This week was a whirlwind of packing, working, and moving out of the cabin we’ve lived in for the past 6 years. It was so many changes, rapidly, that my brain is just starting to catch up to where we are. Here in the big, airy terminal at Sea-Tac airport, a pianist plays calm holiday music and a clown cycles through every 30 minutes or so with a new trick—first unicycling, then sneaking up on unsuspecting people with a remote control shark balloon, and just now walking past with four legs, asking guests to report to TSA if they see anything suspicious. The different-ness of this place and a couple cups of coffee to wake up are allowing it all to sink in: we have left Fairbanks behind and have started our travels.
Amid all the bustle of leaving town, we set aside half the day Friday to visit to our friend River Mike. Though Mike is one of our best friends in Alaska and very curious about our travels, he will not be following this blog because he lives in an 8x12 ft. canvas wall tent far from other people and from modern technology. His camp sits on a low bluff overlooking a pond, a couple miles and across a river from the nearest road. A trip to Mike’s place is always a journey into a different reality and perspective on life…”my world” as Mike calls it.
|View down towards Mike's camp (Photo by River Mike)|
Our trip to Mike’s was practical—our German shepherd, Loki, is living with Mike while we travel and we needed to bring him out there. But the trip was also an opportunity to get out in the quiet woods just covered by a foot of fresh snow, and a chance to get send-off blessings from Mike whose perspective on life we really respect.
Several weekends ago we supplied Mike with 600 pounds of kibble and 200 pounds of frozen meat that will keep Loki and Mike’s dog Maddy well fed. The next weekend, after a whole day of shopping, we loaded the Toyota Pickup with human food and supplies for Mike for the next half a year. On this Friday’s trip, it was just us and the dogs. We snowshoed slowly through the deep snow, the dogs bounding through drifts up to their armpits. Once at Mike’s we sat in his warm tent drinking cocoa and snacking. Pleased with his massive food stores from the recent shopping trip, Mike had laid out a whole selection of junk food snacks for us to choose from. The visit was short but it was the beginning of this mental transition away from work and a permanent home for a while. “You’re completely free now. So many people want to do what you’re doing, but they never end up doing it”, Mike told us as prepared to leave. It’s a feeling Mike understands well, having decided years ago to live unencumbered by work and material possessions, living a simple life centered around hauling firewood, making art from things he finds in the woods, and plenty of time to kick back and think up all kinds of creative business schemes that he likes to encourage Markus to pursue.
|River Mike happy with his resupply for the next 6 months|
Leaving was hard. Loki loves life out at Mike’s camp and will be really happy there, but he howled as we walked down the trail without him. Chhiri followed reluctantly behind us, not happy with the fact that our little pack was splitting up, and at one point she decided to turn around and go back to join Loki, so we had to hike back to Mike’s camp to get her and put her on a leash for the hike out. We stopped at Windy Creek Kennel on our way back into town to drop off Chhiri. She is always happy to go back to her first home, where she was an Iditarod race dog for her younger years. She’s 12 now and had it pretty well figured out that we were going to leave her there. She jumped out of the truck, made a quick tour of the dog yard to say her hellos to the howling, leaping sled dogs there, then settled calmly on the porch of the cabin and watched us drive away.
|Loki and Chhiri in the snow|
We want to say a big thanks to River Mike, to Ken and Gwen at Windy Creek, and to all our friends who helped us get out of town this week, from storing our cars and possessions to helping us pack and finishing up end of the semester work. Fairbanks is an awesome community and it feels strange to leave. But we are excited to be “completely free” these next few months and hope you will enjoy following our adventures on this blog.
- Karen and Markus