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Our walk home strained us - and sustained us

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I really liked the walk home. It was dependable, tactile. For three and a half years it was always there at both ends of every day. We built our home one mile up the valley from the end of Jones Road. We chose the location primarily because the land was in our price range. Antiquated mining laws allow every miner to build a watchman's cabin on his claim. We weren't miners, but we had friends that weren't miners who had mining claims. So we "watched" from our home, on borrowed public land.

We had a dog team for the heavy lifting: hauling building supplies, five-gallon cans of kerosene for our lanterns, major groceries. But mostly we walked.

We were careful how we dressed. In the summer we kept our rubber boots in the back of the car. Park, slip off your street shoes, slip on your rubber boots, pants tucked in to keep clean. My wife and I usually walked together. If she was in town she'd stop at the shop and meet me for the walk home. Sometimes we'd talk, sometimes not. There was no stress about it, though. If we didn't cover something tonight we'd get to it tomorrow morning, or the next night. There was plenty of time, plenty of walking.

In the winter it took longer to get dressed. In Fairbanks, Alaska, minus 30 degrees F. is not a big deal; minus 50 is. We only found a couple of kinds of boots that worked. There were plenty of boots that would keep you warm; I wore sneakers on the hard-packed snow for months every year. But when it got good and cold, the squeaking of most sole designs on the hard pack would make you crazy. The ones that were quiet were the nearly flat, soft soles with almost no tread on them. Traditional mukluks were good, too, with plain hide soles, but we were too scattered to make them and too broke to buy them.

And while we're on the subject of noise, you can rule out wind pants: The nylon swish-swish as you walked meant you'd miss any chance of hearing what was going on by the residents of the passing brush and forest.

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