SAM & BONNIEWINDS OF SKILAK is the WINNER of the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Memoir (other) category! 

Winds of Skilak traces a young couple’s adventurous move from the suburbs of Ohio to a remote island on ill-tempered Skilak Lake. As Sam and Bonnie adapt to a life without running water, electricity and telephones, the unforgiving, desolate environment tests their courage early on. Facing sub-freezing temperatures, unfriendly bears, and cabin fever, the Wards find strength in new friends, each other, and the awe-inspiring beauty of “the last frontier.” Just when they finally settle in, a freak accident proves to be the ultimate test of their resolve. Will they be able to survive in this isolated wilderness filled with unseen dangers?
Author Bonnie Ward chronicles an exciting and thought-provoking tale of one couple’s faith in God and dedication to each other through all of Alaska’s curveballs. Winds of Skilak is a true tale of absorbing force, sure to bring out your own sense of adventure.

“If one is looking to SAM & BONNIEunderstand the true day-in and day-out routine of being in isolation, then this is a must-read. Bonnie describes life in the Alaskan wilderness beautifully and honestly as she and Sam bravely face all the challenges, adventures, and hard work it takes to succeed in this dangerous far North Country.” 
–Norma Cobb, Author of Arctic Homestead

“This is a breezy book to read [with] short chapters that finish before you are ready to let go of one adventure and begin another. . . [Winds of Skilak] leaves you wanting more, and bydownload the book’s end you are rooting for this couple and their dreams.”
–Cora Holmes, Author of Goodbye Boise, Hello Alaska


39 thoughts on “About

  1. marjorie barst

    Loved the book. But it needed to be thicker with more details. And what became of Bill?

    • Hi Marjorie,
      I’m glad to hear you loved the book! Bill returned to California as he had always planned. He actually stayed longer (with us) than he intended. He was Sam’s brother Paul’s friend. Always ‘hung’ out at Paul’s garage watching him weld. That’s where we met him. He always wanted to visit Alaska and when he learned that’s where we were headed he figured that was his chance! A blessing for all of us! We heard after returning to California he’d hang out at Paul’s from time to time and then I think he eventually moved on to WHAT I couldn’t tell you. I know we will always be grateful for his help. And I believe our meeting him was a Godsend! Literally!!

  2. Brian from Wisconsin

    Loved the book and did not want the adventures to end. I’ve always had a dream of being as fortunate as you guys were and getting to build ones own cabin and live off the land since I first read “One Mans Wilderness” about Richard Proenneke and his life in Alaska. Your book was just as enjoyable and had the same feel. Like sitting right there in the cabin sharing stories. But, I too want to know more. Did Nels ever say anything about shooting your goats, apologize, or did you guys not speak to each other for some time after? Why did you finally decide to leave Skilak Lake? Best of Luck with your book & lives in the lower 48!

    • Hello Brian,
      What a nice surprise to hear from one of my readers! Thank you so much for the kind words about my book! I am so glad you liked it. No, Nels never said anything about shooting our goat. It was over and that was that! I’m sure you remember my “Forgiveness” chapter! I did just that…I forgave! Although, you’ll remember I’m sure, it wasn’t easy for me. You might remember I was quite angry. It was only with a lot of prayer and by the Grace of God that I could forgive and move on.
      My book only covers the first two years on the island. We lived on the island for nine years! It’s a long story of why we left the island and I sure don’t want to bore you, but to give a shortened version, we started our leave in 1989 and were building a commercial fishing boat to fish and Prince William Sound. Lo and Behold, the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill put a screeching stop to some great plans there. We did commercial fish later when they opened pockets back up, while maintaining residency on the island, however, all that is another story…
      Brian, it just tickles me to hear from my readers, especially when they like my book. I am so grateful for the wonderful feedback. Would you consider giving me a review on amazon.com for me? Reviews are very helpful to authors and I would sure appreciate it. I hope you’ll stay in touch, Brian from Wisconsin!!
      Take care,

  3. buck357

    Loved your book! Thanks so much. Two question? Did you leave Alaska because its just hard living and you wanted also to be with family? Did you sale your land?

