It was just over 22 years ago that I house- and critter-sat for my daughter Christine and hubby Jim Crossen at their homestead in the Alaska bush. I had volunteered to take care of their place while Chris and Jim were away on a needed break. Their place was located on a small lake a half-hour by float plane west of the Parks Highway near Willow. In winter, oversized skis replace the plane’s floats. This was to be the longest I had ever been alone, away from civilization — 16 days. It turned out to be a very relaxing time that I spent writing and exploring near their cabin. I also split firewood daily, kept their wood stove stoked, and kept their three dogs and assorted chickens, ducks and goats fed and watered. Here’s my original log, with minor edits for readability.
Monday, April 10, 1995 — I arrived at paradise Lake at about 1130 today, after waiting at Susitna Air in Willow, Alaska, for their pilot to return from an earlier run to Rainy Pass. He’d delivered some fuel, but fog prevented him from returning for a couple of hours. The flight out here was a little bumpy from a northerly breeze, but it was a smooth landing on the frozen lake.
There’s been a thin overcast here all day, but sunny otherwise. The air temperature got up to 50° F. Dug a cave in a snowbank to keep coolers w/ food cold enough. I met Seth, C & J’s “neighbor” 11 miles to the north. He and Jim run a trap line together. About my age; seems like a nice guy. He’ll keep an eye on me till he goes to town in a week or so. It’s real quiet here. The 3 dogs seem to be big on sleeping. Duke, 2-yr Black Lab, BIG Black Lab. Samantha, “Sammy,” medium-small, shaggy whitish mutt, loving and affectionate. And Chippy, mixed Dachshund, erratically affectionate, spoiled and paranoid.
Went on a short snow machine adventure in afternoon. OK up and down the lake runway, but got it struck in soft snow in the meadow across the lake from the house. Will try and dig it out when it freezes and snow firms up.
Quiet evening. Moose steak stir-fry. Turned out OK, but I’d gone a little heavy on the cayenne. Sinuses better now. Ha.
Tuesday, April 11, 1995 — Didn’t freeze last night, so must wait to get the snow machine unstuck. Did find Jim’s snowshoes, and walked w/ shovel to snow machine. Dug around sled, packed snow down, and dug snow out from around the machine’s track, where it was packed. Should drive out easily after snow freezes hard again.
Quiet day otherwise. Got more written on puffin book, played a little music on wooden flute, whistle and B-flat fife. Watched movie w/ Harrison Ford about IRA terrorists.
Wednesday, April 12, 1995 — Up at the crack of 0845. Thought it was earlier. Temperature 27° F, so walked over to snow machine to drive it out. Was a little concerned whether hard snow was deep enough to support snow machine, or just a thin crust that would break through. Fears unfounded. Snow machine drove out easily, and I went for short spin to end of lake, to trail head that Jim said leads to open creek w/ swans, etc. Will wait for another day to follow trail. To Kong!!
Thursday, April 13, 1995 — Had a good day yesterday, all-in-all. Chris phoned from Greg’s last night. Excited about leaving for Las Vegas. They’re there as I write this. I’m still adjusting to slow, quiet pace here.
It’s now 1100 h as I write this. I’m on Lesson 102 in A Course In Miracles, “I share God’s Will for happiness for me.” It is now my happiness to continue writing chapter 3 of “Kong’oluch: Survival of an Alaskan Puffin.” Made good progress on ch 3. About maybe 1/3 in pretty good shape. Another 1/3 fairly complete outline, rest in skeletal outline only.
Finally got out of cabin after McNeil-Lehrer News Hour and skied to upper end of lake and back. Watched a couple of Robin Williams movies, “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and “Good Morning Vietnam.” Sammy was “lost” for 30 min just afore bedtime, but she finally came home.
Friday, April 14, 1995 — Up at 0815. Good night’s sleep. The fire in the wood stove had burned out, but it was still comfortable in the cabin. A little cool, but still comfortable. Got another good writing session in. Still working on ch 3 – fine-tuning Kong’oluch’s first few hours at sea – first feeding frenzy, etc. The thoughts and words continue to come. Thank you, My Comforter. The theme of recent ACIM lessons has been “I am God’s Son, and Peace and Joy are my natural inheritance.” For me, it’s like the Peace that passes my understanding.
Saturday, April 15, 1995 — Up at 0815 this AM to heavy snowfall. ‘Tis 1030 as I write this, and there’s about 7” of new snow and it’s still coming down heavily. Phoned son Mike at his home to find out what’s going on. The cats are doing fine. He’ll phone me from my place tonight. Time for ACIM lesson.
