May 02, 2013

Sue Aikens

Sue Aikens is as tough as the grizzly bear that attacked her and left her for dead six years ago. “I had to sew my own head together, my arm, and before my hips popped out, I went across the river, found the bear, shot him, called the trooper, and there I lay for 10 days.” At that time, Sue did not know if the bears would come through the wall of her house and she knew she could not defend herself if they did.

Sue lives 500 miles from the nearest city and 80 miles from the closest road. She is the warden of Kavik River Camp, a base for hunting groups, that she also calls home. She has lived there for seven years, but has been in Alaska for 30 years. She loves to share the unique experience of her camp with people during hunting season, and it can house up to 83 hunters at a time.

While some women collect shoes, Sue collects bullets, beer, blood and guts. Sue recognizes that she lives in bear country, not the other way around. The ground is frozen all year round, so there's no way to dig a well for water. Instead, Sue must treat the river water herself. And when the electricity generator goes down, as it often does in the extreme conditions, it is Sue who has to fix it.

During hunting season, she hosts the hunters with hot showers and food; but from October to May, she faces the freezing temperatures, penetrating winds, and savage bears all alone, holding fort. Time has no meaning to Sue. She is not lonely; she simply lives alone. However, Sue entertains herself and often cracks herself up.

Although she considers animals her friends, she is fully aware that if something bad were to happen, there is no one to help her. With that harsh reality, it's no wonder she has a favorite motto: 

If it hurts, don't think about it.

For Sue Aikens, Life Below Zero demands perseverance. A strong will enables Sue Aikens to hold her ground in the heart of bear country and to live life on her own terms. Explore more with the interactive companion,

Photograph by National Geographic Channels

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