Hello From McCarthy

In 2001, I traveled from Valdez, Alaska to McCarthy, Alaska to take a week long writing workshop at the Wrangell Mountains Center. That week of writing in the Wrangells changed my life. I knew I very much wanted to be able to spend more time in this beautiful location. For many years, I attended this summer writing workshop and really felt it energized me–gave me creative food for thought for the rest of the year.

In 2009, we had the amazing opportunity to buy a little cabin there. Since then, we have been spending our spring breaks and as much of our summers as possible in this quirky little town at the end of the road. To get to McCarthy from Anchorage, you must drive more than 300 miles with the last 60 miles being a dirt road that was once a railroad track. This time of year it is an ice road in many places.

Its spring break this week, so my family headed to McCarthy.

Those of you who have been with me from the beginning know that part of the reason I began this blog adventure was to improve my computer literacy. One of goals for this year was to be techy.

When we are out in McCarthy, Alaska, I have, until now, refused to get a cell phone and/or communicate on the internet. For me, part of the beauty about being in rural Alaska is the chance to check out of urban life–to live in the woods. I like that and have been very reluctant to give it up.

Last summer, the tiny town of McCarthy got a huge cell phone tower or something like that. I don’t know the exact details, but I do know that anyone who wants internet out here now, just needs to pay a fee–its like being in an airport or a hotel. For twenty-five dollars, I can now have internet in McCarthy for the week. Walt signed us up. This means he gets to check on KU basketball and the KC Chiefs drafting decisions, and I get to write my first ever from the woods blog post.

We got here on Saturday afternoon. Friends had made trail to our porch and started a fire in our stove, so moving in was easy. Unlike previous spring breaks when temperatures were below zero more than they were above, this break has been full of warm weather and sunshine–using the outhouse is not so bad in this weather!

To get to McCarthy, you must cross a footbridge over the Kennecott River or buy a bridge pass to use the private vehicle bridge.We do not have a bridge pass, so we haul water and food on a big orange sled in the winter. In the summer, we use a bicycle cart.

Here is Walt making a trip to the car. the distance from the bridge to our cabin is less than a mile and beautiful walk.

Here is Walt making a trip to the car. the distance from the bridge to our cabin is less than a mile and a beautiful walk especially this time of the year.

Here are Ozzy, Tripp, and Walt getting ready to cross the bridge over the Kennecott River.

Ozzy, Tripp, and Walt crossing the foot bridge over the Kennecott River.

Here is the bridge from the other direction--looking towards town. Tripp is just a tiny dot on the right side of the photo.

Here is the bridge from the other direction–looking towards town. Tripp is just a tiny dot on the right side of the photo.

McCarthy is off the grid which means individuals must generate their own power for lights and sewing machines. Over the last few years, we have worked to improve our off the grid power situation and now have enough power for me to run a sewing machine and an iron with power from the sun. I must say that I have limited iron usage in the winter because we have limited sun. The summer time is a different story.

Here is our solar system command center. This is what gives me the juice to run my iron and sewing machine.

Here is our solar system command center. This is what gives me the juice to run my iron and sewing machine.

Here is the iron I use most of the time when I am in McCarthy. I call it an eco-iron as it is the lowest wattage iron I have found yet. It works great once you get it going. The brand name for this iron is SteamFast and you can order on Amazon for about 25 bucks. It uses about 1/3 of the wattage that a normal iron does.

Here is the iron I use most of the time when I am in McCarthy. I call it an eco-iron as it is the lowest wattage iron I have found yet. It works great once you get it going. The brand name is SteamFast and you can order one from Amazon for about 25 bucks. It uses 1/3 of the wattage that a normal iron does.

Here is the other iron I use. This one uses the heat of our wood burning stove.

Here is the other iron I use. This one uses the heat of our wood burning stove.

Our place in McCarthy is a 1920s gold miner’s cabin. It is 600 square feet with an upstairs bedroom (not for tall folks) and storage area. This means my sewing space is located in our living room.

Here is our cabin with Fireweed Mountain behind it. The old burned down building in the background is the old Golden Saloon. McCarthy was originally a mining town. And no mining town is complete without a brothel and bar. The brothel was located a couple of blocks to the left and up the McCarthy Creek.

Here is our cabin with Fireweed Mountain behind it. The old partially burned down building in the background is the old Golden Saloon. McCarthy was originally a mining town. And no mining town is complete without a couple of whore houses  and a bar. The prostitutes’s cribs were located a couple of blocks to the left and up the McCarthy Creek.

