On the Road

Adventures in Skin City

It feels beyond surreal to be immerse myself into the madness of Las Vegas after a year in the bush of Alaska. 107 degrees of scorching heat are simply intolerable. Even walking by the entrances of the casinos delivers a welcome breeze of cool air oozing out of the air-conditioned palaces of game and glitter.

Hordes of women in super short, and breathtakingly tight dresses (ed. leaving it open whose breath they are taking away), and men from chic to shabby parade the Strip, chasing their dreams. Weird plastic containers in the shape of a water pipe filled with gallons of a cold drink seem to be en vogue. Wearing black is still fashionable, despite the heat. Then there are street performers fully dressed as spiderman, the hulk, Kiss and robots. And some dancers, lesser dressed, who have their picture taken with tourists. It’s a zoo.

Flashing billboards and other light effects turn the night into an outdoor spectacle. Loud music is drowned by a dozen of Ferraris roaring down the Strip.

My biggest adventure that night was that I lost my car. Couldn’t find it to save my life. I thought I returned to the parking structure where I had left it, to no avail. A security guard on a mountain bike scanned the building after I had searched for an hour, walking miles and miles in a smelly parking structure. After that I got a ride with another security officer, checking every floor. No luck. They hadn’t towed a car on a long time, maybe stolen? Well a long 3 hour story short. I retraced my steps as well as I could, which isn’t that simple in Vegas, and finally found, exactly where I had left it. Uff. I didn’t get lost in the Alaskan wilderness in a year. In Vegas, I was lost within a day…

Inside Out

First Impressions

Seemingly free

Seemingly free

After 7 months in the wilderness I have returned to a different wilderness with its own rules, dangers, and beauty. I am shocked by the noise and the hassle. Anchorage seems to be designed for cars being divided into blocks of avenues and streets. Wide and noisy. I am using a key to lock my door, like everybody else here… I did not have a key for a year…


Corner Offices

I see lots of signs telling me what I can do and what I can’t, mostly what I can’t. What happened to common sense. I am nobody in this town, anonymously walk I through the streets. I see many faces glued to a flat-screen device. Finally, one thing that is not very different from living at the lodge. There must be happiness radiating from these little devices.




Inside Out

Note to self

It’s best to fix the roof when the sun is shining.

Ryan Howes

A great location and a great day for fixing the roof.

A great location and a great day for fixing the roof.

Amen. I guess this advice does not only apply to home improvement.

I feel lousy today, despite the sunshine. A mixed bag of emotions, and worries…

I know I should live in the moment, be present.

The roof needs fixing. Let’s go.

Inside Out

\\||///_ _ _

“Life is short, break the Rules.
Forgive quickly, kiss slowly.
Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably
and never regret anything
that makes you smile.”

Mark Twain

This happened today: A black bear far away, violets at my feet, ice crashing onto the shore, cold gusts, gotta wear that down jacket again, garlic-roasted ptarmigan with potato dumplings and green beans, a game of cribbage, snow flakes, sunshine, two loons, they never come alone, just silly, it’s late, good night.

Splintering ice

Splintering ice

Inside Out

Into the blue

Winter has gone. With that my job as a winter caretaker comes to an end. It has been an amazing experience to live away from civilization for an Alaskan winter. Amazing if you like solitude, serenity, tranquility, with a few moments of loneliness, anxiety, and urgency. Now that spring is here I am awaiting a plane to pick me up and drop me back into the real world as we know it.

What is next?

Into the blue

Into the blue

I am not sure. As always, there are options, opportunities and choices. Why is it such a difficult task to decide on the next steps? Change, maybe?

Today, I had a day with the horses. It was a good day.

We have 17 horses that spend all year living outside. No heated stable, no roof. We feed them horse feed year round. During the winter that is their only food supply. They are tough. During the cold season they come in every morning, finding their place in the corral, where we tie them up for the daily feeding. Once they are done we let them go.

Today, we decided to follow the horses and see how they spend the day. It was a life lesson.

After getting their much-loved breakfast pellets, they decided to take a digestive nap in the morning before leaving the corral. After an hour of basking they trotted of into a swampy valley to munch on some fresh greens. Leaving plenty of new grass for tomorrow they headed uphill to an open area, clear of willows and alders. This seemed a good place for a nap. Some horses lied down, rested their heads on the soft tundra. Some closed their eyes…

Others stood in the warm sun, motionless for minutes. The rest found enough to graze on without much walking around. One horse, Ember, had enough of this and walked back.

Another hour went by and the group slowly headed to a boggy area. Most of the time we could easily keep up with their pace. That bog was good for another 2 hours of grazing.

