I arrived in Dillingham, Alaska February 14, 1982. I feel it was the start of my love affair with that beautiful state. I had come to Alaska with a stone wheat grinder under one arm and Carla Emory’s Old Fashioned Recipe Book under the other, looking for adventure and to live off the land. A couple of weeks later a couple of new friends I had made, took me for a ride to see what Alaska was all about. We drove out a snow packed dirt road to a small community that was at the base of a series of connected frozen lakes and rivers. We drove across those lakes and rivers up into the back country where the magnificent mountains kiss the sky. Wow!! I fell in love and knew I had to find me a mountain man and live in the woods forever!
Two years later I met that mountain man in Juneau, Alaska. Keith was actually dating a girlfriend of mine who was a barber. She told me the story of how he had come into her shop – all scraggly looking, long hair and a beard. He had been living and commercial fishing in a remote location in southeast Alaska. When she got done with him – oh lala, there was a very handsome man! They started dating. The first time I met Keith they were sitting on the couch and he was tickling her. I thought isn’t that cute? She wanted kids, he didn’t – having two from a previous marriage, so they broke off their relationship.
The following year, a few days before Chinese New Year, Keith saw me walking down the street and invited me to join him for a Chinese New Year celebration with some of his friends. That was the start of a 31 year friendship and love affair. He had been raised in Juneau, climbing up into the mountains behind their house, at peace and one with the forest. Here was the mountain man I had dreamed of, when I first fell in love with Alaska!
We moved in together, both of us giving up our apartments to move into a new place together, with a six month lease. I told him I would live with him for a year but then we would have to make the decision on if we wanted to stay together or not. I had lived with someone before and when that relationship ended, it didn’t feel any different than a divorce. Keith agreed.
We soon bought a 19 foot Olympic run-about so we could get out on the water and into remote locations where there were few, if any, people. He was truly a mountain man who most loved being out away from civilization, away from the crowds. Setting up camp and living close to the earth was a pleasure for both of us, that we engaged in often.
Seven months later we bought a 40 foot houseboat together and remodeled it into the cutest live aboard vessel! We had all the comforts of life – a stackable washer dryer, a wood stove, efficient galley, a double recliner, it was all very cozy and comfortable. The engines were shot on it, so we used our 19 foot boat to move it when needed. Mainly it just lived at the dock and provided us a home. We were docked in the transient area of the harbor, as there was a long list to get a permanent slip. Our 19’ Olympic, which we named the Escape, was tied outside our 40’ houseboat, which we had renamed the Sweet Home.