Tetlin

I just wrapped up a few days at Shen Bible camp outside Tok, AK. 28 wonderful men and women made their way here from all over the lower 48. I only had 3 nights but the time I spent there was truly priceless. It’s a 3 week mission where most people come for a week at a time and this year built log cabins for the children to sleep in when they come to camp. A little over a mile hike into 4 mile lake and no power or plumbing. We had generators for power tools and propane powered lamps and a gravity fed water system mostly for cooking. So many great stories came from my time at camp, I don’t even know where to start. 

For those of you who know Wade, you know he has no fear and has been in more life threatening experiences than most families should experience. So when he whispered to me at midnight, “did you hear that?” and before I could remove my earplugs and noise canceling headset, I knew we were in for something. The look on the fearless man’s face said more than I needed to know. I quickly reached to my right side and grabbed my newly purchased shotgun (post Grizzly experience). He said, “I think there’s a bear right outside”. If that’s not enough to get your heart rate up, I’m not sure what is. I jumped up and in a blur stepped outside without my shoes, quickly realizing it, I stepped into my boots and on high alert cleared the area, never seeing a bear. That’s a good ending to a bear story, trust me.  I don’t really need to see another bear. The best part was seeing Wade’s face… I’ll never forget that and I’ll have a story to share after one of his thousands of insanely intense stories. I guess I’m not the only one who takes a bear encounter serious. Until you have yours, you’ll be pretty brave too. It won’t take long for you to change your perspective… And your shorts… 

Some of my most memorable times were visiting the native village of Tetlin. A village that governs on its own laws. It’s not under US jurisdiction. Wade has made an impact on some of the families living in the village. This year we painted the outside of an elder’s house and so much more… I can tell you stories for hours but my top three were; the elder woman singing in native tongue (on video!), a boat ride to “Last Tetlin” (I most likely was one of, if not the first, white person to literally step foot on the old tribal village grounds).  Sorry Wade, I wasn’t thinking, you probably should’ve been the first. So I’ll say, “We” were the first 😉  Last Tetlin was the original village but after disease wiped out most of the village people and a flood destroyed most of it, they moved to what’s now called “Tetlin.” The trip to “Last Tetlin” included an hour and half boat ride through a small river filled with fallen trees from eroding river banks. Then across a lake and up another river, that was pretty cool or should I say cold? On the way back the weather changed and crossing the lake was an experience. I was literally dripping wet when we got off the boat. Freezing cold! And the fear of the boat possibly not making across the lake was for real. I could barely keep my eyes open due to water spraying my face from bow/water impact. Steve, all I can say is… Thailand. And lastly, we woke up to beautiful snow and the road into the village was extremely muddy and very dangerous due to steep grades and no traction. I wasn’t sure we’d make it in, but I kind of had to because during the boat ride my truck keys some how got thrown out of my backpack and I was hoping they were in the boat somewhere. I was leaving the next day so I needed to at least check to see if they were there. Well, I did find the keys under a piece of wood in the boat. 

Since Wade’s son and I were there, we thought we might as well hang out with the elder woman, so we did. We had 2 cameras and tripods, but no video this day. We truly just sat for several hours in awe of her stories. Enough stories to keep me typing for days… You wouldn’t believe some of her childhood stories, or even her adult stories. “Unreal life.” That’s her name to me. That was my favorite part of the trip to Tok. Literally one of the coolest days that I’ll cherish for a long time. Her son invited me back in the fall to hunt for caribou and moose. Um… Yes please! She will show me how to use every bit of the moose even the intestines and tan the hide for leather. She’s going to “traditionally” smoke the meat for me and if I bring her salmon, she’ll smoke that too and show me their tribes signature filleting. All tribes have a traditional way of cleaning, preparing and smoking their salmon. It’s been passed down for generations. She’s going to show me their signature. And she’ll be doing all this for me at the age of 77. Good on her! I guess the best way to stay young is to stay moving… 

I wish I had more time but if you come visit, we can sit around a fire and share stories all night long. Until then, …

“I’ll see you a little farther up the creek..”


One thought on “Tetlin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s