Moving Forward

A lot of people ask what makes Alaska Huts special, and why we are different from public use cabins. I inevitably mention the sauna, or the skiing, or the amenities available at Manitoba Cabin. It’s a lot harder to capture what truly makes Alaska Huts special to me – the community.

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Every fall at our Wood Stock work weekend staff and volunteers spend a day hauling and stacking eight cords of firewood and doing a deep clean of the entire cabin. It’s a lot of hard work, but the fun atmosphere makes it a completely different experience. This past September I found myself watching five year-olds carrying one log at a time up the hill alongside grandparents pushing overflowing wheelbarrows. Other groups set out to hike Manitoba Mountain after the work was done, or just sat around the fire to share stories. Everyone came together to make Manitoba Cabin a better place, and in doing so created a welcoming community.

I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to be a part of that community for the past three years, which makes it bittersweet to share the news that I’m going to be leaving Alaska Huts at the end of March. I’ll be moving down to California to pursue further schooling, eat lots of citrus, and attempt to learn how to surf. I can’t thank you all enough for the opportunity to be a part of Alaska Huts, and I’ll hopefully be back in Alaska in the not too distant future.

While it is sad to leave, I am delighted to share the news that we have a fantastic new Executive Director on board. Erin Kirkland has been a frequent partner of Alaska Huts over the past few years, and with her experience in marketing, tourism and the outdoor industry she is a perfect fit for this organization. I can’t wait to see where Alaska Huts goes under her leadership.

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If you would like to meet Erin and learn more about her vision for Alaska Huts I would encourage everyone, young or not-so-young, to join us at our annual fundraiser, A Flannel Affair, at 49th State Brewing Company on April 12th, and at the Manitoba Cabin Spring Work Weekend on May 19th. These are two great events, and we hope to see you all there!

Until Next Time,
Tom Callahan
Executive Director


Manitoba Cabin With Kids: Come one, come all!

 2017 Family Fun Camp! Photo credit to Erin Kirkland.

2017 Family Fun Camp! Photo credit to Erin Kirkland.

 I woke up Sunday morning to the sounds of kids trying to be quiet. Clinks and clanks, coupled with “SHHHHHH” and a few thuds as firewood was loaded into the little wood stove of Manitoba Cabin. It was chilly, only about 30 F, and somebody had obviously decided to take charge and start the fire before the rest of us emerged from our sleeping bags. 

It didn’t take long for a crackle of kindling and the bubbling of coffee pots to entice more people into the cabin, and soon the place was warm and cozy with parents and kids sipping warm drinks and nibbling on pancakes as they rehashed the best parts of their weekend. It was noisy, crowded, and utterly fabulous. 

This was Family Fun Camp, a concept developed in cooperation among Alaska Huts, AKontheGO, and Kenai Backcountry Adventures (we’ve also had Camp Fire Alaska as a partner for past camp weekends). In all, 20 people ranging in age from four to 50 participated in the one-night campout at Manitoba Cabin and Yurts, our third session so far.

Designed to help moms, dads, grandparents or caregivers become more comfortable in Alaska’s outdoor spaces with the children they love, Family Fun Camp serves up to four families during a pre-determined weekend, in a variety of seasons. Participants sign up through Alaska Huts and receive lodging, activities, and a Saturday night dinner at this historic little homestead cabin. Everyone shares yurt space at Manitoba, gaining even more knowledge of campsite etiquette, equipment value, and the intricacies of keeping a small space warm during an Alaska fall or winter when temperatures often drop below freezing at night. 

During this session of camp, kids and parents worked together to build survival shelters with no man-made materials; they learned how to cook over an open fire using a cast-iron dutch oven technique perfected by the team at Kenai Backcountry Adventures; and we all gathered around to watch “Miner Steve” give each child the chance to pan for gold with paydirt straight out of the rushing, cold creek below the cabin. 

Why do people keep coming back? One family has attended three times and counts it as their “best family weekend away, ever.” Others say it’s the camaraderie of kids naturally forming their own groups and playing in the woods like they did as kids. Several single parents have found Family Fun Camp to be a way to connect with other adults while their kids enjoy companionship. 

Whatever the reason, it is clear the concept works. Camping with kids, especially in Alaska, feels “too big” for many parents, so delegating some of the organizational responsibility to leaders makes planning a bit easier for parents new to outdoor overnights. Once comfortable, it is our hope they’ll take the next step to go on their own. 

Erin Kirkland is author of the Alaska On the Go guidebook series and publisher of, a website dedicated to family travel and outdoor recreation. She lives in Anchorage. 

Guest Post: Shawn Lyons' Manitoba Wanderings

  Wandering up Manitoba Mountain on a gray summer day.. Photo: Willie Dalton

Wandering up Manitoba Mountain on a gray summer day.. Photo: Willie Dalton

Friends had talked for years of their stays at Manitoba Hut. They spoke glowingly, but they spoke of it as a winter destination for skiing, not as a summer destination for hiking. They spoke of carving up Manitoba Mountain, not climbing Manitoba Mountain. They spoke of skiing up creeks, not hiking trails. It just did not seem to have much a draw for a hiker, especially with so many other fine hikes and climbs close to mile 49 on Seward Highway. It took but one chance visit to the hut to make me a regular visitor.

