ANCHORAGE, Alaska Charles Baird is going off the grid for a year.
The 40-year-old oil company employee and filmmaker from Anchorage will move to the mostly uninhabited Latouche Island in Alaskas Prince William Sound at the end of May, completing a dream hes been contemplating for 17 years.
Baird will build a 12-foot by 12-foot shed to shelter him from the elements, and he plans to hunt and fish and fend off an occasional black bear during his sojourn to the Alaska wilderness.
Hell be incommunicado, only allowing himself to send short messages out via a satellite uplink to www.facebook.com/AlaskanPioneer and no way to receive any in. He wont even know who won the November presidential election for six months. He calls his experiment more modern-day homesteading than a survival game, but hes heading into the adventure well-armed.
I may see some hunters and fishermen come by but otherwise I will be on my own, just me and my dog, he said.
Latouche Island is a narrow strip of land (12 miles long, 3 miles wide) located about 100 miles southwest of the port city of Valdez. Like many islands in Prince William Sound, people digging into the beach there can still find oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.
The now abandoned Latouche city site once was home to 4,000 people, because of copper mining. The mine closed in 1930, and now the island is dotted with occasional seasonal cabins and not much else. The island is mostly used for subsistence hunting.
Kate and Andy McLaughlin live in Chenega Bay, a village six miles away on Evans Island, and own a cabin on Latouche.
Kate McLaughlin doesnt know Baird, but has heard his story many times. In fact, shes written a book about people coming to Alaska to live the remote lifestyle and is in the process of trying to find a publisher.
Weve seen several people of his ilk try to come out and say, Were going to build a cabin, were going to live out here and do it, she said. Its tough.
Some abandoned supplies from those people making earlier attempts can still be found strewn on the beach.
The challenges of Latouche Island are numerous, and foremost is the weather.
Youre fighting the cold or the mold, McLaughlin said of the seemingly constant precipitation, snow and rain.
Baird said the island has anywhere from 80-120 inches of snow in a typical winter, along with 70 inches of rain a year.
The McLaughlins two-story cabin on the beach had snow up to the roof this winter.
Its wet, things dont dry out, said Dave Janka, who owns Auklet Charter Services in Cordova. You get lots of snow.
Much like Cordova, he called Latouche Island paradise with rain.
Heavy weather is going to be a constant companion, said RJ Kopchak, a Cordova businessman and former commercial fisherman. Thats what happens there.
Another problem? Black bears. Theres a large bear population on the island, and McLaughlin says they love to get into trouble.
Baird said hell be safe from the bears. Hell carry a .44 with him at all times, has a shotgun and a few other weapons, as well. The dog will also alert him to any predators.
There are building restrictions on the uninhabited island, Baird said, so he will have to construct his makeshift cabin without digging into the ground for a foundation.
He plans to have lumber delivered to build his cabin, which will be located about a third of a mile from the beach, about 150 feet up a hill.
Hell have plentiful fishing opportunities.
The nice thing about the ocean is twice a day youve got a dinner table set out for you, Janka said.
The challenges dont faze Baird, who is ex-military, except perhaps for one.
Probably the biggest challenge is the isolation, he said, adding it was an issue for some of his classmates in an Air Force Academy survival training course.
Some did experience hallucinations and even group delusions, just minor things. But it is kind of a concern, being alone that long, he said.
He said hes worked with psychologists at Harvard and the University of Chicago, talking through the things he can expect, such as nightmares.
I think Ill be OK, Ive done a lot of work on my own, and Ill also have a dog, which probably will help keep things stabilized, he said.
He also plans to keep busy by reading, taking a couple thousand books on an electronic reader. Hell keep it charged with wind and solar systems hes taking with him.
Baird is planning to keep a diary, which could be turned into a book. Hes also thinking of writing an instructional book of how to live in the remote wilderness.
Then theres also the filming, day in and day out, of his experiences alone on the Alaska island.
Once he returns to civilization, hell edit the video and try to sell it as a documentary series.
Baird is not the first to make or film such an odyssey.
Dick Proenneke lived alone in a remote cabin and kept journals published as the classic Alaska memoir One Mans Wilderness.
He moved to his cabin in 1968 at the age of 52. Proenneke lived alone until 1998 in what is now Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. He also filmed his adventures, which have been turned into DVDs and were aired on PBS. He died in 2003.