A Modern Homesteader

A memoir and handbook in progress, for alternative lifestyles, including mobile living, off-grid land ownership, and the remote work lifestyle, from my home base in Anchorage, Alaska.

June 22nd, 2020

Author: Mattanaw, Christopher Matthew Cavanaugh

Former Chief Architect, Adobe Systems

Current President/Advisor, Social Architects and Economists International.

Contact:

[NOTE: It is anticipated that this will be entirely rewritten. This is a first draft. I had arrangements with a publisher to publish this as a book, but now will simply share on this website.]

Contents

  1. Note from the Author
  2. Chapter 1. Our End Goal
  3. Chapter 2. Frugal living and semi-retirement
  4. Chapter 3. Planning Our Trip
  5. Chapter 4. Road Tripping with Your House
  6. Chapter 5. Vegan in Alaska and On the Road
  7. Chapter 6. RVs and Tiny Houses in Limbo
  8. Chapter 7. Trail Guide Realtors
  9. Chapter 8. Seeing the 80 Acre Parcel for the first time
  10. Chapter 9. Buying our property
  11. Chapter 10. Igloo RV Hybrids
  12. Chapter 11. Strangers and Neighbors
  13. Chapter 12. Trespassing and Safety
  14. Chapter 13. Elected into Community Council
  15. Chapter 14. Large Earthquakes and Remote Work
  16. Chapter 15. Unexpected Divorce
  17. Chapter 16. Foraging
  18. Chapter 17. Trespassing Worsens
  19. Chapter 18. Talking to the Police and FBI
  20. Chapter 19. Small Town Gossip
  21. Chapter 20. Mayor and Municipal Attorney
  22. Chapter 21. Large scale ostracism and stigma
  23. Chapter 22. Going to school remotely and interacting in the High IQ Societies
  24. Chapter 23. Blogging
  25. Chapter 24. First Winter Off Grid
  26. Chapter 25. Conclusion
  27. Bibliography

Note from the Author


The author, Matt, with a moose antler he just found.

Whenever I choose to do something with my life, it is usually because of a wide assortment for reasons. It’s always been challenging for me, because of this, to answer any question that might be posed to me, in a leading way, that I should have some simple, isolated, individual reason for doing anything.

“Why did you move to Alaska?”

This is not an easy question for me to answer, because of my style of thinking, and my approach to making life choices. My uncle understood this and felt this way sometimes too, and had a memorable statement that explains my position succinctly, which I can’t recall exactly in his words, but were very close to “Are you ready to read the book on this subject?”

A simple choice often has a lot behind it, and for myself, very often, there is no single reason to be found. To say there is a single reason, feels really disingenuous and incomplete. When I’m required to explain myself in that way, I usually feel like I’m not really telling the truth. I’m not really sharing my rationale for doing what I did, but instead I’m telling someone what they’re hoping to hear.

That’s what this book is, to a large extent. This statement my uncle used to make, about how much information is required for him to really explain something to someone, is a good answer to why a book is really necessary about my recent experiences, striving to live like a modern homesteader, in a home in Anchorage, Alaska, amidst unwelcoming neighbors.

Initiallly, I had no intention to write a full lenghted book. This book is due, in large measure, to a strange opportunity presented at just the right time, as I was facing legal difficulties, involving an attempt, by my neighbors, to take part of my property for public access, in creation of a trail to Chugach State Park, here in Anchorage, Alaska. I was approached by a man Eric Koester, a professor at Georgetown University, to see if I would be interested in joining a group he was putting together, in a program of his, designed to enable people to publish for the first time. As a professor, he told me, he wanted his students to have the chance to walk away from courses with something real, and tangible, and not just a grade. I found this compelling, and agreeable, and not knowing much else, I decided to pursue it.

This opportunity was serendipitous, in a huge number of ways, because firstly, I was already working on producing a book on Moral Philosophy, in a life-long project, I started with deliberate intention about twenty years earlier; and secondly, I was in the middle of a legal case that was of considerable importance, and was stuck representing myself, needing to build a story to enable myself to properly argue my case along a factual storyline, which is not an easy task, especially in this case, due to the complexity of the situation. I as already floundering to find the right approach to tell my complete side of the story. Even though I was already busy running my own business, and taking classes for my Master’s degree at Harvard University, and was quite stressed from being harassed around Anchorage, and socially ostracised for a number of reasons, and was facing unexpected financial difficulties, I nevertheless accepted the opportunity, feeling that I needed to, both to continue my own personal mission, but also to protect myself legally!

So the primary driver of this book was to write a story that I could then use in court to explain my side of the case, which to that point went completely unrecognized and misunderstood, by a range of parties in Anchorage, including neighbors of some repute, and politicians, including several State Representatives/Senators, Assembly Members, their children, and the Mayor and Municipal Attorney. This case is still in progress as I bring this edition of the book to completion. Needless to say then, this book is not merely about legal protection. I found that would be a mostly boring story, with assistance from my Editor Cassandra Casswell, who offered very helpful guidance. For a long time I was hesitant about having an editor assist me in my writing, especially in relation to my work on Moral Philosophy. But this entire process, and her support, encouraged me to adopt another point of view, that almost any book of high quality involves numerous parties, and without their help, it is really hard to make something that really has a professional level of quality. I’m not sure I would even tell the same story without her help, and actually, she was involved in law herself so had some interesting tidbits to offer there, and not only in improving my writing quality.

My entire story is important for the development of my legal case, not just the current situation. I had neighbors who wondered about my intentions moving into town, which meant I had to find a way to talk about where I was from, why I wanted to relocate thousands of miles, and why I bought the property I did, and what I wanted to do with it. I didn’t feel they deserved this information, but since I have to go to trial, and explain my position, it will be important to convey the type of person I am and where I was coming from.

For this reason and other reasons, I decided to take an alternative course. Why not write about my overall goal in life up to that point, and why I wanted it to culminate, to a degree, with a transition to a life of semi-retirement in Alaska? Why not talk a bit about moral philosophy, my approach to a frugal lifestyle, my love of nature, and most importantly, my transition to a life off grid, living in an RV, and eventually, my final homestead.

At the time of writing, I was having a difficult time. But I have been fortunate enough to have an extremely unorthodox and eclectic life, and largely experienced all that I planned, and was ready to share my experiences with others, who might want the same kinds of things as I always did. That being said, I also have many other goals and plans, and wanted to share those as well, to perhaps inspire readers to see all that might be possible, and try the same things themselves, perhaps with less hesitation, and with a realistic view of what obstacles might be faced.