Up the street from our cabin is the new Golden Saloon. This time of the year, it looks like a set for a ghost town, but in the summer you can get a five star meal at the restaurant and who knows how many different beers and bourbons at the bar.

Up the street from our cabin is the new Golden Saloon. This time of the year, it looks like a set for a ghost town, but in the summer you can get a five star meal at the restaurant and who knows how many different beers and bourbons at the bar.

Here is my sewingset up in McCarthy. On the opposite side of the room, I have a cutting table and small stash of fabric.

Here is my sewing set up in McCarthy. On the opposite side of the room, I have a cutting table and small stash of fabric.

the space in between my sewing and ironing area and my cutting station frequently looks like this. Risk anyone?

The space between my sewing and ironing area and my cutting station frequently looks like this. Risk anyone?

Thanks to the Sustainable Arts Foundation, I received an award to build a small studio in our garage. We have installed the solar power and purchased the building supplies. Now Walt just needs to find the time to build it.

This is our garage, back in the day it actually housed a mode-T. Soon it will house sewing machines!

This is our garage, back in the day it actually housed a mode-T. Soon it will house sewing machines!

While we have been out here, I have managed to work on several projects. My goal was to complete two sweaters, two half-finished quilt tops, and two bags for the Surface Design Conference in June. I now realize that was just a tad too ambitious. This is a reoccurring theme in my life.

This year for the Surface Design Association's Conference instead of getting a new bag at the conference, show organizaers are incouraging participants to up-cycle a bag and trade it with another member. Here is the bag I have been working on.

I am making this bag for the Surface Design Association’s Conference in June. Instead of giving out new bags at the conference, show organizers are encouraging participants to up-cycle an old bag and trade it with another SDA member. Here is the bag I have been working on.

Here is a new color Grid quilt--well actually it is an old one that I am determined to finish. I want to call it--This Quilt Is Techno-tronic.

This is a new Color Grid quilt–well actually it is an old one that I am determined to finish. I want to call it–This Quilt Is Techno-tronic.

When I start a new Color Grid quilt I usually make a sample, which is what you see in the middle of this photo. If I like it, I then make it bigger. I really want to call this one Jimi Hendrix's Makes a Quilt  or something like that. I think of this quilt as being a tribute to Jimi's version of the Star Spangled Banner.

When I start a new Color Grid quilt I usually make a sample, which is what you see in the middle of this photo. If I like it, I then make it bigger. I really want to call this one Jimi Hendrix’s Makes a Quilt or something like that. This quilt is a tribute to Jimi’s version of the Star Spangled Banner.

Here is another community quilt I am working on. I didn't not make any real progress on the quilt, but I did find out who made one of the blocks that was not signed which is a very good thing.

Here is another community quilt I am working on. I didn’t make any real progress on the quilt, but I did find out who made one of the blocks that wasn’t signed which is a very good thing.

One of my sweater models lives out in McCarthy year round--we met to select her sweater palette.

One of my sweater models lives out in McCarthy year round–we met to select her sweater palette.

While I didn’t get it all done, I had a very good time trying.

In full disclosure, I must say that I am making this post from the comfort of our Anchorage home. I foolishly forgot the electronic device that allows me to download photos onto my ipad. So this is really my first ALMOST post from McCarthy.  I did the writing in McCarthy and uploaded the post from Anchorage. This coming summer, I plan to make many posts from the woods.

I’d love to hear about your spring break adventures–where you traveled and what  you stitched.

As I do every weekend–I’m sharing this post on Nina Marie’s Blog. Check it out. It’s a great way to see what other fiber artists are doing.

This entry was published on March 16, 2013 at 12:08 PM. It’s filed under McCarthy and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

12 thoughts on “Hello From McCarthy

  1. Good job, Maria!

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  2. WOW! What an awesome adventure you are have had and will have!

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  3. wonderful… almost like being there. Really like the iron on the stove top!

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  4. Beth Nordlund on said:

    is the 2nd annual quilt workshop scheduled?

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  5. george metesky on said:

    Good show Maria:) ..and Walt’s facial hair looks good too!

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  6. Pingback: Creative Cloth | Maria Shell

  7. Maria- I loved your post- and loved your life in isolated McCarthy- art filled and intentionally simple. I have a mountain-simple studio too, though I have already learned from yours. I love the solar power and your irons!

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  8. Pingback: This Quilt is Technotronic | Maria Shell

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