Total dump of about 7”-8”, but it mostly melted by evening. Temperature in high 30’s. Another day working on Kong’oluch.
Easter Sunday, April 16, 1995 — Slow Easter Sunday. Slept till about 1000, watched Lonesome Dove videos all day. Finally got out about 5 PM on Chris’ snowmachine and packed down the runway on lake. It actually wasn’t too bad w/ new snow. Lake ice still seems thick and hard beneath snow. It didn’t freeze last night – maybe down to 35 or so. Tried to phone my brother Mike, but he couldn’t understand me – too much static. Went to bed early – about 9 PM. Fell asleep watching Nature on TV (Ch 7).
Monday, April 17, 1995 — Slept OK last night, but did wake up from about 2-4 AM. Read “Argen the Gull.” Getting good ideas for puffin book. Author, Franklin Russell, has good examples of “show, don’t tell,” which I need to incorporate more examples of in puffin book. I’m on the right track, and I’m struck with similar approach between Russell and I. He’s not a biologist, and I see him approaching biological descriptions more anthropomorphically than I. I’d been a little concerned that I’m going into too much detail w/ Kong’oluch, but after about 1/3 through Argen, I think I’m OK in detail department. Maybe I can even add more detail, by way of more showing replacing telling.
In faith, I’m renewed with belief that in writing Kong’oluch, I’m somehow acting out part of my Devine Mission. Today’s ACIM lesson, “Let me be still and listen to the truth. I am the messenger of God today, My voice is His, to give what I receive.”
“Lord, may my written and spoken words today reflect Your will, and bless all who read and hear. I am blessed as I write and speak.” To Kong’oluch!
Tuesday, April 18, 1995 — Had another good day writing yesterday. Good near-drowning sequence, but need to shorten monologue re: biologists’ beached bird surveys. This is one of several biology vignettes that will be in book, based on my first-hand experiences. Cooked up some mooseburger stir fry last night, and it turned out good. Stomach a little upset afterwards, but not sure of cause. Will have more stir fry tonight, and see what happens.
Things continue quiet. Son Mike phoned last night, and things are OK at home. Cats doing fine. Temperature just barely 32 at 0700 this AM. Earliest I’ve gotten up. It’s 0915 right now – time to return to Kongoluch!
5:10 PM. Just returned from an hour ski on the lake. To the east end, and into the north and southeast bays; and a ways uphill from southeast bay. Temperature 46. There are a few spots on the lake w/ ice and slush through snow. Some small, localized spots of rotten ice, down to about 6”. However, the runway is still in good shape. If only we get some more cold to harden things up. Will check lake again tomorrow.
Another productive day writing. Cleaning up and embellishing chapter 3. More showing and not telling. Still need to introduce other kinds of seabirds and mammals in more detail. But want to save more personal encounters for later. Starting to get a few ideas for Chapter 4, but expect it to flow too, as I begin working on it. Re-read chapter 1 and 2, and made a few minor changes in ch 1-3 to better tie them all together.
Another, 6th, animal invaded the household. A 2+ inch, light brownish vole, with a short tail. I sicced Duke on it, but it escaped. Thought later, I’d try and catch it and let it loose outside.
Wednesday, April 19, 1995 — Slept in till about 0830 this morning. It’s now 1250 as I write this. Don’t think it froze last night; it was a balmy 42° when I got up. Tuned in channel 2 for Morning News, and learned about terrorist bombing of Oklahoma City federal building. Played a few tunes on whistle, read ACIM lesson for day, and meditated on meaning, offering various people I know “peace of mind, gentleness and quietness.”
The vole suddenly ran across the living room floor, and crawled into my open flute case. I got a glass and trapped it, then let it loose on the hillside west of the cabin in a bare patch at the base of a birch tree. Feel like I’m getting a late start writing, but that’s OK. More later.
Got a little writing done. Watched news reports on OKC bombing. In late afternoon, took Chris’ snowmachine and a shovel out on the lake, and filled in a bare spot on the runway where the ice was turning rotten. Then XC skied around lake for about 30 minutes. Nice day – temp about 50°, overcast. More rotten ice on lake.
Thursday, April 20, 1995 — Slept in till about 0915. Tried to catch a little update on bombing. They may have a suspect. Temp 42°, partly sunny. Played flute a little, and now at 1115, to writing. Had another good day writing. Embellished and cleaned up chapter 3 some more. It’s just about ready to turn over to editors group.
XC ski on lake for about half hour after evening news. Ice about the same – runway still usable, but more signs of melting on surface, beneath snow. A little flute afterwards. Watched video movies, Naked Gun 2 – ROTFLMAO, and Ferris Beuler’s Day Off — OK movie.
