When my parents visited us in Fairbanks, Alaska, in the summer of 1996, we wanted to show them a uniquely Alaskan adventure. We took them to the Knotty Shop in Salcha for ice cream. We went to a traditional salmon bake. We enjoyed lunch at our favorite sandwich shop, the Chowder House. We even drove eight miles so we could see the mountains “out” at 11 p.m. But nothing could top the trek to a friend’s cabin on the Yukon River.
Curt and Cindee invited us to their cabin for an afternoon in nature and moose steaks for dinner. Curt warned us that we would have to ford the river to get to the place, but usually, it wasn’t a problem.
It was drizzling, but otherwise an okay day. We followed Curt’s directions to the cabin, parked the car, and waded across the river to the house where friendly fire was going to warm ourselves and dry our socks. At one point, we decided to go for a walk through the woods. It was still drizzling as Curt and Cindee showed us the various plants growing wild like raspberries and rose bushes. But the mosquitoes were terrible, and we decided to head back to the cabin to get dinner started. We would need to leave in a few hours to pick up my niece, Julie, at the Fairbanks train station later that evening.
Back at the cabin, we sat around the fire, chatting and listening to stories from our hosts, who were raised in the Fairbanks area. We ate a great meal of moose steaks, something my parents never had before, and then it was time to leave so we could get home, change into dry clothes, and go pick up Julie. But, as we walked outside, the river was no longer a meandering stream we could easily walk across. Because of the steady rain, it was a torrent of rushing water. This situation presented problems.
My dad and the Good Chaplain, attached to a guide rope, went first to see if it was doable for us womenfolk and the girls. If it wasn’t, Curt said there was a trail, part of the old Yukon Quest Dog Sled Race Course, that would lead us to the highway.
After the Good Chaplain and my dad made it across the river, they decided our twin daughters would probably get swept away in the current, so we should go with plan B, the trail. Dad and the Good Chaplain would drive the car to the bridge where the path met with the highway and pick us up.
The problem – Curt couldn’t remember exactly where the trail was located. At one point, we waited in the pouring rain, swatting at the thick swarm of mosquitoes, while Curt ventured ahead to discern the right path. My mom said she was afraid the swarm of mosquitoes around Illinois Girl were so thick they were going to pick her up and carry her 70-pound body away.
It seemed like we were on the trail for hours when we reached the car at the bridge. It had been only 45 minutes, but we were soaked to the bone and mosquito-bitten as we climbed into the Jimmy and thanked Curt for an adventure we were sure to never forget.
Now it was too late for us to drive home, change, and pick up Julie. We would have to go straight to the train station in our present water-logged condition. We arrived at the station just as the train was pulling in. Julie said she saw the six of us dripping wet, sloshing through the station in soaked tennis shoes and socks, covered in mud, and she almost didn’t claim us as her kinfolk.
In addition, our GMC Jimmy could only seat six, and now we were seven. We could not get on base without everyone in seatbelts. We ended up putting the girls in the rear of the vehicle, laying down where the gate guards couldn’t see them until we made it home.
We absolutely showed my parents an authentic Alaskan adventure they wouldn’t soon forget!