Tonight we will be chatting about a question many people ask when they begin to know us here in the Alaska bush. Betsy Cross is one of those people! So, be welcome and gather over here at the campfire and let’s chat about how we get our supplies in the bush.
Betsy is famous for her icy-ocean dips on her favorite beach and is gifted in convincing friends and acquaintances into joining her in her chilly thrill. Betsy asked about the preparations we make for winter, for both the animals and us humans as well as how we get our surprises and gifts here in the mountains for such things as birthdays and holidays.
The question is, “How do you do your food shopping? How do you make sure you don’t run out of things?” And Betsy wanted to know more how we manage to get not just the supplies but surprises into Chisana.
So, let’s chat!
Supplies in the Bush
It takes a bit of planning, experience and know-how, but most often I feel when visiting friends in town that our pantry is much better stocked than anyone else’s I know! With growing children and hard workingmen and women living in Chisana, it is important to have nutritious meals and plenty of them.
We live in Chisana, a very remote, fly-in area in the Wrangell Mountains of Alaska, year round. Pioneer Outfitters has always, since 1924, lived and operated year-round in Chisana. Living an outdoors, bush life-style in the magnificent Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.
What is of the utmost importance to remember is this; everything is flown into Chisana. Everything. Everything that comes into Chisana is flown in by Master Guide Terry Overly or by a charter aircraft. A quick rule of thumb when considering the cost and price of anything can easily be doubled.
Supplies are a way of life. Winter or summer, it makes no difference. The weather can cut off all flights in or out of Chisana during the summertime as easily as during the winter. Fuels, groceries, animal feed and even gifts are thought of sooner rather than later.
Firewood is a year-round job as the wood stoves that provide our heat are not magic and need to be fed. Water is another chore that is simply part of our way of life. Our pantry is stocked with canned and dried goods as well as the staples such as flours, sugars, beans, rice, dry milk and frozen goods such as meats and vegetables are stored in the multitude of freezers in the building we call our “store”.
The store is a 16’ x 32’ building that holds all of these supplies as well as paper goods such as TP, paper towels, napkins, Ziplocs, tin foil, plastic wrap, rolls of butcher paper, seasonings, mixes and items such as new pots and pans, Tupperware sets, lanterns, propane stoves, matches, toothpicks, baking powders, cleaning supplies and so much more.
Personally, I have always loved the supply runs. I love picking and choosing the supplies, loading the trucks so tightly that you couldn’t put a box of toothpicks in it when I am finished. And I love picking out the extra special surprises we always take home for the crew and team.
Every single time I have gone to town with Master Guide Terry Overly and we line everything up beside the trucks and trailers I hear this, “It will never all fit.” I always give the same response, even six months pregnant with my son, “Go away, go get us something to eat and drink.” Then, I get to work. It always fits. Barely, but hey, it fits! ~ I think he says that so he doesn’t have to help!
Fresh produce and fuel are the most important items that are flown into Chisana weekly. Fuels, such as diesel, gasoline and propane keep our generators, chainsaws and machines running. Without the generators, the Internet (think: online shopping!!) wouldn’t work! ~ At least until the solar panels are hooked up!
Propane isn’t as necessary as much as a huge convenience. Cooking can be and is done with the wood stoves, although it does take a little bit of a learning curve these days. The generators keep the phone company and lights running too, although I don’t feel that the phones would be any great loss, I know that would-be guests and potential clients feel much more secure speaking with Master Guide Terry Overly, than not. The lights are easily substituted with oil lamps and battery lights.
Are you a “last-minute” shopper? Well, you could probably be taught to change that! A little forethought is required for sure, for birthdays and holidays that gifts are traditionally exchanged or given. Hand-made gifts are always the most precious and treasured, remember.
As the “Mom” and lady-boss, I have taken over the responsibility of always having spare gifts for those unexpected visitors or guests that may be with us and away from their own loved ones and families during the holidays. Or as happens more than you might guess, guests and clients that celebrate their birthdays during and Adventure or Big Game Hunt with Pioneer Outfitters.
We usually go to town for supplies between 2 and 4 times a year. Once, sometime between January and March, once, before our Fall Hunting Season begins usually in July, and once before the holidays usually in November and that is when we do most of our Christmas shopping as well.
We also have a small grocery store in the town of Tok, 110 miles North of Chisana that we can call and have them pull groceries for us, paid for by credit card, and taken to 40-Mile Air’s office for the twice weekly mail plane to fly in at .40 (cents) per pound.
Basically, it comes down to knowing how to cook, what to use first, what lasts the longest, what you plan to make and choosing wisely. If you run out or don’t plan for something, there are no neighbors to borrow a cup of sugar from.
I hope you all enjoyed this episode of Campfire Chat and if you did, I hope you will share it! All of the Campfire Chat Videos can be found right here, on this website!
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