The other night I asked Stewart, “What can I tell people about where the cabin is?”
“Say it’s not far from the northern boundary of Denali National Park.”
“Can I post that map with the big black arrow on it?” (Because of course that makes it clear.)
“And why don’t you want to tell people more specifically where it is?”
“Because we don’t want anyone to go looking for it when we’re not there.” (Translation: “Duh.”)
Our cabin is far away from most other human-made items, inventions, and diversions. The nearest town is about twenty miles to the sort-of east; the nearest road, about ten miles in a different direction. There’s also another cabin about ten miles away, but it’s usually empty.
It may be that the “thing” nearest the cabin is Fairbanks City Transit Bus 142*, in which Christopher McCandless so infamously died in 1992. Stewart was most likely the person in closest proximity to McCandless while he was becoming the tragic protagonist of Into the Wild — but the unmarked miles between them were cleaved with big rivers and rough with forested ridges. Neither man could have known the other was there. When Stewart left the land that year, a helicopter pilot mentioned they’d just brought out a body.
There’s always talk about removing the bus from the wilderness, but it hasn’t happened yet. It could stay out there and rust in peace if folks would just leave it alone. The problem is that people with no experience in the bush keep pilgriming to the bus and some of them die doing it.
Stewart and I don’t want to go to the bus. Nor do we do anything inordinately risky while we’re at the cabin. I have watched Stewart climb an eighty foot spruce tree with a chain saw and, while that wasn’t my favorite moment, he did make it back to earth with all his limbs intact. (The tree’s limbs? Not so much. They were trimmed for a project we’ll describe in another post.)
As for me, I feel brave enough when I set out alone to prove that I can find the little metal post sunk into permafrost, marking the Denali park boundary. I do this by following our Blueberry Trail down to the edge of the Moose Bog, then crossing over and bearing left at The Unusual Stand of Cottonwood Trees. We name what’s familiar so we know where we are.
Next, I think I’ll answer the question about how Stewart got the land where he eventually built the cabin. But before that, there may be something about getting on a train. I leave tomorrow on the first leg of my journey north, so I’ll check in about that soon.
*This Wikipedia entry talks about how a Fairbanks bus got to be way the heck out in the woods in the first place.