Memory from Babson Boulder Trail – Dogtown, MA

The other day I was going through my drawers to declutter some stuff. It’s crazy how fast you accumulate things when you have an actual place versus a van. I came across this postcard and a copy of quotes in a folder from my travels around the country.

It came from a lady I met on a trailhead in Dogtown, Massachusetts. Before I talk about this amazing woman let me explain the trail a little bit. This trail, Babson Boulder Trail, was very interesting and it was such a great stop during my travels. A guy by the name of Roger Babson created a trail where he etched sayings in over 30 boulders. Each boulder giving inspirational self improving quotes.

“Another thing I have been doing, which I hope will be carried on after my death, is the carving of mottoes on the boulders at Dogtown, Gloucester, Massachusetts. My family says that I am defacing the boulders and disgracing the family with these inscriptions, but the work gives me a lot of satisfaction, fresh air, excerise and sunshine. I am really trying to write a simple book with words carved in stone instead of printed paper. Besides, when on Dogtown common, I revert to a boyhood which I once enjoyed when driving cows there many years ago.” Roger Babson

Now the lady I met at the trailhead was Peggy, at the time 74 year old cancer survivor with tons of wisdom you don’t pass up a conversation with. We talked about life, traveling and Pup (of course Pup!). She had just wrapped up her hike when we met and I was just getting ready to head out for my hike. Upon my return from my hike I had treats for myself and Pup and two notes in my windshield. She made a copy of the quotes she said she read everyday, to which I read frequently during my travels. I’m glad I found this because it’s much needed! And I’m also happy to say I reached out to her via the email she gave me and she doing well four years later.

Like Peggy said in the postcard – Enjoy this precious gift called life! Peggy if your reading this thanks for the wonderful memory!

Long Drive – Short Stay; 30 minutes in the Alaskan Arctic Circle. 

Yay! Made it to the Alaskan Arctic Circle!

Only problem was when Pup and I got done stretching our legs from reading the displays…the van wouldn’t start! One crank, two crank…luckily on the third crank the van fired up.

Now what? I’m about 200 miles from Fairbanks at this point and I’m at 1/2 a tank of gas. The van gets around 400 miles on a full tank. Question is continue north into no mans land hoping the van starts or begin heading back to Fairbanks calling the Arctic Circle sign a win?

I doubt my AAA covers the remote frozen tundra…time to double back!

On my way back from the Arctic Circle I saw a sign for gas as I came up on the Yukon River. I pulled in and sure enough they had gas, $5.50 a gallon! I was at a 1/4 tank so I only put in 10 gallons to get me back to Fairbanks where gas is $2.90. Lol.

You have to leave a card inside to be able to pump. As I was walking back in to get my card I met Yukon Jeremy. He said to go down and check out his gift shop and his mom was down there. “One of a kind Alaskan gifts”, he said.
I was more worried about if my van would start after the scare up at the Arctic. Luckily it fired up perfectly!?! I drove over to the little shack that had the words ‘Mostly Birch’ painted on it.

I met Yukon Jeremy’s mom Dorthy. She was organizing the knick knacks. There were animal jaws made into little sleds with little Eskimos made out of fur. Necklaces Dorthy made from shells and necklaces. Also necklaces Yukon Jeremy made from bear/wolf/wolverines and a few others toenails or teeth. Fur hats, and other stuff.

I chatted with them a bit about before trying to race the midnight sun to find a spot for the night. If you’re ever up the Dalton Highway stop by and let Yukon Jeremy tell you a few stories…you won’t be disappointed!

Denali National Park

On the way north the summit of Mount McKinley (or Mt. Denali) popped out of the clouds for a rare appearance. By the time I got pulled over to take a picture it was covered with clouds again. Enjoying the views, I didn’t pay attention to what time it was. Got to the visitor center at 6:30pm and it was closed. But lucky me, as I walked back to the van I saw a sign for a playing of a historic film in the theater at 7pm. It was the first film footage, and second ascent of the summit in 1932. I quickly went back to the van to let Pup out and get him
situated so I can go to the viewing.

