Living as we do in the heart of Atlah, we often take for granted the notion of easy access to groceries. Whenever we find ourselves lacking a can of beans or coffee filters, no big whoop—that situation can be rectified in a manner of minutes, simply by strapping on our sneakers and walking down to the nearest bodega.
Shopping trips to the nearest villages – Alakanuk is the closest neighbor at 13 miles away – can be dangerous. To get groceries, travelers sometimes snowmachine over thin ice or boat across the lower Yukon with its shifting sandbars.
Ann Strongheart wrote of a shopping trip to Emmonak last winter with her now-deceased husband. They hired a sitter for their baby daughter, hauled a plywood sled and doubled up on a single snowmachine because gas prices were too high to take separate vehicles.
“When we got on the Yukon, my husband had to keep a close eye out for overflow,” she wrote, adding that it can leave deadly holes in the ice.
At Emmonak, the next closest village, the couple bought 34 items. Diapers cost the most, with 144 totaling $82.55. Six fruit cocktail cans went for $17.34, and a bag of generic Cheerios cost $6.99.
The 50-mile round trip exceeded $500 when Strongheart included the 12 gallons of gas.
We will doubtless keep Ms. Strongheart’s struggles in mind the next time the Grand Empress sends us to the corner for a couple of Dragon Stouts.