Don't Throw Your Life Away - Battling Marine Debris from Alaska to Panama


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Here's how,

I found the seafood bus and had a nice chat with its owner who has been cooking fresh fish her husband and son catch here for 20 years and had a similar vintage bus to what I used to live in. I had a fantastic lunch of fresh seared Halibut, fries and a PC Cola. Altogether it was some of the nicest spreads I've had in some time. Just something about it, when a meal hits the spot, you know it. Life was good. But wait, there's more. Because back towards Stewart, there's this place if you fancy a walk.

I snuck up a logging road, but this was not the kind of road the 18 wheelers go up and down, if this is what they consider filling in a dip, what kind of machinery is up there? The whole Jeep fits in it.

It even did this to someone, but not to me. Thanks Bilstein, mine are still solidly attached.

We continued north and not making any of the lakes on the list, we at least saw a beaver, yes even more wildlife. I laughed when he did the tail slap, which I didn't take as an alarm, but more of an alert. More of a “Hey, before you go could you get that half full gallon jug of juice?” And so I did. He deserves to have a garbage free home, too.

We bedded down on the side of the road near a bridge. Here's a protip. Even if it's a road with low traffic, try not to sleep next to a metal bridge, they don't seem all that loud when you drive across them, but....they are.

Today was definitely lake day. This dog is doing so much swimming, and how could you blame him?

At a much smaller body of water there were even some cans a short walk out, and the bottom is alternatively foot sized slippery rocks and ankle deep muck. Nothing I can't handle without just a couple close calls. At least if I fell in, I wouldn't be so hot. Why is it so hot up here?

Even the rocks are affected, but this one was released unharmed back into the wild.

Then more swimming on purpose at Wheeler lake, and got what I believe to be a leech on my foot. I didn't spend all that long looking at it, but it was little and slimy and wiggly and stuck to the top of my foot. Came right off, so maybe it hadn't fully latched on yet. There also is no picture of that, sorry. Either way, between that and all the horseflies that found us, the swim was short.

It's important to abide by all roadworks signs, even this one. Don't question it, it's for your safety. Now we're getting to the good stuff. This is Good Hope Lake, the start of wishing I had a kayak with me. Maybe I'll find myself one to carry around because of all the places and opportunities for a bit of a paddle. I didn't stay long here, just to grab the picture, I was headed to Boya Lake on recommendation of the Mountie.

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Not far away from Good Hope, when passing Mud Lake I saw just the quickest flash of something out in the water, but enough to know it was an animal. A big one. I backed up and pulled off as best I could to find a moose cow and two “little” mooselets fording the lake, and doing a better job at it than any Jeep, or Cruiser or Rover. Again, no picture, too far away for a phone. I promise I'm seeing these animals and they're really cool. One day I'll get a picture of an animal.

So, Boya Lake. Does it live up to the hype from the RCMP?

Bam, here it is!

Just kidding, it's this. It's astoundingly clear, aided by the white bottom giving it a stunning effect.

Possibly my favorite picture of the trip? I don't know, there are so many.

Do you ever just crush spruce needles together on a walk to smell them? I do. One of my favorites.

See what beavers can accomplish when they're not plagued by big juice bottles?

We swam, walked, played, explored. We stayed overnight and did it again. If you're passing through the area, make the stop. It's well marked, has a nicely maintained campground, and the money is worth the setting and grounds that are even raked after every vehicle leaves again. When campgrounds are spotless and show why we pay for them, I happily will.

Travis, I hear you saying, these lakes are very pretty, I'm glad you're finding trash and occasionally eating something. But what are you reading? I'm glad you asked.

It's a great story so far. He left Chicago at 16 and convinced newspapers he was going to take the trip and report back on meeting people like Queen Victoria. Amazing what some willpower, street smarts, and just wanting it more than other people can get you. I'm a few chapters in, but I hope to learn something timeless. What lessons learned from 1903 can be applied in 2018?


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And then all of a sudden we were in the Yukon. I really just hit the road to make time west, planning on catching up with my friend in Juneau soon. Jenson likes to sit backwards on the center console, but sometimes I don't get him all the way wiped off apparently.

