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!
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.
Hold on to your baby floats! It’s gonna be a fun ride!
As I get to the border of Hyder, Alaska I pull over to get a picture (it is officially State 50 but that’s another story!). It is strange that there is no customs to enter this small town of about 80 people. After exploring the area I decided to try and find a spot for the night. I noticed a little road just outside of town that might be a great boondocking spot. As I start down the narrow road that was semi over grown with bushes I began to regret this decision because it’s next to the river. I generally walk roads like this so I know if there is a turn around or if there is even a good spot at the end. But, on the drive into Hyder I saw my first Grizzly Bears! That made me hesitant to walk into a bush covered road.
I finally get to an open area where I can turn around. I park and walk in a little ways. The road just seems to go on forever. My fear is that I get to a sandy spot along the river and get stuck. As I begin to maneuver to turn around I see a white van with a yellow canoe coming. The driver rolls down his window, “you looking for a spot?” “Yep, just not sure what’s that way and don’t want to get stuck. You too?”, I replied. “I’m just cruising, checking out the river conditions. You might get a few scratches but you’ll make it. It’s the best spot, just follow me!”, he says. I follow him down the bush hugging road with the sound of branches scrap the side of the van. The path ends with an amazing view of mountains and river
Meet Dallas…30 year old from the Midwest. A town in Iowa not far from my hometown in South Dakota actually. Vanlifer for around five months. He has traveled to quite a few states. Decided to go on a trip to Alaska in the van. His first stop was Hyder…and he never left.
I tell him I am jealous of his canoe cause there is always sweet spots to kayak or canoe as I travel. He asked if I want to go out on the river tomorrow? Heck yeah I do!
The next morning I meet him at his place to find a spot for Pup while we go for the ride. His current set up is pretty rad! He bought a lot on the main strip of Hyder next to the library/community center/forest service building. Got a big yellow school bus and lives in that. Moving here just before winter last year the wood burning stove he added inside keeps him toasty warm. He claims the winters are nice compared to our Midwest winters where it gets below zero. Surrounded by mountains and glaciers I would have to live there to believe it…haha.
We get to the spot where we are going to drop in at the river. He hands me an orange life vest and tells me it’s all he has. The river isn’t deep but it’s ripping fast in some sections so you’ll want it. I try to suck it in and connect the straps. I know I’m out of shape but I can’t get around me. He hands me some rope and we make shift a knot to strap it tightly around me. This is going to be an adventure.
Dallas is fairly new to canoeing on white waters but he takes a moment to tell me a few things to know. Before jumping in we pull the canoe into a calm section of the water. Not Long into paddling down we come to our first decision. The river is ripping really fast. In this section there is also a tree. Dallas says we should walk to canoe through that first section. I ask, “what’s the worst that could happen?” He replies, “we could die!” I start to laugh Way too hard because he didn’t hesitate for that response. After walking past that section we jump back into the canoe. We came to a few other spots that were flowing really fast! We managed to draw ourselves into good positions leading through the rest of the ride. Along the way we stopped at few sand bar stops for a beer, Honey Stinger Waffles and soak in the beautiful 360° views!
As we safely made it back to town we passed by a few of Dallas’s friends. He tells his friend Dick to stop by because he’s going to make dinner. While Dallas is cooking up a chicken stir fry, Dick busts out his guitar to play a few songs.
When you tell people you have been to Hyder the first thing they ask you is, were you Hyderized while you were there (apparently it’s when you drink a 100 proof shot at the bar)? Not knowing what that means I tell them yes. Hyderized on the white water waves! Thanks for the hospitality Dallas! What a way to bring in State 50!
I recently posted a picture on my personal Facebook page of Pup with piece of paper and asked for everyone to guess what it meant!? I loved everyone’s responses! Well, the answer is…Alaska!
After finishing the road trip across the Lower 48 states in the van and a trip to Hawaii I contemplated settling down in Southern California again. Not really knowing what I wanted, I bounced around Orange County for two months. Once I wrapped up 49 states I told myself Alaska would have to wait for another year or two. I took a recent short trip to Sacramento to visit family over Easter, with a stop at Yosemite and Carrizo Plain National Monument on the way back south.
I began to apartment hunt with 100% intention on calling Vanlife quits. With a week into the search I began to remember why I chose Vanlife in the first place. The stress of finding a place that was pet friendly and affordable was topping out on the ridiculous meter.
I text my dad about the stress and a got a lengthy reply that would plant the Alaska seed. “Hey Joel, something to think about. You realize that you have not finished your state road trip. You are 2600 miles from Juneau Alaska…”. This text brought back the same feeling of when my dad sent me the photo of my van for sale in my home town back in September 2014
The older I get the less time I take to think about doing things I want. Talked about moving to California for 4 years before doing it. Talked about living in a van for 2 years before doing it. Took me a few months to actually leave my home town once the van was ready. Now Alaska, that only took me a day to decide on a HECK! YES!
I have no clue where I’m going, if roads are even open or what trails I’ll try to run. I did just purchase the book The Mile Post 2017 – Alaska Planner which is jammed full of all I need to know. For now…I’m headed north to Washington and I’ll plan along the way!