    • Thank you so much! I’m glad you “loved” the book! To answer your questions. First one, we lived in Alaska for 15 years, and as we got older it seemed the winters got longer. Our loved ones back in the lower 48 were also getting older. We had no “family” in Alaska…Great Friends, but our family was so far away and we missed them, so that was the main reason for leaving our beloved Alaska! Second question, yes we did sell our land! Sam built 8 cabins on Caribou Island not to mention all the various out-buildings and today, all these years later, those cabins look just as good now as they did then. Thanks for corresponding with me Buckobillie, I hope to hear from you again. I don’t mind answering questions. I appreciate my “readers” very much!! If you don’t mind and have the time, I’d sure appreciate a review on amazon. Thanks again!!

  4. Margaret Goertzen

    This book was a delight! For a short period of time it allowed me to live on an island in Alaska. I loved your chapter on forgiveness. I fell I love with your animals and dreaded the severe weather. I could feel how cosy the cabin was when the winds were howling with the two of you tucked safely away. Thank you for sharing your life in Alaska, it was over too quickly. God bless!

    • Hi Margaret,
      It’s so nice to hear from one of my readers; especially one that refers to my book as “a delight!” I appreciate that, and thank you! I’m happy to hear you loved the forgiveness chapter. That chapter seems to have had quite an impact on many of my readers. I am grateful that I can be a testimony of God’s love and forgiveness. When I wrote that chapter, I wrote it from the heart just the way it happened, never even thinking what an impact it might have on people. I still get asked from some of my readers, how I was able to forgive, because they were so mad at Nels. But, honestly, my forgiveness truly came from folding my hands together and bowing my head in prayer. Not by my might, but by God’s good Grace! Thanks again, Margaret for taking the time to share your thoughts on my book. I always get so tickled when I see a new comment on my blog! Hope to hear from you again! Bonnie

  5. Paula Shaw

    Hello! A very good friend gave me this book as a gift. I LOVED it and really enjoyed reading about your life and adventures in Alaska.

    I also truly liked how supportive you were of your husband and his dreams. My husband was relocated with his job and we moved away from family and friends to an area we know no one. It wasn’t as big of a move as yours but it is hard.

    I missed your latest book signing due to heath reasons. Are you scheduled to do any more in the future? With my husband’s relocation we are now about 30 minutes from Huntington, WV.

    If you don’t have any other signings scheduled, would you be so kind as to sign two copies of the book that I have? ( one is mine and the other would be a gift for my friend). I would pay for return shipping as well if you wouldn’t mind.

    Thank you so much!
    Paula Shaw

    • Hi Paula,
      I’m so glad that you “loved” my book. Thank you! I will be in Summersville, WV at the Armory on Saturday, November 15th at their Arts & Craft Bazaar. I will email you my address, in the event that you’d rather send the books to me instead of driving to Summersville.

      Thank you,

  6. I loved your book, you both live a life I can only dream of. I was able to ride my motorcycle to Alaska in 2009 and loved it. It is a small world, my family is from Nicholas County WV and I love it the place, but my wife is a city girl or I would be living there. It was nice to read about your dependence on God and the thanks and praise you gave Him for the blessing and safety, that is what the world needs more of. My God Bless you and keep you safe.

    • Hello, Dave!
      Wow! What a small world! My husband was born in Nicholas County and all of his family is living there! What a trip that must have been, riding your motorcycle to Alaska! I am very happy for you that you got to see and experience the sights of that beautiful state! I’m thrilled that you “loved” my book and that you appreciate our adventure, lifestyle and our faith and dependence on God! Thank you for getting in touch with me. I hope to hear from you again soon. May God also richly bless you and your family!


  7. Robert Bissonette

    I use to fish and raft guide 20+ years ago out of Cooper Landing and I have long wonder the meanings of “Kenai and Skilak”? Have you ever heard. Thanks Row Bear or Fish’n with R.B.

