Leaving The Wilderness


My Alaskan wilderness adventure has ended, disappointingly much earlier than I had hoped. However, spending 1 1/2 months in a wilderness camp, off grid, on a river in the Alaskan interior was an amazing experience and one that relatively few have shared.

  • Reasons for leaving the wilderness.
  • What now?
  • My return to civilization.

 

From a diabetic perspective, there were no surprises. I ate low carb foods, primarily fatty meats, eggs, nuts and berries. Diet, coupled with daily camp activities (much of them strenuous) kept my blood sugars in normal ranges. However, diet played a role in my decision to leave, keep reading to find out why.

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Above are six grouse ‘gifted’ to the camp by Tim Steele. I’m writing this post in a warm hostel, drinking coffee with cream. More on this later, but without Tim’s assistance I am not sure where I’d be. As I told Tim, like it or not, he has a friend for life.

 

Reasons For Leaving The Wilderness

September 15th was the point of no return. I had to decide to stay or leave.  Why? If I stayed I needed to order about $1,000 of gear on the 15th in order for it to arrive (and be picked up) before ice flows on the river.

 

Structures

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The picture above is a picture of a cabin that was to be my winter dwelling. The picture was taken on September 16th, the day after decision day. It looked exactly like this the day I left camp permanently on the 26th. I had zero confidence the cabin could be finished before ice flows on the river. Ordering $1,000 of gear really wasn’t an option. Winter was quickly approaching, with temperatures sinking to sub-zero in the not-so-distant future. The day I had to decide to leave or stay, there were four unfinished cabins and none finished.

Strike one.

 

Food

On September 15th, I’d been in camp for 36 days. I’d eaten commercially canned meats (canned ham, corned beef and canned salmon) for 34 days. The exceptions were the two days Tim Steele provided grouse and hamburgers.

On September 15th (decision day), there had been no success in hunting, no attempts at obtaining fish from the river.

Even with adequate winter structures, the lack of  fresh meats and the prospect of going all winter eating largely processed, BPA lined, canned meats was not appealing to me.

Strike two.

 

Happiness Needs to Be Shared

Make no mistake, I LOVED being in nature. I loved being in the Alaskan Wilderness but I did not love being in the camp. In the wilderness, on a five acre property, personality conflicts can become magnified and they were.

I wasn’t happy, I felt isolated. If there was fresh meat and completed structures, perhaps the lifting of the stress and pressures may have reduced the personality conflicts … but that was not reality.

Strike three.

 

Leaving the Wilderness

Even given the issues above, I still questioned leaving such a beautiful place. No doubt it was the right decision but my love for nature is so great, I hated to leave. At the same time, I was elated to be leaving the camp.

I left Monday afternoon in a canoe, for an approximately 30 mile solo canoe ride. Due to heavy fog I couldn’t leave until about 2:30 pm. I needed to get to my destination (Manley Hot Springs) before dark, so I didn’t waste a lot of time with picture taking.

 

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Here is one that I took.  Immediately after taking this picture I hit a sand bar! LOL

It was no laughing matter at the time, it took me many attempts to free myself from the sand bar… almost capsizing.  I truly enjoyed the challenge of canoeing the Tanana River twice on epic canoe trips, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

 

I had many fantastic memories that I will cherish forever.  I hope to re-attempt this adventure in the future with better planning and more research first.

 

Special Thanks

I owe many of you thanks, people donated money, advice, and equipment for the adventure.

However, I owe a special thanks to Tim Steele, the author of the book “The Potato Hack” and the blog Vegetable Pharm.

Additionally, Tim lives near Fairbanks, Alaska and has donated advice, counsel and support.

When I returned to civilization, through no fault of my own… my bank closed my debit card. So when I arrived in Fairbanks, after almost two months in the wilderness, I had no cash, no debit card and no phone service. Imagine rolling into town from the wilderness with those circumstances.

Tim loaned me cash, took me to a grocery store and later to a hostel.

As I told Tim… he has a friend for life.  I can’t say enough good things about the man.

 

Adventure Continues?

As I type this I am not sure of my next move.

I may stay here in Alaska, I may move to other areas in nature, in more hospitable environments … I may even move to a city near you. :)

Regardless I will stay in Fairbanks for a few days until my new debit card arrives. I’ll consider all my options until then.