*Heading for the Woods?*

18 August 2004
By Tailgunner

After reading a comment by someone who was wanting into the Rubicon recently, I got to thinking about people who think that they can just move out into the bush when something happens. There are many that have the idea that they will take a chainsaw, some gas and tools load them in their rig and bug out to the woods and build a cabin to survive. This person wanted to do so with their ex no less and make a go of it, this thinking is totally nuts and they will probably not survive the winter. For one thing it takes time to prepare a proper cabin for surviving the harsh winters that normally hit this part of the world. Late summer is too late to get a viable homestead prepared and stocked before hard winter sets in. For another it takes a special person to be able to thrive in the solitude found out in the woods. Here in Alaska there are literally millions of square miles of empty land where many people THINK that they can get away from it all, out on their own and just survive. Some of them end up dead before the first winter is finished (read “Into the wild” by Jon Krakauer as an example). Some recognize the signs and bail out before they croak, and a very few actually make it.

I personally know a couple with a small daughter who have made it out there for years. But, they come in once a year to stock up on wheat, rice, cloth material, clothing, medicines, ammunition, tools etc.- those things that they can’t grow or produce for themselves. By far and large the people that do get out in the bush and survive are very stable mentally with relationships that are also stable and based on mutual trust and a deep commitment to each other. They also have a mixture of simple yet important skills that they rely on almost daily to just survive. Very little of this state is accessible via road. Much like northern Canada, I would guess. Those who do go “out” do so via boat or airplane, or sometimes via snowmobile/sled dogs in the winter. Those who make it spend a lot of time preparing and planning before they put boot to ground to find a place. Then more planning before they put shovel to work to get a viable homestead prepared for year-round living. Things like what does the property look like during breakup in the spring, how are they getting their building materials to the building site, are there sufficient trees of proper size to build on site, where are you going to get your drinking water from, are you going to raise domestic animals and is there room for them (if so you will also have to build a barn to protect them over the winter, where are you getting the feed for the animals during the winter), there are many more questions that must be answered. What about how you will make some money to purchase your yearly supplies and get them to your home in the woods (there is still a trapping market here, but do you know enough about trapping and the animals you would trap to make a go of it). Many places don’t have a lot of wood for heat either. Some places have relatively few animals to hunt (cause its hard to live there). The questions could go on for a while, each would need to be addressed in a comprehensive plan.

Those that I know that have made it worked on their homestead for a year or so before they tried to weather a winter alone on their property. I have visited another couple out on the Yukon river a days boat ride (over 10 hours at about 30mph) west ward from Tanana/Fairbanks, that also have a viable home in the woods. The wife makes the best Squaw Candy (smoked salmon belly) I have ever had. On hunting trips we may stop and visit a while and swap spare supplies to get Squaw Candy, share news from outside and then back to the river. No electrical amenities except for a SW radio that I remember. Running water consisted of dipping it out of a natural spring that runs year round. They had an extensive garden and hunted and fished (using nets) for the majority of their food needs. Being out there is somewhat intimidating yet relaxing (some contrast eh?) I once spent 12 days, two hours by float plane from the nearest habitation, hunting caribou. We had no recourse if something happened. No one to call, except maybe one of the airliners that cross the sky (we did have a VHF/Aviation hand held and the emergency freq that everyone listens to) but no schedule for flights, the float plane was supposed to stop by every couple days to check in on us, but they couldn’t fly most of the time due to weather so we only saw him once during the trip. Communication is a major problem in the bush, CB don’t have the range, 2M Ham radio would not work either due to insufficient range, HF would work most of the time (Auroras cause interference when they are out) but that requires an advanced HAM license. As RadioRay said “there is no 911" in the woods - you are on your own. It is a very humbling feeling and exhilarating at the same time to be “out there”; time means nothing out there, when hungry-eat, when tired-sleep, the rest of the time was spent working on the camp, cleaning weapons, hunting or caring for the meat. It does make a person want to try and make the big move out there though, that romantic pioneer thing. I can see how people might think they could do it. If you want to succeed you will need a big larder, extensive planning, great location, more planning and then start during the spring a year or two before you plan on living there year round. Also, good luck - you are gonna need it.

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