We long dreamed of living off the land in the vast wilderness that makes up the Great Land. For years we had talked, dreamed, and thought so much about this lifestyle and how we wanted to take on the adventure together… but it seemed to be simply a dream. One crisp fall morning over a cup of coffee, we pulled up a property description online. “Well, what about this spot?” There it was. Coordinates and a GoogleEarth view. We could either talk about homesteading, or we could take the exhilarating plunge and go for it. Game for the challenge, we dove in.
We bought our property sight unseen, and looked intensely forward to the time we would lay eyes on it for the first time and experience the thrill of discovery. For 4 months we carefully sorted, weighed and vetted supplies. In February of 2015, we made our move. 4000+ pounds of supplies were flown in to a frozen lake in a ski plane, 150 miles away from the nearest road. The thermometer on the plane read -25 below. We unloaded, and as the pilot slammed the door on his plane, we heard “Well, Hope you guys like eachother! Good luck!” And with that, we were alone.
For the first week, in temperatures of -20F and below, we camped out at the landing lake. From this base camp, warm in a Seek Outside tipi tent with a tiny wood stove, we attacked the first order of business: finding the property. The intense thrill of finding the boundary markers in the snow was an exhilarating feeling. It took eight days of slogging through waist deep snow in snowshoes to find our corners and to select the site for and erect our home for the remaining winter and into summer: a beautiful tipi with a wood stove. For the next few months we hauled that 4000 pounds of gear from the lake by foot, selected and milled lumber for the initial small cabin, and acquainted ourselves with the new stomping grounds.
As the snow finally began to melt in April, we began building our cabin from timber sourced on site and milled by a chainsaw mill.
In September 2016, we began the next phase of our adventure: Moving our horse herd from the Eastern side of the Alaska Range to the Western Side. Loaded up in a plane, our herd traversed the Alaskan skies to access their new world. We then began our 25-mile pack trip (as the crow flies) home, starting with the ford of 7 channels of the Big River. It had been an unusually wet spring and the river was barely fordable. We swam the channels of the river on horseback under pelting rain and hail. It was a harrowing journey through uncharted territory with a green pack string carrying supplies for the winter ahead.
It was relieving to arrive back at the nascent homestead after a five day ride through woods, over foothills, along rivers, and bypassing bogs. Upon arrival, we immediately began construction of a pole barn for the horses. The horses continued to help us clear land for our airstrip and garden, and we began the distinct slip into the winter months.
Year one was a challenge—Always something to do to prepare for the winter, always a logistical puzzle to make things happen. We have made it a long way since then. There is always more to be done. We are constantly growing and improving the facilities and home. With so many projects, it can be overwhelming to think about all there is to accomplish. With the work load so great, we find it important to remember the joy of the many milestones reached.
In June of 2022 Margaret decided to move on from the Big River and pursue other opportunities in wider Alaska. The place wont be the same without her contributions and she will be missed, but we are all glad she is moving towards exciting new opportunities.
It is an absolute joy and privilege to use my guiding and outdoor skills to share this built from scratch homestead and it’s surrounding wilderness with guests. Please inquire about a vacation out here today!