Young Creek near the park service wilderness headquarters at May Creek.
It was a beautiful evening on my first day as Artist-in-Residence stationed at May Creek, the clouds cleared and the long low light of the Alaska summer lit the mountains to the east. Alone with my camera I hiked the trail to Young Creek, the water was swift and full from the recent rains. A very strange bridge allowed foot access to the opposite shore, it was a classic “Rube Goldberg” style of construction. Rising water had washed out access at both ends and required careful navigation over makeshift ladders and boards to cross. My only shoes, tennis shoes, were immediately soaked as I tried to reach the bridge. Lots of debris and driftwood jammed the pilings, it was quite a sight.
As the clouds cleared I found some beautiful landscapes to photograph, and enjoyed the solitude of nature. I discovered good views of Sourdough Peak, Nikolai Butte, Chittistone mountains, and the Nizina River from my hike along the river bank. Later I slogged back to the tent cabin for the night in my cold, wet tennis shoes wondering what adventure awaited tomorrow.
The next morning I rose early, the employees made pancakes and prepared for the day. I was invited to join a survey crew working at the historic site of the Green Butte mine. A helicopter would make several trips transporting people and equipment to different locations this day, I was told to get my gear and wait at the airstrip for available space. During my wait I had the chance to explore the area around the gravel air strip. Of particular interest were a cluster of small buildings affectionately named the “Silver Hilton” where an elderly gentleman, Jake, lived who served as a national park volunteer. Jake had great knowledge of the area, living in the region since the early 1940’s, and was a valuable resource to the newly established park personnel.
The “Silver Hilton” at May Creek airstrip, Alaska 1989.
Jake’s home shined like silver, thus the name, the exterior walls were sided with flattened fuel cans and whatever scrap metal could be found. It was a sturdy, functional abode and all that Jake needed. Overhead I heard the familiar whup, whup, whup of an approaching helicopter and quickly returned to my backpack to wait for my flight to Green Butte…..
Gail Niebrugge, Alaska wilderness artist