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.

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.

Petrified Forest National Park

Fun fact about me – As a kid I collected petrified wood so this place is like heaven to the younger me! I gave up that collection for the start of my Snoopy/Joe Cool collection (nerd alert!). 🤓


Onxy Bridge was the destination. I planned on doing an early morning run without Pup to find it but once I found out dogs were allowed on the trail…he was coming with me.


I never did find Onxy Bridge. I did however find a lot of other cool spots. Super proud of old man Pup for doing the whole 5 1/2 miles! Love me some petrified wood! Enjoy the pictures!

Texas Hidden Gem – Palo Duro State Park


When you get a recommendations for a possible hidden gem to check out, you check it out!

No lie, Palo Duro State Park is definitely a hidden gem for Texas!

If you’re near the panhandle of TX stop by and check out the Lighthouse trail. It’s a 6 mile round trip trail that is pretty easy. What may get you is the Texas heat! I was lucky and had perfect weather conditions today in the mid 60s.

Don’t have time for the whole 6 miles? Then there’s a sweet view spot that’s fluffy Pup approved! About a 1/4 mile in you’ll get a closer look of beautiful color formation of Capital Peak.

Terry Badlands Wilderness Area – Montana

What you don’t see when you’re driving along Interstate 94 in Southeastern Montana is the beauty! Natural Bridges, Chimney Rock and most of all solitude.

Of course to see it all there is only one way there, across a sketchy old train bridge. The old train tracks that once traveled through the area is what gives this trails its name, the Calypso Trail. Let’s say you brave the sketchy bridge you’re next obstacle is the gumbo mud back roads if it’s previously rained. Google search Terry Badlands Wilderness and you won’t find much. Especially on how to get to the actual trailhead location.Lucky me (not) it rained the day I got to Terry Badlands. I then opted to park in the grass off the maintained gravel road for the night so I could run early morning. The couple pages I did manage to find on the area gave only a vague descriptions on the trail length to the natural bridges. I don’t run with a gps watch so I normally go off mileages from maps and my phone. With no map to help I base the run off my phone data. I ended up with 19 miles round trip from where I parked. *Remember I am not near the trailhead due to bad roads. It’s not a difficult trail what so ever. Basically an old road that wanders through the designated wilderness area.If you’re ever in Eastern Montana and looking to hike or run let me know, I’ll gladly point you in the right direction of this cool hidden gem.