I had a quick bite in Whitehorse and went out of town to a forest up above one of the lakes to somewhere no one else would be coming by. There were a couple trucks at the ioverlander style roadside site, which was fine, but they were on top of each other with no space to run and explore. I took a road just further down and ended up here where we could spread out and go on forest walks and not go anywhere for a whole day, but on our terms. I even made my own food. I opened a soup can, poured it in a pot and heated it.

I even have something special to show you. A picture of something that moves!

I offer this to you because the biggest red fox I've ever seen walked through our camp while I was in the Jeep and....yeah, not great footage. He was 10 yards away at one point, and while it was great for me to be able to see one up close, all you get is this.

I can't remember every seeing Nightjars hunting, only just on the ground or flying away. But their routine is fascinating. They flap around up high watching for bugs and then have this shocking high speed dive and as they pull up they emit a loud croaking sound. When I was tracking down the sound, I was expecting to find some kind of mammal in the forest, but the sound was up above me and I don't even know how long I watched them. I do have a video, is it possible to share videos here straight from the phone? It was really great to spend a day just hanging out. Yes, it was still hot, yes I used my awning even in the forest. It's no wonder everything is on fire.

We also can care for our forests. I thought I was far enough away from the busy lake that I wouldn't find much, but alas, it's everywhere. Let's all remember to do a sweep of our sites when we leave, and even if it's not ours grab it. I'm glad whoever will be here next won't have to camp with a highlighter and a mudflap.

After Whitehorse, I headed down the road to Haines, a lovely drive.

This time I really felt like I was in Alaska. Hyder felt like a side trip, I didn't even have a US border agent to talk to, only a Canadian on the way out. Now though, I was heading to the Capital. I had been saving this for the occasion. Sometimes it felt like the goal was a long way off, sometimes it felt like I shouldn't even have been going north. But despite the frustrations and sadness, I done it.



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Now I could really say I was in Alaska. And Southeast Alaska wasn't somewhere I thought I would really get to, but my friend said to call if I was in the Juneau area, so there's the opportunity. But first, he also had his parents in Haines who gladly took me in for the night, fed me, and took the whole next day before my ferry to show me around. They subsistence fish for halibut and salmon, and forage for berries and have a beautiful property to grow the rest of their leafy greens and veggies on. Outside their big windows between the last of the trees that enclose the property is a view of a 700 foot waterfall off the Rainbow Glacier. We went out on the boat to sight-see and check a crab pot, but no luck. I was shown which glaciers had been touching the water when they moved here just 5 years ago. Then we had some lunch, and his dad and I went on a great hike out to Battery Point and a small secluded cove to pick up some trash.

Good stuff too like a heavy duty trash can lid, a fairly new baseball hat, a soap pump dispenser all the way from China, lots of ziplocs, and even a full Redbull can. It was such a nice hike in fact that when we were all the way done with the 4 miles, I went back with Jenson and did it again because I had left his leash at the very end and remembered when we got back to the car. Quicker this time, while his dad went to get a haircut, and it was good to get Jenson all run out for the ferry to Juneau.

Dinner was more fish of their own catch like the night before, and I was sent on the ferry with a fresh piece of homemade rhubarb pie. But it was a late one. A ferry to leave at 9pm and arrive at 1:45am. And we pushed off an hour late, so it was after 3 before I was settled in Juneau.

The mark of a great friend is to have spent just a couple months living and working with them 11 years ago, thousands of miles away and show up for a visit and totally click again. As a child, my family traveled a lot, and from I think age 10 to 17 I spent a month each summer at Sanborn Western Camps in Florissant, Colorado. I did a lot of my growing up out there, and to tell you all my camp stories would take another book. Suffice it to say that I chose those experiences to write about for my college application essays to talk about experiences that shaped who I am today. At 18, I worked there as an assistant counselor. Since I was now there the whole summer, I was staff, and there was a break in between the first and second 5 week long summer sessions to do something outside of camp. The trick was to find someone to do something crazy with. That's where Murph came in. My jam back then was climbing mountains. I have climbed I think 21 of Colorado's 14ers, and in the spring just before coming to camp again that year I had just climbed Cotopaxi in Ecuador with my dad.

Murph was a climber as well and together we felt mostly confident we could go knock out Crestone Peak between camp sessions. He was dealing with a very fresh, close personal loss, and I knew even then how important this climb would be for him. It was amazing and one I will remember forever. When meeting his parents, they asked where I knew their son from. I mentioned the camp and the trip and they have the picture we took up at the top and they were thrilled to realize that it was me. I then came to find out, they were also former Sanborn campers and one of the scores of marriages that have resulted from people meeting there over the decades.