No particular longing drew me to the hut. I had no thoughts of it on leaving Seward one mid-day in August a few years ago. Then a whim took hold as I rolled past Summit Lake. With no urgent need to get anywhere, it suddenly seemed a good idea to walk down to the hut. Call it serendipitous if you will. At the time it seemed merely gratuitous, little more than a minor tug of curiosity, not a yank of longing. I didn’t even expect to hike very far.

On that chilly day under a high smear of gray sky, I intended only to find the hut. But the trail did not stop at the hut. So, finding the hut deserted and spending a few moments admiring the surroundings, I continued up the trail.

Then the wonder of discovery got the better of me. As the trail continued to wind upland, passing Little Manitoba Mountain before dropping down to cross Juneau Creek (neither of the names of which, like every other creek or mountain I encountered that day, did I learn until looking at a map later), I kept following it. Eventually I followed over the base of Windwalker and down into the Mills Creek basin. There a miner labored at coaxing a few gold flakes from the current. Waving to him over the noise of his engines, I continued up stream. Only when the water on one side and the cliffs on the other prevented any further travel up stream did I stop. I wanted to go on. But after first looking hard for a way to continue, even taking a few steps into the fast, deep stream in a vain attempt to ford it, the time came to turn around.

But unbeknownst to me, I had only begun my exploring of the area. Backtracking the way I had come, I turned to look up a narrow trail climbing to the top of Little Manitoba Mountain. Then I looked at the sky. I had some hours before dark it seemed. With that decision, I shrugged my shoulders wondering what I’d find, and started up the overgrown trail to the spruce-covered crest of Little Manitoba Mountain.

From there another faint trail led down the edge of the spruce to where one could look across a wide dip and up to the summit of Manitoba Mountain—the obvious and tempting mountain one can see from the highway.

Down I dropped into the brush on the far side of Little Manitoba Mountain. After then winding through the low brush in the wide saddle below, I began to climb. Eventually, after trudging up that wide slope (the slope my skiing friends had spoken of excitedly for so many years) I stood on the summit.

And, lo and behold, a trail actually led off the back of the summit toward the high ridge that rose at a right angle over a mile farther up the ridge.

Now that looked intriguing, and so the way led on again.

After clambering up the increasingly rocky ridge and making one last grunt-filled scramble up a steep scree and shale slope I stood on that ridge. Then I first tried going right (south) but soon dangled a bit too precariously over a bit too much air. Then after carefully backtracking I thought about going right (north) and climbing the prominent peak rising many feet above the saddle between us.

In that late hour of the day, it took some time to ponder whether to go on or not. As Robert Frost so aptly observed, “way leads on to way” and it did seem that way had indeed led on to way. Standing on that corner of the ridge with that massive summit (called Silvertip Peak I learned later) rising just across the saddle to the north I so wanted the way to lead me on to yet another way. But the gray day had rapidly begun to lean toward a gray night and so I pulled myself away.

          When a number of hours later I finally reached the car in the dark, I realized how much hiking and climbing one could do in the mountains and valleys behind the hut. Since that first trip I’ve spent many hours venturing into the country. Yet even after all those hours (including one memorable night’s bivouac on the north side of Silvertip Peak) my list of possible hikes and climbs in the area still remains unfinished. As way has led on to way, the various ways keep increasing. With a little luck the number of ways may continue to increase as the years pass. Thus has a whim turned into an obsession.

Shawn Lyons is a writer, guitar instructor and restaurater living in Anchorage. A new edition of Shawn's "Walk About Guide to Alaska" will be published in 2018; it describes adventures all around Southcentral Alaska, including many in the Manitoba Cabin area. 


Staff Post: Welcoming Kenzie to AK Huts


My name is Kenzie and I am excited to be a part of Alaska Huts Staff as Operations Manager. My position manages day-to-day operations of AK Huts, including social media and upkeep of Manitoba, general fundraising and event planning. I joined AK Huts late this past summer, and love the Huts community!

I was born in Anchorage, spent my early years in Dutch Harbor, and most of my youth in Seward. My family, and the wild places I grew up frequenting, fostered a deep love of Alaska in me. I visited Manitoba as a kid, and spent some of my first days back-country skiing on Manitoba Mountain. I feel passionate about sharing Alaska and the special places it has to offer with others. My family has been involved with Alaska Huts for a long time; they passed on the appreciation for the organization and its mission to me.

I went to Macalester College in Minnesota, and have spent the years since then travelling and working seasonally - guiding out of Valdez, Seward, and New Zealand. I made the move back to Seward this year, where my heart is most content. I spend my time working on my family’s 40 foot trawler, mountain running, skiing (of any variety!) and keeping an eye on Manitoba - making sure all is running smoothly.  

