Three men set out to build three cabins in remote areas of the Alaskan frontier. They will make preparations in the harsh Alaskan winter and race against time, the bitter cold and the wilderness to complete their builds. Using their various skills sets and techniques, the three different cabins constructed will all need to hold up in some of the most harsh conditions in the world.
As the summer season starts to thaw out in Alaska, the builders get underway. But their pre-planning doesn't make perfect. The Alaskan elements are stubborn at all three build sites, but a little ingenuity goes a long way.
The three builders each face their own forms of adversity. Lee Raymond is struggling to get back on track after losing a month to bad weather and an impassable semi-frozen Quiet Lake. At the Matanuska Glacier, Chuck Gerwig has had perfect weather, but most of his labor is due to leave once fishing season starts in less than a month. And Jim Wagner has finished, numbered and taken down his cabin in Gustavus, but now begins the arduous 500-mile transport to Chicken that will include two ferry rides, two border crossings and hopefully enough supplies to finish the rebuild before winter sets in.
While its full-steam ahead for Lee Raymond as he finally gets some much welcomed sun, Jim Wagner and his family begin the long process of starting over; building roads, leveling ground and ultimately trying to get their cabin in Chicken back up. Amidst all the fervor of the other two builds, Chuck Gerwig's site is oddly quiet. Disaster has struck. His righthand man, Ryan Beachy, has been tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. Now his build is suspended and a decision needs to be made, to continue or not.
After battling the tragedy of the loss of his righthand man, Ryan Beachy, Chuck Gerwig is back in the saddle and ready to finish the job that he and Ryan started months earlier. 312 miles northeast in Chicken, Alaska, Jim Wagner and crew are at a near standstill due to a nonstop rain that has turned their man-made road into an impassible swamp. And with a concrete truck due any minute, will they be able to get it fixed before they risk losing any hope of getting the foundation poured? Finally, Lee Raymond has been fighting the same weather since he started and he's still behind. Now he's losing his number one crew to college, so his final push will have to be with a brand new crew that can afford no errors.
Winter is fast approaching and now all three of the builders are finding themselves with less help to finish the massive tasks at hand. In Chicken, Jim Wagner's build now relies heavily on his son Aaron. And as Aaron pushes Jim toward the finish line, both food and building supplies are running low. Chuck Gerwig has lost his remaining crew to college in Texas, so that leaves 17-year old daughter Tiffany and 10-year old son Zac to pull up the slack of finishing his 3000 square foot home. And Lee Raymond just cannot catch a break. The torrential rains have made it impossible to get ahead and now he's had to enlist a brand new crew to take over for his college workers, one of whom is his son Aaron. As the days to the end game get shorter, so do Lee's and Aaron's tempers.
As the days get shorter and colder, and snow is visible on the highest peaks, the builders frantically race to get their homes sealed in. Chuck Gerwig suffered a huge blow earlier in the summer with the loss of his righthand man, and now his 10-hour days are up to 12 and its starting to show. Barely keeping in front of his subcontractors, one small mistake could mean not finishing. In Chicken, Jim Wagner's organizational luck has just run out. His flooring is four bundles short. So, with everything shutting down for the winter in a week, he has to decide whether or not to make the half day journey to the lumberyard, which is no guarantee, or finish the roof before snow flies. Finally, at remote Quiet Lake, Lee Raymond's son "high speed, no grease" Aaron, is scrambling to get the roofing on before the snow. But the constant rain mixed with Aaron's speed has created a very slick situation and Aaron just can't hold on.
Winter has arrived and the race is over. It's time for each of our builders to come to terms with their end games as they pack up and head home for the season. To say this year has been a challenge would be an understatement. From lakes, to glaciers, to areas savaged by fire, nothing was immune from Alaska's hostile nature. Whether that came in the form of brutal weather, extreme fatigue, or even death, it had to be endured and overcome. And although the men, their homes and the sites were vastly different, they all can lay claim to the same victory in surviving Alaska's wrath. Now is the time to shutter in, rest, and take stock in what matters for in just a few short months the season will change again and usher in a new chapter of Building Alaska.