It’s Tuesday June 23rd and I’m sitting inside Papa Bear’s Pizzeria in Petersburg Alaska. I’ve only been in Alaska for a couple of hours, and while it’s beauty has been breathtaking, it’s been a tough day to say the least. Yesterday I learned the hostel I was planning on spending my first couple of nights, had close down. It was the only hostel on Mitkof island, and the money in my bank account is frozen for another week. So I don’t have the option of checking into a hotel either. I have $50 in cash and I need to make it last.
So now I’m stuck ~1500 miles away from home with nothing but what I’m wearing and my backpack. I have no place to sleep for the next three nights and very little cash. What can you do when life provides so little options? You do what you must. After all here, near the Alaskan wilderness, one must use their head to get themselves out of any trouble. You must relay on your wits in order to make it, and that is what I intend to do.
On my way into town, I noticed an area that looked like it could be a good place to stealth camp. It’s something I would normally never do, but with little options available I don’t see no other choice. It’s a little patch of clearing near the wilderness, where road construction is being done. If I can get myself in there and get my tent up, it will provide me with enough cover to keep me hidden from prying eyes, as well as a nearby port o potty to use. Until the construction crews leave, I can’t go and check it out, so I head into town for a bite to eat.
The day is beginning to wear on me. I haven’t slept in over a day, and I actually almost fell asleep while eating a pizza. Make no mistake, I’m determined to make it and find a place to get some much needed sleep. After all isn’t this what I wanted when I ventured here? To make it, no matter what, to push myself beyond my known limits, to forge myself in fire (metaphorically)? It looks like I’ll be getting my chance, and a lot sooner than I anticipated.
I wrap a couple of slices of pizza in tin foil, and I’m off to find a spot to camp at. Luckily when I arrive at my intended spot, the construction workers are all gone. I walk along the road until I find what looks like an easy spot to tread into the clearing. I was surprised to find the ground so soft. It was like walking on a sponge. Then I remembered that most of the land on the island is muskeg, which is like a bog, something that is almost alien to a Southern California native. It seemed firm enough to walk on, so I continue on trying to watch my step as I head deeper into the muskeg.
Before long I took a costly step and sunk to my upper thigh. I almost panicked. It was what I imagined quick sand to be like. I could not feel the bottom, and it was hard to pull my leg up, as the soft mud made it hard to move without sinking more. I took off my pack and threw it onto the land that I was on before. I knew I didn’t need the extra weight right now. By this time both my legs have sunk into the mud to about mid thigh height. I leaned my body forward and stretched out my arms to try and spread the weight of my body. I then tried to spread my legs and lift them out. I was able to free my right leg out and onto the mossy top. Soon I lift my left leg out as well, and I’m free from the mud.
That was a close one, I think to myself. With no one else within an ear shot, and no telling how much I would sink into that bog, who knows what could have happen. I was more mad at myself for not researching this area more, as this mistake could have been avoided. I gather my things and head back into town, with my legs and feet drenched and covered in mud. I contemplate trying to check into a hotel, maybe I convince them to not run my card for a couple of days? Then I think, no way will that work, especially now. I probably look like a homeless man trying to score a free room.
I walk along the town looking for something, anything that I could use as shelter. After walking for some time I come upon a church with a small park in the back. The park has a wooden fence and trees obscuring vision from any neighbors, and it has a little stone half dome with a statue of the Mother Mary inside it. I look around and think, “I can use this”. It’s long enough to lay down in and deep enough to have myself and pack in. I use the shelter to change out of my soaking muddy clothes and into a dry pair from my pack. I then lay out my sleeping pad and blanket and settle in for the night.