cabin life


A brief tale of squandered opportunity and a chance for redemption

WE HEARD HIM FIRST, the rythmic unkh, unkh, drifting eerily through the morning fog. Closer he came and louder, and suddenly he was on us, wraithlike in the drifting mist, coming straight at us.

“This doesn’t look good,” Seth Kantner muttered, peering at the pale gray end of a spark plug, then passing it to Vic Walker and me for inspection. The top plug on my side looked even worse—grains of aluminum piston speckling the electrode, sure signs of a damaging, possibly fatal, engine overheat. My jet skiff lay against a cut bank up the Nuna River in northwest Arctic Alaska on a fading September evening. Globs of icy rain hissed on the still-hot engine. At the very least, we were bound for a three-mile slog over swampy, slush-coated tundra to Seth’s cabin, and after that, a chain of logistical headaches trailing over the horizon, featuring a crippled skiff far from home. It was one thing if an impossible-to- dodge boulder or a twitch of fate had caused the mess. But none of it had to happen. I had three rapid-fire chances to avoid…