~ by Maria Benner
My dentist asked me the other day, “So, what do you do when you’re in McCarthy?”
Maybe I should start by telling newer blog readers the background story. In 2005 I dragged Scott to McCarthy in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park for the long 4th of July weekend, because I wanted to walk on the huge glacier. Scott has always been reluctant to travel to new places, and grudgingly boarded the little plane that flew us to McCarthy in a rain storm. Two weeks after that amazing trip we drove back to the little town to check out a 10-acre lot that the University of Alaska was selling. In October we owned that lot. I bought the land as an investment, but Scott had different ideas. Before I could comprehend the implications of what he was about to do, Scott ordered 198 logs to be delivered to our lot in 2012. That’s when we started building our log cabin. It took us 182 days to finish it to the point where we could move in. We still have many small projects left before the cabin is completely finished though. During summers we go to McCarthy for two-week stints. We can’t stay for the whole summer, because we have to come back to Anchorage to work on the art business. So, if you’re wondering what we do out there, here’s a description of a typical day.
We don’t have to get up at a certain hour, but the birds’ loud chirping wakes us up at roughly the same time each day. We drink coffee while checking e-mail and news, and then make breakfast. We recently acquired a sourdough starter, and I brought it with us to McCarthy, because we went for three weeks, and I didn’t want it to starve while we were gone. I’m really glad I brought it, because we made sourdough pancakes twice, and Scott baked delicious sourdough bread!
After breakfast we work on Real Art Is Better. Scott usually has to work on commissioned paintings, or a Thirsty Thursday beer painting, while I take care of the business and marketing side of the business. Luckily Verizon provides LTE out there! Then we break for lunch.
In the afternoon we work on the cabin-building project. Neither of us is a builder, and we learned from books and YouTube videos how to peel and stack logs in the shape of a cabin. Every time we make a mistake, we think about whether it’s worth the money, time and effort to fix it, or if “it’ll be fine, it’s just a cabin in the woods in Alaska.” Not like there’s a Home Depot in town where we can get some extra parts. On our trip in May we insulated and installed the bottom floor, chinked most of the gaps between the logs, installed gutters so we can collect water from the roof for washing dishes, showering (not drinking), installed five windows, built a front door, AND… MOVED IN!!! The moving in ceremony consisted of nailing a horse shoe from a friend’s horse above the door. Our friend gave us that horse shoe specifically for the cabin a couple years ago.
After about five hours of building we call it a day. Sometimes we want to keep working to finish a task, but we learned the hard way that if we keep working when we’re tired of it, we’ll make mistakes, and get grumpy. After work we take showers every other day, which involves heating several gallons of water on a propane turkey fryer and pouring the water into a bucket with a hose and spout on the bottom. I built a shower stall out of plywood a couple years ago. It’s simple and it gets the job done!
After relaxing, making dinner, and doing the dishes, we leave our lot on bikes or on foot (we rarely drive the dirt roads in McCarthy) and go for a little adventure. We’ll either visit a friend, or go to a beautiful place. On Friday nights we usually go to softball. On most weekends there’s a band playing at the bar. There’s a lot going on for such a small town. Now that the cabin is mostly done, we can spend more time adventuring!
Now we’re back in Anchorage for a month. The mosquitos are horrible in McCarthy in June, and we don’t mind skipping that stage of summer. We’re getting ready for Scott’s art show at Midnight Sun Brewing Company this Friday. His paintings and prints will be on display and available for sale all month. Check out the details on the Facebook event page. We also plan on doing a Kenai Peninsula breweries tour and go dip-netting for salmon before returning to McCarthy July 2 in time for another tremendous 4th of July weekend.