Camping, Off-Roading

All Duffeled Up and (Possibly) Nowhere to Go

The day started off pretty good. The last of my gear came in this past week and I spent the day switching the load-out in my truck from living to camping mode. I went and spent 120 dollars on toiletries for the next 4 months as well as doing a final pack of my Alaska gear. I’ve got a great big duffel bag packed full that I am sending ahead of me to the lodge.

I was feeling pretty good about things until I checked my email and received some troubling news. I had sent an email earlier this week to the manager up at the lodge to check in with him and see if it was alright to send off my gear. I was planning on mailing my stuff tomorrow or the next day. I’m glad I didn’t, as I was informed that Alaska had their 14 day quarantine extended to June 2 (I was under the impression that it had been lifted). My manager said he would be in contact with me on or before that date to let me know where things stand.

According to him, the 14 day quarantine of visitors to Alaska is a ‘game changer’ for lodge operations. Of course people aren’t going to take an extra 2 weeks to sit and do nothing in seclusion for the chance to go fishing for a week! I did some research and it seems the quarantine goes until June 2 when there will be a review to see if reopening the state will happen. Nothing can proceed until then. Now it’s just a waiting game to see what goes down.

I’m feeling very anxious about this whole thing. It seemed to me that everything was going along just fine, the 14 day quarantine had expired last week and I thought everything was hunky-dory. I guess they had started it up again and I didn’t know about it. I guess I won’t know if I’m going to Alaska until next week. It’s going to be devastating if this falls though as I’ve put so much time and money into this thing…plus how much of a letdown it would be. The only thing that got me through this rotten winter was knowing I was finally fulfilling my dream to go work up in Alaska.

If this quarantine messes up my Alaska plans I’m still going to go ahead with my trip to gold country. I’ll need the space to clear my head and think about my next steps. Hopefully if everything goes sour I can refunded for all my flights and Air-b&b’s. Maybe the season will just be set back a couple of weeks and I can still get up there. Everything is in flux right now, who knows how it’ll shake out.

My plan was to head out Sunday or Monday at the latest. Now I have to be here to Tuesday at least. Since I will be working an extra couple of days and thus have an increased travel budget, I decided to splurge on an awning that is made to mount on the back of vehicles. It will be delivered on Wednesday, and I’m hoping it’ll come in a day early. Amazon has been delivering a day or two faster lately so hopefully that will happen. In the past I have used pop-up canopies for shade and they work well, but are bulky and a pain to set up, break down & store. I’m hoping that this awning works better in those regards.

I’ve got a new fly rod and a set of gold pans I’m ready to break in, so at least I can do that. If the whole season is a wash at least I’m in a pretty good situation all around with my finances and vehicle health. Work is plentiful here and I’ll be well on the way to having enough to rent a place somewhere. I am so ready to get out of the camper-shell life.

Ready to break these guys in.

Well, it’s out of my hands now. I’m hoping for the best but trying to prepare myself if it doesn’t happen. It will be a crushing disappointment if it does. So many things have been going so bad for so many that I guess it’s kinda par for the course though. I’ll just have to wait and see.

Camping, Off-Roading

I Dig My Rig

For this post I’d like to go into my camping rig. I’ve been camping and exploring in my truck (that I have affectionately named The Beast) for as long as I have owned it, going on 6 years now. We have had many off-road adventures and been to some truly epic places.

Over the years I would upgrade a little here, and a little there. Every time I went out I constantly thought of things I could use to inprove my overall camping experience. It wasn’t until last December when I had to move into my truck that I seriously got about making some major living improvements. My situation was pretty bleak so I needed to make quality of life adjustments right away.

First I did my best to plug the cracks to stop the wind from blowing through. Next I installed curtains for privacy and shade and installed a cargo net to keep my gear off the floor. The first week I absolutely froze, it was horrible. I realized I needed a heavy sleeping bag so I got a nice model from Coleman rated down to 4 degrees below 0. That bag was heaven-sent, it made sleeping outside in the 30’s tolerable.

