Today, I'd like to introduce you to Erin McKittrick and her family who live in the tiny village of Seldovia in Southcentral Alaska. I've long been intrigued by this family ever since discovering Erin's blog, Ground Truth Trekking, and her incredible photography showcasing the realities of raising small children outside in a very big (and wild) land.
|Erin hiking across the Alaskan wilderness with daughter Lituya|
Small Feet, A Yurt, and an Isolated Village
|Erin working in her yurt|
We recently stayed in a simple tent-cabin while camping and it was a fun way to spend a weekend "roughing it." At least for a weekend. Everyday life in a small yurt however, would be a very different experience. Just imagine the bathing process alone with a newborn baby, heating water on the wood stove and then cooling it down with water from the well outside (possibly after chipping the ice away from the well in winter.)
Erin has written a fascinating book about her family's day to day adventures in Seldovia blended together with their scientific explorations to document and research climate change in Alaska. Not being much of a scientist myself, I have to admit that the everyday stories in the book were the most interesting to me.
I loved reading about the daily challenges that made up the family's simple lifestyle in the yurt. For example, Laundry and showers required trips into town, 3 miles away. The trip to town would often be made on snowshoes in the middle of the cold Alaskan winter. And just reaching the village of Seldovia requires multiple flights with the final leg done by ferry or a small Cessna plane.
Erin narrates an intriguing story of "pioneer" life that includes storing vegetables, fish, and fresh meat for the winter (vegetables grown from their own garden and fish often caught by their own hands.) Wood must be chopped and stacked to last the winter and while supplies can be ordered or purchased in town, nothing comes easily like it would in my big city.
|Growing Veggies in Erin's Magical Garden|
"There's something intensely satisfying about providing food for myself and my family - growing it, catching it, gathering it, seeing it appear from the very land around me. When the pie is made from berries I've picked, when the salad comes from veggies I've grown, when the fillets come from fish I've caught...it's not just food. It feels magical."Erin's book is full of poignant lessons on simplicity. I was captivated constantly by Erin's descritions of acting out stories told from imagination rather than from library books they didn't own, making toys out of drift wood, mud, and boulders instead of Lego or plastic blocks. And I'm pretty sure her children still don't know what a video game is. Blissful simplicity!
|Awe and Gratitude in every-day life|
"Small Feet, Big Land" is bursting with inspiration for those of us who would struggle with daily gratitude. Choosing to live without showers and flush toilets, this amazing family chooses to embrace and be thankful for the basics from warmth to family, love, and a community where they can feel safe and embraced by like-minded people.
"We live on the doorstep of wilderness, with a million-dollar view, space for a garden, a close-knit community, a cheap and debt-free lifestyle, and a schedule nearly entirely of our own making. Could I have all that and all the conveniences and comforts of urban life? Maybe, with enough money. But what would I give up to earn it?And with that quote, I stop to ask myself what I myself have given up so that I can live in "comfort" within my three bedroom house that possesses not one but four bathrooms.
Scientific Expeditions, Glaciers, and Toddlers - Together
Erin's book is divided into four parts with the second and fourth parts focusing on their scientific expeditions and huge month-long journeys that the family would take to study climate change and its impact on remote Alaskan villages - while bringing their two children with them! I mentioned earlier that I'm not much of a scientist myself but I still found these parts of the book completely fascinating because I'm not sure I could embark on the kind of adventures Erin and her husband do for their research. And certainly not with kids in tow!
|Life on Ice (And yes, they really are sleeping on ice.)|
|Life on Ice with Two Toddlers|
"We'd planned for the middle of nowhere before. But here, the middle of nowhere collided with harsh weather, unknowable terrain, and a stretch of time four times longer than we'd ever spent entirely in the wild. And our expedition team included an eight-month-old baby who couldn't yet walk, and a two-and-a-half-year old toddler who walked only in wandering circles between streams and bugs and climbing rocks. Despite our best efforts, neither were potty trained."
Personally, I found the family's two month expedition to be very inspirational and I received a powerful lesson in the importance of slowing down. Erin talks about how they had done the same trip four years earlier but had missed seeing the same lakes, had failed to notice the detail, and had travelled the same distance in a morning that it was now taking a week to travel with the kids. And while Erin admits that the pace was often glacial, she also says that "feats of observation took over from feats of athleticism."
|Where feats of observation take over from feats of athleticism|
I could actually go on for another thousand words on how much I learned from Erin's book. I have pages of notes I took on my reflections on comfort, thoughts on introducing children to the concept of wilderness at such a young age, and lessons I took away on family bonding through adventure. However, I'd rather give you the opportunity to read the book for yourself and then to let me know what you think.
Mountaineers Books would like to give away two copies of Erin's book to two lucky readers. To enter, reply with a comment below telling me why you would like to read this book and what you hope to take away from it.
A bonus entry will be counted if you follow Erin on Twitter at @Erin_McKittrick and or on Facebook at Ground Truth Trekking. Please let me know where you follow Erin in a separate comment.
The contest is open until midnight on the night of October 28th (mountain standard time) and winners will be drawn randomly and contacted on October 29th. Please make sure you leave email contact information in your comment (or sign in via a social media account I can reach you through.) If I can't contact you, I will choose another winner.
Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided to me but as always, my opinions and thoughts are my own. All photos were used with permission from Erin's website and are her property.