What inspires me most about AK Huts is our mission to connect and include all sorts of different outdoor users to Huts. People involved in Alaska Huts range from retired folks to toddlers, from people who rarely camp to folks who are always in the back-country. Alaska Huts strives to create outdoor spaces that appeal to everyone. In turn, it creates a caring, diverse community that I am happy to be a part of!

Staff Post: Welcoming Nate to AK Huts


My name is Nate and I am a proud new member of the Alaska Huts staff team this year!

A little about me: I grew up in Seattle and recently graduated from Yale with a degree in Environmental Studies. I am an avid runner and climber, and spent the past few summers as a mountain guide on Mount Rainier. I care deeply about making wilderness experiences more accessible and creating opportunities that connect people of all backgrounds to the outdoors—one of the many reasons I feel personally invested in the mission and core values of Alaska Huts.

I am excited to be supporting Alaska Huts as an “Outdoor Recreation Policy Fellow” with the Sitka Winter Fellows Program. This means I’ll be splitting my time between Anchorage and Sitka, where I am collaborating with AK State Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins on several projects aiming to boost Alaska’s adventure tourism economy. With Alaska Huts, I will be assisting day-to-day operations and helping plan the Glacier Discovery project. Based out of Sitka’s legislative office, I am also in a unique position to research policy and advocate for public funding of recreation infrastructure improvements—including, hopefully, the construction of more public-use cabins

In my short time with Alaska Huts so far I’ve already seen just how powerfully this organization brings people together. Last month I got to join some amazing volunteers and Huts supporters at Manitoba’s aptly named ‘Woodstock’ event. While stacking firewood and scrubbing yurts, I was struck by how multi-generational this crowd was: young children rinsing dishes while their parents swept the floors; teenagers hauling wood to hand off to women and men three times their age; everyone working together to make this place better. It’s a testament, I believe, to Alaska Huts’ commitment to inclusive community building and camaraderie.

Earlier in September I also had an opportunity to join Tom and Mackenzie on a scouting mission to pinpoint locations for the new Glacier Discovery Huts along the Alaska Railroad. Hiking under Bartlett Glacier, I was thoroughly blown away by spectacular views in all directions. The proposed hut system is not only in a wildly beautiful area, but also offers access to excellent backcountry skiing, ice climbing, rafting, and wildlife viewing. With the planning process already underway, I am looking forward to doing all I can to support Alaska Huts in making this a reality.


-Nate Sievert

Quarterly Huts Update!

“Wow, Alaska Huts sounds great – how do I get involved?” That’s one of the most common questions I get from people who are just learning about the organization. I can rattle off a quick list in seconds—volunteer, come stay at Manitoba, check out our upcoming workshops —but we all know that following through takes a lot more time than that.

Luckily, this spring we have even more opportunities for you to get involved. First up, on May 20th we have our spring work weekend down at Manitoba Cabin. We will be doing a deep clean of the cabin—stacking firewood, getting everything ready for summer, and enjoying a campfire with friends. As our board member Laura described, this weekend is a great opportunity to get to know the Alaska Huts community while giving back.

We also have two workshops coming up in June! Jen Aist is back by popular demand with another round of Babes in the Woods  (June 3rd-4th). We are also delighted to host Amy Seifert’s Wild Medicinal Plants workshop (June 9th-11th). These are two great opportunities to spend a summer weekend down at Manitoba and learn some valuable skills and we hope you'll make it out!

In addition to workshops, this time of year gets us thinking about everyone who made the winter season so great! So, now as we come out hibernation we want to thank and celebrate all of you who took that step and got involved in our Alaska Huts community this past winter. Manitoba Cabin had its busiest winter ever, with more than 1,700 people spending the night. Whether it was your first trip down or your tenth, we are excited that our cabin in the woods got to be a part of your winter!

Lastly, we wanted to update you about our recent fundraiser, A Flannel Affair! We had a great event at the Tap Root featuring music from Blackwater Railroad Company. Thank you to everyone who came out to support our mission, and to all of the businesses who donated to the silent auction – with all of your support we raised over $7,000 that will go towards providing more recreation opportunities across Southcentral Alaska!

So for those of you have and will be involved with Huts, we look forward to the fun ahead and can't wait to see you out there! 


Tom Callahan 

Executive Director


Laura's Story

Laura's Story

In 2013, I went through what I like to call my “quarter-life crisis.”

Fresh out of college, I was working a comfortable job in new city. I was sure I had it all figured out.  Three years later, I finally realized that working 60-hour weeks in a place far away from any kind of real mountains was no life for me. I decided something seriously needed to change.


We Did a Number on 2016!

We Did a Number on 2016!

The days are slowly but surely getting longer, snow is still falling, and spring skiing seems closer than ever. All of us here at Alaska Huts are excited for what’s to come, but we wanted to take a quick look back at what happened in 2016. Thanks to the incredible support from all of our members, volunteers, cabin users and supporters we have some fantastic accomplishments to look back on. To put things in perspective, here’s some numbers from the past year...