We awoke this morning to a thin blanket of snow, a narrowing river edged with thin sheets of snow covered ice, and slushy icebergs rafting swiftly down the river. It wasn’t until the ice started flowing in the river that we really got an accurate sense of the speed at which the river rolls along. It has a smooth surface, almost like a lake, but the water runs deep and wide, carving its way along the taiga forest banks, finding its way to the Copper River.
I find I am mentally trying to wrap my brain around the mind-numbing cold this place is known for and the perpetual darkness that December brings. I’ve spent time this far north in the winter before, for short trips to The Cabin in Denali State Park, which sits right around the same latitude as The Moose Lodge. But never anything below -20 that I can remember. Tales of -50 below zero winter weather that can last for days or even weeks. Temperatures have been known on occasion to dip lower than -50. Which makes me shake in my
During the winter of 2009, the coldest official temperature for Tok (which is our closet "town"), was -63 F, though at an
amatuer weather station in Tok, the lowest recorded temperature was -80 F. Though we've been told by neighbors that "it's much warmer here in the winter compared to Tok or Glennallen", I take that to mean -40 F when Tok reaches -60 F, we'll see.
We made another trip to “Town” a couple weeks ago and were gone for three days. Since we have no secondary heat source (i.e. oil, propane, etc.) at the present moment, the temperature in the house dipped lower and lower as the days went by and as the outside temperature dropped to 20 degrees, per the nearest DOT weather webcam. When we returned home it was 46 degrees in our house, and 30 degrees outside. Robbie Cat seemed slightly irritated, but mostly relieved we returned home and promptly took his place atop the cat tree next to the wood stove while we got it going. My mom had joked that when we would got home we would find Robbie Cat frozen in place, a kitty cat popsicle. Thankfully that wasn't the case. Our days of leaving home and heading to town as a whole family may be over until we figure out our heating situation, unless we want to come home to a cat popsicle. I don't think I could take that.
Woke up to a frosty pair of forgotten bogs on the front porch.
Proof of the unseasonably warm
temperatures we've been having. 10/16Exhausted from our three-day adventure in town I came inside the house after unloading the truck and washed my hands. The water felt as though it had ran through a river of ice, before finding its way into the plumbing of the house. I could feel the icy mountain air swirling around my fingers as I tried to wash my numb hands and stood there in amazement at how cold the air and water felt, through it was a relatively warm 46 F inside.
“How will we stay warm this winter?”
The wood stove we purchased to serve as our primary stove is not throwing the kind of heat we’d hoped for, and as a result we are exploring “plans
b, c and d”. Parke has been shouldering the research end of things, reading through some literature
our friend Gregg provided on this exact topic. Times like this make us especially thankful we have friends with big libraries, years of experience, and the generosity to share information with us.
Sometime last week a Craigslist search unveiled a wood fired furnace in The Valley (a 5 hour drive) that was made in 1983, the same year as The Moose Lodge was built and coincidentally the same year of my birth. The cost of this used 30 year old furnace was thousands of dollars less than the cost of the new furnace so we decided
to give it a go and Parke made a short trip to town and back, with an overnight at my parents house.
The night Parke was in town I spent the majority of it lying awake, tossing, turning and listening to all the things that went bump in the night. Which is to say I heard everything in a 3.6 mile radius. Honey sensed my unease and did her best to help by growling angrily at the front door, which did nothing by frazzle my tired and not-so-tough nerves. At least she tried. Because of the modern conveniences this place offers: electricity, indoor plumbing, wood fired heat, and high-speed internet you don’t feel so far away from the world.
All of that changes when the wind starts to blow and night falls, and your husband is away from The Lodge. Of course within an hour of Parke’s departure the wind started to howl and I started to feel like we had moved a million miles away from everything and everyone.
I called my mom in hopes of soothing my mini-anxiety attack. It helped, but it was one of those moments where I realized the totality of what we have done moving here, so far away. That thought led me to listen to Carole King, brew a pot of tea, then assume the fetal position beneath my Unique quilt. I laid there and thought about things for a while.
Made with bandanas my dog Unique used to wear, she died on 4/18/13.