    • Hello Row Bear (or Fish’n with R.B.),
      The closest thing I found is this: Skilak Lake — Kalifornsky said that the Dena’ina called this lake Q’es Dudiden Bena, which translates as “flows into outlet lake.” The section of river between Skilak and Kenai lakes was called Sqilantnu, meaning “ridge place river,” and Kenai Lake itself was called Sqilant Bena, meaning “ridge place lake.” I hope that helps. You weren’t guiding too far away from where we lived. That’s really cool. Thanks for getting in touch, hope to hear from you again.


  8. Kristy W

    I found your book quite by accident on Amazon. I loved it! My husband and I visited Alaska in 2010 and drove around on the Kenai peninsula. I wish I had read this prior to that trip and then we could have stopped at the lake! Unfortunately we drove right past it! I guess we will have to make another trip. Thank you for sharing you dreams with us! One question, any lasting ailments from Sam’s broken back now that so many years have passed? God bless you both.

    • Hello, Kristy! I’m thrilled that you found my book and loved it. Thank you! Sam has back ache’s often, but he has never let it get him down. He did have surgery years later, but he’s doing well …still very ambitious and hard working. We both are well and thriving on our farm. I hope you get to make that trip back to Alaska one day. Thank you, for taking the time to write me! Bonnie

  9. Brenda

    Hello Bonnie, I just finished your book. AWESOME! I have read a multitude of books about living in Alaska. A visit is on my bucket list, and hopefully soon. Many years back I started a quest of self-sufficient off grid living. I have a small totally off grid cabin, on a secluded ridge (here in Kentucky). It was to be my forever home, but circumstances, health and age, have turned it into a recreational get away. So needless to say I savored every word you wrote. Thank You!

    • Hello Brenda,
      How nice to hear from you! I am thrilled to hear you enjoyed my book. You say a visit to Alaska is on your bucket list. Everyone that tells me that, I always reply…GO! You won’t regret it! I really hope you do make it there one day. Your “small totally off grid cabin” sound like a wonderful place. I’m sorry to hear it didn’t work out as your “forever home,” however, it must be a wonderful getaway cabin for you. Thanks again, for taking the time to write me, Brenda. I really appreciate it. Bonnie

  10. Brenda

    Thanks Bonnie, for the reply. I forgot to ad in my original post to you, that I was born and raised just outside of Akron, Ohio myself. Which was another reason I was attracted to your book. (not to mention my interest in self sufficient off grid living) I am so glad I had the chance to read your book and would love to read anything else you write. Thanks again for sharing. Can not say it enough the book is AWESOME.

    • Thank you, Brenda! That means a lot to me! I am working on a sequel, which will be a continuation of Winds of Skilak. My book only covers the first two of many years in the wilderness. No publishing dates, though. It’s going to be a while though! Thanks again, Brenda! Your friend, Bonnie

  11. I just happened across your ad on Backwoods Home, and ordered the book on Kindle (because I don’t want to wait for shipping to start reading!) – as soon as I finish writing this comment I’m off of here to read on this wet Oregon afternoon! Blessings –

    • Hi Kristy! I’m so excited that you found my ad on Backwoods Home and ordered it. I sure hope you enjoy our story! Thank you so much! I appreciate it! Bonnie

  12. Brenda

    So glad to hear you are working on a sequel. Will be waiting anxiously. Thanks Bonnie can’t wait and have a great day.!

  13. Brian Morrow

    That has to be the best book I have read. My favorite was One Mans Wilderness but yours wow. I loved it. I grew up in a rural area of Washington state and we lived out in the woods with no electricity or running water and your story brought back many fond memories. Thanks.

    • Wow! What a great compliment, Brian! I’m thrilled to hear you “loved” my book and that you were able to relate and reconnect to it, with your own past experiences! I’ve also read One Mans Wilderness and loved it. To be compared to Richard Proenneke’s story and book, is such a great honor. Thanks again!!!

