A journalist observes life in the far north.
A three-hour drive past two military bases, a depressing little wind-swept junction and then a hill called Donnelly Dome, and you arrive at our snowmachine cabin.
It’s an unremarkable little shack among dozens of other shacks and cabins that make up this hamlet on a hill that crops up from a lake.
The place serves as a surprise to motorists headed for the ocean, which is another three hours south, because you are in the middle of nowhere for miles and miles and then you come up on this desolate cabin community.
Some people know this area as Summit Lake. Others call it Paxson or the Hoodoo Mountains. We call it “the mountains” and we retreat there several times a year, Easter being one of those times.
Now, to some, this cabin community is closely associated with a massive party that takes place nearby every spring. The party is more or less Alaska’s version of spring break, attracting thousands of mainly snowmachiners and snowboarders. There’s a race and drinking and people get hurt every year. This year, a man was run down by a snowmachiner. The snowmachiner didn’t stop after breaking both of the man’s legs. A reward has been offered to anyone who can identify the snowmachiner. Other years, people have been killed under similar circumstances.
But, for the most part, the families with cabins like ours are working people who want to get away from town and relax. Some drink. Some of the families have been going down there for generations.
Alec bought the land when he was a teenager after it was offered in a state lottery. He paid it off over 30 years. For many years, it was the only property he owned.
When he built the cabin, some of the old timers didn’t like where he put it and they made him move the place back 20 feet. They predicted the wind would blow down the place the following winter. But it’s held up despite the weather and the epic partying that I hear unfolded there when Alec was younger.
I’m told the old timers used to call our cabin The Grass Shack. Now that it’s a family getaway, I don’t know what they call it.