Ultimately, the book here is now effectively a memoir with many stories and situations that would benefit the reader who wants to live an alternative lifestyle. Hopefully some will be inspired to try new things, and take some measured risks, while dodging some of the obstacles and difficulties that I faced in my journey.

When my wife and I chose to relocate, the primary goal was to be living unbothered in a beautiful and pristine environment, mostly free of debt, with few needs, and the flexibility to work remotely whenever there might be a need or desire to do so. I wanted to be retired early, living the now familiar dream that most tiny-house owners aspire to. But things did not turn out as expected, and while I’m close to living this way, I have a ways to go. I ended up getting divorced unexpectedly, and this caused me personal grief and resulted in a severe reduction in both my savings and income.. Now I’m a single man, trying to find a way to enjoy my newfound freedom, while fulfilling my dreams without my lifelong companion I thought I would have with me.

So there are problems where I expected none. Suddenly, I’m doing all those things that would have been evenly divided between the two of us. I am realizing that my busy schedule that I was able to maintain, was partly possible because my wife was around to take on many of the tasks I took for granted. Even the small things add up too. I thought we would be able to periodically each have leisure time allowing for personal projects of various sorts. Living as a duo it is possible to have one person work, while the other does other things, and vice versa, switching as desired. I am also stuck in a lawsuit involving an attempt to make my drive way a public trail, which is somewhat high profile and well known throughout Anchorage and surrounding areas. This is costly and takes away from my goals to build, and to expand my business, and otherwise reach my final goals. Finally, there are neighbors who are simply interfering with my life. I’m living an unexpected tale of ostracism and stigma, for buying land that was already the subject of longstanding dispute.

Despite these issues, I’ve found a way to take the situation and spin it to my advantage in a number of ways. When I was young I was tested for my aptitudes and found that one occupation that was fitting was “lawyer,” which makes sense because I’ve always been argumentative, even since I was a small child. So this was my chance, to take on a case of my own, as a self-represented attorney, against notable figures in Alaska. How often does such an opportunity take place? Similarly, while I was divorce, I came to understand living alone as well. My initial dream to live in Alaska was made without having a significant other, and so the solitude did not at all reduce the experience; rather, it assumed it. Much is different than I expected, but much is the same, if I only put myself in the position of when I first dreamed this dream, and after everything, I have so much more to learn and to experience, and I have a large and beautiful property in Anchorage, that is scenic enough for locals to want to make it a park of sorts.

You will enjoy this book, if you are interested in frugal living, and in trying to attain a level of leisure that makes it possible to live an alternative lifestyle, like living in a tiny house, traveling abroad, or living off grid in nature. There is much that is not standard in my experiences to share, and many pitfalls that the reader would be good to avoid!

You will like this book if you are outdoorsy, and have an interest in living in a remote location, far from urban and suburban lifestyles. Although, again, you might be conflicted about how far you live away from normal life, which brings with it many conveniences that are hard to do without. The gym, social contact, restaurants, movie theaters, etc… If you have an idea that you would like to live in a remote location without these things, you might find some gotchas in this book worth preparing for.

Do you want to live in a tiny home or an RV? Do you want to develop property, and build a home on a vacant parcel? I’ve learned quite a bit about these experiences, and have faced obstacles that you could do well to avoid.

Did you come from a different background, and want to try out living in the country? Do you work in a field, or would you like to work in a field, that permits a remote lifestyle?

If you are interested in living free of debt, in a state of early retirement, or partial retirement, out in nature, but want to continue to enjoy some luxuries, and maintain a rewarding career, then you may find much of interest in this book. That’s my lifestyle, and that was my goal. It is possible. My current life is complex, and I faced and am facing many challenges, but much of what I’m now navigating could be considerably simplified with better planning, and more experience. I was out for an adventure, and I had very little experience for some of the things I was attempting. But now I know much better. I think these experiences could easily help someone who might want to venture to do the same kinds of things, pursuing the same kinds of dreams.

This book covers living off grid, differences between RVs and Tiny houses, pitfalls that can be avoided in buying vacant land, how to handle land related legal issues, issues with small town gossip and ostracism, alternative lifestyles in environments not expecting it, experiences living in a habitat teeming with wildlife, near national and state parks, and the lifestyle of working in the field of technology, working remotely, at distant locations far from cities requiring the work.

It’s about modern homesteading.

If you’re interested in a lifestyle that mixes old and new, and want to have more time to yourself, to enjoy your interests, I invite you to read more about what I’ve experienced!

The goal of this book is to:

Chapter 1. Our End Goal

My Early Interest in Living in Nature

When I was a kid, I usually didn’t want toys for birthday presents—instead, I wanted possessions that would carry value, that I could keep for a long time. Possessions that wouldn’t break, that had durable utility. They had to be things I really wanted, could use for a long time, and wouldn’t diminish in value. This was an oddity since most of my friends did not have the same concern about gaining possessions of durable value, and instead prefered gifts that were for immediate play, and would be discarded, or grown out of, quite quickly.

I didn’t find value in the toys and possessions that many kids wanted and received. I asked for weird things. We had a dollar value maximum of what we could ask for. In my early childhood, we did not receive much, but after my family business became more profitable, we were able to ask for much more. Some years I would ask for a video game system, a television, stereo system or other. Each possession I asked for lasted for a very long period of use, in comparison with many toys I saw other friends receive.

One year, I asked for mostly camping equipment. Some of that equipment I have in my possession to the present day, 25 or more years later. I have a cookstove, knife, tarp, rope, and other equipment I received when I was around 15 years old.

I grew up in a semi-rural area of Maryland, that some might characterize as the outer suburbs, while others might have considered it the countryside. I lived in a small ranch style brick home, with an old fashioned well in front (a facade really, although it did have an electric pump that drew fresh water into our house). Our house is in a neighborhood with rolling hills, homes with different constructions, gardens, and most people had at least 1 acre. We had nearly two, and it included raspberry bushes, extensive honeysuckle vines/bushes that way laid and played in in the summer, diverse large trees, and true forest. We had streams nearby and extensive vacant land to play in, and I have fond memories of playing alone or with friends in these woods, either exploring or fishing. We used to look for crayfish under rocks, and would routinely play in the water. Other times we were playing sports like baseball and basketball outside, and many of us could have been characterized as “free range” children with mostly outdoor lifestyles. I had a very beautiful childhood in the country.