The space we (currently) primarily occupy is our living/dining room, kitchen, first floor bathroom (a simple toilet and a sink), and the arctic entry way. Sure our “stuff” occupies about 75% of the available floor space throughout the entire house, but we physically spend most of our time on the main floor. A twin bed for George has turned the couch into a square with a hollow center. A small patch of carpet, and an obstacle to overcome in order to find comfort on the couch, or what is also being used as Maya’s bed.
These photos were taken before we moved all of our stuff in...
Back when me and Parke met and were brainstorming our wild dreams about non-electric power tools and rustic living, The Moose Lodge was our dream before we knew it existed.
This house went without commercial power before 2006, there was a generator in use, but I suspect they kept it as limited as possible. Proof of this exists in the lack of outlets, light switches and overhead lighting throughout The Lodge.
A generator fire and subsequent power outage reminded us that we aren’t quite cut out for such rustic living, not yet anyway. The lack of outlets and light switches makes navigating this space nearly impossible, even for me and I am known for my cat-like nighttime vision. If you’re smart enough to remember to carry a flash light with you at all times it isn’t such a big deal, but I am not well-trained enough yet and so a quick look at my feet and shins will tell you the story. I stumble around this place, trying to find my way, persistence and determination fueling my journey to the bathroom at 3 am. Where the $%#! did I put that touch light? $!% @!*# @!
We had a power outage for work that needed to be done to keep the power on for good. Thankfully it lasted an hour and didn't give me heart palpitations like the last outage did when the community generator burned to the ground in: What Would Laura Do? This message was delivered by Maya via the school bus driver. It has been sent to the school via fax. I feel likeI am in the dark ages out here, just a little. Fax?
Then I remember the breathtaking sunrises....10/17
And the gorgeous sunsets. I snapped this photo (L) at the end of an incredible 4 mile trail run on 10/23
That incredible trail run sent me through the woods, over the frozen swampy tundra, through semi-frozen mud and muck puddles, around the big lake, back through the woods to the creek, then along the creek and back home to the rivers edge just in time to capture the tail end of the magic sunset. The skies had been less-than-spectacular for much of the day, some sun, but nothing to indicate a spectacular sunset was in our future. As we headed back to The Lodge the sunset took a sudden unexpected turn for the epic. The skies were painted in apricot, gold, and orange, then the layers of blues and pinks. I was standing on the edge of a clearing and could see the sky from
The Mentasta Mountains all the way around to the Wrangell
Mountains, then out towards Glennallen.
The Mentasta Mountains all the way around to the Wrangell
Mountains, then out towards Glennallen.
Mt. Drum sits behind the first range, bathed in
golden sunlight. 10/23
Wide open spaces. 10/23
Same spot as above but with Parke on the ATV and the Kids in the trailer. I did my trail run with them and ran with the dogs. The kids get a kick out of that. It's just like having your very own aid station, cheering squad, and sag wagon all in one. Which is to say it's totally awesome! 10/23
Remembering the magic this place delivers up on a daily basis, everything gets put back into perspective and it all seems manageable again. The many daunting house projects no longer feel like weight on my shoulders, but instead it's absolute freedom. Everything comes at a cost. Our cost for freedom was: cold and acceptance. Living somewhere that gets really cold is an exercise in respecting the cold and accepting what you cannot change.
The cold (and darkness).
Living in an unfinished log cabin that was the work of the original homesteaders lives requires respect for what was accomplished, appreciation for the ingenuity it took to put this place together, and a calm acceptance that it will take time to figure this place out and make it Our Homestead. Again it comes down to cold and acceptance. Cold because we haven't got our heat situation figured out and it is almost November. Acceptance of the fact that house projects are like life, you have to take it one day at a time. It is going to take time to get this place figured out and move forward in the right direction for us, for this place. I am breathing and giving thanks for this adventure, taking it one day at a time, sometimes moment to moment.
Living in the moment. It's a totally new way of life for me. I have never been able to live in the moment before while being still. Running and cycling were the gateway for me to experience what it was like to be in the moment. When you are running really hard you have to be in the moment. You have no other choice but to focus on the task at hand. As you start to realize you have exceeded your V02 max and you can feel the lactic acid filling up in your calves you must be In the moment.