Q&A With Sue Aikens
How long have you been living and working at Kavik River Camp? How did you get started there?
This is my 11th year here. I was asked by the owner to come and be a caretaker for the place, since he has known me for a long time and knew I did remote-lifestyle work.
Describe your life before Alaska.
I was born in Chicago and moved here at a young age. I don’t generally go into details on my past. Some business is my own and not the world’s.
Have you always been an outdoor person? Was there a particular experience you had that spurred you into this lifestyle?
I have always enjoyed the outdoors and have had an affinity for animals. Being self-sufficient was and is incredibly important to me, and I tend to view the world with childlike glee. From preschool on, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was and has always been “lighthouse keeper.” I have always craved extreme isolation.
What’s a typical day like for you during the winter?
There is no such thing as a typical day. Each and every day is driven by the challenge of the extreme conditions and weather. I have worked hard over the past decade to make my life simpler and keep solutions to potential problems quick at hand. It is a dark landscape with only the heartiest of predators encompassing my world in deep winter. I can never forget that I am a food group and not the top of the food chain here. But the biggest predator of all are my extreme living conditions and Mother Nature, which are just as daunting and dangerous as that wolf breathing at the tent wall ready to scoop me up.
What would you say your biggest daily/weekly challenge is during that time?
That would have to be battling temps as low as –100°F and winds that can be over 100 miles an hour. My chores don’t wait and don’t care whether I can breathe or see. The wind wicks away much of my heat and I only have a thin fabric wall between me and the elements, so when those winds get bad it can be a huge challenge to keep my tent above freezing temperatures.
What is the scariest moment you’ve had alone in the winter? What is your proudest?
I don’t allow myself to feel fear. I can register after the fact that a situation was potentially lethal or scary, but in the moment, it is just another situation that must be calculated and handled RIGHT then. I do not allow myself the luxury of emotions, as I feel it is the quickest way to go “bushy.” For example... this winter, I was dropped off at the end of a runway with 900 pounds of gear, in city clothes, at –50°, a mile from my door. There were as many as six wolves circling me at 300 to 400 yards, and I had no rifle and less than a half mile of visibility with darkness approaching. I tried to carry 80 pounds at a time back to camp, but “flat light” conditions, which causes lack of visual depth perception and contrast recognition, and snow drifts as high as 20 feet, caused me to hit my wall, where you crumple up and have to admit that it is just too much, too hard, and you can’t possibly do it. That fear of failure is possibly the scariest moment, when you have to admit that you CANNOT achieve a goal. To be done in by a heavy sack of potatoes when a bear didn’t accomplish it — that YOU and your inability to succeed would be your demise — that was scary. I have only hit my personal wall a few times in my life.
But then my proudest moment was when I made it to camp with the first load, got better gear and a gun strapped on, and it dawned on me that while I could admit I could not move 900 pounds all the way back to camp over a mile in those conditions, I could move that whole pile 10 feet. So, I assessed a bad deal and created a possibility for success. And that is what I did: I went back out and moved everything 10 feet at a time until I had it all to camp. It was dark when I was done eight hours later, and I was so exhausted I was throwing up along the way … BUT I DID IT.
What do you think would most surprise people about your lifestyle?
It seems to me that most people cannot get over the fact that I don’t get lonely. We are, as human beings, hard-wired to relate to things on an emotional level and I have worked hard to remove that equation from my life. For example, I do not allow myself the luxury of feeling lonely; however, I do register that I live alone. I am never sad, but I register that I may not be particularly happy at the time. It is how you look at life and register your own response that allows you to live well. (And I love opera... that gets them every time.)
What is one tool that you could not live without, and why?
My curiosity. The best tool in anyone’s arsenal is their own mindset. A wrench or a generator are certainly tools that enable us to repair and enhance our lives, but without that visceral and innate sense of awe, wonder and curiosity about what is around the bend or over the next ridge — and beyond my perceived limits — my life would not be what it is today.
What do you hope viewers will take away from watching you on this show?
