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Q&A With Sue Aikens

Sue Aikens patrols her home in Kavik, Alaska.

Sue Aikens (View larger version)

Photograph by 2012 BBC Worldwide Ltd.

Published

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.

281 comments
Craig Daugherty
Craig Daugherty

Hi Sue,

That new semi-auto rifle you took that bear with looks to be a Stoner SR-25 7.62 x 51mm

Not just anyone could live the lifestyle you live. It take determination and dedication which you

have in abundance.   Watch your back and best of luck to you.

Raul Morales
Raul Morales

what caliber of rifle did you use for the brown bear? It is a AR platform  it did a good job.

kathy Bertschi
kathy Bertschi

Sue has e-mailed me as well. When she can she will get back to you. Be patient.

kathy Bertschi
kathy Bertschi

Loved the new episode last night. Enjoy watching you Sue. Such a brave women..

Donna Cox
Donna Cox

I was getting familiar with this web site at the same time you were setting up to kill the Bear-I looked up and you had killed him-I am so proud of you-I know it took alot for you to be the predator of a Bear after your attack-You are such an inspiration to me-I get to enjoy nature and the outdoors of Alaska through watching you on tv-I have always loved nature and the out of doors but I find myself homebound with MS- We are about the same age and I have always considered myself a loner but I do not think I could do it for 9 months-I feel very isolated and alone due to my condition-I do relate to you but how I do  would probably sound silly-My challenges are staying in my very limited budget, making my food and money last a month-The monthly trip to Walmart takes me a week to recuperate from-my other challenges are just doing the basics of caring for myself-I am trying so hard to stay independent as possible-I have made this about me but I really just wanted you to maybe understand how I related to you-I want to thank you for the inspiration and for the entertainment of getting to see into a small part of your life-You are an amazing women and you make me proud of our gender-There is so much more I would like to say but the main thing is that I wanted to Thank You 


Valorie Hobson
Valorie Hobson

So glad "Life Below Zero' is back!  Sure enjoy this show & all that each of you do to exist in AK!  Be safe & healthy!  Know that your show is awesome - thanks for sharing with us!!  Hang in there, Sue!  Greetings from McHenry, IL!!!

Amylulu Devine
Amylulu Devine

Hi Sue. Your life is amazing. Thank you for sharing your world with us. Godspeed.

Jen Here
Jen Here

I have wondered why Sue Aikens doesn't have a couple of big dogs up there with her, like a German Shepard breed?

Larry Knetzger
Larry Knetzger

Well I reviewed the emails and postings done at Facebook and I see that Sue does not answer anything. Well maybe she can read them but now way to answer. Who Knows. She is an interesting person to say the least. Good Luck Sue

Larry Knetzger
Larry Knetzger

Hi Sue, you mentioned above that you like Opera. Have you had a chance to listen to one of the finest singers of the 21st century and she is only 13 years old. In a few days she will be fourteen and growing up quickly. Jackie Evancho. If you have internet access go to her fan club and listen to her music. One of the most pleasant voices you will ever listen to. Her physical presentation is mesmerizing and she really gets into each of her songs. Really unbelievable. I hope you have access to her music. She already has four albums out and also loves to do fund raiser presentations for worth while causes. She will bring peace into your life to really enjoy some good music.  

Bryan Clark
Bryan Clark

Hi Sue  again   from Honolulu.....tasteless joke of the day   The President is at the white house...its been a horrific winter...yet he got a break in the action...so he took the pres dog and walked around the white house.....and lo and behold....someone wrote in pee....Obama Sucks.....so he calls the FBI to come and find who did this...priority    they come back the next day and say...MR Pres.  good news and bad news  ..we found from DNA that the culprit was your VP...Joe B....bad news is ...it was in Michelle s  handwriting....

ah   not bad.

Sam Bradley
Sam Bradley

Did you ever find out who took your fuel and what did you do about it?

Heather Sidwell Logan
Heather Sidwell Logan

When does the new season start? you will be continuing right? you are doing what most of wish we could do but are unable. Thank You for sharing with us.


Leah almeleh
Leah almeleh

Please bring this show back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  It was the only thing worth watching on TV and I truly miss it!!

Leah almeleh
Leah almeleh

Please bring tis show back on.  It was the only thing worth watching on TV and I truly miss it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Silver W
Silver W

Gee and I wondered why you didn't answer posts lol......... I wont slam your vocabulary, don't worry. I won't 'propose' either...... Just a not to say 'hey' and we miss seeing the little bit of your life that airs weekly. I am the third 'Sue' here I guess born n raised until a young age in Chicago. It seems it makes us the kind of women we are to live there even for a short time I guess. I am the mother of three who have gone off to college seeking their own adventure so now I am seeking my own 'adventure'. I have lived several lives, until a new place, a new life, a new adventure  calls to me. This past 21 years has been the longest I have ever been in one place, done one thing with my life. I am chomping on the bit and looking forward to my own new incarnation! Thanks for helping me believe that a life out of the box is possible again, and showing others that tho I am at the 'tender' age of 52 I can still pick up and become a 'new' me. I have 20 some odd acres in a small Midwestern town just outside my rural home where you can come crash and talk to my Dryads, my foxes, coyotes, birds galore, deer, hawks and falcons, coons, possums and even a very mysterious cougar or two that was thought to have gone 'extinct' in this area until a few years ago when several others saw and photographed my 'kitties' that have come once in a rare while to grab a bit of raw steak when I am cooking out under a full moon!  

