A friend of mine, Vicky, recommended this book on her blog Tramps Camp. I’d read most of the other titles on her winter reading list, but this book about Alaskan wilderness living was new to me.
Winds of Skilak: A Tale of True Grit, True Love and Survival in the Alaskan Wilderness is the memoir of Bonnie Rose Ward. Bonnie and her husband Sam were from Ohio. Bonnie was a city girl, but Sam grew up on a farm where he learned how to hunt and became a jack-of-all-trades. They started out with a traditional town life, but Sam had a dream of living off the land in Alaska. So in 1980, at thirty-six years of age for Sam and twenty-five for Bonnie, they sold their home and packed up for the long drive to Alaska.
They searched for property until they came upon land on Caribou Island in remote Skilak Lake near Sterling, Alaska. A funny side note, my sister and her husband have built a cabin home in Sterling and love it there. But their location near town makes their lifestyle much easier.
Bonnie and Sam arrived in late spring and began cutting trees, stripping logs, and built a rustic cabin home before winter arrived. Bonnie’s memoir chronicles their first three years of cabin life, it’s challenges and joys. Sam was steadfast in his belief that they not only could live in the wilderness, but make a living there as well. Bonnie followed her husband, and in time became a “wilderness woman” herself.
I enjoyed reading about how Bonnie learned to can, cook, and keep a home without the luxuries of town life: electricity, water, sewer, stores and close neighbours. Even at our off-the-grid cabin I have the luxuries of propane appliances and lights, solar and wind for minimal electricity, and water hand pumped up from the lake right under our cabin floor. And we don’t have to contend with such cold winters or to make a living from our land. In a way, it makes me feel a bit guilty that I have so many resources to make life simple.
Stories about travel on Skilak Lake remind me of travel on my Powell Lake. The video above by Eric Bushnell on YouTube gives you an idea about how severe Skilak can get. We too are governed by the weather and storm waves, but Wayne is much better at listening to me when I’m afraid than Sam was for Bonnie. Maybe that means I’m not yet a “wilderness woman” willing to take anything Powell Lake has to dish out.
Winds of Skilak is available on Amazon in print and kindle formats. -- Margy