Life on Chilkat Lake

20160521_161153.jpgWe are settling into life on Chilkat Lake. While we are still unpacking and organizing, we have already begun life’s regular routines. While we have traded our careers for life in the outdoors, it’s far from retirement living. We work harder, but with little stress. I don’t miss traffic, although getting anywhere by boat brings you directly into the elements. So, while I’ve left a nine to five job and commute in traffic, I’ve traded it for a morning loaded with physical chores with little to no awareness of time. Getting anywhere takes planning. A trip to “town” is about a six hour project. Getting ourselves and the boat ready takes an hour or longer. The boat ride to the landing where our truck is parked is nearly an hour. Then, the drive to town is another hour. Once in town, we check our mail at the post office, stop into the library to check email and upload our latest pics and stories to our blog, grab a bite to eat, some provisions, and it’s back to the car ride for our two hour return trip back home. Basically, running errands in town is a full day project. But, the boat ride includes a million dollar view of the most incredible snow-capped mountains. And, the drive into town winds along past miles and miles of Alaskan wildflowers, and through the world’s largest bald eagle preserve. We often see mountain goats grazing on the hilltops during these

Getting dressed for a day trip into town can also be a challenge, as the boat ride requires rubber boots that come up to your knees because you may need to wade in the water that deep at the landing to secure the boat. Also, the boat ride can be very cold. I mostly wear a winter jacket and a warm hat that covers my ears. But, then when we are in town running our errands, it is hot, so I bring a change of shoes, and usually leave my coat and hat behind, but ready for the boat ride back home. I also change shoes alot at home, as our property is treacherous and boots or closed-toed shoes needed, then changed when going into the house. I feel like Mr. Rogers on steroids with my shoe changing routines.

When I am home, life is consumed with chores. We have a mix of modern conveniences with primitive living. Sometimes, I wonder if the modernizing
just makes things more difficult. For example, we have a washing machine, but it requires manually loading the water at the beginning of the cylce, then again during the rinse cycle. I had no idea washing machines use so much water! Mine requires 15 gallons per load, which I lug into the house from the glacier run off creek near our cabin. I fill 5 gallon drums, carry them into the house, then pour them into the washer. This is no small feat. Each one weighs about 40 pounds. My washer is a low-water one. The instructions said that an average machine uses 35-40 gallons of water per load. I’m glad I don’t have that kind. I might never do laundry if the washer required that much water! When I am lugging in water for the washing machine, I wonder if it would be easier to just carry my dirty clothes down to the lake and scrub my clothes on a washboard, the old-fashioned way.

Our dryer is a typical dryer that runs on electricity. The dryer zaps all of the energy from the house. It is usually too much for our solar power system, so we typically have to fire up the gas generator to dry a load of clothes. I don’t like the gasoline smell from the generator, so I try to do laundry on nice days, so that I can simply dry clothes
on a clothesline outside. I’m not sure what I’ll do come winter 😦 The hair dryer is the same deal as the clothes dryer. I have to run it on the generator. I can rough it for a while and go a day or two without washing my hair, but come day three, I want a nice hot shower, and I want to blow dry my hair and put on my makeup. I dislike using the generator enough that I have taken to letting my hair dry naturally. It’s prettier with the hair dryer, but I am getting used to the trade-offs. I’m less concerned about how I look, and more in tuned to how the mountains and lake look.

The lake in front of our cabin is constantly changing. The weather can too. In one day, it can be very sunny and almost hot, and cold enough for a jacket, and everything in between. The sun can be bright, and it can be overcast and cloudy off and on, and never rain. The lake water can be very rough and choppy, then still as glass an hour later. It doesn’t help to look at the weather forecast for Haines because our cabin sits on the lake between two mountains. The weather can be one thing in town and something very different on our mountain. The lake can even vary in different places. We live on the small part of the lake. The big part of the lake can be calm, and our section rough and choppy and vice versa. It’s constantly changing, like it’s
at the whim of God’s hand moment by moment. It is very humbling to live at the mercy of the power of nature. It makes you feel very small, yet very connected to our Maker.

Haines is a small, sleepy town. It is small because it is less than 2,000 people, and we are learning just how “sleepy” this place is… Hours of operation for various businesses are funny. For example, on Saturday, the post office might open at 12:30 and close at 2:00 because there is a track meet in town. Also, most restaurants are closed by 3:00 pm on Saturday. There are no thrift shops, but there is a new Salvation Army. Their ad in the paper said they were accepting donations, but when we arrived, they said that in fact, no, they are not accepting donations. They haven’t been accepting donations the past four times we have been there. There is also no city trash system, and businesses are particular about their trash. It’s difficult to find a trash can in town. Most times, if we have trash in our truck, we just bring it on the boat with us back to our cabin to burn in our trash pile. Our property has a lot of junk on it from the previous owners. We have been challenged with what to do with the miscellaneous ab roller, rusted out rolling cart, old fishing poles, boxes of old tupperware, etc.
We took one load to the dump station, and it cost us $65. We will need to get creative about what to do with all this junk. I miss GoodWill and bulk trash pick up.

Trash collection and gasoline smelling generator aside, this life is suiting me just fine. I am looking forward to hosting our first visitors! We are hoping to host friends or family members over the summer. If you are looking for a true getaway, come and see us!


4 thoughts on “Life on Chilkat Lake

  1. I am a Facebook friend and fan of Jeff’s book. You guys really are brave and tough for this adventure. I have a friend in Homer who is living off the grid and off the land. Her name is Charlotte and is on the TV show Wild Alaska. Otto and Charlotte. I’m sure I could get you their contact info if you would like. They are tough as nails but very nice.


  2. I have not kept up with things on lake Chilkat and if it is no trouble please let me know. I found out Johns place burned down. Did they ever put the steel bridge in? And or make a state park out of it or reimburse property owners for their houses?
    I am Adam Paulicks dad who helped build the cabin 5 or 6 lots down from john. I am desperately interested in knowing the area and what has happened!
    Thanks ,Jim Paulick


  3. Hi, my name is Evan and I’m glad I stumbled upon your page!
    Greetings from Wisconsin!
    I have been doing some research and absolutely have fallen in love with Chilkat lake. I’ve been looking into some property around there.
    I’d love to pick the brain of someone who has done what I see myself doing in the not-so-distant future!

    If you would be interested in chatting with me about things in that area, I’d really look forward to an email from you!

    Thanks, and save some of the beauty for me when I move up there! 🙂


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