Howdy folks! As promised, I'm going to give you a quick rundown on my recent visit with some real Alaskan Homesteaders. I'll soon be writing an article that will include some of this for Countryside magazine, but wanted to share with you all some of the pictures that won't make it into the magazine. You can click on the small pictures to see a larger one, or go to my website's gallery to see all of our shots from the entire trip. The intent of the trip was to shoot some footage for several stories I'm working on for CBN. One of the stories is about this couple that we found who live in the interior of Alaska, about 150 miles from the nearest town, and just on the outskirts of the Denali national wilderness. To get there, I hired a small, twin-engined Navajo airplane to ferry us from Anchorage, over the mountains to the other side of McKinley. The 2.5 hour flight was spectacular, to say the least. We flew right between Denali and Foraker while our pilot and I kept up a lively discussion about missions flights that he makes over to Russia, just 1.5 hours flight away. Once we made it across the mountains, it was a long slow descent into the airfield at Minchumina. In years past, this was an important airfield used in ferrying equipment over to Russia under the lend-lease program. Plus, the FAA maintains a pretty serious (unmanned) weather station there, so for this reason, our hosts were fortunate to have electricity, provided by a couple of diesel generators that were installed for the FAA weather station. In exchange for maintaining them, the "community" of Minchumina, (currently 12 people) is allowed to use some of the power. When we arrived at the airfield, it was about 45 degrees and breezy. There wasn't a soul in sight, but there were some buildings around - on further exploration, one was determined to be a post office, another a library. Everything looked deserted. There was a payphone. I called our hosts, the Greens, from it, but got no answer. On a schedule, the pilot unloaded our gear and took off again right away, leaving us standing on an empty airstrip. After about 1/2 hour I was starting to wonder if this was some elaborate practical joke put on by my friends back at CBN, when we heard the sound of an engine approaching. Shortly, there appeared an old willys jeep with two people in it. Tom and Penny Green were finally there to get us. They had seen our plane arrive, but thought it wasn't us because they were expecting a single-engine craft. Tom and Penny are homesteaders that have lived in Minchumina for most of their lives. They run a trapline in the winter, living in small trapper cabins along a sixty-mile route where they travel by dogsled and snow machine. In the summer, they live in a cozy log cabin overlooking the lake and Mt. Mckinley. Tom built the cabin about 30 years ago. Indeed, he's built many cabins in that area, both for his own use and for others who inhabit the interior. He also built his own airplane. The guy is pretty handy! Tom and Penny have two grown children, one of which lives in Phoenix, Arizona. (how's that for rebellion?) The other lives at a lodge on the other side of Lake Minchumina. In the summer, Tom builds cabins and Penny tends her several large gardens, growing much of the food that they'll need to get through the winter. In the fall, they hunt and fish to replenish their meat supply. If a moose is killed, they'll share the meat with their "neighbors." They go to town a couple of times a year to get supplies and sell their furs. For the most part, this is the way that they have lived for their entire lives. Tom grew up closer to civilization, but soon moved out and lived for seven years on his own in the interior before meeting Penny. There wasn't enough room in the jeep for us and our gear, so we loaded up the gear and Tom left with the jeep while we walked. It turned out that they lived about 2 miles away down a gravel road bordered by young aspen trees which were all colored flaming yellow. One funny thing: There were stop signs and speed limit signs, overgrown with saplings. I guess the government does things by the book, even when it's absurd to the point of hilarity. Finally, we came upon a small log cabin. I mean really small. It had a green curtain for a door. A closer look showed that it was the Green's privy. The nicest I've ever seen. So nice, it was the centerpiece of their front yard. The next thing to greet us was a severed head. A moose head, to be exact. Behind it there stood a bear cache - essentially a small log cabin on stilts, with a fully dressed moose carcass hanging underneath. Tom explained that they kept some essentials in the cache, like extra clothing and food, in case their house burned down in the wintertime. It was the first of the little contingencies that I noticed were a part of the Green's every day life. where I live, if my house burns down, I can go stay in a motel. In the Green's case, they don't have those kind of options, so they've learned to be prepared. Penny related to me how last year the wildfires in their area threatened to burn their home. The fire crews that came to fight the forest fire eventually bailed and told the Greens to evacuate. But they weren't going to give up their lives that easily. They don't have property insurance, so Tom spent 48 hours straight on an old WWII bulldozer that the community has kept running, and in the end, the fire burned right up to their property line, but didn't touch either their buildings or their firewood supply, which would have been a very serious loss. Finally, we got to see the inside of the cabin. It is basically about 30 feet square, with a kitchen, a living area, and a bedroom. The kitchen has a wood cookstove which is also used for heat, but there is also a larger barrel stove that can be used when it gets reeallly cold. The greens go through about 6 cords of wood a year, for cooking and heating both. Tom built a hydraulic wood splitter for the wood they use at their home, but out on the trap line, where they spend most of the winter, he splits it by hand. They burn mostly birch. The first night we were there, Tom cooked up some choice cuts of moose. We were very excited about getting to try some. They had been concerned that we would want "town food." Ha! We wanted to eat what they eat! We also brought about 200 pounds of food with us, to give to the Greens, since we knew that four extra people could make a significant dent in their winter food preparations. I asked Penny what kinds of food she would like us to bring, and she asked for fruits, pork sausage, cheese, and ICE CREAM. They apparently love ice cream. I thought that was wierd. Penny and Tom are both very articulate, informed and pleasant to be with. Even though neither of them has any formal degrees, they read so much in the wintertime, and listen to the radio, and so they keep up with what's going on in the world. Tom is very soft-spoken, but they were both quite gracious in allowing us to invade their space for two days. We stayed in the nearby house of Penny's late mother, a nice two-story cottage that had both electricity and running water. The Greens rent the rooms in it for a very reasonable price, so if any of you would like to take a real "homestead" vacation, I'd highly recommend their place. While we were there, we got some great education about what it's like living in such a remote location. I asked if they got lonely. They both kind of looked at me and blinked. "Actually," Penny said. "The only time I've really felt lonely was when I had to stay in town for about a month once. Everyone there was so busy with their own lives that I felt like I was looking at them through a two-way mirror. No one had time for me. Out here, when someone new shows up, we assimilate them into our community. Because there are so few of us, everyone out here matters." Indeed, in the time that we were there, Tom and Penny were called upon by others in the community various times. One old widow, a native woman, fell and hurt her leg badly while out picking berries, and had to crawl back to her house so she could call someone for help. (she crawled for four hours!). Tom and Penny rushed to her side, since Penny is the designated "first responder" for the community, having taken some basic medical training. Tom helped out with another resident whose boat had become inoperable while he was out fishing. Fortunately, someone saw him out there, or he'd have frozen overnight for sure. We went along as the Greens delivered parts of their moose to their neighbors. The sense I got is that they live remote, but not isolated. You probably have tons of questions, so I'll stop here and let you ask them.