That Tent Life

Plans change and housing conditions get rearranged — such is often the nature of life in my Alaskan bush village. I had planned to be in a cabin, commuting (i.e. walking) back and forth from cabin and work, but things shifted, one of which was a knee injury that had me looking at my options for staying in town, where I work.

A hundred years ago, McCarthy was quite the happenin’ spot in Alaska. This was before Anchorage was even on the map, merely a place to slap a tent down. McCarthy, at the time, was a regular sin city, just four miles down the road from the site of the most profitable copper mine in modern history. And like anywhere else in Alaska, if you had a spot of land, you could always put up a wall tent. It was a quick and cheap way to put a roof over your head.

So, in that same spirit, I decided to put up a tent in town, down by the river, where I can listen to the soothing sound of the rushing water. Aahhh

Truth is, Alaska is still a place where a person can put a tent down and live, without any stigma, without receiving any static from the squares of society. Well, except in Anchorage, big city that it is, now.

In fact, a person’s interest is more likely to be aroused, if s/he hears that I’m in a tent. A tent? Very cool. How big is it? Does it have a stove? Yes, says I, it does have a stove, tiney though it is. And so on. We talk shop. I talk about how Joey (our infrastructure/maintenance manager) put it on a solid platform made of pallets with plywood on top, etc.

And as an added bonus, I’ve got a great view of Fireweed Mountain.

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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

2 thoughts on “That Tent Life”

  1. It seems though we see life a bit differently we agree on what a great place McCarthy is.

    I spent a bit of time in McCarthy myself when in 95 I was working on a television series about women in the outdoors, we managed a day on the glacier with St Elias Alpine Guides and then went down river for 10 days on rafts to Cordova…. I really enjoyed the place. In fact those four months on the shoot are what prompted me to move to the wilderness of Northern Alaska.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The rafting is great here, and that 10 day down to Cordova sounds like an amazing trip. Maybe someday I’ll make that happen…..That’s really cool that McCarthy (i.e., this part of Alaska) inspired you to move up to the Great North. Did you look to relocate to this area? Why didn’t you buy land in this area? I’m curious.


Consider this post an invitation, an invitation to comment and collaborate ~ In Solidarity, JE

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