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Thread: Cabin for me?

  1. #1
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    Default Cabin for me?

    Hello everyone-
    I almost decided not to post here, because I have read several pages of posts in this forum and there are many posts with subjects of building a dream cabin in Alaska. None the less, I read through the posts and the valleymarket.com blog, in particular the two posts about the types of land that make up Alaska. In the end, I decided to post anyways so here it is.

    It's been a goal of mine for quite sometime to survive in Alaska for an entire year. The very idea of it has been in my head since I was a teenager. None the less, I read and researched early on and it became clear to me that it would be no cheap or easy venture. So I worked hard over the years, saved a lot, invested well, and did all that I could to not only be successful in life, but also to achieve my goal of living in a cabin in Alaska. Now I am at a point where I am single, have my retirement savings established, and have money allocated just for a venture in Alaska, including health insurance since I wouldn't have a job while in AK.

    What do I want? A very remote hike in, snowmobile or fly in only piece of land near a water source and fishing area. I then want to build a small cabin (300-400sq ft) and tough it out over a year. I would like to leave to hunt large game (with a guide most likely) during one season and leave to fish for salmon.

    I have done some research on land prices for a long time now and I've set the maximum price of the land at $50,000. In the remote areas, is there a need to buy up the most amount of land that one can? Or should one be more focused on the quality of the land, since much of the land is not privately owned and therefore you could explore the areas around you?

    More questions that I have:

    Canvas Wall Tents:
    A well built canvas wall tent with woodstove is a cheaper alternative to building a cabin. They have been used successfully in many other cold environments in place of cabin, but in reality how well do these work through a full year in AK?

    Water:
    With the remote cabins, are people hauling water from rivers or are they flying in well driling equipment and hoping they get lucky? With a snowmobile and sled, I take it you could ride to a water source and fill up your containers?

    Access:
    With just around 1% of the land in Alaska being privately owned, how is the access to these remote properties? Down in the lower 48, most of the land is privately owned and you can't just cut across joining properties (trespassing). In Alaska, obviously if the land is marked "No Trespassing" one would not venture on through, but if there is no marking can you hike on through? Also, looking on maps I notice trails marked as "Winter Trail" or "Winter Access Trail." I take it these are the primary snowmobile routes?

    Building:
    Are there building restrictions, permits, and codes to follow by? I am not looking at building in a septic system (will utilize an outhouse). I thought of hauling materials and tools during the winter to the land by snowmobile and then building during the summer. This would (I think) prevent me from needing to fly in the materials. Am I on the right track here or way off base?

    Snowmobile:
    I have never used a snowmobile before. What is the range or operating time on one tank of fuel? I realize that this is model dependent, but I am seeking a ball park figure.

    I am not looking to move to Alaska permanently, but it would be great to have a place to return to each year. However, the cost of building in Alaska is high and I've set a total budget of $100,000 to acquire the land, build the cabin and money for a snowmobile and other equipment. Is this amount way too high, too low, or just right? I thought at one point, that since I was looking to stay for a year and then return each year on a vacation basis, I may be better off from a financial standpoint to rent a cabin for the year. However, I have been unable to find cabins that are available to rent for a full year and even more so, I have been unable to find cabins that are actually remote. I've found too many that have all of the luxuries of home and I am not looking for that at all.

    I am here to learn more and to ask questions, since I realize that I don't know everything about what I am doing. I've camped and backpacked for a long time now, but at just 4000ft during the winter where the temperature only reaches the single digits. Before I leave for Alaska, I will be completing a winter survival course and first aid course in nothern Maine.

    Thank you for reading and I look forward to your thoughts!