From a young age my father helped to create an interest in fishing and survival. While he hunted, and my other uncles did as well, my mother did not approve of guns in the home, so any firearms he possessed were locked away in a safe, or were stored at his business, where we couldn’t find a way to get to them (and I recall my brother and his friends did, without any incident, but they did find them nevertheless). So I did not hunt, but we enjoyed camping as a family, and hiking, and fishing.

In my early teens, my parents decided to take us on a different kind of vacation. Previously we would visit the Chesapeake bay and the Marshes and Beaches near Ocean City, MD, but one year my parents decided to take us on a road trip instead. We had a brand new van with several rows of seats to make sure we were all comfortable. While the trip turned out to be largely miserable, from what I recall, because of the many decisions my parents had to make along the way, with tired, bored, or hungry children, it was still the trip that had the greatest impression on me.

I saw the rocky mountains for the first time. The great plains. The Mississippi and Missouri rivers. We went to many different National Parks. The whole experience gave me ideas of what I could potentially do, when I was old enough to venture off on my own. While I thought the East Coast around Maryland was quite beautiful, nearly everything stood out as different, and new, and interesting on this trip. Rocky mountain streams, and snowy mountains in the summertime. Rocky peaks, showing different colors and hues at different times of day, didn’t exist in Maryland. Maryland does not have any lakes. I was finding crystal clear lakes, that you could see way deep to the bottom, with many kinds of fish that were rare in Maryland, that was slowly becoming too polluted to enjoy. These areas were still clean, and to my mind at the time, purse and pristine, and adventure and exploration worthy. There were so many hills and mountains, that I would wonder how I could climb. "Wouldn’t it be amazing to just walk out there, and spend time alone or with a single friend, on that hill, that mountain?

And there was so much of it.

While on the vacation, I took on the task of tracking and planning our journey via the standard national highway roadmap, National Atlas, that gave detail for each and every state, and was probably about 24" long by 18 inches wide. I used a device my father gave to me that my grandfather gave to him, for tracing roadways to estimate trip length. Since roads are not straight, one cannot relate the path to the straight key on the map exactly. This tool would allow you to measure the length with a wheel that you could roll along the path, and relate to the key, to get a more precise driving time. I still have this device to this day, although certainly I would rely on GPS to autocalculate exactly instead.

However, this made me interested in maps, and in school cartography, and projections. This simple interest in plotting courses and calculating distances, and tracking progress, made me very much interested in other topics of geography, that later included estimating time and location from the solar elevation, among other things.

While on the trip, my parents also allowed us to indulge in buying knickknacks, that in retrospect, must have added up to a small fortune. I collected hat pins for every state we visited (I no longer have these). I also purchased a book on national parks, which gave a description of each and every park in the nation, along with photographs and maps.

This single book is what drew my attention to Alaska. I went to Yellowstone National Park, which was amazing. but the book showed parks much further north. More pristine. Larger—more wild. Suddenly I had a strong desire to go to Alaska.

When I returned from my adventure, I shared my experiences with a really close friend at the time, my first best friend, Chris Soulé. He was my first true friend. We spent most of our childhoods doing anything and everything together, and both loved the outdoors and fishing. I remember sharing my intense interest in Alaska with him, and he too ended up wanting to go with me on a trip.

Later we ended up parting ways, and sadly he passed away in early adulthood, but I will always remember that my interest in going to Alaska, and my interest in nature itself, is bound up with our experiences in our little part of the earth, which had plenty of adventure for us, around the streams and forest in Maryland.

While I wasn’t able to go on a road trip with Chris, I did go on numerous roadtrips with my good friend Jacob and my wife Kim, crossing the country from the east to west coasts, no less than 6 times total.

Later in my teens, I encountered two books and a video that increased, or at least sustained, my ongoing interest in going to Alaska. A video created by Richard Proeneke sharing his experience homesteading what would later become Lake Clark national park had a powerful draw. He seemed like someone I wanted to emulate. It is rare that I ever see someone doing something I would like to nearly duplicate without alteration. Almost always there is something I see that I would change; I need to put my own creativity into it, do something a little different. But nearly everything Richard Proeneke does in his journey on his homestead is so fascinating to me, I felt like I wanted to attempt everything he did myself, even if just to have a complete learning experience. He built a cabin that still stands today in that, park, using mostly hand tools and materials found on site. I encountered this video again in my twenties, and again in my thirties, and each time I see it, I have renewed interest, even as I live in Alaska today.

While still in HighSchool I read the book “Into the Wild” that others are also familiar with, because the book is popular in High School reading lists, and also because there was a movie made telling the same story. This book recounts the travel experiences of Christopher McCandless, who made his final destination Alaska, which was also the place of his apparently accidental death. In many ways I see myself of similar spirit to Christopher McCandless, although in methodology and preparation I see myself as being quite different. nevertheless, his story was one that inspired me to really want to visit myself, and continue in my explorations.

A work of fiction that also stuck in my mind, and made me imagine my own demise would be wintery, was “To Build a Fire”, by Jack London, a short fictional story about a man’s failed attempt to build a fire to save himself from harsh winter conditions. While the plot takes place in Yukon Territory, it is one reminiscent of Alaska, and this too served to increase my interest in making a trip.

Not long after my ex-wife and I started our relationship, I pitched the idea about going or moving to Alaska. She didn’t seem to think much of the idea early on, and for the most part, this suggestion went forgotten. But later on in our relationship, it was raised again, and suddenly, she was interested in going. In 2009 we went on a road trip of our own (not our first), and drove all of the way to Alaska. That trip was a fascinating story in itself, bu that is for another time. For now it is enough to mention, that I was first interested in moving to Alaska due to a true passion for the outdoors, a vision for adventure in remote wilderness, and love for fishing and survivalism. Later on my wife and I, after making trips of our own, became very fond of the nature outside the D.C. area and it became a respite from normal work life. A place to escape from noise, and traffic and work, and we thought moving to Alaska would provide much of what we wanted to be able to do this. And it did. We lived there for almost a year, as intended from the outset, and returned back (although I returned to DC reluctantly).