Take Care Sue! 

Namaste,

 'Silver'

scott pierson
scott pierson

Sue, When does the new season get started? And Im a butcher down in the states if you ever need any help up there let me know. I can help.

Tracy urquhart
Tracy urquhart

Hi Sue, Love you on the show, Thanks for being amazing! Please take care 

Joanne Voth
Joanne Voth

Hello Sue- I love the show, and watching how you live day by day. I cannot wait for the new season!

Take care.

FREDERIQUE B.
FREDERIQUE B.

bonjour, j'aimerai avoir des nouvelles de Suzan, je suis inquiète car elle n'a pas posté de message depuis longtemps. ravie de voir que je ne suis pas la seule personne isolée ! bonnejournée à tous. signé Frédérique

hello, I'd like to hear from Suzan, I am concerned because she has not posted any messages since a long time. glad to see I'm not the only person isolated! good day to all. signed Frédérique

(translate by " myself " and Google apps !)

Bernard FRERING
Bernard FRERING

Hi suzan

Only the bold brave the cold

Ms & Mr FRERING

from France

FREDERIQUE B.
FREDERIQUE B.

Sorry, i copie my langage. this is your language now ! 

Hello all, there a few years ago in my town there is a park near the forest and a small castle, I went with my daughter weekend evening wear food for foxes approached to park. Once we saw the little foxes, that was wonderful. I love foxes as it is beautiful. yours are even more beautiful, with color and long hair. I write by google translate. I hope you understand! the last show in France are seen when Sue bought his camp, and when Kate and Andy told the loss of their dog Iceberg. I was very sad. as when Sue talked about the death of his fox killed by a bear. I hope that our TV will show next season because it's such a lesson in life and courage that show in Alaska. good day to all. in France, now it is 4:20 p.m. PM. I paused in my work. Frédérique signed.

FREDERIQUE B.
FREDERIQUE B.

Bonjour à tous, il y a quelques années, dans ma ville il y a un parc près de la foret et un petit chateau, j'allais avec ma fille le week end le soir porter de la nourriture aux renards qui s'approchaient vers le parc. Une fois on a vu des petits renards, c'était merveilleux. j'aime tant les renards c'est magnifique. les votres sont encore plus beaux, avec leur couleur et leur long poils. j'écris par google traduire. j'espère que vous comprenez!  les derniers show vus en france sont quand Sue a acheté son camp, et quand Kate et Andy ont raconté la perte de leur chien Iceberg. j'ai été très triste. tout comme quand Sue a parlé de la mort de son renard tué par un ours. j'espère que notre TV va montrer les prochaines saisons, car c'est tellement une leçon de vie et de courage ce show en Alaska. très bonne journée à tous. en france, maintenant, il est 16h20 PM. je suis en pause à mon travail. signé Frédérique.

Sandy Sandy
Sandy Sandy

I envy you.  I would love to try this lifestyle.

Allison Tully
Allison Tully

Hi, Sue! I am going through "Life Below Zero" withdrawal. I can't wait to see more about what is going on in Kavik. Did you ever find out who ate the food when you returned from town to find that someone was there?


Did the foxes choose to stay because of companionship, or do you aid them in any way with food?

I never see foxes when I hike the mountains of NJ and New York.  I have seen a few scurry across the road- never seeming to want to be near people. I am intrigued.


What is your favorite hard liquor drink? You need something to warm you up! That is for sure.

FREDERIQUE B.
FREDERIQUE B.

Hello Sue,  i am so enjoy to find this site for send you a message. i am in France, it is so difficult for me to write in English, but i want to try, because when i see the reportage in TN with you (and your lovely fox), i have adore... you are wonderfull, . i 'd like very mutch to write to you, and you write to me ! i love fox, and your fox are very nice... i hope you have my message dear Sue, now,  il think of you in the snow and cold, and your very difficult work.  it is wonderfull. take care of you.  Frédérique (in France)

Tom Collins
Tom Collins

Hi Sue, Love you and the show. Would like to see more time spent on your day to day life. I love your spirit, and your kick a&& attitude. I thought I was the only one who doesn't get lonely without so called human companionship.  My family tells me all the time that I would be content living on the Moon. lol  Keep being you, and I will keep watching.  Take care

chuck arnold
chuck arnold

Sue, Love the show, best show on TV.  I wanted to ask you, could you please not take the Lords name in vain, or at least bleep it out, so I can let the younger kids watch the show to.  thank you.