In the theatre I sat next to an older lady, Annabel. She’s from New York City but lives in Alaska half the time and in New York the other half. We talked for a while before the movie started. In her 20s she was working in a small town where there was nothing to do and nowhere to spend her money. So after five years she “retired” for four years and traveled! Loved listening to her stories!

The video was of the Lindley-Liek expedition which was the second successful summit of North Americas highest peak. The speaker for the night was a retired historian for the National Park. She had a wealth of information about the parks history. During her research she found a lecture giving by one of the mountaineers and dubbed it with the film. Such an interesting video.

After the film I drove the 15 miles into the park that was accessible by car. The road ends at Savage River trailhead. At roughly 10 PM and the midnight sun still up I decided to run the river loop trail. The loop followed along the river and some beautiful rock croppings. After my run I let Pup roam for a little bit in the parking lot before heading to find a spot for the night. The nights are extremely bright but the “sunset” last night was amazing. Orange yellow, pink, red and blue filled the sky!

Drove outside of the park to find a free spot to boondock for the night. Then the next morning for some reason I drove south. I was trying to see if I could get a clear shot of Mount McKinley. No such luck because it got dark and rainy. So I turned around and headed back to the National Park. Got to back to Denali 45 minutes before the sled dog demonstration. The clouds and breeze was perfect timing to keep the van cool for Pup while I was at the demonstration. I walked around and petting all the sled dogs that were out before the demonstration. During the summers the dogs train with a go cart looking sled on wheels. The Park Ranger gives a spiel on the history of the dogs and the Park. He calls out to get the dogs ready, the kennel area fires up with barks of excitement! They all want to be part of the fun!

After the demo I took Pup for a walk on the only dog friendly trail inside of the Park. For dinner I drove back to Savage River Trail and sat in the van at a view point. I made up my sandwich with turkey, cheese and some horse radish sauce I got at a fast food place. As I was just getting ready to eat a guy with his family pulled up to the view point. He walked up to my side door and asked if he could get a picture with me and Pup. After a picture I put Pup back in the van so the kids could get out their van (Pup is 50/50 with kids.). We talked about my vanlife travels to trail run in all 50 states. Turns out he’s on a similar quest, he wants to run a marathon in every state. He is currently at 23 states. He was running a marathon the coming weekend in Anchorage to check off Alaska as state 24. When I got back in the van Pup was being really weird and adorable. Took me a second to figure out the little shit ate my sandwich! Dude is going to shit his pants tomorrow! Hahaa!

I was going back-and-forth trying to figure out what to do. Makes it hard in the National Park when you can’t have a private vehicle go any farther then Savage River. The bus ride was to time consuming to try and coordinate. Trying to find a dog sitter outside of the Park was turning into a hassle too. So I called it quits…time to roll north. On the way to the park entrance there was a mama moose and her baby on the side of the road. They walked right by my driver side window and I got some really great shots! Great ending to Denali National Park.

Winner Creek Hand Tram


After helping 3 mom’s with 11 kids cross the the Winner Creek Hand Tram my arms were jello! But Pup and I made it to the gorge before helping more people cross the hand tram on the way back. Sure wish there was a foot pedal because we all know my legs are stronger the my upper body.

Midnight Sunset in Alaska 


Before getting to Anchorage I made a few stops along the way. A hike with Pup on some trails around Thompson Pass for beautiful 360° views! Boondocking off of Soup Lake and running up some random trails just to see where it would lead me too…more amazing views

But my favorite was when I went to a spot in Eagle River. I drove from Soup lake to try and find the Pioneer Trailhead. No such luck finding it. I did see a place situated between private property signs that may have been the trail. I did not go checking into it because 99% of Alaskan have a gun. I did not feel like getting shot just to run a trail so I headed out to the next stop. I opened the iOverlander app to see if there were any good spots listed. Closest one was at the end of a street where locals watch the Aurora Lights.