After another decade of working and consulting, in an attempt to save enough money to escape work, we finally amassed enough funds to make another permanent move back to Alaska, to make it our permanent home base. After time living in other locations, like Miami, Florida, and Charlotte, North Carolina, we realized we really didn’t need to live near family as much as we thought we did. So we decided to move back to the place we enjoyed living the most, and that was Anchorage Alaska.

Goals of Early Retirement

We moved to Alaska with dreams of early retirement. Not retirement in the traditional sense—I did not expect to apply for social security, or otherwise live a life completely in leisure. That was not my goal, and wasn’t my goal when I first began planning and preparing for it. Instead, I would complete my plans for becoming a writer, of enjoying my hard won savings, amassed for the specific purpose of gaining that freedom necessary to write my book on Moral Philosophy, that I had started working on, in various forms, over two decades ago.

When I first started my journey I was married. My wife of 19 years, and I, were going to buy land, build a small house on it, and live the remainder of our lives debt-free. We would work any jobs that we wanted, for as long as necessary, and periodically, not continuously. Using this approach we would be free and would have the energy to do whatever we wanted with our time, without committing too much of our time and energy to other people. I wanted to explore, work on art, and of course continue my studies and my writings.

This is a dream that many people have, although they usually plan it for later in life. Either way, few have the opportunity and discipline to make it happen, and we were both very aware that we were lucky to be able to begin such a lifestyle, albeit it took a tremendous amount of work and sacrifice to get into the position to do it. We lived far beneath our means in order to make this life possible and were intent on living a life of comfort after many years of forgoing various comforts.

We decided to have no children, and that each of us would work, for the most part, to increase our savings, to ensure we always had extra funds for financial security, whatever the situation we envisioned we would encounter. We would live a humble lifestyle by having few possessions, making mostly frugal purchases, and by living in a home with a small square footage. We shared a single vehicle for many years, and I commuted for a while on bicycle. We would spend money on periodic vacations, and on frequent dining at restaurants, but other than this, we did not spend much on anything. Neither of use spent much money at all on clothes, and usually found ways to make it nearly free.

We lived well, but certainly sacrificed many comforts that made our life seem a little outside the norm. But we knew this living arrangement would allow us to save enough funds to make an early semi-retired lifestyle more than possible. It was probable. And after many years working hard, and making sacrifices to save, we finally had enough to relocate to Alaska permanently. Where it would be quiet, we would have few tax liabilities, and we would still have access to all that we enjoy in life, especially nature.

We lived this lifestyle for over 15 years continuously. I worked extra hours and incredibly hard on my career, and for years worked two jobs to try to bring the plans to fruition.

By 2016 it was clear that we were ready to make it possible, and departed from Maryland to Alaska, driving for 3 months in newly purchased Fifth-wheel RV, and Ford F-250 pickup truck, to our final destination in Anchorage, Alaska.

(RV at our starting spot, with our new truck and RV, in Silver Spring Maryland.)

(Photo of my ex-wife, happy and enjoying herself, just after purchasing our property)

Things would not turn out how either of us expected, however.

Fast forward to May, 2019 and, suddenly, I was divorced. Half my savings was gone. Job security was diminished. I was in legal and financial trouble. I was in social trouble dealing with neighbors and residents of Anchorage as well. Much was going well, since my business was highly successful until that time, but there were many issues that prevented full enjoyment of that, and by 2020 things were not nearly as secure. Whatever positive existed, however, 2019 was easily the worst year of my life.

Much was on the verge of going wrong by 2019, but there was one key decision that precipitated everything else: I chose to buy a large plot of land in the wrong location, around the wrong people, with the wrong history.

I made a snap decision, to buy something much larger than I needed or wanted, simply because of how spectacular the views were, and the properties proximity to Anchorage. Married with two incomes and a shared savings, this was no problem at all; but divorced with half the resources, it became a serious problem.

(View of the water and mountains near Lake Clark National Park, from my RV on the property.)

(View of the McHugh Peak, in Chugach State Park, just opposite the water)

In so many ways it appeared to be the best possible property I could obtain! Perhaps it still is! But nevertheless, it was contrary to the aims in my life. And the purchased catalyzed many changes, both expected and unexpected, that were for the worse. One story stands out among others as a reason for writing the book I’m now planning to complete. It was more than a motivation to write the book. The event made the book, or at least a length account of my experience, entirely necessary to complete!

Our Long-term Vision

Up to the just before moving to Alaska, I had the following plan. I would buy a decently sized chunk of land, eventually, with the intention to build a very large building with a modular living space. For a long time, I wanted to live in a building that made it possible to play basketball, climb ropes, and move parts of the living space around, and change things, such that the entire environment was not a static home, in the typical sense. I imagined it might be between 10,000 and say, 25,000 square feet, and 40-50 feet in the center. It would be a large warehouse like structure, with windows as desired added later, and perhaps an earthen encasement, with grass atop, to make it blend in with the land, and utilize natural insulation. Outside this house would be a runway that would allow me to operate my plane anytime I wanted, in order to travel to client destinations, making it possible for me to eliminate the need for airfare with major Airlines, and to travel entirely on my own. This way, I could own my own business, working in technology, and actually fly myself to all my client destinations, potentially free of cost, or with all expenses covered, in the same way that they would be covered, flying on a normal plane. But in this case, it would be without the waits in line, and without the flight hours going to the pilot of the jet. Instead, I would get all flight hours, all funds would go towards paying off my own plane, and I would be able to travel at my own leisure, and pace, and according to my own plans.

The plane would occupy my same living space, since I would have a hangar entrance, and when I arrived back home from work, or any other excursion, I imagined myself landing, entering the hangar, and parking the plane near my kitchen or bedroom.

About 10 years prior, I was lucky enough to be nudged into flight by my Father, who went into fight training himself, although he ultimately discontinued it. Hoping he would be able to share old already paid-for flight hours with me, he took me to the airport to inquire about a discovery flight and taking first lessons. While his flight hours long expired, because of a school closing, I was already on board to try it out for myself. I was very unnatural and did not really feel incredibly enthusiastic about flight, the way I did about many other things. But after some training, I became increasingly good at it, until finally I was able to fly solo on my own, and pass the written exam requited to get a Private Pilot’s license. At this moment, that’s where I left off. I ended up taking new jobs, and moving around, and changing flight instructors, making it difficult to complete my studies and take my exam. Nevertheless, I’m planning to resume my classes and eventually complete this goal of mine, to have a place with my own plane and landing strip. I even planned to build my own plane, which is not so expensive as it might sound, although it takes quite a large number of hours and dedication, to complete the build (Roughly 750-1000 hours, at less than 30,000 USD currently), for Piper Super Cub, which happens to be a favorite among bush pilots.

