Chilkoot Inlet Cabin Fever
I’ve been living in a small, rustic cabin in Haines, Alaska for just over a month, since the end of my sockeye salmon season with Icicle Seafoods. It seems longer, but so far, only one full moon. On one particularly clear night not long after we got here, the northern lights put on a good show all over southeast, AK, giving everyone something interesting to talk about. But I missed it. I was deep in a locally-distilled-vodka induced sleep after soaking in the wood-fired hot tub next to our cabin on the hill. In other words, blissfully asleep. I woke up so refreshed the next morning that I didn’t even care we missed the Aurora Borealis. Can’t complain at all! Sometimes, sleep is better than anything.
Now, imagine waking up and looking down from your sleeping loft to see everything you need: an art studio, a workshop; a box piled with wood, split and ready for the wood stove; a compact kitchen in the corner. It’s cozy up on your perch. Outside, the ravens and Bald Eagles are circling the sky on the edge of a rain-soaked Alaskan wilderness, perfectly framed in the window over your head. Is this not the cabin dream?
For many Haines residents and for Dustin and Katie Craney, this is their real life.
When Cota and I were quitting our jobs and moving into a van to travel N. America, our friends, Dustin and Katie were following a different kind of adventurous American Dream–buying property in Alaska.
Lovers of simplicity and nature, the Craney’s purchased a piece of land nestled in a thickly tangled and mossy forest on the edge of the Chilkoot Inlet, at the top of the Inside Passage. They are building their home in the most charming southeast Alaskan community. Haines is epic if you’ve never been here. The Chilkoot Port Distillery and Haines Brewery alone make it hard to leave. Haines is also home to the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve and the world’s largest concentration of Bald Eagles. Yep. This place is for real. Jagged mountain peaks, glacial valleys, salmon, bears, moose, the ocean and a strong hunterer-gatherer culture heavily influenced by the local traditions of the Tlingit natives. Totem poles stand proud in Haines, depicting the large presence of a culture that originally settled this area and continue to call it home.
It’s an amazing landscape. And lucky for us, the Craney’s are here and we get to visit!
Cota and Dustin have been friends for…maybe ten years? Long enough for Dustin to know Cota is an incredibly skilled carpenter and craftsman and also, a free and roaming spirit that enjoys helping his friends whenever he can.
As we were packing our van for the Alaska portion of our road trip, we made sure to save plenty of room for carpentry tools in order to build a shed for the Craney’s in Alaska! The timing was perfect and fit into our plans well.
What’s been most impressive is not the serendipitous and long and circuitous journey that brought us here, but realizing the simple fact that one man can build a tiny house by himself in a few weeks. We decided it’s not a shed. It’s too beautiful and livable.
Ok, we’ve helped pound a few nails and cut a few boards, but Cota has almost single-handedly built a beautiful and functional workspace with tall ceilings, a sleeping loft and an overhanging roof supported by logs cut and peeled on the property, in the one month that we’ve been here. I’m impressed. And now I know a lot about building!
First you spend hours getting everything level. Then you figure out a foundation, frame a floor, sheet a floor, frame walls, raise walls. Build a loft. Frame a roof. Spend lots of time framing the roof and squaring the walls and trying not to die. Then sheet the roof, side the house, and a million other things.
Most importantly, I can totally read a measuring tape to the 1/16th now!!! That’s a big deal. Fractions are not easy…
As much as I love Haines, I already have cabin fever. I’ve been stir crazy since I got here, questioning everything in my life. What am I doing and where am I headed? What am I building for my future? What do even want?? I wrestle with my restless heart, wondering where I will be satisfied to settle down..
Prayer of the Woods
I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights, the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun, and my fruits are refreshing draughts quenching your thirst as you journey on.
I am the beam that holds your house, the board of your table, the bed on which you lie, and the timber that builds your boat.
I am the handle of your hoe, the door of your homestead, the wood of your cradle, and the shell of your coffin.
I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty.
Ye who pass by, listen to my prayer:
Harm me not.