For the peek into my life, I suppose that I hope viewers sense a value to their own ability to stay a curious, wide-eyed child of 5 years old, and that they recognize that there is beauty in the challenge of living a life less traveled. I can shoot an animal for the meat that I need, but also appreciate the beauty and failure when the animal gets away. There is not one aspect of life that you have to say “they” won’t let me do what I want. If they try, spit in their eye, grab your sack and show “them” that you can.
Smokey the Bear had it right: “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.” So, if your life is going up in smoke, stop dwelling on it, grab a pail of water, put that shit out and start truckin.’ Wonders await you if you take a few steps out the door.
If you could choose any other place in the world to live, where would it be and why?
I will be other places in my life. There is so much to see and do. An island in the South Seas? A remote station in Australia? A small town in the Midwest? Who knows. But when the shiny object catches my eye, this chick has to check it out.
Sue I think you are one awesome lady and I love to watch the show and see what you are up to. I was so pissed when I seen that you got taken advantage of while you were away having surgery. I want you to know that the people who have to speak there 2 cents worth saying negative things are only lacking something in their life and are only happy knocking others. Life is to short to waste a minute of time on people like that.
Hoping you are having a wonderful peaceful day and look forward to seeing more of you.
Just stumbled upon this show last week, Love it and you are by far my favorite Sue! I kind of know how you feel about your choice to live the way you do. I left home at 17 from west Los Angeles (talking 1978) to go live in a log cabin for a year in northern British Columbia with no running water (unless you count the creek as running water!) no electricity and 60 Kilometers from the nearest settlement. Going to town once a month was a big deal and I got so burned out on home canned salmon that it took me 10 yrs to ever eat any kind of salmon again!!Lol. But watching this show has brought back so many good memories that I almost feel envious of you guys. Solitude is a wonderful and positive thing when the mental elements are right. Only some one who is truly happy with themselves can enjoy it. But Oh to have had the internet back then when I lived that life!! things are a bit different now then back when I did it. Heck we didn't even have a 2 way radio, needed to make a phone call? go to the nearest cross road 23 miles away and there was a phone booth! Just curious but what do you use for heat? Wood is out of the question and how do you get your fuel? It boggles the mind that the material on your tents is enough to trap heat in to stay some what comfortable. Be safe and stay well dear lady!
After reading some of the negative comments I envy Sue even more. I crave isolation, my husband and I both do. Most people that I encounter these days are nothing but morons. I have never been molested or abused, so I'm not running away from anything. We want to live in a place where they have to drop off groceries via helicopter!! Rock on Sue, maybe we'll be pitching a tent close to you sometime soon!! lol
You're my favorite, Sue.
Any advice to someone who is seriously considering ditching the rat race to follow in your footsteps...things you know now, that you wish you would have known then?
You're the best. I find your unvarnished honesty refreshing - wish you could show Andy how to grow a pair and stop abusing his wife. Not sure why Kate enjoys the constant bashing and eggshell walking, but sure you could straighten him out rather nicely!
When I see the strength it makes it possible to believe that I too could have that strength. I thank you for that! I'm learning things that I never knew were possible.
I watched Life Below Zero for the first time two days ago. I kept clicking over between football and Thursday nights show... I have always been intrigued by Alaska. You somewhat inspired me, your passion and way of life is pretty cool. I also learned a few things from the crew. I was wondering if there are any books that you recommend to me on learning how to survive in the Alaska?
Stay safe, and keep checkmating!!
Totally fascinated with the series. As a woman ,I have enjoyed your perspective on living the lifestyle. Love your honesty, how you articulate in a matter of fact way why you love what you are doing. I have much respect for you. Stay safe, warm and wishing you much success with your business. .
I really like your down to earth philosophy and the way you put things into perspective. You are an inspiration for so many. Stay strong.
Sue, love the show. I'm a sportsman from upstate N.Y. and enjoy hunting deer with my dad and small game with my friends as well as target shooting and fishing. I'm soon to get my sons shooting as well. Love the lever Marlin as my grandfather passed his down to me before his passing. I enjoy watching the challenges that you face and see how you over come them. I have a cousin in southern Alaska as well. The coldest it gets here in mid winter is -10 to -20 usually. I couldn't imagine -50 to -100 with wind also! I wish you well, stay safe and try to keep warm. a fan from N.Y.