Friday, April 21, 1995 — Lights off at 0100 this AM. Up at 0730. Awoke to 35° and light drizzle. Now 0920, and heavier drizzle and sleet coming down. Hope it freezes enough for fixed-wing plane to make it in OK. Starting to get antsy about getting home. Sleet turned to snow for about an hour, but air temperature was 40°.
Fantastic news is, my brother Mike called last night, with the best possible news on his cancer treatment. All prior signs are gone, or significantly lessened. Praise God! To Kong’oluch. Plan on fine-tuning chapter 3 some more, then working on overall outline, and maybe chapter 4 more.
Saturday, April 22, 1995 — Now 1130. Slow day so far. Just talked on radio to Jean on the Ridge. She’s doing OK. Fine-tuned chapter 3 some more; will work on outline and ch 4 now. Must go outside to check lake ice and get more gas from dump for generator.
Strapped on snowshoes and filled a 5 gallon can with gas from one of the two 55-gal drums that still have gas. Took the rest of the meat that was frozen when I arrived here, across the lake to Jim’s beaver carcass pile. Eagles and ravens had stripped 2 beaver carcasses bare. I left the spoiled meat there, and maybe the birds will benefit. Some of the meat smelled OK, but most didn’t and I didn’t want to take any chances with the formerly-frozen bear and moose meat. I tried several times to reach Lana’s number in Las Vegas to see what’s going on with Chris and Jim, but it was either busy or no answer each time.
Sunday, April 23, 1995 — Up at 0745 and watched Robert Schuller’s “Hour of Power.” Good stuff about synergy w/ others and beatitudes. Had good session, about an hour, on silver flute. Meditated on today’s ACIM lesson while I played long tones. “Light and joy and peace abide in me,” and “I am as God created me.” Working on Kong’pluch outline and watching NBA playoff games.
Monday, April 24, 1995 — Up about 0715. Talked to Jim yesterday, and they’ll fly to Anchorage today, about midnight, and plan on driving to Talkeetna for flight out here w/ Hudson Air. I checked lake and runway yesterday afternoon, and ice seems to be going fast. Standing water on top of ice, maybe 10-15’ wide, around 30-40% of the shoreline on the house end of lake, and isolated spots on rest of lake. Near the runway turnaround, there are several areas of water and slush on top of ice, the deepest maybe 4”-5”. A few soft spots on the frozen lake runway, worst near a point on the shore, at Ed’s cabin. Slush spots still 4-5” deep. Will go out again this afternoon to mark runway better w/ spruce boughs, and fill in soft spots w/snow. Weather 37°, overcast, drizzle, fog covering ridge on S side of meadow across lake.
Talked to Lori G. last evening, describing weather and lake conditions. Told her I would leave phone on in case Chris wanted to phone when they get in. C and J will be spending the night at Ed and Lori’s after they get in at midnight.
Tuesday, April 25, 1995 — Up at 0615 this AM. Watched Ch 2 news and packed. Jim called from Hudson Air, Talkeetna, at 0800. It’s raining, and he will call when the pilot gets in. Jay Hudson (pilot) called about 1000; weather looks marginal for flying today. I’m packed, and ready to go. Chris called from Ed and Lori’s. Gotta wait till tomorrow for weather to clear.
It’s now 1545, and I’m settled in again. Oh well. Will write some planning copy for Sound Eco Adventures, my new water taxi business in Whittier, and/or work more on Kong. At loose ends, and antsy to go home. Worked a little on book outline and chapter four, but hard to concentrate.
Wednesday, April 26, 1995 — Up at 0745. Really groggy. Chris finally phoned about 1000 to say it may be a go in afternoon. Finally able to take shower, since I have word. Didn’t want to risk missing call. It’s now 3:15 PM, and I’m still waiting for final word about flying out today. Chris just called from Big Lake, and they’re on their way to Talkeetna. Weather has been much better than yesterday. Light drizzle off and on, no wind. Hope it’s a go. I’ve been at loose ends all day. Split and stacked about 2 days of firewood, swept kitchen and entry floor. Standing by. May take snow machine down to check out lake ice.
Two plane loads via Supercub made it in!! Pilot did’t want to chance the ice breaking through on the lake, so he landed in a long meadow about a half-mile from the cabin. Chris and most of their supplies made it on the 1st trip, Jim and the rest of their stuff on the 2nd trip. Had a nice visit w/ Chris while waiting for Jim’s flight. Left Paradise Lake about 7 PM, and arrived Talkeetna 45 minutes later. Got sandwich and drove home, arriving in Anchorage about 10:15. Good to be home.