Ashley Selden

An Alaskan Migration

Fare Thee Well

Oh boy, it’s that time of year again. Time to get our stuff together and leave for the trap line soon. We have been heading out mid August these last few years but it’s looking like mid September this year. We are swamped by finishing up what we started here in ”town” this summer. This month has been a rush. I turned 34 on July 31st and the next day Tyler flew out to our trap line for the second time this summer to finish work on one of our ‘line cabins’ with one of our good friends. I spent the next few days doing everything I could to preserve our garden at that point before leaving for a trip to visit family in Minnesota on Aug. 3. Sydney and I made 4 gallons of Kraut, I sliced pounds of tomatoes for the dehydrator and I blanched and froze many pounds of kale, zucchini, broccoli and cauliflower for the spring. Sara and Emma  came over Friday night to drive us to the airport and than stay at our house to take care of the dogs, garden and chickens in our absence.

The trip to Minnesota went well. Sydney was a terrific travel partner, waving and smiling at everyone boarding the plane and sleeping the whole flight after take off.  As soon as we exited the plane in Minneapolis I could feel the humidity in the air. Something I don’t ever miss. I spent the first few days of my visit trying to spend time with my last living grandparent, Grandma Elaine. She had been living with my parents until just recently this summer when it became evident that Grandma needed more care. My parents both work full time jobs and Grandmas been falling a lot and gets confused easily. While I was visiting during coffee time I overheard Grandma telling a table mate proudly that her brave granddaughter lived in the wilderness in the wintertime and Frankfurt in the summer. Though we are German blood I don’t spend my summers in the homeland, just boring old Fairbanks. Bless her heart. As I looked around the room at this fading generation I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that I have a lot more in common with them than I do my own generation. I’m like an old fart in a young persons body.  Most of them can still recall going out to the outhouses as children, taking care in putting up a garden for the winter, hauling in loads of wood for the stove and butchering their own meat. Recently I left Fred Meyers in an outrage because I went in looking for an extra watch for this coming winter and found that they actually discontinued selling them! As if the watch is now obsolete because of cell phones. I left Fred Meyer feeling angry about the general direction humanity is taking. I don’t want to adjust. Saying goodbye to Granny was awful this year. It’s hard at these moments to live so far away. It will be another year before I get back to Minnesota and a year is a long time and a lot can happen in a year for an old woman like Elaine. I left her knowing it could be the last time I lay eyes on her….. .

If there is any emergency situations back home in the lower 48 for Tyler or I the cost of travel is outrageous. By the time we paid for the bush plane to pick us up and then bought last minute airfare home and then returned by bush plane to the trap line the price would start around $4,500.oo for one person. If both of us had to leave we would have to get someone to fly in and take care of the dog team for us and then add another plane ticket to the total. Once we are out in the woods it’s best we stay there till spring.

The rest of my time in Minnesota was spent camping with my parents and younger brother at Moose Lake State Park about 35 miles south of Duluth. It felt good to be in Northern Minnesota  where the woods are thick. We also left the worst of the heat behind in southern Minnesota. Camping is a good way to spend quality time catching up with family. Sydney had a great time running around the campground and getting into everything she could get her hands on.  The lake there was clear and had a pleasant beach for Sydney to play on. I brought along her life jacket in hopes of getting her to enjoy wearing it in anticipation of our upcoming 3 day boat trip to the trap line. She hates the jacket and cries to be let out of it and having fun on the beach didn’t change her sentiments about the jacket. My brother had brought along a little 3 hp boat motor to put on one of the state park rentals and I was still hopeful about having a positive experience with Sydney in her life jacket. Like most babies Sydney adores planes, trains, boats, anything that makes a good noise and performs miraculous fetes.  She cried when I put the jacket on but hushed up as soon as we got into the boat and pushed off into the water. Her mind went to another place. We were flying on the water and that is worth wearing the jacket!

