Pizza run brings slice of reality to residents of Port Protection

When people choose to live in a remote area, they give up certain things like grocery stores, movie theaters and, probably most importantly, pizza deliveries.

That's why residents of Port Protection were thrilled when Nic Martin and Brian Schwartz showed up on July 15 with 18 pizzas from Nic's Place pizzeria.

Not only was it a chance to expand the reach of Nic's Place and bring some happiness to the community on the north end of Prince of Wales Island about 47 nautical miles west of Wrangell, but it was also something Martin had in mind for some time.

"I thought about this quite a while ago, the thought of getting on the show," he said.

"Port Protection Alaska" is a reality show produced by National Geographic that focuses on the lives of some of town's residents who are living an off-the-grid, subsistence lifestyle. It shows the challenges of fishing, hunting and growing their own food, while trying to live without things most people would take for granted.

"I threw (the idea) at Brian (Schwartz), and as soon as I threw it at him, he just started running," Martin said. "He's like, 'Yeah!' He's got that young blood, full of ambition. He's on it like a birddog."

The duo coordinated with friends in Port Protection to make the 90-minute trek to sell pizza, enduring choppy water in a smaller vessel piloted by Schwartz. They kept the pizzas warm by putting them in a fishing tote, which was heated up with a packable generator Martin had set up.

Aside from frozen pizzas sold at the general store, Port Protection doesn't have restaurants or places for the residents to go for dinner.

"Everyone was so excited when Nic and Brian came around the corner in the Alaska Charters and Adventures jet boat," said Breanna Miethe, who appears regularly on the show and has lived in Port Protection for six and a half years. "There was a crowd of hungry locals waiting to greet them at the community dock. We were all so impressed to see that the pizzas were still hot after the boat ride."

Miethe, 31, along with partner Oliver Johnson, also 31, are both originally from Wrangell. They made the decision to move to Port Protection after having hand-trolled there for a few summers. Miethe also spent time there with family while growing up.

She said some of the things that make a remote lifestyle appealing are also some of its biggest challenges.

"The benefits of living remote is just getting away from the distractions and day-to-day stress of town life," she said. "You appreciate all the little things that you tend to take for granted or don't have the time to think about while living in town."

Miethe added that the independent lifestyle can be rewarding, depending on how well a person can adapt to isolation and physical work.

"The independent lifestyle comes with a lot of work, and you can't always prepare for every situation that gets thrown at you," she said. "The harsh winter months are very hard to endure. The planes don't run out to us with supplies and mail for a month sometimes, and the road access to the other communities gets snowed over so you have no choice but to just wait it out."

One episode of "Port Protection" from the most recent season shows Miethe and Johnson hunting for a black bear, while other residents grapple with gardening and other challenges.

Film crews are typically on site from March to October. Martin said he spoke with field producer Chad Fraser about possibly featuring a future pizza delivery on the show. There's no guarantee that it will happen, but Martin was hopeful.

As he gets older, Martin said he could see himself living a more remote lifestyle since he already hunts for his own food, processes it, forages for mushrooms, fiddleheads and berries, and makes his own jellies and jams. "I like that lifestyle, that mentality," he said. "Then again, it would get pretty lonely. I'd be like, 'I just want a burger, a soda, something like that.'"

Even though residents of the small town cook and share dishes with each other during their community barbecues, Miethe said she, Johnson and others living in Port Protection always welcome deliveries.

"We do love our independence out here, but we all love good food just as much, so there will always be a positive response and appreciation for any delivery service willing to make the long journey to us," she said.


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