  2. #2
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    How remote do you want to be? Here is a web site that has land all over alaska and deals with remote property. http://landinalaska.com/ Do you want to build your own cabin or would you be willing to just buy what you want. I have seen lots of remote property's with nice cabins on them in the 40 to 80 thousand range. The ideal remote property to me is one you can fly to and drive a snow machine to. Lake front or river front is great. If you can get there by boat thats a pluss to.
    On my snow machine i get about 50 to 80 miles on a tank of gas depending if it is deep snow or a packe trail.
    If you buy some property and build yourself there are a few things to think about. If you are remote you haft to fly all the materials in. The further you are from a town the more it cost to fly in the materials. Some places you can use snowmachines and freaght sleds to haul in lumber. If you are on a river system some have barges.
    If you do build i would get a wall tent to live in while your building.
    I have 5 of them i use for guideing and now days they make some nice ones mine have doors in front and back with screens and a screnned window. They are great for the summer but it would be no fun in the winter. I bought them at davis tent in denver they are great people to deal with..
    As far as a well if your on the river most people have a sand point well.
    In most of the cabins you haft to haul water or pump it from a lake.
    They have places up here that deal with remote water systems. You get like a 50 to 100 gallon tank all the filters a pump. I checked on this awhile back and it was about 800 for the hole system. the drawback is in the winter i would haft to haul the water from the lake which isnt to bad with a snow machine.

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    Thanks for responding. I've browsed through landinalaska.com and found quite a few properties on there that I liked. I would be willing to buy the setup that I want, i.e a cabin with land already setup ready to go. Do you have a website handy that has information on the remote water systems?

    The one thing I don't quite understand about a lot of the remote land is access. Some of that land is literally in the middle of no where and if you use a helicopter, your access is easy. However, can you cut cross country on the snowmobile to reach a town?

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    Welcome, and good luck with your venture.

    No matter the range of your snow machine, you will want to have extra fuel along. Trails can be blocked, or overflow change your route plan, having more options (more fuel and range) is a good thing. Always having a change of clothes, fast firestarters, and a sleeping bag along isn't a bad idea either. Figure a cargo sled whenever you're going anywhere.


    Small planes, (bush planes) can get to many otherwise inacessible places. They can land on gravel bars of rivers, on floats if there's enough water, like a fair size lake, or on decent tundra.


    Let us know how it goes, you arent the only one with this plan.

  5. #5
    Member Akheloce's Avatar
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    May I suggest that you move here on a contingency basis (in a small town, not out on your own yet) first. Make it through a winter or so up here before you decide to set out on the wild.

    The reason I say this is that there are a few concerning questions you asked.

    1. In order to hunt large game, you HAVE to have a guide as a non-resident. Additionally, movement and storage of that game can be a real bear (no pun intended)- this is VERY expensive for a non-resident.

    2. You can't judge the quality of a piece of land without seeing it in at least 2 seasons (winter and summer). What may look like a dream spot in the summer may be a wind-drifted wasteland in the winter. Converseley, what may look like high dry land in a picture, may spend 2 months a year under 6 inches of water.

    3. Water- you really need to be familiar with the area on the water. Some areas may have clear streams (or like my place, a natural spring 1/4 mile away that runs year round), or the nearest stream might be glacial fed, which would although be useable, will be very silty and high in mineral content- not pleasant to drink at all.

    4. Access- access completely depends on the time of year and location. If you can drive a 4wd pickup to it, it's probably out of your price range, and not remote enough for your tastes. Some areas are accessable ONLY in winter time, as we have areas with a lot of wetlands that you might not even be able to walk to in the summer.
    You mention snowmachining- As an avid rider, I can tell you that if my life depended on it, I would want at least a year or so of experience in riding (a lot). They are not easy machines to master, and you will get stuck a lot your first several times out. You will definitely want to have someone with you.
    As far as range goes, I've gotten 130 miles out of a 10 gallon tank, and less than 50 miles out of that same tank. It depends on snow conditions.

    5. Time- I started building my cabin last fall, and spend over 2 months just getting materials in only 6 miles from where I could drive my truck. Little things just keep popping up, like having the sled tip over, running into water, and just about every other adversity you can think of. Stuff just happens. Then, invariably you find something else you need, and have to go back to town for it.

    I'm not trying to discourage you at all, just don't want you to get up here, and find out some of your preparations, and land choices were inadequate. If you come up here, and rent a place for a year or so, you may be able to make better decisions that won't cost you as much time of money in the long run.

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    Are there any particular towns that you would recommend to live in for a year? It's such a vast state!

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    Spending some time in a good jumping off point isnt a bad idea. Unimproved cabins can be rented in some places for reasonable($200/mo range), at least last time I looked into it they could. This would give you access to the wild places, and have some access to people and supplies.


