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Outdoors

Posted: Tuesday, December 15, 2009

For each one of us that lives in Alaska there is an outdoor side to us that we need to address from time to time. For some of us there is a mountain man side that often times tells us we should have been born in a different era. For some of the more extreme cases some of our friends and neighbors actually dream of being some of the first settlers to Alaska.

Through the years of reading about the many hardships that our first pioneers endured and also by becoming older and wiser I personally am glad not to have lived at that time. Setting in Alaska and surviving all that Alaska threw at the early settlers was a feat in its own for any generation. For many it wasn't the dream life they thought it was going to be and for a few it became a full time job just to survive. Many of our early settlers died trying to carve out a life here in the last frontier.

In the Andrew Berg book he kept a diary almost daily that was short but basically told you what he did each day. This is a very informative and fantastic book and lets you know the struggles and chores involved in living alone in the wilderness of Alaska in the 1930's. There were no sentences about relaxing on Sunday afternoon watching your favorite NFL team or calling to get a pizza ordered. You couldn't simply drive into town and get ice cream at Dairy Queen or Cold stone. You did not have the option of lighting your stove in the fall and setting your thermostat as the cold weather dictated.

There were no cell phones, computers, TV, or video games in your homes or anyone else's. You could get some hardware items in town although Trustworthy Hardware was not in its present location. I'm sure Paul Miller was already here but in a different location and no Keith did not work for him then.

Amongst our dreams of living in the wilderness in those early days are the thoughts of an unbelievable fishery, giant berries growing everywhere, and an abundance of wildlife. Clams that were abundant and huge halibut close to shore the Kenai River full of Les Anderson record size King Salmon. For some it was a peaceful quiet mountain side or a relaxing moment along a lake on a quiet day. Maybe it was a moose calf nuzzling its mom or a family of loons singing on a lake.

Going to the store in the 1930's was out of necessity and not for entertainment. Prices in the stores were much less than they are today but then again so was the income. Here is a list of prices I found for certain items in the lower 48 for the 1930's and I am quite sure they were considerably higher here at that time. Sharp Wis. Cheese .23/LB, peanut butter .23/ quart, sugar.49/10 LB, Carnay soap .6/bar, lard .15/LB, oranges 14/.25, jumbo sliced bread .5/loaf, and the best steaks .22/LB.

Since you most likely also had to cook off your wood stove besides using it for heat that meant you had to have wood to burn all year long as well as extra heat in your house during the summer hot days. It also meant more wood for you to cut too. On nice weather days you really needed to be working at your wood cutting and other outdoor chores as much as possible if you were going to survive the winters. Many of the early settlers made their own footwear as there were no shoe stores where you could grab a cheap pair of tennis shoes and be on your way.

You made most of your own bread and meat was preserved by canning it, drying it or salting it away in a wood barrel or crock. You made improvements to your cabin as you could afford it and there were no Home depots or Loews in town. You had no electricity, was machines or freezers, a lot of your furniture were homemade and we did not have the variety or the quality of outdoor gear available today. If you're wood stove had a small firebox you constantly tending to it to keep it going.

Bugs were a horrible problem at times as were bears especially if they got into your food supply. If your food was gone you could be in a real bind as running to the store and restocking was not an option for most people at that time.

Trapping was one of the ways many of the early settlers made money but often times that wasn't enough either and for many money was in short supply. Surviving was your number one priority and no I would much rather live here today than have to fight just to survive. I like turning on my gas boiler and having a refrigerator, freezer, wash machine, meat saw and grinder, and yes I even like having a pick-up to drive. Hauling in snow covered wood at temperatures below -20 really sound like fun don't they? Did I mention the indoor plumbing and bathrooms too!

See you next week!



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