National Geographic : 1973 Jan
that 100 pounds of cement on her back! The following three weeks Martha and I busied ourselves with such "woman's work" as varnishing the floors and walls of the Smiths' cabin, constructing an outhouse, building a door, table, and kitchen cabinet, and installing a wood heater and stovepipe. By the time our men arrived, we had things homey and comfortable. True, the table wob bled a little, the door didn't close smoothly, and the still-roofless outhouse leaned to the north, but we were proud of our accomplish ments. Our constructions lasted long enough to get us all started with the business of liv ing at Ermine Lake. By the end of October the four of us had completed a second cabin, and our big happy Smith/Robinson family again became two families. We had all labored long and hard in those early months. I, for one, had calluses replacing the blisters of those first weeks. I had learned more or less how to hammer, saw, carry water buckets, operate a chain saw, and how to split firewood, using not brute strength but good aim and a knowledge of how differ ent logs yield to the ax. In the end, there was the 12-by-18-foot cabin Pete and I were going to call home. WE LIVE in a long, windswept valley bounded on the west by the Alaska Range, with Mount McKinley, apex of the continent, as its snowy crown (pages 74-5). From the shore of Ermine Lake we often glimpse massive McKinley, called De nali-the Tall One-by the Koyukon Indians. But if clouds veil that view, other Alaska Range peaks still gleam behind jagged and rocky ridges. Foothills of the Talkeetna Mountains wall us on the east, Our lake, dotted in warm weather with the yellow blooms of water lilies and lively with spike-billed northern phalaropes, becomes a short-lived but fun skating rink after the first CHENA NEVER LEARNS that she makes porcupines nervous. After an encounter with one such visitor in the bright-hued thicket (left), our dog comes home bristling-anda little sheepish. Pete keeps a pair of pliers handy for pulling out quills. I like to think that Chena helps to frighten off more dangerous wildlife-the black and grizzly bears that live in our valley.