“The Woodshed” ink drawing 4.5″ x 6″ ©Gail Niebrugge, collection of the artist.
The continuing story from my 1994 journal/sketch book of our trip in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska, to a cabin above Nugget Creek in the Wrangell Mountains. The woodshed/outhouse duo was tucked against the canyon wall about 30′ before the cabin, it had no door and was positioned on the edge of a sheer drop straight down to the creek 800′ or more below. Inside the privy half of the shed was a coffee can containing toilet paper, a big axe mounted on the wall with the words “Nugget Creek” burned into the handle, and various rusty tools from old mining camps. The other half held dry firewood, neatly stacked and ready to burn.
After carrying our gear down the steep trail we explored the tiny yard of this impossibly remote peninsula. We walked to the edge beyond the cabin where the land narrowed to a point with a sheer drop on three sides. I felt uneasy standing there, we were no more than 50′ beyond the cabin.
Photos could not tell the story. I made several attempts to sketch the set-up in my journal, above is my last try. It shows the ATV’s parked above at the antenna, the antenna wire traveling down to the cabin above the vertical trail, next the outhouse/woodshed with a view, then a second woodshed next to the cabin. The cabin was perched on the edge of the cliff with just enough room for a small porch at the front door, next was the picnic table and rain barrel, then the third woodshed, and finally the end of the peninsula with a sheer drop off. What doesn’t show here is that the sheer drop is on all three sides. My sketch shows the location of a grizzly bear far below, one that we watched every day.
This sketch shows how narrow the building site was, the woodshed/outhouse is not pictured it is located above on the right, what you see is the second woodshed near the cabin, and the cabin on a foundation that drops off sharply in the back. There is a porch at the front door with a folding wash stand attached to the cabin wall. The porch could be approached from the right or the left, but there was nothing but a gaping ravine off the front. We realized that nighttime trips to the outhouse would have to be done with caution, and a flashlight.
I hope you might have a better idea of this preposterous set-up with the help of my fabulous drawings, but I don’t expect you to believe it, you had to see it to believe it! And all of this is very remote, deep, deep in the wilderness of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.
Gail Niebrugge, Alaska artist