On my new piece of land, affordably acquired, with large home, of the cheapest warehouse-like construction, and inexpensive plane, I thought I could work in a semi-retired state, on and off again, on my own property, full of possibilities and ways to play. All of this I hoped to attain at a modest age, hopefully in my thirties.

This was the main vision I had, living in Alaska, with my best-friend and wife, Kim, who I was happily married to for many years, since we first met while still in High School in 1998 (although we crossed paths earlier in the same middle school). This was the end state, that was basically the final picture in which I would finally live settled. We travelled around for many years, and were in a state of flux, and with this transition, I hoped, we would live a really interesting lifestyle, mostly free of any major costs, and even a need to work all that hard. I hoped we would have much to do, and plenty of opportunity for adventure and travel.

Chapter 2. Frugal living and semi-retirement

As the time got closer to make the real transition, we realized it might not be reasonable, given our funds, to buy everything we wanted at the outset. We had to phase our way into it. So in keeping with our frugal lifestyle, which I will discuss further later, we wanted to live out the tiny house dream. We were used to living in small studio apartments, and thought that we could procure a small piece of land, and pay everything off. We had a good savings since I was successful in the technology, working as a software architect at Adobe Systems and other companies, and my wife was successful in her career working in education, with respect from a huge number of people that she worked with in and around our hometown, and elsewhere, including Alaska already too. While we had a lot saved, we were not prepared to risk it all, and thought it would make sense, to start modestly, and get ourselves in a situation that could be permanently retirable as well, making it possible to remain in that state even if we never transitioned to follow through with the ultimate goal, which felt lofty in a number of ways. The primary plan was the one I told everyone, and the one my friends and I enjoyed fantasizing about, but it didn’t feel entirely reasonable or immediately realizable at the time, although ultimately possible.

This goal of living in a tiny house, or RV, on a piece of land, was very much in keeping with our views on simplicity and living mostly care free about expenses. We already enjoyed this lifestyle, and the luxuries it made possible as well. We frequently traveled, and stayed in nice hotels, and ate out at restaurants at least 3-4 nights a week, and were still able to save substantial amounts of money, because of this lifestyle. For that reason, we were already bought into the idea of living frugally, and trying to cut out all costs. Since we lived in apartments, and had a condo rented out to property management, that we were wanting to finally rid of, and felt stuck in many ways, not having a really good property that we wanted to settle in, we were ready to have a place of our own, that was totally ours, paid in full. Interestingly, this was also becoming trendy at the time, as many television shows attest, and there wasn’t much to discourage us from thinking it was realistic or a good way of living.

Chapter 3. Planning Our Trip

At the time we were living in McLean, Virginia, near my workplace, and briefly, during a transitional period, at my family’s home, where I grew up, in Olney/Silver Spring, Maryland. We had a lot to do, without any truck, or RV, or tiny house, to get from Maryland, up to Alaska. Although, we did actually make the transition once before, with a fully packed subaru forester SUV.

One of the more stressful parts about making a transition to RV living, or tiny house living, in a completely new location, is that it may entail a transition from one job to another. Knowing a couple that made a similar transition, without an RV or Tiny House or RV, we were well aware that it can cause stress, particularly if jobs have not been arranged for in advance. It is an extremely fortunate situation, if the job allows for remote work, enabling a transition without any great reliance on savings.

Our strategy, like the time we moved to Alaska before, was to live off of savings for a period of time, or three months in our case, as it would turn out, before getting new jobs. We were not totally certain what those new jobs would be, although I had the intention of going into business for myself, to continue my occupation as a technology leader, but working for my own company instead of as an employee. My wife was previously employed at a very good company, so anticipated that she may have the opportuntity to work in that company again.

So it might seem as though there would be no hardship along the way, since we had ample savings, had experience with a transition, and each expected to have jobs once in Alaska, but it still was quite difficult for a number of reasons.

First we knew we wanted to be in Anchorage, but where exactly? We weren’t sure. Our first experience in Anchorage was similar. We arrived having no idea where we would live, and were quite stressed and disoriented until we first located our apartment, which we obtained on month-to-month terms.

Chapter 4. Road Tripping With Your House

A daunting thought when we set out on our journey was how we were going to tow such a long and large vehicle for the first time, all of the way across the country. Our plan was to drive no less than 6,000 miles, from Washington D.C. all of the way to Anchorage, Alaska.

We planned our trip so we would not take a direct route. We drove to Alaska once before, a bit more directly, and took a roughly similar trip through Canada, in a large sprinter van. We were not unfamiliar with Road Trips, and this trip would be roughly my 9th time across the country by car, coast to coast or nearly so on some trips.

This time we planned on taking four months off, with plans to spend time in areas we might find interesting all across the country. We planned to drive south to the Gulf coast of Florida first, then across the country to see the Southwest, a location I still had not been, and then up to the North along the Rocky Mountains, up through British Columbia, Canada, through the Yukon Territories, and over through Alaska in a more northern portion, through some beautiful and spectacular areas around Wrangell St. Elias National park, before finally making our way down into Anchorage.

I had experience driving a medium sized box truck doing deliveries in my family business, which was challenging at times. I knew the difficulties of backing up, getting around in smaller areas, and having to watch for trees and branches that could clip the top of the vehicle where you cannot see. You have to be far more aware of the dimensions of the vehicle and be watchful for all sorts of unexpected scenarios.

This was going to be the very first time, for the both of us, driving a vehicle with a trailer attached. I was so unfamiliar with the process I had no idea what truck to buy, how to size the RV to the truck, or which RV options existed. Neither of use spent any time in an RV. Neither of us drove a commercial vehicle, and in many ways, larger RVs are like big trucks you see professional drivers, who are licensed, doing their jobs with. It is an occupation to drive such vehicles.

It was exciting, but I have to admit, I did have some worries about how hard it might be. Especially on the basis of what I heard about mountain driving, with the concern about going down steep grades for long periods of time, and the safety involved with controlling speed, getting the right towing and braking system, and dangers of heavy gusting winds. There are plenty of stories online about deadly situations with RVs, and in some ways, I wondered to myself how anyone else managed to do it without creating too much risk.

