INTRODUCTION

 

INTRODUCTION

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It’s a good place to become who you’re trying to be instead of being who the world is trying to turn you, is trying to make you.
— MARTIN MORRISON

EPISODE NOTES

Out Here tells the stories of people who've dared to live life differently.

Focused on the end-of-the-road community of McCarthy, Alaska, it explores off-the-grid living, raising children in the wilderness, bucking the 9-to-5 and living off the land. It's easy to romanticize, but what's it really like living at the end of a 60-mile dirt road in Alaska surrounded by the country's largest national park?

Here you'll find grizzly bears, a rugged landscape, a community of individuals, self-reliance and self-governance. Here you'll learn about the boundaries of freedom and what happens when a community of transplants tries to make a go of it living in the woods. You'll hear stories of tragedy, triumph and a whole lot of floundering. And you'll hear about my own journey to make a life out here.

The podcast comes from my own experiences and those of 18 residents of the McCarthy area. You can learn more about the project and about me here

Music from Galen Huckins and Blue Dot Sessions / Slate Tracker, Ultima Thule, The Kennicott, ZigZag Heart / Episode artwork from Ian Gyori / Financial assistance from the Duffy Fund and the University of Missouri / Guidance and support from Scott Swafford, Sara Shahriari and Dr. Cristina Mislan / Featured in this episode: Tony Tengs, Ali Towers, Martin Morrison, Greg Fensterman, Stephens Harper, Tamara Harper and John Adams


 

2: BUILDING IN THE WILDERNESS

 

EPISODE II: BUILDING IN THE WILDERNESS

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You get into things you don’t know how to do, and you just learn as you go. If you’re not willing to do that, you’re not going to survive out here.
— GREG FENSTERMAN

EPISODE NOTES

Building is what brought Karla Freivalds and Martin Morrison together.

Karla worked as a television producer on a show called "Building Alaska." Martin was on the show. Two years later they're still together, and they're renting the log cabin Martin helped build for the tv show. 

But they're not going to stay there forever. They want to try their hands at building a cabin on their own.

"It's kind of like a right of passage," Martin said.

The turn of a faucet, the flip of the switch, the drive to the grocery store: things we take for granted. But out here, you have to build it all from scratch: the cabin, the road in, the utility systems, the knowledge base that comes with off-the-grid living.

And a lot of people who come here, have no idea where to start.

"Everybody's always worried: How am I gonna build this house? I don't know how to build a house. And you're like, of course you don't know how to build a house," 35-year resident Malcolm Vance said.

"It's just a lot of mini-failures."

On this episode of Out Here: stories of building a cabin and a life in McCarthy.

Because there's a lot of different ways to go about it. And you have to get creative when the nearest Home Depot is an eight-hour drive, and the only person providing your utilities is you.

Music from Galen Huckins and Blue Dot Sessions / Ultima Thule, Valantis, Burrow Burrow, Club Count, Swapping Tubes, The One Shot / Episode artwork from Ian Gyori / Financial Assistance from the Duffy Fund and the University of Missouri / Guidance and support from Scott Swafford, Sara Shahriari and Dr. Cristina Mislan / Featured in this episode: Martin Morrison, Karla Freivalds, Greg Fensterman, Greg Runyan, Ian Gyori, Stephens Harper, Tamara Harper, Mark Vail, Carole Morrison and Malcolm Vance


 

3: LIVING IT

 

EPISODE III: LIVING IT

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I’ve had scary moments. There’s been a bear that visited the cabin once. When it’s 30 below, you definitely question your sanity a little bit. But those experiences just amount to living a full life, in my opinion.
— KARLA FREIVALDS

EPISODE NOTES

Ali Towers and Scott Anthony first came to McCarthy in the summertime. When a couple needed a caretaker for their cabin, they traded in a winter in Hawaii for cold weather gear, a generator, a chainsaw and a snow machine. They decided to stay through the winter together in a tiny cabin, and they'd only just met a few months before.

The odds were against them. They didn't know how to run a chainsaw or how to get water. They didn't know how to go grocery shopping for four months at a time.

They didn't know how to live life out here in the wintertime.

On this episode of Out Here, hear how they fared their first winter. Then, Mark Vail, a 30-year resident of the McCarthy talks about day-to-day life. He'll answer the question that resident Greg Fensterman says he gets all the time from summertime tourists.

"What do you do all winter?"

And several residents share how and why they live off-grid and have decided against a 9-to-5 lifestyle. Hear how they make money in a place without a wintertime economy, and hear the nitty-gritty of life in a cold weather climate. 

 Things like to break here all at once. And everything always takes longer than it should. Life out here takes patience. And a whole lot of floundering.

Music from Galen Huckins and Blue Dot Sessions / Winter Theme, Ultima Thule, Rapids, Hammer and Damper / Also music from Martin Morrison and Pete Seger / Episode artwork from Ian Gyori / Financial assistance from the Duffy Fund and the University of Missouri / Guidance and support from Scott Swafford, Sara Shahriari and Dr. Cristina Mislan / Featured in this episode: Ali Towers, Scott Anthony, Ian Gyori, Malcolm Vance, Mark Vail, Karla Freivalds, Gary Green, Greg Runyan and John Adams


 

7: CHANGE

 

EPISODE VII: CHANGE

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There’s still plenty of wilderness out there.
— DAVID ROWLAND

EPISODE NOTES

It started as a boom town. And then it busted. Then people came to live an older way of life.

But progress called. First came the road and then the park. And then, the people.

Tourism increased. The economy shifted. A hand tram was replaced by a footbridge. Later a vehicle bridge was added by a private individual.

Letters, CB radios and radio messaging systems were replaced by cell phones and 4G LTE internet.

Vacation homes started. Services were brought in. Now you could build a life out here without having to do it all on your own.

A reality television show came and went, and a two-story restaurant popped up in town. The road improved and maintenance grew more frequent. Now the isolation and the hardship became more of a choice than a necessity.

"The difficulties of pulling off life here and making life comfortable here are, in my mind, a very strong thread of the fabric of our community," Stephens Harper said.

"As things get easier and as you can now just pay for it, that is not a common thread amongst everybody in this community any longer."

With tourism came environmental impact and potential regulation. 

"There's impact, there's feces, it's a big issue," Greg Runyan said. "The way that changes things: You have to have group size limits and trip limits. Out here it’s always just been like you just go."

On this episode of Out Here, what's progress for a place surrounded by preservation?

Music from Galen Huckins and Blue Dot Sessions / Ultima Thule, Rapids, Borough, Valantis, Turning to You, Pikers, El Tajo / Episode artwork from Ian Gyori / Financial Assistance from the Duffy Fund and the University of Missouri / Guidance and support from Scott Swafford, Sara Shahriari and Dr. Cristina Mislan / Featured in this episode: Martin Morrison, Gary Green, Ian Gyori, Mark Vail, Greg Fensterman, Carole Morrison, Greg Runyan, Malcolm Vance, John Adams, David Rowland, Stephens Harper, Scott Anthony, Tamara Harper and Kristin Link