Thanksgiving at the Lake
November 23 - 26, 1989
We feasted with friends in Anchorage, then loaded Dennis' truck with warm clothes, provisions and a snowmachine for a winter trip to the homestead. We left town Friday before sunrise. During the long drive, the sun gradually lightened the southern sky, then sparkled from mountain peaks, stark against an ice-blue sky. Hoar frost covered every needle, branch and blade of grass.
Caribou browsed along the roadside, a bull moose bolted for the trees, and the first wolf I've seen in the wild loped down the middle of the road no more than 200 yards ahead of us. Snow-white ptarmigan took flight in a noisy flutter and glided softly back to earth.
At the end of the drive, we unloaded the snowmachine, packed the sled, and bundled up for the 20-mile ride to the cabin. It was calm and relatively warm, perhaps 8 degrees Fahrenheit, but gale force winds had blown and packed the snow into icy ridges that were virtually impossible to see in the flat light. We were riding double, and I found myself bouncing high and unbalanced far more often than I liked.
But here we are in the cozy cabin, with a crackling fire, a hot drink, and finally time to rest and think. I often wonder why unpressured time seems so hard to find. Everyone I know is busier than ever. The whole world seems to have shifted into overdrive and the rats are racing faster and faster. We love it here in this peaceful cabin, surrounded by God's beautiful wilderness. We are very thankful this Thanksgiving!
November 25, 1993
Our friend Ron wrote about a different Thanksgiving a few years later.
When I woke up on Thanksgiving morning I was excited about traveling in to spend the day with Dennis and Susan. I didn't have much experience on my snowmachine, but was familiar with the trail into their property. Even though the wind had begun to howl early that morning, I was unprepared for the sight that greeted me when I went outside for wood for my little stove. I was greeted by a complete whiteout! I literally had to feel my way along my cabin wall to the woodpile.
With no sign that the wind would abate any time soon, I sadly resigned myself to missing a great dinner and the company of friends for Thanksgiving. I pulled a frozen caribou steak from my outside meat locker and brought it in to thaw. My brother and I had harvested the caribou and I had bored a hole in the lake ice to fish for trout and the occasional burbot. Tim Reddington of the famous Iditarod family had taught me how to spear whitefish at night in the open water. Wearing waders and holding a Coleman lantern, I could usually manage to spear a couple of them before getting a chill and heading back to warm up.
Around 4 pm on that Thanksgiving day, I had given up all hope of the wind storm dying down, so I put the tea kettle on the stove and began to peel potatoes for dinner. As I pared the potatoes, I thought I heard the distant murmur of a motor. Living in the dead quiet of the Alaskan wilderness, one becomes attuned to any unusual noise. It grew louder and I became concerned. Anyone traveling in such severe weather conditions can get into serious trouble in an instant. I put down my pan of potatoes and went to the door when I heard not one but two snowmachines pull up outside. I opened the door expecting to find distressed travelers in need of aid. Instead, they pulled off their ski masks and hats and there stood a smiling Dennis and a woman I had never seen before. “Ready to go to dinner?” Dennis asked.
Figuring that Dennis, with his years of winter wilderness experience, knew what he was doing, I suited up in my cold weather gear and a few minutes later was astride my Polaris snowmachine and following him onto, (to me,) an invisible trail to his cabin on another lake. We all got stuck any number of times on the way, (even Dennis,) but were mostly laughing when we had to dig one another out of snow banks. Although it only took about an hour to cover the miles to his cabin, it seemed like the better part of a week.
When we arrived, Susan greeted us at the door. As we got out of our traveling clothes, the aroma of the dinner cooking had me salivating like a hungry sled dog. I later learned that the woman who had accompanied us had just had her first experience on a snow machine!! We all sat down to a great dinner, then enjoyed tea and Susan's music before turning in. Her Goldilocks and Three Bears song is absolutely priceless!
The next couple of days, the weather didn't get any better and I didn't feel confident enough to find my way back blindly solo to my cabin, so we finished all the leftovers and just enjoyed each others' company. More music. Lots of great stories.
When the sun came out and the wind went down the following morning, I thanked everyone for the best Thanksgiving ever, suited up and made my way back to my little cabin. On the trip back, parts of the trail had blown over and were barely visible. In some places, I had to rely on local landmarks to keep my bearings. Once I got onto the main trail, I was cruising along at a good clip. To this day I am in awe of Dennis knowing exactly where he was and where we were going at all times in that blinding wind storm.
I still marvel at the fact that one night, I willingly traipsed off into the Alaska wilderness, practically blind to my surroundings on a machine that I wasn't exactly an expert on, completely confident that with Dennis leading, everything was going to be just fine. It was. Everything was just fine.
Go on to read Skiing with the Wolves
Source: www.SusanCAnthony.com, ©Susan C. Anthony