Well, my time in McCarthy is coming to an end for this summer. Over the weeks I have been here, I have collected images to do a series of posts on what it is like to live out here, and hopefully some day I will share all of them with you.
To get this started, I thought I would share the outhouses of our neighborhood. Yes. There are real flushing toilets in this town, but our little hood does not have one.
The block we live on consists of the Wrangell Mountains Center an educational facility for arts, science, and research that owns two large properties on our block. The Old Hardware Store which was an operating Hardware and Grocery Store back in the mining days, but now houses the WMC’s cooking facilities, staff rooms, and two large educational spaces.
And Porphry Place which is the former residence of Ed LaChapelle expert glacilogist and his partner Meg Hunt who was a professor of dance. The Wrangell Mountains Center’s Artist and Writer Residency Program is named after her. This facilitiy serves as a lecture space with artist and writer residency living spaces on the back half of the property.
We are also have two neighbors–Sally and Grandma Patt. Sally’s house is tucked away on the left and Grandma Patt lives on the right side of the street.
At the end of our block is the lovely and amazing McCarthy Creek. I have been told that she is a misnamed river, and I believe it. There are mountains behind that cloud and smoke cover.
Years ago, I would look forward to visiting homes and businesses just to use their flushing toilet and hot running water to wash my hands. But as time goes by, living with an outhouse really is not that big of a deal.
As comedian Monte Montepare says, when you think about what your bathroom is and does having it in your house just seems kind of wrong.
The reason most of us have outhouses is that the systems required to have indoor plumbing in an off-the-grid community are substantial. We do NOT have public utitlities out here.
Our heating, power, and water systems are all generated by ourselves. Some of us have very sophisticated systems with generators or solar power, running water, and flushing toilets. Others systems are more primative. Our personal system meets our needs and each year we get just a bit fancier.
We have a great solar system that can be boosted with our generator on rainy days, two excellent wood stoves for heating the house and baking, but we do haul water from the creek (no plumbing), and we have a rather old outhouse. And our shower, well, it is in the wood shed. But that is a story for another day.
We have what is called a dry cabin which means no water systems—no plumbing at all.
I know in this day and age, it seems strange not to be able to flip a switch and illuminate a room, but there are other methods for generating light. For those who live out here, it is satisfying to figure out how to live off the grid in a remote location. We like tinkering with our systems and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
When the zombie apocalypse happens, we are kind of set.
Systems—how to install them and how to maintain them—are a very popular topic out here. Gardening, perserving the harvest, maintaining solar systems, fixing generators, and hauling water are always good conversation starters.
There is something deeply satisfying about creating your own comfort, about knowing what it takes to keep yourself warm and dry, fed and powered up. It slows things down in a world that moves so fast it is hard to think in compete sentences sometimes.
Out here, as you chop wood or pick berries the important things about life become crystal clear. When you create your own systems, you get to know yourself and your neighbors in a way that would never happen in a gridded society.
And then, when you get a chance to use a flushing toilet or an indoor shower, well, the luxury is OHLALA truly appreciated.
Over the years, I have written several posts about living in McCarthy, Alaska. Here are a few them.
Vegetable Garden—McCarthy Style
Sewing Studio McCarthy Style
July 4th—McCarthy Style
Ari’s Community Quilt
Hello From McCarthy
McCarthy Day—Another Community Quilt Story
Raspberry Rhubarb Ginger Jam
And if you want to read Tom’s book called Pilgrim’s Wilderness about the town of McCarthy and a small religious cult that wrecked havoc here in the early years of this century you can by following the link. It is a great read.