I can’t help but notice the difference between the life I lead and the lives most people when I go visiting. I’m not judging in any way. I realize I am extremely lucky to have the life that seems to have fallen in my lap and makes me happy. Also, I do believe, different strokes for different folks is just fine. Because the life I lead is so much different than other peoples reality these days I would have to say I feel like I am part of a different culture entirely. I have become culturally different than most other people. My ways may be hard for some to understand and the ways of others are  hard for me to understand. I get irritated easily by seeing too much pavement and watching people stare at their cell phones for extended periods of time. I don’t like to see life being wasted by too much grooming. Grooming and trimming and obsessing over appearance. The lawns, the landscape, the people. An obsession to groom and deodorize. Seems like an unnecessary waste of time to me. Out on the trapline life might smell funny to other people…but they smell funny to me! Perfumes gross me out and make my nose itch.  Why the obsession with making everything smell like something else? Even the trash bags come with a weird scent that doesn’t mask anything just reminds me of a perfumed diaper full of you know what. Then there is the tame nature of everything that disappoints me. I ran in to a couple at the campground while I was out playing with Sydney and they had a delightful little girl who explained to me that they were camping but her 2 year old brother wasn’t allowed to attend because he was too young to camp in a tent. The parents nodded in agreement with the little girl. It made me quake with laughter inside. Those parents would likely have thoughts of calling social services on me if they new what adventures I have intended for my 16 month old this fall. I didn’t say anything of course. In public I let people go on with their opinions and ideas without saying anything if I disagree. I don’t like confrontation and I don’t figure I’ll change their opinion.

I do my best not to judge. Don’t ever judge until you’ve walked in that persons shoes is one of those valuable statements. However having opinions is part of human nature. Having chosen to be a public figure of sorts I have opened myself up to the judgment of millions of people. Something very hard for me to wrap my mind around. My personal life is still so normal and intimate that I honestly rarely feel the affects of this. Every once in a while I will read something that hurts or angers me but I don’t hold on to it and I don’t go looking for trouble either. If people are rude about something we do I know it’s because they don’t understand the reason that we do things because they haven’t been where I have been.

Here follows a comment that I received for this website. I’ve been rolling it around in my mind a bit lately and wonder how many people feel this way? Others might have these questions so I feel compelled to answer this inquiry thoroughly. The woman gets credit from me because she is very tactful but her personal opinion isn’t lost to me. “Sounds like you guys are wanting to become more & more isolated. It sounds to me that you love your daughter, there’s no doubt in my mind, however, is it important to you that she socialize with other kids? What about important childhood experiences like carnivals, visiting the zoo or the mall? Do you plan on shielding her from these experiences?”

My response, no, we are not wanting to become more isolated. We desire to be part of a community that holds values similar to our own. Our interest in buying property in Central has nothing to do with a desire towards isolation. As far at our time spent out in the wilderness I would say that I would be very happy to have a close neighbor there to share experiences with. We like people. I just don’t agree that you need to be around lots of people. We only have room and time in our short precious lives to nurture few meaningful relationships. Why waste time trying to be a socialite? Yes, I do think it’s important for Sydney to socialize with other kids. I have very good friends in the Fairbanks area that also have children Sydneys age. We get together as much as we can and please don’t forget I do live in so called civilization for a good part of the year. This will be the time we socialize. In the meantime Tyler and I are hoping to have more children, in which case, Sydney will also have siblings to socialize with during the months that we are in the woods. Probably while our kids are going through the high school years we will make it an option to stay in town and let them have those years the way that they want them. As far as important childhood experiences go, carnivals, zoos and malls are definitely not on my list of important values. I already take Sydney to community events in Fairbanks that are worth value to me like live music played every Thursday night at the UAF Georgeson Botanical Gardens and to me the Minneapolis airport is a carnival and so are our visits to Fred Meyer to get groceries. I’m pretty sure amazon prime and smart phones have made mall loitering obsolete for teens. As far as shielding my children from things go  all I know is what I won’t be shielding them from.  I won’t shield them from wilderness, dirt, adventure, harvesting their own food, hard work, reading everything they can get their hands on, or accepting  people who are different. Don’t worry honey, my kids will probably turn out OK.

It was good to visit my family and a few close friends. It’s always hard to leave the people behind but my roots are definitely rooted deep into the North country now. I was anxious to get back to the dogs and garden and see what needed to be done though it was nice to take a break. It took about 3 days of working hard and stressing out a bit to get back on top of the chores around here.  With Tyler still gone out at the trap line the chores are intense with 28 lbs of baby on my back.

Tyler flew back to town on the 18th and was I ever glad to see him. It’s hard to be a Mom by yourself especially without running water. I don’t even get to go to the outhouse alone half the time. Tyler had a good trip and got lots of work done. He basically built a cabin from start to finish in two and a half weeks. I am a proud wife of a hard working, capable man. The rest of August Tyler juggled his time between working on our motley crew of motor vehicles and fixing someones roof out on the Hot Springs Road.