Generally people that desire isolation and aloneness are running away emotionally from something or someone. Dropping out from a normal life is something that people do when they can't face something, maybe even something worse than a bear trying to eat you.
I have watched for about a year now and you most certainly are a character... I am often amazed at your hunts and the times you strike out. I guess mostly with your sportsmanlike reserve and responsible attitude in attempting to make or try shots at and beyond 300 or 400 yards. If I had to depend on my ability to make the shot for my winter food I would up my game a bit as I love meat too. I know you may have some limitations and some may be because of the show but it is more and more common in this day and age for a small group of us to both take and make long range shots on game. I am currently the president of Desert Marksmen Rifle and Pistol Club. One of the disciplines I run at the range is Long Range Rifle (1000 yd.). I mention this because out of a 40 or 50 shooter field in our matches we have 35+% of the field shooting 225 and above out of a possible 250 and 15% of the group is shooting 245-250 out of 250. It has become so tight at the top that we take the first 5 shot group and have the scorekeepers measure the spread for tie breaking purposes. I tell you this because you could easily become more confident at longer shots. check out this link for one source of info. http://www.longrangehunting.com. I would also be more than happy to help with tips,tricks, instruction etc. when it comes to game shots up to 600 yds this year and with the right equipment you could be out to 900 or 1000 within a year and a half.
Sue Aikens. Lose the filthy mouth. My grand kids love to watch this show but I have to mute your segments because of your language. If you refuse, you are no doubt a filthy-mouthed, cigar chomping, man trapped in a woman's body.
Sue i think you are to blood thirsty. Just becaue an animal walks into your camp does not mean it wants to kill you. You are in their territory. Everything is not out there to get you.
Sue, Willard Kelly here saw your show where you were trying to pump water to your cabin, I have a friend who has invented a Air pump, which with air will pump the water you need and will flow back to the river so the water line wll never freeze up. No need for you to leave you cabin for water you only add a small air line along side the water line. I think this would be safer for you Regards Bill Kelly
Oh, and that's not to say big sis cuz I'm more handy; it's cuz I'm much older than you. I'd never have the nackers to take on the Arctic ...
Sue, I think you are amazing even if you think that you're not! It's not just survival for you, but a chosen lifestyle that is not in reach for most of us. You show us what freedom is all about!
She is the most annoying lesbian in the world which explains why she lives alone! Can you say my uncle molested me?.........................She can't lol
Sue is the best part of the show. I admire her hard work & sense of humor. I find myself almost fast forwarding to her parts. She is one tough lady.
Sue, I love the show and especially your portion. You and your lifestyle intrigued me when I first saw you on Flying Wild Alaska when John Ponce was flying out of your camp. I figure you have people around in the hunting season when you are open for business but how weird is it to have a camera person(s) with you all the time when you are used to being alone? As with any one who lives alone, you probably talk to yourself so maybe having the camera person(s) is just like that. Good luck with your business particularly now that you are the owner. Be seeing you on TV....
I admire the fact that you love the life of solitude, I do too, It gives me an inner peace. which is why I chose the career as a private chef. People tend to leave you alone when you are cooking, I think they were scared I was going to put them to work.
I have a question, Have you ever thought of writing a novel of your experiences? If you do please let me know I will be the first to buy a copy.
Keep on Keepin on Sister!
Hello Sue, I am concerned for you... You never kill any food ( animals). Your runway was flooded, so no money....and you were robbed. Hopefully you will have better success. Concerned Fan Duesler
Of all the people on the show you impress me the most. You are who you are, no games. I like that about people. You are living the life I wanted at 20. Or 30. I'm 52 now and now I don't think I would have your strength. I know how you do it, but sometimes you need a helping hand in life. I hope you have one. I admire you. And I admire that you are so independent.
I'm in sunny San Diego and it was like summer today and I live across the street from a big grocery store and can't imagine having to go out and hunt for my dinner. But I have the utmost respect that you do. Love the show and am so glad you now own your property. You guys are a different breed, and wouldn't want it any other way!!!! I have seen these episodes time after time and am awestruck!!!!