At the time, I was sleeping on air mattresses that would constantly leak and grow mold in the damp environment, so the next big improvement I made was to get a metal cot frame and 7 inches of memory foam on top. This was a huge upgrade for me and well worth the money. It’s a twin XL frame which is long enough for my body. My ankles hang off a normal twin. It also allowed me to stow my four bins of camping & off-road equipment underneath my bed. This freed up a ton of room. I have two bins dedicated to my kitchen supplies, of which I added a lot of stuff to. I got collapsable bins for dishwashing purposes, I really like how they just open up and then collapse so neatly.

Back when I was in Louisiana last year, I had bought a power box for my trolling motor battery. It came with fuses and two 12 volt plugs built in, so I brought it with me here to California to use as my secondary power supply. I would just recharge it every 3-4 days with a battery charger. This grew tedious, so I installed a 100 watt solar system.

It’s been great fun to play around with. Not wanting to drill holes in my roof, I installed my solar panel with 3M heavy duty mounting tape. It is supposed to be like a metal weld in strength, but I attached metal zip-ties from it to my roof rack for peace of mind. My old trolling motor wet lead-acid battery wasn’t up to snuff so I bought a top of the line 300 dollar AGM sealed lead acid 100 amp hour battery that should be good for 5-10 years. I also got this Bluetooth module for my solar controller so I can monitor my system in real-time. It also graphs my daily usage so I can see if things are running optimally at a glance.

A closer look at my 12 volt system with 500 watt inverter.

With my setup I can charge my devices, run my weather station, my two mini-swamp coolers, and my LED lights. Utimately I want to get a 12 volt refrigerator to save me from the tyranny of constantly having to resupply my ice chest with ice on the trail. I had placed two orders on Ebay for a cheaper model of cooler that fell through with not enough time left to order another for my trip. It’s a bummer, but when I get back from Alaska I will get a good quality model that will be a better investment than the cheaper model would have been.

The only things left to do is to get some kind of reservoir and water pump installed for water, a water purification system, an electric shower, and a cell-phone booster. After this, I think I’ll be set. As far as off-road gear goes I just got this nice 150 dollar air compressor which is a necessity for off-road travel. My last one was a cheap 35 dollar piece of junk. I do want to get some traction mats and a hi-lift jack for getting out of sticky situations. A winch would be nice, but you can get a kit for the hi-jack that basically does the same thing.

My truck needed a lot of work done after a time of not being financially able to take care of needed repairs. I fixed the brakes first, and then replaced the left ball socket & left tie rod. I then got a new set of All-Terrain light truck tires and replaced the linkages on my sway bar. It’s good to be rolling with a truck at 100%. The Beast & I are rip-roaring ready to go out into the wilderness for sure!

The Beast ready to roll.

So that about wraps it up. It’s been the greatest thing to slowly build up my rig from miserable to somewhat baller! I made a truck bed into my own little bedroom. I can’t wait to get out and get off-road with my new setup. It gets really hot and really cold with barely any in-between, but I have really come to enjoy sleeping out in it. I can’t wait to sleep on a real bed when I am up in Alaska though. It’s been a year and a half since I have slept in a real bed and my back could really use a break!


So it begins…

Well, at long last, here I am finally getting around to starting this blog I’ve been wanting to do for a while. I’ve always been a fan of more long-form writing when it comes to describing my adventures, so the blog format suits me better in this regard than the Facebook format does.

I suppose I should describe what this blog is all about and why I am doing this now in my life. I love getting into adventure and telling tales about said adventures. I love the art of storytelling and painting pictures in people’s minds with words. It is a craft, and also something I feel that atrophies over time if not used frequently.

This being the case, I started this thing to encourage me to write about my experiences and to ‘keep my claws sharp’ so to speak. It is also a time that I am poised at the edge of great adventures that will make for great blogging material.

