Posted: Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Often times the Alaska wilderness is not a very forgiving place for any of us. Just last summer the bugs in certain parts of Alaska were simply unbearable, in fact they were right down brutal. Just imagine yourself being an unsuspecting family enjoying life in the Alaska outdoors about one hundred years ago and all of a sudden you’re hit by a swarm of the nastiest, hungriest bugs on earth. There is no Trustworthy Hardware store to go buy your bug nets, mosquito spray or other types of insect repelling devices. I can’t begin to imagine battling bugs like they were in Beluga last summer without some sort of modern day devices to protect us. How these early settlers even functioned in these situations let alone existed in an active outdoor type lifestyle is beyond me. I know that some of the early native people made smudge pots that left a black smoky fragrance in the air to help drive away bugs but I am not 100% sure what was all in them. Besides the large variety of bug repelling devices available to us today we also have much better gear available to live in the Alaska outdoors then the early settlers. One of the most important things I can think of is our footwear. Today you can buy a large assortment of lightweight waterproof footwear that is comfortable from the first day you put them on. You don’t have to break them in like the old stiff leather boots that were manufactured many years ago.

There is a boot or shoe out there for every situation you may encounter here in Alaska. Whether you choose leather, rubber or canvas there is a boot out there to meet the requirements in every Alaskan adventure today. I can only imagine how miserable some of our early pioneers were trying to deal with all the elements of Alaska without the proper footwear. Imagine trying to exist outdoors and faced with rain day after day and all you have is heavy rain-soaked leather boots available.

Perhaps your on one of the early road building crews and trying to work day after day in muddy wet conditions and only wet leather boots to wear and no way to dry them after work each day. Imagine also lying in your bed at night and hearing the constant swarm of bugs around you as you try to sleep despite feeling like you’re being eaten alive. Another great improvement in camping type situations we have available today is the tents we have, they not only are water proof they are lightweight, have some insulating qualities and also bug netting. Think back about some of the old western movies you used to watch as a kid growing up. These guys would throw out a bedroll by the fire and go to sleep.

Imagine trying to do the same thing here in Alaska with bugs, bears and days of rainy weather. Think back about some poor family trying to homestead in Alaska and then surviving all the bugs, rainy weather, bears and then are greeted by the coldest harshest weather on earth.

Imagine how wonderful life could have been for some of those early Alaskans when they found that perfect spot to build a home by a lake or stream full of fish. After summer ends they are facing weather so cold that life is unbearable and very little firewood available. I see very few trees on most of the North Slope so you know these situations had to occurred to some of these early explorers or homesteaders. Being in the Alaska wilderness in the early days without modern day conveniences and no Trustworthy Hardware available to go get yourself a big buddy heater or other necessities must have made every day a real challenge just to survive. If everything went right and you were not attacked by hungry bears, you were able to survive the bug season only to be greeted by severe cold each fall and winter life made living here as tough as any place on earth. Imagine doing everything right and getting your home built and then have a bear come in and eat a large part of your winter food cache. The troubles we face here in Alaska today are nothing like those those the early settlers dealt with even though we have many of the same things to deal with. We just have a better assortment of things available to make life here easier. Yes our bugs are still annoying and occasionally our bears bite a few people each year but over-all we have equipment available for almost any situation. If it gets too bad for us to endure in some cases we can simply grab our cell phone and call that plane back and take us home again. Ya right and be faced with telling the lady of the house and your children that you were chased out of the Alaska wilderness by bugs? Perhaps you better stick to your original bear story as it will not improve your status as a true Alaskan mountain man if the word is out your were chased back home to the woman and children by bugs. No matter how much you wave your arms around or what facial expressions you use or all the bug sounds you can make, they will only remember one thing. YOU WERE CHASED OUT OF THE ALASKA WILDERNESS BY BUGS!! Oh yes and your shoes were wet too! See you next week!

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