  14. Am on a tour of Alaska right now and just read your book on Kindle. Loved it!! Really was curious about questions raised by others above, but I think you answered them. Sorry to hear you’re not here in AK anymore
    ..we’ll be driving down the kenai, right past caribou lake. Now I feel like a friend has moved! Thanks for a great profile in courage .

    • Hello David,

      I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. I have been on vacation visiting my dad and family and friends in Minnesota. Just returned home to Sam and farm critters yesterday. I’m so happy to hear you “loved” my book! That’s so wonderful that you are touring Alaska, but I have to add that I’m also a bit envious too! Are you still touring? Hope you are having (or had) a great time! They are having some bad fires up there, so I hope it didn’t put a damper on your trip! Thanks for writing…I love hearing from my readers! Bonnie

  15. Jim W.

    Hello Bonnie, I very much enjoyed your book and finished it in two short evenings. As much as I enjoyed the book, I must say I was more than a little ‘upset’ with how the ‘Nels’ situation was handled – don’t get me wrong – I’m not one to judge anyone’s life and I envy the relationship you have with our Lord which led you to forgiveness. Let’s just say, had it been me, there would have been an entirely different out come.

    • Hi Jim,

      First of all, I want to thank you for reading my book. You read it in two evenings? That’s great! I’m glad you enjoyed it. As far as the Nels/goat situation, I have to ask you, “What would you have done different?” Sam handled it much better than me – oh he was angry about it, but he did a better job at keeping his emotions in check. He believes a man has the right to protect his property even if it is from goats. I on the other hand was a mess. Angry and grieving to the point it made me sick…I couldn’t let it go, so I turned to God in desperation. I prayed earnestly…half the night, not only to forgive but to be forgiven (for my anger). When I woke the next morning, the anger was gone…IT WAS GONE! I felt happier than I had felt in a long time…that did not come from MY might, but by God’s might and loving grace! True forgiveness isn’t shallow, it’s all the way! I don’t know if that helped you understand better or not, but I hope so. Again, thanks so much for reading my book. I appreciate that you took the time to write me also. Look forward to your response! Bonnie 🙂

      • Jim W.

        Thank you for your reply Bonnie; you asked me what I would have done differently. Well, as I recall this was the second time involvement with Nels brought harm to you and Sam. I know you weren’t pleased with the outcome of the illegal moose shooting incident and as far as ‘protecting’ ones property, what about the protection of your property (the animals)? Did you not rely on at least one of those creatures for a portion of your sustenance? Were they not subject to this mans cruelty half way between your cabin and his? Do you know for a fact that the animals had actually been on Nels property THAT night?
        Forgive me my probing questions, it stems from my love and respect of animals (especially my beloved dogs) and the anger such a cruel and insane act invokes deep inside. Your writing painted such an adorable picture of your walks – first Sam, then you, and in perfect formation Esther, the other two goats, and of coarse the pig.
        So, to answer your question. At the very least, that state trooper who arrested Sam would have been called in to investigate the incident (he’d have finally found out the origin of the moose meat, lol) and Nels would have been prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law had he been found guilty of an injustice.
        Ok, that’s my fifty eight year old, mature answer, however, in my younger days I’ll just paraphrase Stevie Ray Vaughan, ‘Mess with my beloved animals, you’ll see a man get real mean’.

  16. John Eule

    Your book was the most spellbinding book that I have read. I could hardly put it down to do my chores. My son who lives in Eagle River gave it to me for Christmas. It had special meaning as my son has a cabin on the Kenai across the river from Sterling. He taken to Skilak Lake several times. I think that we landed on Little Caribou. Once started out on the lake and the winds were so bad we turned back. The way you wrote the book, l feel like l know you and Sam. Wish l could meet you in person.

    • Hello John,
      Forgive me for taking so long to get back to you. You’re comment warmed my heart to read it. I am so happy that you enjoyed my book! That’s always music to an author’s ears! Wow, you and your son were right there close to us. What year was that? Yes, those winds have turned us around many times…back to the island and home! Skilak is definitely known for it’s sudden storms. You might be glad to know that I am working on a sequel. It will pick up where Winds of Skilak left off. Winds of Skilak just covered the first two years of many spent in the wilderness. Those first two were the tough years, at least for the tenderfoot that I once was. Anyway, thanks again for writing!


