What are my expectations? My expectation slate is blank. One moment at a time the picture begins to form and take on breath-taking shapes. Imagine it is like the changing images before your eyes when gazing into a magical kaleidoscope. The clouds overhead swirl and shift, casting light and shadow on the cascading river below. Precarious banks stretch beyond our sight, while the trees’ roots cling tenaciously to their moors. The original shoreline has succumbed to the rigors of raging winter storms and receded from somewhere near the center to its present state. The waters spread its strands narrow and wide and from the air resembling a braid. It is a living entity, moving, devouring, recreating, expanding, flooding, and receding in awesome power. It provides the source of sustenance for the wildlife that dwells within it and those along its shores. Men, rugged of spirit and strong of character, ride upon it exultantly, entering the wilderness domain.
Traveling up-river in a six passenger trawler-like motorboat, the proud owner of this homestead territory shouts above the noise of how he came to Alaska as a boy and hasn’t left it since. He points right and left and far ahead, telling stories about encounters or incidents there, as he developed his trapping skills. It was without a doubt a matter of survival. And he did.
At long last he cuts the engine and urges us to take pictures of the Tokosha mountain range in all her (or is it his) glory. One side is sheer rock cliffs frosted with icing between long ridges. The other is smoothly shaped and wears a shawl of green on its lower slopes. Our next stop is at the steps where he moors the boat and tells us to sit on the side and swing our legs over. A beautiful setting that reminds you of a surreal Thomas Kincade scene invites you into its welcoming arms.
John shows us where bear have scratched the picnic bench, and fresh teeth marks are on another. The log cabin has been transformed from the raw shelter with which he first began. It is now a warm, wonderful lodge. His wife, Marissa, treated us to cocoa and coconut pound cake with berry sauce. When she smiled her whole face smiled with her, revealing her gracious spirit.
He told us many survival stories to which we responded with, “ohmigosh,” “amazing,” or “awesome;” too overwhelmed at the lifestyle in which they chose to raise their children.
To hear for yourself firsthand, just a smidgen of the lore he could tell, I hope you, too, will avail yourself of the privilege of being in the presence of this man and his wife. John and Marissa are the legend of living the Alaskan Dream in the Last Frontier.