    Something else to consider, instead of building with a lot of expensive store bought materials, and spending a lot of money to transport them to a remote site, you can build traditional style. Dick Proenekke did it, see his book "One Mans Wilderness", lots of good pics, and a good description of his life. He went out at age 50 and built a cabin and lived in it for 30 years or so. Also, the book "Trapline Twins" by the Collins sisters gives some good info on building tradition type cabins, and bush life. Not much store bought materials are needed, but decent hand tools help.

  8. #8

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    Here is a site that you definitely will read with an increasing feeling of envy. I built my own cabin on Lake Louise and enjoyed every bit of it and looking through this website, I found myself pining for the experience these people went through. Anyhow, here's the link:

    http://alaskaantlerworks.com/Alaska_cabin.htm

    Here is one item to consider long and hard before buying your property, be sure that it is NOT land-locked land. In other words, if the "only" access is by air due to not having any legal easements or natural lakes to navigate or something to get you there by at least wheelers/snowmachines, then I would pass it up for something else. This excludes pilots, those lucky enough to own their own plane, I envy you as well.

    If you find a piece of property in the Matsu borough and want to get more information on it, send me a private message on it and I'll have my wife do a quick search on the land to help inform you of the hidden gotcha's that may be tagged to it.

    She could certainly tell you some stories of some of the surprises that people have run into _after_ buying their property.

  9. #9
    Member mntransplant's Avatar
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    Talking Another website..

    Also you can try www.remoteproperties.com
    I bought from them a few years ago. Great people, and are willing to help you look for whatever you might want.

  10. #10
    Member SusitnaAk's Avatar
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    Lots of good advice here! I didn,t see being a winder lodge, Attendent. Some folks shut there operations down for the winter, And head south But still want someone watching over the place for them. Just a thought then you could learn from them. And most important your limations, I didn,t notice your age but you gotta be tuff if your in the bush, one slip with a saw or ax and well! you get the idea, Hang around a bit take some jobs out there fish guiding,or ect... Then you be better prepared for what you up against.

  11. #11
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    Default winter lodge attendant

    Quote Originally Posted by SusitnaAk View Post
    Lots of good advice here! I didn,t see being a winder lodge, Attendent. Some folks shut there operations down for the winter, And head south But still want someone watching over the place for them. Just a thought then you could learn from them. And most important your limations, I didn,t notice your age but you gotta be tuff if your in the bush, one slip with a saw or ax and well! you get the idea, Hang around a bit take some jobs out there fish guiding,or ect... Then you be better prepared for what you up against.
    How does one go about finding a job doin this? I am looking for something like that at a lodge or possible someones cabin???I would like to do this for a winter and trap a bit too.

  12. #12

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    I happen to know of a remote cabin on some land with an airstrip. the owner would be interested in having someone stay there as a house sitter. The only cost would be to take care of the cabin and clear some of the brush on the airstrip. this is a bush cabin. No running water, outhouse, wood stove etc.

    He would not want to babysit the person so they would need to be self-sufficient. arrange their own flyout etc.

    FYI. I think there are some satelite phones that arrange service for as little as $40 per month with unlimited time. That is hard to beat. You could arrange flights with that.

    You can take a snowmachine to this place but not a 4 wheeler. It would be a good long ride, I think about 40 miles by snowmachine.

    I'm not going to give the name here but if you PM me I might put you in conctact.
    Wasilla Real Estate News
    www.valleymarket.com

  13. #13
    Member ripnlip's Avatar
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    Marty,
    I sent u a pm

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by martyv View Post
    I happen to know of a remote cabin on some land with an airstrip. It would be a good long ride, I think about 40 miles by snowmachine.
    40 snowmachine miles from the road isn't "remote" in alaska

  15. #15

    Default Alaska land sales

    Check out the state of Alaska website, they have land sales, and you can get a couple acres for 10-20 thousand easily. A lot of it is somewhat accessible by road. I'll be checking out a piece north of Valdez when I'm up this summer. I wouldn't go for super-remote if I were you....one step at a time!

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by dws View Post
    40 snowmachine miles from the road isn't "remote" in alaska
    I'll give you that...but it looked like this guy was coming up from the states. So it'll feel remote for him.
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