Clayton Bigsby
Clayton Bigsby

Sue - 

I think it's amazing that you are able to sustain your way of life; the way you want to live. Folks tend to believe that you are not normal when in fact this is exactly how the United States of America came to be. Folks setting out to live their own way no matter the challenges, struggles or worrying about society's rules and expectations. Kudos to you!! 


If it's possible I would like an opportunity to come up and assist you with your camp. Not because you need the help but because I would like the experience and to learn more about living off the grid. A co-op or internship of sorts if you will. I have absolutely no desire to be on TV or take hand outs. I will pay my own way and earn my keep while there.


Thank you - Off The Grid Wannabe

james meehan
james meehan

Hey Sue! out of everyperson on the show...your the only one who isnt totally nuts.. keep smiling hon  :)

Steve Viana
Steve Viana

was wondering if you would like a man astrong ruggerd man i find you very attractive and strong let me know  steve v newport ri

Linda Brennan
Linda Brennan

Now that you have purchased your "homestead", and seem to be doing improvements, do you think you will be able to offer more services of some sort in the future?  It seems I heard on one of the episodes you were separating your private living quarters from the dining area....did you get that accomplished?  The structures don't look like "tents" at a distance....can you not make your living quarters in a structure that is easier for you to heat and protect yourself?  Do your little foxes still come?  They are so cute on the show!

ralph cotton
ralph cotton

Wife and I enjoy your show. Is that rifle you carry a Rossi .44 mag? 

carmen heath torres
carmen heath torres

Hi Sue, just wanted to say "You are my hero "" Just love it, love it

jason Vaughn
jason Vaughn

Hi Sue.....Was wondering what are those other buildings in your camp that look like some kind of train?? 

Susan Udell
Susan Udell

Hi Sue,

Hi Sue, I am not sure if you ever get to see what is posted here but I just wanted to thank you for being the woman you are and helping me get my backbone back.  When I was younger I never mined the cold or the snow; but as I got older I seem to forget that.  After watching you a few times I thought now there’s a woman with the backbone I wish I had.  Thought of you as I  drove in 9in of snow to the store to pick out my meat…lol…I am also from a town 70 miles from Chicago (Ottawa) guess you can take the girls out of the Midwest but not the Midwest out of the girls best wishes, Susan

Susan Udell
Susan Udell

Hi Sue,

I am not sure if you ever get to see what is posted here but I just wanted to thank you for being the woman you are and helping me get my backbone back.  When I was younger I never mined the cold or the snow; but as I got older I seem to forget that.  After watching you a few times I thought now there’s a woman with the backbone I wish I had.  Thought of you as I  drove in 9in of snow to the store to pick out my meat…lol… I was also born just out side of Chicago...does say something about us girls from the Midwest...Best Wishes, Susan

Deloris Woodard
Deloris Woodard

I totally understand where you are coming from.  I would rather spend time with me than anyoneI know.  Why doyou live in a tent instead of building a small one room house.  It looks to me like it would be safer.

A Meliss
A Meliss

Thank you Sue.  In my world, YOU ARE FANTASTIC and a comfort to my soul.  You said, "there is beauty in the challenge of living a life less traveled.'   I live a very secluded life with my best-husband friend and kitties on a hill at the edge of the woods in Pennsylvania.  I am an artist.  The voices in my head, which are really just recordings of every 'They' I ever met in disguise, try to tell me there's something wrong with me because of it.  Thanks for the ammo against 'Them'.  Sue said I should spit in your eye!  :)

Being a Lighthouse shining my light out is a vision I hold for my Life. So when I see others talk about it....I know somehow we are connected.

I admire your confidence and your security in Your Self and your lack of loneliness.  I pray to attain all of that for My Self one day.  Know that by example, you are part of me getting there.  If someone else has it, that means I can too!!  I am so grateful to have found this show and You.  

~i send you the magick of the mist covered Penn's Woods~

Meliss

amagickalmeliss.blogspot.com

Cindy Edwards
Cindy Edwards

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.

Happy Trails


Gini Thompson
Gini Thompson

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!

Mia Jules
Mia Jules

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

Chris Moore
Chris Moore

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?

Leah almeleh
Leah almeleh

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! 

D Stevens
D Stevens

I envy your life style, My kids and I love watching the show.

Vicki Alberts
Vicki Alberts

Sue you are awesome- I wish I knew you in person, by far the STAR of the whole show!

Susan Miller
Susan Miller

Sue.

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.   

Valorie Hobson
Valorie Hobson

FYI - I heard back from Sue last year when I posted!  Sure she is busy!  Amazing woman!!!

Debbie Boyce
Debbie Boyce

@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.