Nevertheless, we decided to take the plunge and invest in a brand new truck and RV.

Buying the Truck and RV

Soon after my wife and I decided that we definitely wanted to relocate to Alaska, we started to consider options. We were quick to determine that we wanted an RV of some type, because they seemed more adaptable and versatile, and potentially we could use it for vacation if we ever transitioned into a new home instead. But we had no idea what kind of RV we would get, and there is a large variety.

Despite this, we did have the idea that our most likely option would be a truck and trailer combination, because then we would be able to leave our trailer behind and drive the truck independently. If we wanted to get rid of the truck, we could get rid of it. I remembered seeing old and crusty RVs and Motorhomes that seemed to depend entirely on having an engine to keep their value. Instead, I wanted to have the RV indefinitely, and be able to switch out vehicles.

During our search, we looked at half million dollar mobile homes, small and inexpensive travel trailers, fifth-wheel trailers, and a range of other conversion vehicles (van RVs and so on). Converted vehicles and vans seemed to be far too much for the value, so we passed on those quickly. Some seemed to be little more than inexpensive pickup trucks and van cabs, with boxes attached, at double the price. They were attractive in their own ways, but really we didn’t like those so much. We did, however, really like the motor homes. I would like to have a motor home, if possible, in the future, but at the time spending hundreds of thousands of dollars with plans to buy land didn’t seem reasonable.

We then started to focus more on detached trailers. Ones that hook on the back of the truck by standard trailer ball hitches, which are called travel trailers, and also fifth-wheel trailers, which are taller and larger, going over the back of the truck and into a trailer hitch, much like a smaller version of a tractor trailer.

Long story short, we went with the fifth wheel trailer. The biggest reason was that they were the only option for connecting to the back of a truck that seemed to approach the quality and luxury of the motorhome. We needed somethings stable for our long trip, and we didn’t want it swinging in the wind, and the risks of jacknifing into oncoming traffic, or otherwise losing the trailer somehow. From all the research I did, I found that fifth wheel trailers are far better for towing and taking along the road.

This is an important consideration, even if you don’t plan to own an RV. If you are thinking of building or buying a tiny house, that will be towed behind a vehicle, you will need to think carefully about what kind of vehicle you will use to tow it, and whether or not you will use a fifth-wheel hitch or goose-neck hitch (both are really stable like with large commercial transport trucks), or the ball hitch. There are also very great differences in how much you can tow for your vehicle, and you will need to carefully compute what is safe for your vehicle. We did this carefully and chose it on the basis of what our Ford F-250 truck could support in the bed of the trailer, and how much it can tow. Pressure from a fifth-wheel trailer is downward into the bed of the truck, versus with a travel trailer, where the extra weight is all of the way on the far back of the truck.

We ended up getting a very successful combination.

Chapter 5. Vegan in Alaska and On the Road



Young, unfurled and edible fiddlehead fern. From near one of my seasonal streams.

I’ve been vegetarian since Thanksgiving 2000, and vegan since January 2001. So it’s been nearly 20 years and many have asked me “How can you be Vegan in Alaska?” Of course, places in the far north approaching the Arctic do not bring to mind agriculture and fields of varieties of vegetables. Instead, we think of fishing for salmon, hunting, trapping, cold, ice, darkness, and maybe even whale or seal hunting expeditions. After hearing so many people ask it, and recalling my original reasons for wanting to visit (to see the outdoors, and experience some survivalism), I can’t fault anyone for wondering. But the truth is there is so much to do besides these activities, and contrary to all expectations, Alaska does produce large quantities of produce, although mostly the hearty fall and winter crops, which can grow to massive sizes because of prolonged daylight in the summer time. There are also large varieties of berries and other products which are more commonly found here than elsewhere and some native plant species which can be eaten.

Part of my interest in my land is to forage for food, although since I’ve been preoccupied with so many other activities, I haven’t been able to fully take advantage of this yet. For many plants there is a very short window for collection too, so foraging is not exactly something that can be done most of the year either, except for one plant: rosehips. I walk around my property snacking on the infinite number of rosehips around. They taste like small tart apples. These are commonly dried and used for tea, and can be found in stores across the United States. But I have never seen them fresh until I bought this property and they are everywhere. I hear they’re a good source of vitamin C. While I’m out I eat far more than I should and could easily collect gallons of them for many months of the year. Even after first snow, I’ve seen them popping out through, looking just fine and ready to taste.

You can also eat small ferns, and other plants while they are still very young, and tender, before they change character and become largely inedible. In this respect they remind me of bamboo shoots, which I used to see in Maryland, sprouting up through the soil, ready to be eaten for a very short time, much like white asparagus, and asparagus in general, before it becomes a tiny tree. My family grew asparagus in our garden when I was a kid, and I’m happy to have the chance to try to find anything and everything I can eat off my lot, at whatever stage of development the plant allows for it. I’ve even been chomping on dandelions, which are quite good, even though most think of them as worthless weeds. They are not native to Alaska, but nevertheless are plentiful and easily passed up, without good reason, for greens that must be purchased at the grocery store instead (not that one would want to stop shopping at the grocery store).





Everyone’s favorite weed: the Dandelion. Plentiful and yummy. And somewhat odd to eat.

One cannot be a Vegan in Alaska without depending on an outside source of nutrition, however. I would argue that one cannot be a happy Alaskan without eating food that comes from someplace else though, and the grocery system here is surprisingly high quality. I think grocery stores are significantly better than most I’ve grown up with and have had access to almost anyplace I’ve lived. Variety is good, prices are good, and quality is pretty high almost all year round. Produce especially. But it depends on where you live.

In Anchorage, and the vicinity, there are too many grocery stores of high quality to count. Out in the Alaskan villages, which are found scattered across the state, much fewer options exist and prices are extremely high. I once advertised for a company here in Alaska, when I first moved here in 2009, called “Alaska Bush Shoppers.” At that time, I recall that bush shopping through Sams Club and this company, and others, was more common seemingly than it is today, although I have not stayed apprised in changes. I think it is just easier to order online most likely. But at that time, people have the postal service air deliver and even air drop food, which came from a catalog that did not appear to be anything nearly as healthy as what existed in the grocery stores. People were willing to pay 5 dollars for a snickers bar, or some value near that amount, simply to have that taste they craved from not having access to the normal grocery store.