In about a week I am setting off for gold country, Calaveras County to be exact. I want to practice my fly-fishing and gold-panning skills because in about 3 weeks I am off to Alaska where I can put them to use!

Before all of this coronavirus madness  began, I applied to a bunch of fishing lodges looking for summer work. They do their hiring months in advance so you’ve got to get in early. After emailing a few lodges one finally got back to me. Yes Bay Lodge liked my resume, and after a phone interview I was hired for the summer season doing dockhand work.

Yes Bay is 40 miles to the north of Ketchikan, Alaska. The only way to get there is by boat or floatplane. It is remote, insanely beautiful country, and I for one am looking forward to being up there in it.

One unique thing about Yes Bay Lodge is that they offer both salt and freshwater fishing there. You can go out into the bay for various species of salmon or monster halibut, or go up a nearby stream for world-class steelhead and trout fishing.

Now, those of you who know me know that fishing is my religion. I have fished in the Louisiana bayous, the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, and the Amazon River. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t fishing actually! This being said, one skill I never got around to learning was fly-fishing. I really don’t know why, I guess I was content using normal conventional or spinning rods. Also, I never lived in places where fly-fishing was the natural option that was commonly used by the local anglers.

Since I am destined to be doing a lot of fly-fishing this summer I figured I’d start learning the basics before I get up there. I’ve spent countless hours during the quarantine researching the subject, now I just need to get out in the field and practice. I’m waiting for my new fly-rod and flies to arrive in the mail as I type this post.

As I also mentioned, I’m also going to be learning how to go about gold prospecting. I’ve wanted to do this for a long while also. A few weeks back I went down to San Benito county to dig for benitoite (the California state gem which is priced comparably to diamond) and actually found a decent little specimen. It’s actually a rock with a few tiny gems embedded in it. One sticks out a little bit and the deep blue color is gorgeous. When they are cut, they look like blue diamonds. The mine where I dug for the benitoite had very nice gems for sale, they get in the thousands. I think they are more beautiful and have more luster than diamonds actually.

One of the rarest gems in the world, benitoite.

Finding this rock really got me worked up to do some more rockhounding and some prospecting. I figured that sooner or later I’d get around to gold panning up in Alaska so I may as well start learning how to do that as well. I’ve always loved visiting gold country and learning about the 49’ers, and yes, I love gold! Even if I just get a flake or two it’ll be awesome. I could find a nugget, who knows?

The plan is to just get in some downtime after a grueling winter. It was rough even before the coronavirus hit for me. I was and still am living out of my uninsulated, drafty, damp, cold camper-shell. It wouldn’t have been bad in the summertime, but in winter at the top of the Santa Cruz mountains, it was pretty miserable.

Fortunately, living out of my truck allowed me to save quite a bit of money which I funneled into my camping rig, much-needed truck repairs, and Alaska gear. I was very fortunate to be able to keep working during the pandemic and now am in good financial health to be heading up north.

One thing I had not anticipated is the initial cost of gear just to go work in Alaska. With gear and flights, I’m in the hole around 1000 bucks! You got to spend money to make money, I guess. I will make decent money the time I’m up there, but it’s more about getting experience and the adventure of the thing for me. I’ve wanted to go and see Alaska ever since I read Jack London as a child. Probably for the last decade or so I really wanted to go up there and be a part of the fishing industry in some way.

Now it’s happening! I’m ready to start a new chapter in my life. Before I head to Ketchikan I’m going to spend a few days in Anchorage to visit a dear old friend of mine and she’s going to show me around that area.  When my season is up we’ve talked about me coming back and us doing some more exploration in the region. I really want to see the Kenai Peninsula and Denali, and I hear the Valdez area is pretty cool…so the next few months I’m gonna be seeing a whole lot of Alaska!

Well, that about brings me up to date with things. Now it’s just work as much as I can in the upcoming few days and hopefully I’ll be sitting up in the Mother Lode this time next week.

Stay tuned for further Dogfishery! This was fun, I’m looking forward to doing this blogging thing!