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The Difficulties of a Simple Life on 'The Last Alaskans'
July 12, 2015  | By Jonathan Storm  | 2 comments

Do not bet Heimo Korth your bottom dollar that the sun will come out tomorrow. Where Korth lives, the sun goes down in November and doesn’t come back until January, and if you go out in the twilight of 10 a.m., you better make sure you get home before pitch dark at 2 p.m. – if you want to escape the peril all around you and make it to another sunless day.

Korth (top) is one of 10 people in four families profiled on Animal Planet’s surprisingly evocative documentary/reality series, The Last Alaskans that wraps Sunday July 12 after its eighth episode at 8 p.m. ET following a catch-up marathon that begins at 1 p.m. ET.

All the people spend their winters in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, trapping, hunting and reveling – thoughtfully and gratefully – in their isolation and self-sufficiency in America’s largest wilderness, a place the size of South Carolina, where only seven non-native families are permitted to live. It’s refuge for the humans, too.

“I’m just another animal out here,” says Ray Lewis (left) during one episode, a point the series makes over and over about the humans, as it spends quality time with the adventurers, who seem surprisingly even-tempered and well-adjusted, despite living in the dark and isolation. Or maybe because of it.

“We’re … just addicted to it now,” says Tyler Selden. He and his wife, Ashley (below), are the newest arrivals in the refuge, living, like everybody else, miles and miles – for Korth and his wife, it’s nearly 300 miles – from the nearest road. “It’s just in our blood,” says Selden, “and [we’re] dependent on it for our psychological well-being.”

The day-to-day lives of these isolates are a fascinating mix of woodsman’s craft and Arctic sensibility. Living simply, it turns out, is very complicated, and dangerous. “I should have been dead 10 times by now, more than 10,” says Bob Harte, who experiences some pretty serious misadventures over the course of the show. “But it’s so peaceful. It’s so beautiful out here. It makes up for it all.”

The editing manipulation and unexplained inconsistencies that make so many reality shows so tough to take are minimal on The Last Alaskans. For instance, there’s no effort made to hide the fact that of the 10, only Korth and his wife, Edna, live in the refuge full-time. The others are more transient, staying one or two or three seasons a year. Half Yard Productions, responsible for the annoyance and silliness of scores of shows from The Real Housewives of D.C., to Hillbilly Handfishin’ and Jersey Couture, has got it right this time.

As befits a show set in the wilderness, The Last Alaskans is quiet in tone and frequently visually spectacular. Aerial shots abound, as do in-cabin chats with the residents, some of whom sport miner’s lamp headgear to light up the darkness.

Harte, 64, emerges as the show’s philosopher and star, remembering his 40 years off the grid – much of the time, at least. “It’s enjoyable hitting town for a few days,” he says before heading off to Fairbanks to visit his daughter, “but I wouldn’t want to live there because there’s no life there.”

Better the peace and challenge of the woods, even if accompanied for more than 60 days each year by the scary question expressed by Heimo Korth: “What if the sun never shines here again?”

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Marlene Jones
Heimo Korth is from Wisconsin where he was a welder before moving to Alaska as a very young man. I think he was 19 or 20 when he left Wi to come to Alaska..
Mar 30, 2017   |  Reply
Gidget Werner
In the series "The Last Alaskan" where is Korth from in Nebraska. I myself have was raised in Nebraska & have lived there most of my life. I am just curious. He looks like an old friend of mine I have been looking for some time now.
Thank you, Gidget
Apr 13, 2016   |  Reply
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