Hey Sue I spend a lot of time in the woods but nothing this remote. Someday would like to experiance Alaska and how remote it really is. Good luck too you and watch your top knot.
I am highly impressed at National Geographic's ability to hit multiple demographics with this program. For people who have never lived an isolated lifestyle in the north it is fantastic reality TV. For people who have it is gut-busting comedy.
While in the military stationed in Labrador, I got a chance to walk the territory where no white man had ever stepped foot on. It was wild.
I record all the programs. We are out of town many times. You and the others are a fantastic group. I never made it to Alaska but I have traveled and worked in many states including Hawaii for most of my adult life. Home schooling our children so we could travel and experience so many environments. I will be 77 this month and it looks like my travels have ended but I can enjoy your story.
watched this for the first today. (needed some down time) your amazing , strong and true to what you want and how you want to do it.. hang in . xo nanc
Sue, You're very articulate. You demonstrate so many great qualities. I didn't think they made them like that any more. You are truly a REAL woman. You'd be a great "catch"
@Leah almeleh ....I Agree with Everything You wrote! Sue is AWESOME!! Andy-What an #@^%...and WHY does his Wife 'put up' with His Verbal ABUSE??? Only She Knows. Keeping her in PRAYER. UnHealthy Relationships only Destroy. Always. Hope Andy CHANGES for the BEST and His Wife...makes a Change ...for Herself ..before it's Too Late.
@Jen Here How about the thrill??
@Jen Here There can be no generalities. trying to make things fit into a "General" understanding is only a benefit to those who fail to accept things beyond their scope of understanding. Some things and people just dont fit into the box. Some things live outside the box. We dont "run away" but "run towards" a lifestyle outside the box.
She's not in the general population. I know many whom enjoy the isolation. After all, she has human contact when getting deliveries, has her extended family, and the Internet. It's her life. Accept it or not. She probably doesn't care what you think anyway.
@Michael Johnson Oh, Michael,Michael...where do I begin? First of all, there is a little knob on your TV that you can turn to change the channel! No one is forcing you to watch the show, and if you are so offended by Sue's "filthy mouth" and "cigar chomping" I fear you have more problems than you realize. Perhaps some therapy might help? Personally, I think Sue is one of the more honest people I've "encountered" in a long time. Like her, I too don't understand how mean-spirited people are today and I just wish I was younger and had the guts and opportunity to live the kind of life she does! I'd be willing to bet that if you had to endure, even for 24 hours, what she does, you'd be doing more than cussing! Tracking your "butt-scoots" in the snow would be hilarious. So, grandpa, get over yourself, turn the channel or turn off the tv and go take a nap.
@Michael Johnson She has the right to talk how ever she wants. You have the right to talk how you want. The Constitution says we can do that. If you don't like it change the channel or mute the part that bothers you.
I have heard 10 year olds with a worse mouth. Rock On Sue!
just logged on here and read this comment. Hey.... this is real life..... don't like the language then turn it off... you cannot keep your kids segretated (sp) all their life!
@Michael Johnson Call me what you will, cover the kids ears then or keep muting... I am unlikely to change my habits to suit your needs. I am who I am, and it works for me. Enjoy the rest of the show
@Michael Johnson just keep the mute on Michael...
@Andrew Chandler There are few things in life that require more skill, courage and pure want-to than living in a area that EVERYTHING that lives there is out to eat. What they eat really doesn't matter to them. 2 legs, 4 legs, wings or fins all of them are out to kill to survive. It is the circle of life. One gives one takes.
@Andrew Chandler Thanks for the opinion Andrew!
@Willard Kelly very cool!
@Scott Jones wow dude... you have serious issues lol
@Scott Jones what a moron you are but at least Sue won't have to read your garbage because she's the real deal - living in the wilderness.
@Scott Jones Sorry Scott, she is a hell of a smarter woman than you are a man. How do I know? You low IQ...thats how. Meanwhile, Sue you rock, and remind me of myself, just 100 times tougher. I love you man!! I too live in Alaska, and your one tough b***h! xoxo Your Fan, Nicki, God your a badass!