 ah batteries. Electrical systems are usually pretty basic in design but it took me a while to comprehend what I was doing. I had the leash connecting the two batteries on the wrong terminal ends. I couldn't understand how the cables connecting the batteries to the inverter could fit in the inverter. Eventually, after setting up the inverter I blew the fuse for that portion of my system. I bought the wrong wiring for lights out of ignorance, leaving me without the ability to set up my lights. All of this resulted in a week of frustration without any electricity. Abundant use of my headlamp and crappy LED lanterns led to the rapid dwindling of my AAA battery supply that I planned to last for months. These are fairly basic problems to be solved, but 7 hours from the nearest hardware store and without internet access they became seemingly monumental challenges. Advice from others eventually led to a successful setup.

At this time of year, I charge my batteries by generator. I have a solar panel, yet to be setup, but since the beginning of November the sun has been too low on the horizon to generate any power. I got it into my head that the generator ran on diesel, so prior to moving in I stocked up on a winter's supply worth of diesel (about 17 gallons). I was uneasy about this for a little while as I had a nagging feeling that my generator actually ran on gas. One day after a couple previous successful uses, my generator refused to start. As the sole cheechako/greenhorn/newcomer to the area, I am surrounded by people who are at much higher competency levels than myself in many aspects of this life. Too embarrassed to say anything, I started to decrease my already low consumption of power. Laptop use was eliminated and my sole dimmable LED light was reduced from 10 to 5 watts.
It was a few days before I vaguely began to mention having issues with my generator. A couple more days pass before a friend helps me troubleshoot it. After checking out the spark plugs, fuel injector and a couple other engine components with no issue I let slip that I filled it with diesel. My friend confirms my suspicions that this is the problem and assures me I haven't damaged the generator. Later, I'm loaned a 5 gal jug of gas for my generator. Since that point, no opportunity has passed to rib me about my “diesel” generator. :P

When I first came to this cabin, it was engulfed in brush. Willows, white spruce and balsam poplar trees told the story of a somewhat abandoned dwelling. I spent time prior to moving in cutting some of these trees, but it wasn't until I moved in that I went at this task with full force. At first, I used a chainsaw lent to me by a friend, quickly felling trees, but spending what seemed to be too much time refueling, reoiling and messing with the chain. There was also a vague uneasiness I felt cutting down these trees with such ease. I eventually switched and finished the task with a crosscut saw. My work became much less hurried, partly due to the increased physical exertion and partly to the decreased level of noise. I'd pause to watch the gray jays or ravens pass by overhead or hear a squirrel chattering away on a nearby tree. My work became a lot safer as well. Much to my dismay, I was sometimes careless with the chainsaw, finding it way too close to comfort to one of my legs in some instance and on the worst occasion grabbing my jeans and tearing up the denim near my knee.

Transportation is one category where I haven't had any significant issues. I am in no rush to go anywhere most of the time but for faster travel I purchased a bike. Due to more snafus, this time with regards to shipping, the bike I purchased ended up being sold to someone else. I was graciously lent a bike by a neighbor here. I rarely use it but on election day I decided to ride down and visit some friends at the other town 11 miles distant. I crossed the frozen river and took a trail to a service road that passes by the other town. From there I enjoyed riding through 4 in of snow towards the fading sun as it began to dip behind the mountains. Not wanting to watch the election, I rode back shortly after arriving. Night had fallen and with it a dropping temperature. I rode back on the main road this time pulling off into the ditch every 10 minutes or so when traffic would pass by. The temperature on the way there was 5 above and on the way back it was 5 below zero (F). I was way too warm on the way there and plenty warm on the way home. Arctic biking equals huge success.

One could say my biggest accomplishment so far during this time would be in regard to water. I live 300 meters from the river. My initial plan was to haul water from the river throughout the winter for my needs (This is normal in rural Alaska). After hauling water on a few occasions, the romanticism of this ritual began to lose its appeal. The rivers freeze up here in mid October and I found myself sprawled out on the edge of the shore ice, trying to time dipping my jug into the river with the coming and going of the large ice floes before hauling the water back in two 5 gallon jugs at 0 F (-17 C) So eventually, I decided to dig a well, underneath my root cellar. I thought this would be a quick and easy project and I'd be pumping water in a few days. After digging and maneuvering around frozen gravel for a few days I found out how wrong I was. Thanks to help from others,in the form of tools and muscle, the project involved less drudgery than it otherwise would have. Ultimately, we dug to 9.5 feet before driving the pipe another 6 ft. It took a day before water actually came out as dirt seemed to clog up the filters of the point. A couple hundred or so silty gallons later, I now have some of the purest water in the world on demand. And what a luxury that is.

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Method to getting water pre-well

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After

All that aside, my life here is simple. Most days follow a typical script of reading/ listening to podcasts, walking/skiing, and visiting others. And although I live in a “town” of 11 people (including myself), most of my time is spent alone. Do I get lonely? Sometimes, yes. The long nights can be hard at this time of year. The sun is down behind the mountains by 2:30 PM, it's dark by 4 PM and not light again until 10 am. A companion to break the monotony of the nights would be nice, but doesn't appear to be likely anytime soon. I make up a different demographic here than most. The rest of the residents either make up a couple or a family. The median age is in the upper 50s. This results in most evenings spent by myself. I'm not a hermit, I enjoy spending time with other people. I visit or hike with others often. Some days I spend all day with multiple people, other days it's just me.

This abundant time to myself provides for a lot of thinking yielding big questions with not many answers. A lot of it centers around defining success for myself, something that many on here wrestle with. I'm pursuing a life that is alien and undesired to most of the western world today, including many of my peers. Most of the world is running towards the cities, where I am about as far away from them as you can get. The western world is pursuing more ease and a Wall-E esque way of life, while I seem to be making things increasingly tougher for myself. I live without internet, phone or a car. For the most part, I dislike motors. I dream of building a sod igloo, sleeping on caribou skins and hunting, gathering and growing the vast majority of my food. I'm striving for a lifestyle that has been almost all but abandoned. I try to find reassurances where I can a midst the social pressures of the pervasive urban, consumerist life. As almost always, I'm not entirely sure where I'm going, but the journey is pretty enjoyable so far.

Image
A little ways up the valley from me

ImageThis was a really cool experience that occurred on a hike a few weeks ago. A friend and I were going to hike a distant mountain. Plans changed, and we went up a different mountain where we saw these sheep on top. As we approached the top, the sheep showed no signs of leaving and ultimately didn't. We made our way right to the top and got within about 30 meters of these 7 sheep. 2 adult rams, 4 ewes and a lamb. Quite the unique event

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