Around 10:30 pm, I drive up the long windy road to the end. It’s a trailhead parking for Mt. Baldy. I park in the flattest area of where the signs direct me too. None of the signs indicate I can’t overnight park here. As Pup and I walk the trail the sun starts to make its way down out of the clouds. This is my first Alaska sunset! Or as close to an Alaskan sunset as you will get with the midnight summer sun. I walk to the van to grab my camera to capture the moment. Walking up to the edge of the road I hear some one say to me they like my stickers.

Annie and Chris are two young local badass trail runners. They stopped to walk Chris’ cute corgi puppy up the short, but steep 1,200 ft gain, one mile trail to the summit of Mt. Baldy. We talked for 45 minutes before they headed up the trail. With the midnight sun still hanging above the horizon, and the inspiring talks of the Mt. Marathon race, I laced up my shoes to run. It probably was not the smartest thing to go for a solo run at 11:30pm but I knew the youngsters were up there to scare away the bear if there were any. Man, did that straight up hurt but the view of the sunset at the top was worth it!

The next morning I rolled toward Anchorage. I pretty much b-lined it through the city to head to the next trail. I made a quick stop at the highly talked about Flattop Trail to find the parking lot slam packed full…no thanks I’ll find a less popular spot.

Did some bird watching at Potters Marsh, hiked with Pup at McHugh Creek Falls and then finding a spot for the night in Chugach National Forest. 

Worthington Glacier – Valdez, Alaska 

As expected the rain was on and off as I got to the main highway from McCarthy. But as I drove up to Worthington Glacier there was a break. Hike a Pup to a glacier time!

Worthington isn’t my first glacier but it is the first most accessible one that I could hike old man Pup. I chose to take a path with Pup that didn’t involve crossing the water. It didn’t get me close to the glowing blue I hoped for but it was still a nice hike to a view on a mound. You better believe Pup got plenty of fresh glacier water drinks along the way too!

After getting back to the van it started to sprinkle but I decided to run quickly to the base. I got lucky on the path I took with Pup. The glacier silt was almost like quicksand in some spots.

Once I got up to the base I had the glacier all to myself. When I touched the blue glowing ice I felt a little like superman. It’s possible the double waterfall on the side made it feel unrealistic.

Well worth being covered in glacier silt by the end!

Short stay, long drive – McCarthy, AK 

There’s a long 60 mile drive on a gravel road to the town of McCarthy, AK. But only a short 3/4 mile walk, crossing a foot bridge, gets you to the town.


Pup and I walked into McCarthy from the free parking area around 8pm. As usual my planning was way off. I thought this is where the historic Kennecott Mill was located but it’s another 5 miles. The sun stays up long but rain clouds begin to roll in as we make it to town. I decided to head back to the van and reassess my last idea.

Not sure how rain will change the condition of the road into town I check the weather. Turns out rain is in the forecast for the next couple days. I decide I better get my non-4wd van back to a paved road…hhaa.

I found a great spot to boondock for the night on the edge of Moose Lake. I didn’t see any moose on the lake but I did see one just off the road nibbling on some trees. Also got to hit Liberty Falls which is on the way. Kind of bummed I didn’t make it to the mill but time to keep rolling.

Meeting Shaun at Chilkat State Park – Haines, AK 

My original idea was to ferry from Skagway to Juneau and then Juneau to Haines. That changed after finding out it would cost $300+ to ferry the van back and forth. A more feasible option, at $90, was to ferry from Skagway to Haines. Either way I was planning on driving down to Haines so this option would save me the gas money it would take to drive to both cities.​

​I went to the ticket office to book my one way trip to Haines. There was only standby left for the 3pm boat and check in was at 1:45pm. I didn’t feel like wasting my day waiting around not knowing if I’d get on that day so I booked the next day boat at 8pm. This gave me more time to check out Skagway and Dyea.