I had brought a book about the PCT. The author was in his 60s, when he walked all the way from the Mexican border to Canada in about 6 months. He reports not only on the daily stages and events, but also on his inner journey. Having been fired from his job, he started out angry, disappointed, and questioning his purpose in life. His job was a corner stone of his life.  In the beginning it was important to him to meticulously keep track of the miles hiked. That became irrelevant after a few weeks. The experiences that you cannot quantify, only feel, became most important.

Watching the horses, contemplating my own future, I stopped worrying. It was a great day, sunny, warm, few mosquitoes, surrounded by plenty of lingonberries from last year, a fantastic view of the mountains, the tundra awakening from hibernation…




One Man's Paradise


It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.

George Harrison

Just another gorgeous day in paradise. No need to dwell on the past or fear the future. I am just taking in what the days are offering.

I am expecting a loud boom any time. An explosion. That’s how fast nature is changing. Probably it’s not that dramatic. Just appears to me that way after those winter days. First of all, there is so much light. Even before I open my eyes in the morning at 6:45 the sun is already up. No more amazing sunrise images for me, at least for a while. Too early for me… When I do my last round around midnight I don’t need a flashlight. It’s still twilight! During the day the sun stands high on the firmament, gotta wear shades, it is so bright. Glaring light barrels down from the snowy mountain sides. Too much light even for my tender greens. I have put seeds of bell pepper, squash, and avocado into small pots and they are going like gangbusters. Kept the seedlings in the house so far. Yesterday I put them in the greenhouse during the day. It must have been close to 80 inside. They love that.

The willow catkins have progressed a bit, after being stagnant for more than 2 months. The first wildflowers are out, although I still don’t know what it is. It looks like a little plant eating monster,  a dark purple mouth with fuzzy white teeth. The lawn pushes a hint of green much to the delight of our horses.

In the morning I heard the first flock of geese heading North. I could not see them at first. They were somewhere in the big sky. There. 50 or so, a small group. V-formation, high above the ground taking advantage of the prevailing wind. Not as the crow flies. The general direction is North, but for their own reasons they deviate from the prescribed course, maybe looking for suitable drafts? They may not soar as effortless as an eagle, but they sure go the distance. Where do they go? To Beringea, the paradise of the North?

One seabird with long orange legs and a skinny beak has made a rest stop at Puntilla Lake. Three seagulls and a handful of ducks also took refuge in the little open water the lake has to offer. A think crust of ice covers the water in the morning, testimony to the frigid water temperature. It is interesting to watch the breakup process, very different form freeze up. Trapped gas bubbles reappear, small ice bergs float around the lake shore. The lake surface goes from white to gray, to green and blue. There are insects in the water moving swiftly. They have one specialized leg that serves as a paddle.





Inside Out

Earth Day

“This we know. The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man does not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

Chief Seattle

What did I do to celebrate Earth Day?

I did not drive my car to work today.
I did not heat the house today.
I did not shop today.

Well, that’s not much, given my current situation. There is no road. I have no car. Although it is below 20 degrees outside the house remains warm enough so that I don’t need to fire up the wood stove. During the day it warms up to 49 degrees Fahrenheit. Under a clear sky the sun feels more like 80 degrees. Is there such a thing as the Arctic Solar Factor? And shopping? The next store is 120 miles away and they don’t deliver right now. So, no big deal.

Although, I commend the institution of Earth Day, I think that it is not enough. We should have an Earth Year, followed by an Earth Century, where we give Mother Earth a reprieve from our abuse. I am not sure what we should or should not due to heal Earth, but I am sure we cannot keep going as we do now. We can, but it will be a crowded, artificial place and in the end wilderness and adventure will be distant memories.

What does the fox say?

"What did you do for Earth Day?"

“What did you do for Earth Day?”

Inside Out

After 90 days…

in Alaska I came up with this adaptation of America’s song “A Horse with No Name”

On the first part of the journey
I was looking at all the life
There were willow, spruce and alder trees
There was snow and ice
The first thing I saw was a bear with a buzz
And the mountain with no clouds
The water was cold and the ground was wet
And the air was void of sound

I’ve been through Denali on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out in the rain
where you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one to give you no pain

After ten days in the Alaskan sun
My skin began to turn red
After thirty days in the midnight sun
I was looking at a river bed
And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think he was dead

You see, I’ve been through Denali on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out in the rain
where you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one to give you no pain

After ninety days I let the horse run free
‘Cause the hills had turned to an orange sea
There were berries, black and blue
There were rivers to cross and mountains, too