Lake Clark: FREE BEDS and The General

We were hiking down from Mount Tanalian at midnight in the darkness we were trying to figure out where we should sleep. Should we walk two miles to Lake Kontrashibuna, or should we find somewhere in town to throw up some tents? Then it hit us. We remembered some signs that we had seen as we were walking to the Lake Clark Ranger Station. The signs were on both sides of a sawhorse and spray-painted in neon orange. The signs read, “FREE.” The sawhorse was in front of a tarp, so we looked under the tarp to discover six double-size mattresses. They were clearly from a time long past, as they featured floral patterns and did not look like something that you could purchase in this day and age. Maybe the 70s? We also noticed that the “FREE” signs said “FOR SALE” on the opposite sides, indicating that we would not have always been so fortunate.

As luck had struck, at the exact right moment we decided to sleep on mattresses for the second time during the trip. I should have mentioned that these “FREE” mattresses were on the edge of a dirt runway. We were no more than 10 feet away from the runway and less than five feet away from large construction machinery. I started removing the mattresses from under the tarp and Trevor went to find water so that we could have a quick dinner.

While hiking in Scotland, my friend Andrew Simmons and I created a concoction that has become one of our staple dinners of the trip. It features a childhood favorite, macaroni and cheese. We spice it up by adding Rotel and increase our protein and omega-3 intake by adding several cans of tuna. Due to the fact that we are excellent fishermen we substituted the tuna for freshly cooked lake trout and cooked up a massive steamy bowl of macaroni, trout, and Rotel*. Please don’t be distracted by the delicious food, I promise that we will include the recipe in our #59in59 cookbook at the end of the trip. We ate our food and settled in for a night in a bed.

Because of the less than normal nature of our sleeping arrangements, we were a little bit nervous about having someone come and start yelling at us in the early morning hours. We got up just before the sun to pack up our bags and take pictures of Lake Clark and the floatplanes as the sun rose. We finished taking pictures and made moves to cook breakfast, as we walked back towards the runway the first plane of the day took off, and I suppose it would have been a natural alarm clock if we hadn’t managed to get ourselves out of bed.

We had, naturally, prepared another #59in59 original for breakfast. It isn’t your regular oatmeal, because regular oatmeal sucks. We took oats, brown sugar, cocoa nibs, powdered milk, sunflower seeds, protein powder, chia seeds, cinnamon, ginger and instant coffee. Again, it’ll be in the cookbook. The only missing ingredient was hot water. We sat on the porch of a place called The General. If you are looking for a meal, or some supplies, it is the only place in town. It also serves as a fishing lodge, and they reportedly have wifi.

Our plan was to say that we sat on their porch because they had chairs, but we actually sat there because they had wifi. We heated up our water, made our oatmeal, and enjoyed the warmth. As we sat there, the town came to life. Four-wheelers and bicycles passed back and forth and the occasional plane made use of the runway. The cook for The General rolled up on his bike and walked in to start cooking for the guests.

After several minutes, a guy who we later learned was the owner came out and asked if we had slept on the porch. We told him that we had slept on the “FREE” beds down the street and simply sat here while we cooked breakfast. We told him about our trip and caught his attention. He offered us breakfast and invited us in. Since our breakfast had already been so filling, delicious, and nutritious we took him up on a cup of coffee. We chatted for a while about Lake Clark. He hunts and fishes in the area, but truly loves hiking. He showed us some incredible routes on his map. He knew the terrain like the back of his hand.  I feel like we distracting him from his job of leading his clients, but he was as interested in our trip as we were as interested in learning more about Lake Clark from him. If didn’t seem that he was much older than us, but he ran a cool operation. There was awesome art, maps and pictures around the room. They had delicious-looking breakfast and coffee. We didn’t get to go on a guided trip, but I can only imagine based on what we did see that it would be incredibly well done. We unfortunately couldn’t stay long, but enjoyed the coffee and the conversation and headed towards the other runway so that we could fly back to Anchorage and begin the next adventure!

*It should be noted that every person who has camped with us has been blown away by tuna, mac, Rotel. It’s simply delicious.