Kim also had a job for a time in the early childhood education system (head start), and she would visit these tiny villages. She said the grocery stores were really expensive–incredibly so, and did not have a very large variety of options. This makes sense, because in many of these locations, there was very little there but an airstrip, some small number of stores, and a school house, which took on a more central role as a place to gather than elsewhere. She would even sleep in the schoolhouse, since there were no other accommodations. People who live in these areas take sustainable living seriously and get much of their diet from elsewhere, from hunting, fishing, or a lifestyle that is more in keeping with what you would expect from indigenous peoples of the area.

While at one point I was fascinated by the idea of living a survivalist lifestyle, or a life off the land, I would only want to attempt that in a climate that could completely support it with the requisite legumes, seeds, nuts, and any other food that I could largely survive on but is adequate variety to keep me from getting bored. But that is a daunting task, to be a farmer of so many different types of foods, wherever you happen to live. And I really prefer to have my home base in Alaska. That means I need to be able to get along with what exists in the store, and in that way, I’m not different from anyone else living in any city across the United States and Canada, and as I was saying, in many ways I’m better off for having land I could farm, forage, and grocery stores of high quality; even though that might come as a surprise to some readers that that would be the case. I can’t claim these stores would impress everyone from everywhere, but compared to Maryland, Virginia and Miami Beach, these stores really are pretty good. Produce can be better quality and cheaper. Some foods like Chips, processed vegan foods, and Cereals seem far more expensive though, presumably because of shipping costs associated with high volume boxes at low weight.

10 years ago, being vegan here was more difficult in the sense that restaurants did not really serve vegan options, that were not the same options everyone else at that happened to be vegan (bread sticks, french fries, etc…), although I can remember I could get the basic veggie sandwich at Subway, soy drinks at Starbucks, and veggie burritos at Qdoba. Today, however, there is a much greater variety of vegetarian and vegan options, and some places make special efforts to cater to these groups. I have innumerable options and almost everyone has the more current veggie burger options, the newer vegetarian meats (“Impossible” and “Beyond Meat” burgers). One change was that every coffee place I visit seems to have any variant of veggie milk you could want: Coconut milk, almond milk, etc., in addition to the standard soy option. There is no difficulty whatsoever being Vegan here, and when I return back to Maryland to visit family, I feel as though I have the same or even fewer options.

Sit-in restaurants also have many more options than before, and in Anchorage I can find plenty of places to eat, such that I don’t get bored, or run out of new and different options. Even when leaving the area, there seem to be plenty of options. I believe this is largely due to the impact of the tourism industry, as Veganism has become so widespread that many people visiting Alaska, presumably, put pressure to offer these options to ensure that they are comfortable. Hospitality is good. I always felt like Alaska had superior waiters and hostesses, in comparison with almost every other place I visited. More recently I’ve had some difficulties, but that was only after living in the state for a very long time as a resident. Prior to that I only noticed that staff was really high quality at almost every restaurant I would go to.

More recently, I even discovered there is a Vegan Society of Alaska here, near Palmer, AK, close to where I was living in my RV in the winter, and near where I’m now living. I joined and there is a fairly large membership, with the last meeting hosting around 20-30 for a vegan potluck. I was invited by someone I ran into at a grocery store, browsing for veggie products that were on sale. I felt a little ridiculous that I did not seek out such a group sooner, but it is clear that groups of people do exist in and around Anchorage who characterize themselves as vegetarian or vegan.

People seem accepting of veganism too. A decade ago, I can remember debating about it, and maybe I could find people here who are still not exposed sufficiently to understand that it is a viable way of life. Nevertheless, I can tell there have been changes. I still don’t feel compelled to tell anyone about my lifestyle choice, but I also feel that it would be less of a cause for ostracism or stigma than before. An upcoming younger generation seems to be much more tolerant of differing lifestyles, at least from what I can tell, not being incredibly steeped in the community, for a number of reasons relating to business, my lawsuit, and my divorce, which considerably changed how I approached relationships with others.

“Do you fish?” and “Do you hunt?” are common questions that come up. My answers usually are “I used to fish,” and “My family hunts, but my mother kept me from getting involved in guns as a kid, so I mostly hike and enjoy nature.”

I’ve been vegetarian since Thanksgiving 2000, and vegan since January 2001. So it’s been nearly 20 years. I could easily be criticized for not being more open with my lifestyle, but with my property situation, I find that people are so nosy and gossipy, I’d prefer to not share every detail about it so others can converse about how non-Alaskan they think I am. This has nothing to do with receptiveness to the diet though, and more to do with social issues faced regarding the property, and the fact that so many neighbors who are involved in the situation are insistent on knowing information about me, just because I moved in, including who I am, what my intentions are being in Alaska, how I will develop my land, and many other minute details. And all the while, I’m wondering why I don’t know anything about them at all. As part of my lawsuit, I was even deposed, which meant I had to answer questions with a lawyer who was probing me about personal details. With these people, in this situation, then, I’m very much adverse to giving personal details at this point. I’m very open, and they take advantage of that. Some have even scoured my social media profiles to mock me in public about what they found. So the last thing I want to do is talk to people about my choice of lifestyle, and I certainly don’t spend my time trying to proselytize or convert anyone.

Furthermore, there is the ongoing complaint about Vegans that we hear endlessly that we self-announce. Some may do that, and I may have done that while I was especially interested, when I first started. But the reality is, people are perceptive when they notice differences. At dinner, they’ll ask. When they ask, it becomes a longish conversation. It’s one I’ve had so many times at this point, I usually take a pass, even when asked in a dinner scenario, or give a polite response and indicate it might be better to share more at another time.

In summary, however, I have to say, it’s been really easy these days to be vegan here and on the road. I also think it is highly likely that writing about this topic will soon become unnecessary. Maybe ten years from now, it will be so mundane and mainstream, that it will be a truism that people can live in these areas easily, in a tiny house environment, growing and even foraging on property, with supplements coming from grocery stores, and plenty of other options to choose from.

Chapter 6. RVs and Tiny Houses in Limbo

Before leaving home in the D.C. area for Alaska, I had to decide how I thought my transition to tiny house living might play out. Was I going to drive all the way to Alaska, and buy a home there? Was I going to drive out of state and buy an RV along the way? Or was I going to buy a piece of land and then decide what I might want to build or place atop it?

