Oral History Interview:
Lenora Conkle was born and raised in Idaho. She married young and moved to Seattle, but the marriage failed. While living in San Diego, Lenora met a US Marine who shared her dream of living in Alaska. Bud and Lenora drove the Alaska Highway shortly after the end of World War II.
The couple found jobs in Fairbanks. They spent their paychecks on camping gear and spent their weekends putting that gear to use. They explored every corner of the Interior that they could reach with their jeep. A canoe allowed them to reach further into the wilderness in the summer and a dog team served in that capacity during the winter.
The Conkles eventually found the place they wanted to settle - Tanada Lake in the Wrangell Mountains. They built a lodge which served as the base for their guiding operation (both hunting and fishing). As they built guest cabins, their son Colin used them as his version of a "Jungle Gym," climbing up and down the log walls. Those were rewarding years for the family. They welcomed clients from around the world. The lake yielded grayling and lake trout for sport and sustenance. The mountains provided bears and sheep for the hunters to pursue.
The Conkles used horses and airplanes to move their clients around the back-country. Lenora recounts the many trips to Anchorage in her Chrysler station wagon for supplies. She describes several incidents with bears around the lodge, including one which spent the winter sleeping on Bud's bed.
Throughout their tenure in the guiding business, Lenora most enjoyed meeting the various people who visited their lodge. She admits that the remote lodge was more Bud's dream than hers, but Lenora grew to love it too. She considers Tanada Lake the best place on earth.