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Finding Alaska… (my way)

June 14, 2010

A number of visitors, to my blog, have asked how I cam to live in the Alaskan wilderness. The story of how this came to be is motivated on quite a bit of personal tragedy and a perceived physical health situation. Before any of these triggers happened I was a blissfully ignorant, happily married tradesman. I had worked in printing for 27 years and my daily routine was like millions of other ‘normal’ people. I never desired to move away from running water, electricity, telephone, TV and internet.

That blissful ignorance left in 1993 when my wife of 29 years died. She went into the hospital for routine surgery and never came home. It was a total shock to the system. No matter how we interact with our spouse on a daily basis the total loss of that person, cast you adrift. It is like you have no real purpose in life anymore. Terry was the anchor of our family….she was the center of everything and for the next year I just went through the motions of existence. The following year almost to the day my mother died and within less than a month my father also passed on. I was not yet reconciled with the loss of Terry and now both my parents all within almost a year. Needless to say I was mentally not in the best shape. I was looking for some ‘new’ purpose in life…some new direction.

Pete & Terry 12/2/1964

Mary & Pete 1946

This direction came by chance. I spent hours numbly watching satellite TV. Something new at the time and noticed that most outdoor shows were geared for men. I do not know what made the connection but my son had a fledgling graphics and video production company and I loved the outdoors…I saw a market that was not addressed…outdoor shows for women. We worked on this idea for a year and had some tentative  offers for outlets so we decided to produce the series.

Where in America would you go to produce the series with the most spectacular locations, Alaska, of course. We drove our equipment SUV up and spent April to September in 1995 shooting 12 episodes of the series. From rafting for 10 days down the Copper river to Cordova to Hiking for a week in the Gates of the Arctic NP. We covered a large portion of the states wilderness areas.

During the production of the series I met a man, a true Alaska, named Les Cobb. He was hired, to guide & outfit, two of episodes. He was based on a small ranch near the village of Rampart, on the Yukon river. We spent quite a bit of time with him during the two shoots and I came to respect his remote way of life and his ideals. He was a major influence on my decision to move to Alaska……..

My home since 2001

We used his home, ‘Lost creek ranch’, as a base for one of the episodes. The weather would not co-operate and we had almost a week extra waiting for the skies to clear. Les and I spent many hours just talking, not about the project at hand but just about life. His Alaskan way of life compared to my city life. When you live 40 some years in one environment you believe that is they way normal people live. To go through life without instant access to power, running water and TV was unthinkable. To get into you car and take hours to be at a store would be considered insane. To not be able to reach out and dial 911 when someone is seriously injured would normally create panic in any city dweller. But that was close to everyday life at Lost creek ranch, and the cabin here where I ended up.

Being away from these ‘distractions’ and after spending months in the wilderness shooting various segments of the series, I was becoming aware that a different way of living that was not necessarily bad, just different. I think the combination of the loss of my wife and parents had made me susceptible to a different outlook on life. I began to appreciate a simpler way of life. When you add to that the fact that almost wherever I turned I saw God’s handiwork in these majestic surroundings…one could see that I was headed for a major change in my life.

Not yet fully knowing what I intended I bought a small cabin site near the ranch, and mad plans to return the following spring to work with Les. My son and I returned in September and began to edit the series. During this time I told him of my plans and returned to Alaska that following April to begin my new life.

I worked under Les for three years as an assistant guide, in 1998 I branched off and started a fishing guide business during the down time between spring bear hunts and fall moose hunts. Over the years we built the company by web site, outdoor shows and results in the field. In fact that is the main reason I and two other guides, left the business…it seemed that we no longer treated our guest’s as hunting buddies and more as numbers.

My friend Rose

Rose Stowell was a fellow guide and it seemed that we were of like minds when it came to how to treat our clients. When we broke off we planed our own business, that would remain small always having the feel that you were in the woods with a friend. Life does not always turn out the way you want and Rose did manage to purchase 80 acres of remote land and we did build by our own hands what was supposed to be housing for our clients and ourselves. It was just time and circumstance never saw the business take hold. While we built the homes on her property I was living in Fairbanks and driving out to help with the construction. This is when I was told by a doctor, on a trip back East to visit my kids, that he thought I only had two years to live.

On the Water

I didn’t really feel that much different after that trip I just decided that if he was right I would spend what time was left doing what I wanted to do. When I got back to Fairbanks I asked Rose if I could move out to the homestead and help her full time with the building, that was in 2001. We now have 5 major homes on the property and Rose has said I could stay in my cabin until the doctor is finally right. As my condition progressed over the years she has allowed me to remain even though the extent of the help I now give her is showing up for morning coffee. She has mentioned that it provides some entertainment for her and her daughter Kara. So I guess I am helping in a small way.

