Was I crazy to hop on a 2-propeller plane to fly 8500 feet over the Alaskan Mountains to go to the Arctic Circle? Probably but, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Four of us opted to take the Chena Springs Resorts Flightseeing tour to the Arctic Circle and explore Beaver Village.
Alaska Aerial Views
Alaska is a beautiful state with a vast amount of uncultivated land as far as you can see in any direction. First, we flew over the mountain ranges, rivers snaking through them, dotted with evergreen trees and rocks growing right up at the top. We even flew over working gold mines. Then we flew over the flat tundra. All you could see now was snow covered water spaced throughout the trees. Then we passed over the Arctic Circle. Turned around and headed back south the 13 miles to Beaver Village
Seth, the Pilot
Seth was super knowledgeable as we flew over the Alaskan White Mountains and Yukon Flats. Pointing out creeks, rivers, mountains and even gave us some history of Alaska on our flight. He also played a joke on us. Mentioning the bump, we just felt as we crossed the Arctic Circle was the sub-zero air meeting the warmer air from the south. I almost believed him until I heard him over the headphones that he made the bump happen. Funny guy!
We spotted moose on a snow covered lake. Seth did a circle over for us to get pictures of them. It was so funny watching four photographers with cameras, taking pictures of everything we could out the plane’s windows.
As we circled over Beaver Village, it looked like a little town with log cabins that you put together on a train model village. Beaver Village was founded in 1910 as a trading post for Inuits and gold miners.
We landed on the snow-covered runway and met the Adams, Cliff & Ai who came out to meet us. Cliff, a native Indian, has lived in Beaver Village all his life. Ai is a Japanese transplant, who came up to Beaver Village as a tourist five years ago from Tokyo. Ai met Cliff and ended up staying and marrying him. She has completely uprooted her life from living in a huge city to living off the land. She is so incredibly happy! Her smile is so infectious.Ai pronounces her name “I.” Ai took us around the village pointing out what each building was. She showed us the school where one teacher teaches seven kids (Kindergarten to Highschool). We walked passed the Post Office, then the laundromat (Washing Building).
The water tower gets filled by hand. The villagers carry buckets from the Yukon River. We stopped in the middle of an intersection (one of two) that Ai said was Main Street. Not one person to be seen anywhere only us walking through the village. We passed the cemetery that had all wooden crosses. I asked about the burial process, and they don’t wait until the ground is unfrozen to bury them. Frozen ground or not the villagers are buried. There isn’t much sickness here. Most villagers live to a ripe old age.
Life along the Yukon River
After that, we walked one block to the next road and stopped at the Yukon River. There was another building which houses the government and the clinic but, the doctor is long gone. This village has shrunk from over 100 people to 80 down to today’s 46 people.
Ai told us in September the Post Office and the school will be closing. I asked, “What will happen to the kids? What will they do?” Ai answered, “They will be shipped to live in Fairbanks with their aunt.” This was so disheartening to hear. This village’s future depends on having these kids return but, once they get a taste of city life what that possibility is? Zero to none.
As we walked along the Yukon River, we passed the now defunct trading store, which Cliff’s grandfather owned. We checked out at a 95-year-old deserted cabin filled with antiques.Across from this one is an 116-year-old cabin which is about as old as this village. I couldn’t see inside since it was covered in snow. Our group passed the one Bed & Breakfast in the village. If you want to experience living off the land in the middle of Alaska, come here.
The Adams House
We got to Ai and Cliff’s house which was so inviting and warm inside. They offered us fresh Wild Alaskan Salmon and Moose samples. Moose is quite tender. We asked Ai what her favorite meat is and she said black bear. Her face lit up when she mentioned it was so tender and moist. The Adams spend their time trapping and using every bit of what they hunt. Ai was wearing beaver gloves, fox scarf, and a Lynx hat. She has won awards and is one of the top trappers in the world. China is their biggest customer seeking out their pelts. They usually go for over $300/pelt.
Living off the Land
We spent time at the Adams house enjoying their hospitality and seeing how they live there all year round. Ai has a little greenhouse to grow vegetables. We also saw where they caught the Salmon and checked out the Smoke House. Cliff hunts and provides food for the whole village.
I can’t imagine how beautiful Beaver Village is in the summer right on banks of the Yukon River. Minus the mosquitos, which they told us were horrible. We walked down and took some pictures of all of us on the Yukon River.
When our time with the Adams was winding down, we started walking back to the plane. Ai noticed a white rabbit hidden in the snow and trees. “Aww, how cute!” we said while we got our cameras out. Ai quietly said “Snack!” Love this lady!
If you need a place to get away from everything, want to commune with nature and learn to live off the land, Beaver Village would be the place for you. Info for Beaver Village Tours. This village now depends on tourists to keep this community from not completely disappearing.