Wednesday, August 5, 2009

We Support Outlaw Cabins

Here in the Alaska wilderness, a small and scruffy band of individuals drive around with bumperstickers on their pickups proclaiming their support for outlaw cabins "because they could save your life."

Here's my question: if they could save your life, why do the builders put camo netting over them and hide them in out of the way bights where the average Joe won't ever find them? And why do they have to be so ugly? I've hauled enough visqueen out of the woods to wrap the town of Sitka. And who says that the wilderness should be safe anyway? If you are willing to proclaim how rugged and subsistence-oriented you are, shouldn't you be able to survive in a tent?

I've found many of these over the years and they all follow the same pattern. We glide into a likely looking hidden cove via kayak, get out and peer into the woods. Our hearts sink. A white visqueen tarp glints evilly from the darkness. Gingerly we avoid the detritus from beer cans, broken bottles and tarps, navigate through hacked forest and hanging strings. The cabins range from elaborate rough-cut structures with reading lamps over the beds to the simpler weather-ravaged tarp palaces. What they all have in common is a clear-cut forest, heaped-up trashy fire pit, and gnawed corn cobs.

We demolish these structures, spending days wielding hammers and burning big piles of plywood. It becomes a cat and mouse game, with the builders moving on to another site, or returning to rebuild, just like after a hurricane.

I actually like finding them, it's quite therapeutic to destroy things that don't belong. We have a tool called a FUBAR which is awesome for destruction. It's fun to burn on the beach, sending high columns of black smoke into the air. I like looking at a restored area afterwards, the way it is supposed to be.

My take is this: If you need a cabin to survive, move south. Everyone I know that goes out on the water or in the woods carries survival gear, or should. If you are unlucky enough to lose it, you should have an EPIRB. You can't expect Alaska to be safe. If it was, it would be like any other place.


  1. Just because you can build a lil squatter's place doesn't mean you should. It would be fun to demolish one...

  2. Sooner or later, you may find you have become the mouse.

  3. when you come on to mine you shall be food


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