I do still get out to the nearby streams to not catch the fish, but that’s OK a day on the water in these surroundings is far far better than living in a city with a million other people all chasing the dream I now live.

To enlarge click on the photo’s…

10 Comments leave one →
  1. AussieAlaskan permalink
    June 14, 2010 2:00 pm

    G’day Pete – very interesting start to the story of your life in Alaska – everyone has a history and unfortunately some of it is usually sad. It’s nice that you still have the lovely photos of the two of you. I am looking forward to the rest of the story of how you chose your new home. Regards, Terry


  2. Daddy permalink*
    June 14, 2010 11:28 pm

    I don’t think I’ve seen that cake photo before. :) And, yes, it has a rocky start, but it clearly gets better over time. :)


  3. AussieAlaskan permalink
    June 16, 2010 10:33 pm

    Well, Pete – I guess one would have to say that Alaska and the bush have suited you. Well done, and more power to you! Amazing, the twists and turns of life. Always reminds me of yin and yang. (Sorry about the satellite connection but I don’t think it’s all that important, eh? – it’ll come ’round.) Regards, Terry


  4. AussieAlaskan permalink
    June 17, 2010 2:29 pm

    Wow – that is a nice fish that Rose is holding up and would have been a great catch on a line!


  5. Del permalink
    June 23, 2010 6:11 am

    Pete sounds like you made the right decision. I truly made the right decision as well when I left Miami, Fl to move to the bush.( for 4 years ) I truly loved it and sometimes I think I made the wrong decision in leaving when I did. But it turned out for the best. I now live back in Fl. a bit further north but still in Fl. with a lovely wife and son from Fl. My wife stayed 6 months in the bush with me as well back then even though we were just co-habitating then….. The electricity and TV and running water was really not that big a thing to miss it was just the way it was. It was the 70 below weather and running to the outhouse that was a pain in the A– if you know what I mean. Lol Anyway I stumbled on your blog from your son posting on FDN as I visit the site to catch up on the news as I have a number of relatives that are still there; 3 sisters and all from Miami that left a came up after they graduated school and found husbands… I have a lot more too but there are tooo many to mention. Lets just say my Gmpa was James T Hutchison. Hutchison high in squarbanks bares his name… He was the toughest man I knew when he was alive and he lived until he 96…..

    I was in Eureka just over the hills from Rampart from 81 to 85. Had a good friend used to fly us over there his name was Martin Ott… Old timer raised in Rampart… He is passed now but a really great guy…. I am sure Les knows of him… And I am pretty sure I know Les too…. But that was along time ago….. Good times too….
    So keep the stories coming as I will bookmark your blog and visit often…..
    Well I could go on for awhile as I have a bunch of stories of my times as well up Maybe I will share a few too…
    Oh I see your a ham? I had a yeasu ft 301 AD when I was there and really had a ball with that. Had a ground plain antenna which was basically a skip talker but man the people I communicated with as well as the ones that tried to but we couldn’t connect. I would receive q cards from around the world it was amazing.. Anyway back to my question. I need a power cord for DC for the unit as it got lost in moving years ago and I know it still will work just need a power supply or DC cord…..
    Chat later on….. Del


  6. xpipelyner permalink
    June 23, 2010 3:01 pm


    Quite a life story; I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, although it made me sad reading about losing your parents and wife so close together. God bless them and you, your son and Rose. Jon


  7. Roberta Cronan permalink
    June 27, 2010 10:50 am

    This is a great article. I loved readaing it. I want to visit ALaska someday. Read the News Miner every day before work. Take care.


  8. Sky permalink
    June 28, 2010 9:50 pm

    Hey, that was really interesting for me to read. I really wish Terry (Grandma) was still here I could have gotten to know her, or even remember her, but I guess the good Lord thought otherwise…It just kind of stinks that I don’t remember anything about her since I was so little when all of this happened…I hope I have a chance to come visit you sometime within the next few years, but I’m not too sure how that will work out right now…Hope to hear from you soon!
    Love you, and miss you!


  9. ramblingranger permalink
    March 25, 2019 3:00 pm

    I think you made the right choice, Pete. It’s a hard life living in bush Alaska but it’s a good life and a true life. I no longer spend winters, but I appreciate all that living remote has to offer – the beauty, the quiet, and the sense of community are unlike anything you can find in the modern world and run truer and deeper. Good on ya!


  10. January 18, 2021 5:56 pm

    My original goal was to homestead in Alaska after my hitch in the Navy. The government changed the homestead act while I was in. Never made it there.
    You might be interested in a book I recently read from a gal raised in Alaska. The title is Raised in Ruins, by Tara Neilson. She still lives in a floating house up there.


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