Yep, that's us, 11 years ago. So that's what led me to be on a ferry without the Jeep headed to Juneau. He picked me up in the middle of the night, and he and his fiance were gracious hosts, with their own catches of fish and various kinds of home grown and home fermented, smoked or pickled food products. The ensuing days really have very little to do with the trash problem and everything to do with life. I needed this. Days spent biking, walking, boating and fishing and nights spent eating and talking.


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I didn't catch any fish in SE Alaska, the luck just wasn't on our side. I'm sure it's possible. I've had plenty of fresh catches by Murph and his folks. Murph's freezers are PACKED and what isn't frozen is smoked and canned, and his parents are up to their ears in fish. So they're out there, but a day spend out on a boat not catching a fish, is still a day out on a boat.

We did however catch a couple kings.

Having this much fun is exhausting.

I would like to point out that as per the rules I didn't touch ANYTHING when crabbing because I was not a resident. I did eat it though. I've always said I didn't like crab. And it was put to me that if i had the best part of the best crab and I still didn't like it, then I was justified. So that crab was alive when we docked, cracked right there, in a pot as soon as we got home, and I had the big claw leg all the way to the tip. And the verdict is......

I'm still not a crab person.




Hmmmmm....maybe I should be posting photos bigger. These I grabbed from the book of faces.

My biggest problem over the last couple years has been not having a good friend accessible to be with other than Sam. I like moving and travel. Some say I even like people and get along with people easily, but somehow I didn't get to make any friends in Bullfrog on the lake and became a stay at home dog dad. There was a real concern that at 118 degrees, if we lost the AC in that metal box while both of us were gone, we might lose the dogs. Sam's position at the marina restaurant got us rent and utilities for 150 a month between us, I was working a bit from my computer and didn't really have to do anything else to cover the meager living expenses. I mean, it took all summer to spend what we used to spend a month renting near Denver.

In Waldport and Newport, I meshed well with folks at those fire departments but really never hung out with anyone outside of the Fire/EMS duties. They are outstanding, the kinds of people I was hoping to meet and learn from. It's hard to find anything other than quality human beings working in that field and I count myself very lucky to have served the community alongside them.

Having my old, good friends from my Florida and Colorado days accessible by phone or internet was great, but I don't think it was enough, and I suffered for it. It was really nice to remember what it would be like if I lived near and did things with friends. Perhaps this is the reason I took to the Overland Expo family so strongly. They are very much my kind of people and those friendships valued very highly. I can't wait to see them again at Expo East in November.

Thank you to Murph and all of his family for taking me in and treating me like I was one of your own. When the time comes that I am able to have you as my guests, know that you will be welcomed with the same amount of love, and I can only hope to live up to the kind of hospitality I was shown. I just hope it's not in another 11 years.


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It was time to carry on and catch a ferry out of Juneau. It is a little strange having a capital only accessible by boat or plane.

I was feeling good, but pensive. And so, a pensive picture from the ferry. I'll try bigger this time, I think for a while I wasn't able to get large pictures to load. I've been hosting on Smugmug, is it better to just add them as attachments? I'll figure this out.

Here is the meeting of the silty, fresh, glacier water into the salt water.

So back to Haines. Nature museum and raptor conservatory, my first real live brown bear which I don't have a picture of. I can tell even through the computer you aren't surprised.

And if i told you I saw another moose, you probably wouldn't believe me.

HA! I did it.

Are you on your way to the scene of an emergency but would like to have another one of your own? Try the Rescue Hovercraft.

On the day I was leaving his parents' place, I checked with the local NAPA on the slim chance they had a wheel bearing/hub in stock. Even though this was a Toyota town, they did, and then I was left with some decision making to do. Carry it with me for when it gets worse and then have a difficult job of it alone on the side of the road in the rain, or take advantage one more time of the incredible hospitality of this family and knock it out in a warm dry garage.

It's a good thing I didn't wait because it took me on the brakes, and his dad on a pipe on the end of a 2 foot breaker bar to break that axle nut loose.

Oh alright, if I'm going to be here just ONE more day, we might as well go on another walk.