The clutter on our work table in the house. Some things to do, some to put away and some for packing

We are just about ready to launch back into the woods for another winter now. The leaves are yellow and after last nights hard freeze they are falling gently to the ground in the breeze. The garden is put up and the we’ll be taking down the greenhouse plastic so the snow doesn’t stretch and cave it in over the winter. I’m washing the lasts loads of laundry. We are sizing up our winter load and weighing everything. The work table in the house is cluttered with all of the last minute collection of must have items. The last few books I ordered to read this winter should arrive in the mail over the next few days. I sent my laying hens to a local coop to spend their winter till my return, Sydney cried when I loaded them into the car, I don’t know if it was out of sadness or confusion. As soon as I finish the laundry we will drain the rest of the water out of the rain collection tanks. The yard has to be cleaned up so nothing is lost in the snow when we get back in the spring. Dog bowls, Snowshoes and shovels need to be put somewhere handy and dry. We’ve paid our radio membership to Fort Yukons radio station, KZPA, which we rely heavily upon. We will cancel the car insurance policy at the last minute. The Phone gets shut off for the winter. The internet connection gets put on vacation mode. Our health insurance plan is paid through the end of December and we have a local to help us renew before January. The indoor fridge and freezer has to be cleaned and emptied for the winter. Everything in the house gets unplugged. The electric is on auto pay. Keys have been delivered to a friend that will act as our mail lady and important letter opener. We have a great lady coming to rent our airbnb cabin for the winter and she and all of the neighbors will watch over our place carefully. I have a candy hunt planned for Sydney at Halloween. I have a Birthday present tucked away for Tyler on November 25. I have some toys and books saved for Sydney at Christmas. I have plenty of notebooks for myself to journal this winter. Most of our load consists of dried fruit, dried veggies, dry milk, spices, tea, coffee, walnuts, olive and coconut oil, cheese, butter, honey, maple syrup, blueberry jam, sugar, chocolate, noodles, toilet paper, tent stove pipe, and various other hardware items for some projects. Then there is a duffel of clothes and winter gear for each of us. We keep track of events and hunting on a calendar and I have 2019 bought and ready to go. I paid 240 dollars to put 200 minutes on the satellite phone. Yup we are checking off the lists.

Here is my winter reading list for anyone interested.

Last night in Twisted River, Irving

Population 485, Perry

Danger Man Working. Perry

The Life of A Russian Woman Doctor. Bek

There, There. Orange

The Bean Trees, Kingsolver

The worst Hard Time, Egan

The River House, Lawrence

Found, Loewen

methland, Reding

Menonite in A Little Black Dress, Janzen

Montaigne In Barn Boots, Perry

Conversations with Eric, Casselle

Mans Search for Meaning, Frankl

Across the Assuri Kray, Arsenyev

In My Time, Blackman

Murder at 40 below, Brenan

Nunamiut, Ingstad

Furiously Happy

Depression Era Recipes, Wagner

There are a few more I can’t remember that have yet to arrive in the mail. Yes, I plan to read all of them. I’m the type to read into the wee hours of the night despite sleep loss. Would I like to read more, yes. Will Tyler let me put more on the boat, No.

I regret I didn’t have more time to write this past summer. Summer is the season of regret after all. Hopefully I will have some down time in the spring again to set some of my words on the screen. I started working on a few interesting topics this summer that need polishing but promise to pass as decent reading. One will be titled, Radio, a story about our dependency on two single radio programs to get all of our outside information for 6 months or more of the year, the trials behind getting a signal and the people behind the scenes. Another story is titles Filthy Trapline Stories. Another one I’ve been working on that is very important for me to get right is one that will be titled, In Defense of Our Trapping Lifestyle.

Thank you everyone for reading. See you next year.



  1. Ashley, I have enjoyed everyone of your blog’s! Looking forward to hearing from you next spring. Hopeful to see you & family on tv this fall. My prayers are with you for a safe trip to your home and a wonderful life out in the wilderness. Take care and God Bless.

    • admin

      September 14, 2018 at 2:17 PM

      Hi to everyone and all of the well wishers. some very interesting comments this time. Good questions I would like to address…I promise to look into it in the spring.

  2. We all worry about colds and the flu during winter. Because you are not around people up there, do you escape viruses?

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