Last week I was lucky enough to get to spend three nights at Manitoba Cabin as the artist in residence. The cabin is nestled near the base of Manitoba Mountain, only 3/4 of a mile down a trail from mile 48 of the Seward Hwy. So how did this opportunity come about? Well, it all started when a patron commissioned a portrait of his two dogs, and wanted the Toba Yurt, named after one of his pups, in the background of the painting. That’s one of the two yurts at Manitoba Cabin. This patron is on the Board of Alaska Huts, the managing entity of Manitoba Cabin. He’s very passionate about the place, and suggested that I spend some time there as an artist in residence. We had never been there, and jumped at the chance. Here’s the painting of the two pups in front of Toba Yurt. Toba is on the right.
As we skied to the cabin with our gear, about a dozen people were skiing out. The campus has two yurts, and the Hut Keeper’s Quarters, which is a cozy room attached to the main cabin. All visitors share the cabin, the outhouses, and the sauna. After we settled in, the people who booked the two yurts arrived. We lost count of how many there were, but we think it was about 11. They were all ski instructors from Alyeska’s ski school, and were there to celebrate February birthdays. Of course we joined the party. There was an outdoor fire, several cases of cheap beer, and a chocolate birthday cake! Around 2 AM I headed to bed.
The next morning we went for a ski. Unfortunately, we don’t have alpine touring gear, so we just brought our cross-country skis, and went up as far as we could. After skiing I got to work painting. The last time I painted outside was in Vermont at Hill Farmstead Brewing, and my fingers were a lot colder there. The problem with working outside in the winter is that oil paint starts to freeze, and becomes more difficult to apply to the painting surface. Here’s the piece I painted en plein air (outside on location).
Here is my work station in front of the cabin.
After painting, I warmed up inside the cabin, and then we went for a walk to explore the area a bit.
The second night we had the whole place to ourselves, which made for a quiet and cozy Valentine’s Day. We woke up to more fresh snow and headed out for a ski. The second day I decided to paint inside to stay warm. I like painting scenes from windows, so I chose a particularly picturesque window in the cabin, and painted the view.
While I painted, Maria read to me from a book called Gold Rush Wife, a story about a woman named Nellie who came to Alaska with her husband to mine for gold in the Canyon Creek area. We were reading a story that unfolded right near Manitoba Cabin! In fact, the cabin was originally built in 1936 as a mining cabin. Then we read information about the area from a binder that’s at the cabin, and saw that there’s an old miner’s cabin still standing somewhere near by. So in the afternoon we set out on our skis to find it. We didn’t have to look long, it was right across the bridge. The cabin was built in the late 1890s and now is property of the United States. We had no idea about the rich gold mining history in the area, but now we know a lot from the reading material at the cabin.
The third night we had the whole place to ourselves again! We spent evenings playing games, reading, and enjoying the wood-fired Finnish sauna. The whole experience was very interesting, starting with the big party, and continuing as a calm, relaxing time in the mountains. We’ll definitely be back, and will bring our friends, and alpine touring gear. I’m giving the two paintings to Alaska Huts, and I believe they will be auctioned off at a fundraiser.