      • John Eule

        I believe that it was 2015 that the wind kept off. It 2013 that we landed on the island but it actually was frying pan I believe. I am looking forward to your next book. Thanks for your reply. Good luck on the next book.

  17. Bryan Severance

    Hey guys,

    What a cool story. Would you ever be interested in a TV/Documentary series?

    I would love to talk about your experience and any interest you might have. Please email anytime. Would be great to pick your brain for 2 minutes!

  18. Rowdy Hunt

    I am trying to down load your book now, however my kindle is not being very cooperative. Can’t wait to start. I truly enjoy reading books that make the reader feel as part of the story and not looking in from outside. From what I have heard your book makes one feel as if they moved to Alaska with you. looking forward to the adventure.

  19. Cathy Morey

    Loved your book! Read it in a weekend. My lifelong dream is to do exactly what you and Sam did. I visited Alaska by myself last year, and have plans to go again in the spring this year with my husband and son. My husband will retire in 6 years and I’m pretty sure Alaskan wilderness living is our retirement plan!

    • Hello, Cathy!
      I’m so happy to hear you loved my book! Where did your travels take you in Alaska? I wish you the best of luck on your dream to live in the Alaskan wilderness. It was the best choice we ever made for ourselves! No regrets! It’s a good life! Thank you for taking the time to write me. I love hearing from the folks that ready our story. Stay tuned for the sequel: Winds of Skilak the Continuing Saga, to be released in February!

      Best always,

  20. chris king

    You guys have been my hero’s ever since i read your book,absolutely loved it! Always been one of my dreams to do something like that! I’ve read ‘ One mans wilderness’ many times and happened to come across your book on Amazon one day and bought it right away,certainly one of my all time favorites! I couldn’t believe when i saw you live in West Virginia now! We have been looking for a couple years now for the right property in west virginia and live a more self sustaining lifestyle.I have a few cousins that moved down there a few years ago and they love it!I want to come down this spring sometime and look around and would love to see your farm and get to meet you guys in person. I’ve also always loved hunting and everything outdoors ever since i was a small boy,and would love to talk with your Husband about his hunting,fishing,and trapping adventures in Alaska.I come from a family of thirteen,and was raised on a farm and always loved being around animals.We live in Pa now.Maybe you get lots of requests like this and aren’t interested,i understand if your not.You are welcome to pm me at my email.I am curious if you ever heard of Michael and Debi Pearl from Tennessee?They have a ministry called No Greater Joy,they are about your age and you remind me a lot of them. Where can i find your new book ‘Winds of Skilak the continuing saga’?
    Also if you don’t mind me asking,what is Sam up to these days. Does he still hunt and trap in West Virginia now?

    Thanks and God bless

    • Hello, Chris!
      How nice to hear from you. Sam and I are thrilled that you “loved” our book. We wish you the best of luck in finding the “right property” in West Virginia. Sam is from West Virginia, and I’ve always loved it. We bought his mother’s old homeplace when we returned here. No one had lived on the property for about 45 or 50 years, so it was all grown over. The two-story log cabin his mother lived in as a little girl, long gone. We cleared the land, and Sam built our own home, reminiscent of the cabins he built on Caribou Island.

      The sequel to Winds of Skilak was released on March 27th, and you can find it on amazon. I will post it on here soon. The title is: The Winds of Skilak: The Continuing Saga of one couple’s adventures and survival in the Alaskan wilderness.

      Sam just got out of the hospital two days ago. He had a bad infection, but he is doing fine and on the mend now. He still traps and hunts, chops wood (for heat), builds buildings; cabins, our home, sheds, etc., and takes care of our farm. At 74, he stays extremely busy.

      Thank you for taking the time to write us. You can email us at: bonnieroseward@gmail.com. It’s nice chatting with you.

      God Bless,


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