I got into Haines around 9:30pm. I didn’t want to blaze through Haines in the dark so found a spot just down from the ferry terminal off the highway. Next morning I drove around the small town, stopped at a park to walk with Pup and decided to roll out. Well, apparently I was on the wrong road out. I came to a dead end which would lead to a trail head for Chilkat State Park. Signs, Signs everywhere a sign…haha. Let’s hike!​

The beautiful trail meanders a long and finally opens up to the bay. Pup takes the lead and goes all the way down to the opening. That’s when I meet Shaun from Colorado! Pup does his normal routine of going up to people with assumptions they want him to or not. Shaun and I begin to talk about Alaska and where we are from. As we talk I see a spout of water come up from the bay just behind Shaun. Is that a whale? Sure enough it was! We hopped the rocks down to the bay to watch for the whale. We continue to talk about our travels as we both sit with our cameras out waiting for the whale to put on a show.

Shaun is from technically from Colorado but he also travels and lives in a Toyota Dolphin. He’s looking at maybe getting a seasonal job up here in Alaska. This is his first visit up north so the location is still undetermined. Hanging out with him has made me contemplating how to prolong my own travels with odd jobs.

Skagway, Alaska and Soapy Smith

First official Alaska sign!

No thanks Soapy, I mean Jefferson, I don’t want to send a telegram back home to my family!

Visited my first National Park in Alaska, hiked to Dewey Lakes with Pup, Ran to AB Mountain, boondocked in an amazing spot in Dyea and took the van on its first Ferry ride out of Skagway!

I took a Ranger led walk through Klondike Gold Rush National Historical builds of downtown Skagway. The Jefferson “Soapy” Smith story was probably my favorite. Jefferson was a con man of his day. He grew up in a well to do home in Georgia but some how he became one of the greatest criminal bosses of his time. This guy got his nickname Soapy for his scheme of selling bars soap. He would supposedly wrapped a select few bars with money ranging from $1 to $100 and sell each for an insane amount of money for the late 1870s. Of course people would actually buy a bar of soap with cash wrapped around it but it was his buddies. Another scandal Soapy ran was the telegrams. He’d charge the stampeders to send telegrams but the only thing was the “line” only went to the bay and no farther. The Park Rangers tell the stories better then I can write it but I’ll leave a link if you want check it out (https://www.nps.gov/klgo/learn/historyculture/jeffsmithsparlor.htm).

Crazy to think that all those people were coming through Skagway for good that was another 800+ miles away in the Yukon. They had to hike supplies up Chilkoot Pass, over glaciers and snow fields. If I were coming for the Klondike Gold Rush I would have stayed right in Skagway and enjoyed the views…and that’s exactly what I did!

Signpost Forest – Watson Lake, Yukon

The Signpost Forest in Watson Lake, Yukon.

I don’t plan anything really. Maybe a few things here and there but generally I look at a map and drive. Along the way I stop when I see something that looks like fun. So to my surprise I find Signpost Forest in Watson Lake. A famous stop along the Alcan/Alaskan Highway where people from all over the world bring a sign to hang from their home town.

The tradition was started by an Army of Engineers Private that was injured while working on the highway. He was commanded to repair and repaint the directional sign outside of Watson Lake. During this repair he placed a sign of his own from his hometown in Illinois which began the start of Signpost Forest. Around 72,000+ signs are scattered throughout more than two acres and I didn’t bring anything!?

I met a couple from Nevada that were doing a three month retirement/anniversary trip to Alaska. Her parents have a sign up somewhere in the masses that she couldn’t find. As we talked I watched them hang their own sign to commemorate their trip.

Dang it, I wish I had a sign to hang! I roamed the rows and rows with Pup looking at signs. Then it hit me…I have a sign!

I open the back door of the van and dig through my bins. Yep there it is…Jayden St! Heck yeah! I find a spot that has an opening to fit the small street sign shaped plaque. At least Pup will have his own sign hanging up to carry out his fluffball legacy in the World Famous Signpost Forest!

Do you or someone you know have a sign up at Signpost Forest?