Before we leave Haines, let me give you a little insight into Jenson. We know he likes to swim and run and play. He's also a sneak. I figured out years ago the way he used to get on the kitchen counter was to shimmy up the gap between the fridge and the side of the counter. He didn't jump, I caught him once. He could also get ceramic plates onto the hard kitchen floor without breaking them. He could also unscrew plastic jars of lollipops, and even the top knob from a lampshade. Don't know how, or even why he would, but he did. We won't get into the teleporting or other spacetime bending tricks today, but he's a clever kid. So here's the scenario for you. We are guests here, and he's not allowed to put his little doggy body on the couch or chairs. He's good at "no" and while we watch him he's good about not doing it. His command instead is to go down on a bed. That's an acceptable place for a dog to be. Murph's parents note during dinner how quiet and unobtrusive he's being, he's such a good dog. So we check on him.

Yep, he took that bed and put it on the chair thus satisfying the requirements and was he technically breaking any rules then? It could be argued either way, but it was funny enough that they let him get away with it.


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So the Jeep was fixed, and after leaving with even more home canned fish, jams, and pie I aimed north and west again towards the interior. The drive back through to Haines Junction was just as pretty in the rain, and we made sure to stop occasionally to explore.

There sure are a lot of lakes out here.

We were just making miles, so pulled over by a lake (yep) in the Yukon to get some sleep before the push back into Alaska.

We fueled up in Tok and pointed towards Valdez. My alternator was starting to whine a little bit, but maybe it just had junk in it. I would find a replacement in Valdez. Spending the weekend there was sounding really good right up until I stopped to take this picture.

Then things were sounding pretty bad. That alternator had had enough and sounded like rocks in a blender. I could keep going to Glenallen, or back to Tok. Since I had no service and I at least knew how far it was to Tok, and what to expect, I opted for backwards. So now it was Saturday, and a new alternator wouldn't be here till Tuesday. It's not what I wanted, but it's what I got.

Sometimes my view of the Chevron from the grocery store was alright, but largely I just sat around. I thought a lot, hardly did any writing, and no reading. My service was good enough for YouTube, and maybe I just needed some of that. The odd timing meant that it took days to get the part from Fairbanks, and while the weather was nice, I just couldn't go far until it was fixed. At least I had my bike to get around town..........wait....

It does seem to be one of the places everyone coming and going has to come and go through.

Anyone know these folks?



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Well the alternator came in on Tuesday early enough to throw it in, have a shower at the laundromat and hit the road for Valdez. I checked the weather halfway down and saw that it was beautiful in Fairbanks where I wasn't going, and raining down where I was. Oh well. The drive down, even in the clouds and rain is beautiful, and even though it was getting late, I stopped and wandered a bit.

It was interesting to hear from a man down there looking at the Worthington Glacier that when he used to come here in the '70s, you could walk from the trail high up on that ridge to the left of the shot straight onto the top of the ice. The terminus in those days was down by where the shrubs are just starting to fill in at the bottom. It's receded that much in the last few decades. However, it has been receding for 150 years and used to be all the way down by the road.

It's a cool story, that. A gunfight between railroad companies halts construction of a tunnel. And yet, all some people can think to do here is write this. Now, I didn't stop in Glenallen any longer than to get some fuel, but we don't need this. The entrance to the tunnel was covered in stuff like this.

And then I had just enough time for a lovely older lady make me this pizza and when she asked later if I wanted a to go box, I showed her the empty tray and she gave me a high five for finishing it. Soft dough, really thick cheese, crispy pepperoni, just what I needed. No Name Pizza in Valdez.


All that was left to do was ask the local brown bear in town some directions and end up here for the night looking forward to what comes next.

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So good. Preciate you and your journey. Also be interested in your timeline, I'm currently in Seattle but am heading out East in the fall. Maybe I can help you out with the bike if needed!

Andy G

One of the best trip reports ever. Really enjoying your pictures, your writing, and your sense of humor.

Stay safe on the rest of your adventure. And give Jenson a pat on the head for me!


by far one of the best trip reports I've seen and what makes it better is there wasn't a one year build-up and thousands and thousands of dollars put into every bolt on and "overlanding" essential crammed into and on top of your rig . This journey is a fantastic example of you dont need a "built" rig to explore , you just need to get out the door .

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