These are not the fresh wood, knotty pine cabin kits of Instagram. Public use cabins, rugged and minimalistic, serve a singular purpose. Many of these structures date to the 1960s. Most sport utilitarian dark-brown stain; in fact, layers upon layers seal together the years of use. These cabins shelter hunters, fishers and those seeking solace in our wild spaces. Available year-round but heavily booked in the fall, Alaskan cabins do not lock and welcome all and any who need emergency refuge.
Twelve by fourteen feet, the Laura Lake cabin has six simple, bare wood, sleeping bunks, a wood stove, an indoor preparation table as well as a deck. Three windows bring natural light and open out for fresh air. The metal roof adds the musical quality of Alaskan rains.
Before we crack our beers and roll out sleeping matts, all solar rechargeable lights find a space on the deck rail. The In-reach faces the three-mile-long openness of the lake and is good company next to our headlamps, torches, lanterns and charging blocks. Our cooler doubles as a seat. The water purification bladder takes its spot hanging from the rail.
Water, sleeping spots, food preparation, heat, emergency communication – check. Up the hill, situated away from the freshwater source is the outhouse. Cobbled together over the years, it distantly resembles the build of the cabin. The door faces the view of the water should one chose to leave it open during business. A plastic coffee container is repurposed to house the paper. Screen vents are in place as is a modern, plastic seat with lid. Every few years the location of the toilet moves to accommodate future use.
As the drone of the 1960s-era Beaver fades, the fizz of four carbonated, freshly opened beers brings our focus to the task at hand – “Cheers!” We’ve made it; a long awaited and much planned-for respite is officially happening. Successful Lower Forty-eight flights brought our friends north, Kodiak weather is favorable, winds are flyable and we four are healthy.
Our long-weekend plans include fly fishing, floating the lake, hiking and lots of eating and drinking. We are hopeful about finding two fall favorites: the hedgehog mushroom and the silver, or Coho salmon. Cards by lantern light around the wood stove and hanging in the hammock will occupy us. Reconnecting is what the four of us do every several years.
With only 1,200 pounds permitted on the flight over – including our collective weight, we made the careful decision to bring comforts of a cast-iron pan and ice in our heavy, but well-insulated cooler. When one stops think about what 1,200 pounds consists of, one also realizes two things almost immediately: we four people come in right around 800 pounds while an adult, male brown bear weighs more than we can pack on a Beaver.
Pre-cooked venison bourguignon will bubble on the propane stove later. It promises to fill our post-hike bellies along with sour dough bread reheated on the cast-iron over the campfire. Life simplified.
@offroadjo - JoAnne Knight