The most economical and generally useful option I could think of was to buy an RV. While an RV is not typically thought of as a tiny home, especially if one has in mind those houses that are on television shows about custom tiny houses that were certainly built to resemble normal homes, just with a far more compact design—they really are excellent examples of nearly complete pre-fabricated homes, that can be quite livable, depending on the model chosen, the choice of location to park it, and the living arrangements. Not only are they like pre-built homes, they are also, like tiny houses, constructed with quite a bit of planning on economy of space, and maximizing utility with tradeoffs not only for space savings, but for motility (weight, safety, insurability (as a vehicle), and so on). After owning one, I think it would be improbable for someone to build a tiny house with the same level of consideration as it took to design an RV, and this makes sense, because the RV industry has been around for quite a long time, and like the automobile industry, it can be expected they would have considerable expertise accumulated. The same isn’t quite true with the construction of modular tiny homes.

However, after much time spent in an RV, I can say that an RV really is not a complete replacement for a real home. And I see a tiny home as a true home, if it is not permanently mounted on wheels. This is because the construction is far more durable, and the walls, insulation, and materials are much more akin to a normal house if done right.

For my RV, I chose a fifth-wheel trailer. I’m not fond of the name fifth-wheel, but this type of RV is the kind that hooks into the bed of a truck, much like a tractor trailer, rather than on the back of the truck from a ball type hitch. A fifth wheel trailer is much more secure, much safer and more stable driving down the road, and typically larger as well.

I was, and continue to be, extremely happy with my selection of truck and trailer both in terms of the outcome of the driving and transportation experience, and the quality of the RVs living environment.

After purchasing it, I couldn’t believe the value of the total purchase. I had a brand new truck that I could drive independently of the RV. I had an RV that I could tow across any part of America and Canada, like a true retiree, and spend time in any city I wanted almost on a whim. And I also could, park it an effectively live in it, like a home, if I wanted to. Afterwards it seemed like a very wise decision that I would not regret, and one I could likely benefit from for many decades to come (since in my frugal state of mind, I did not imagine ever parting with the truck, but I imagined I would keep it as long as I could, until it was like an antique truck itself).

It turned out, that the only area where it was not as great as investment as I hoped was as a place to permanently dwell. It was amazing as a recreational vehicle. But it was not as easy as I thought, or I didn’t make it as easy as I could have made it, to find a permanent place to keep it where I could reside in it like a normal family home. And over time, I really wanted to live in it like a normal family home. I made some choices that probably made it more difficult than it could have been, and I hope by sharing my stories, some will be able to avoid the issues that I did. I think they can too, and potentially could follow nearly the same path I did at first, with little alteration, if they keep some key items in mind when they make some crucial decisions, like what land to buy and where, primarily.

What I found, after finally making it to Alaska, was that there was no easy place to keep it for a long time at a low price. Along the way, I became quite accustomed to staying extended periods of time at RV parks across the country, like near national parks near Flagstaff and Sedona, Arizona, and numerous other locations in the vicinity of livable cities. Some of these locations were very cost effective, and livable, but in Alaska I found that options were limited, they seemed less livable, and were very costly. Monthly rent at an RV park through the summer and winter could be well over 1,000 a month, and I found myself living in my own RV, paying for space and energy at rates higher than much more livable apartment buildings and even single family homes, like the one I’m now living in.

My wife and I felt like we were in a kind of perpetual limbo trying to decide where to stay and for how long.

Some days we would park in Walmart or Cabella’s parking lots, which is quite common and fun for vacation travel, but not so fun when one is in the city in which one wants to permanently reside. Also, we found that RV parks did not feel as safe and secure as RV parks in other places, and Anchorage has quite a high crime rate. Eventually we chose a nice location in the Palmer/Wasilla area about 45 minutes north of Anchorage, but then suddenly we found ourselves commuting into town in a large truck that had as bad gas mileage as it did towing a 10,000 pound RV behind it, every day, costing us another 400-500 dollars per month.

The result was that we felt no only in a perpetual state of indecision (because decisions were often needed), we never quite felt safe and secure, and were spending more money than we should have been to live in an RV and not a permanent home. And we were used to living in very nice environments. We had just relocated from a luxurious apartment in McLean Virginia, and were now living in a Recreational Vehicle without complete restroom and shower, or laundry amenities (aside from what was provided by the park), and slowly we became increasingly aware of the cheap feel of the RVs construction to cut costs (and to keep weight down), and things started to break, and simply feel less solid and comfortable. To give an example, the RV would rock no matter how well one leveled it or secured it.

RVs and most other mobile vehicles imply work, and incomplete construction. Some of this is immediately apparent when one starts on an RV or tiny house adventure, but there is much that is imperceptible that will become painfully apparent later. Especially if one is living in a cold environment like Alaska.

Chapter 7. Trail Guide Realtors

It didn’t take us long to choose the land that we wanted. In retrospect, I think we could have followed a better purchasing strategy; but we were in a hurry. We were living in a tiny house in limbo. It was costly, and it was uncomfortable.

Since the previous time in Anchorage we knew the areas that we would like to live, and we spent some time re-experiencing our drives along scenic backroads, and looked in neighborhoods and communities that overlooked the rest of Anchorage and the water body called Turnagain Arm, which is the massive inlet into the Pacific Ocean. We had family visit and brought them into some of these locations, and like anyone else, they thought they were very beautiful. Behind these properties is the massive Chugach State Park, which has National Park Quality views, a vast trail system, plentiful wildlife including bear, lynx, wolves, and of course, Moose (Alaska’s squirrel as I like to think of them, since they are so plentiful. After not too long, they come to seem somewhat mundane, although they still draw plenty of attention from locals nevertheless, since they are complex, massive animals).

In the upper hillside there were spectacular views, and communities that had numerous homes positions with incredible vantage points, offering views that must be hard to tire of. Many of the houses are beautiful too, and are quite different from one another, and not at all like the copies and copies of homes found in other locations inside of Alaska and out of the state. We always found neighborhoods more interesting and charming, in Maryland and in Charlotte, and elsewhere, when they had houses that were all considerably different from one another. One thing we enjoyed doing was exploring, via car, the nicer neighborhoods that tended to have these qualities, and of course, while in Alaska we spent our time looking in these locations as well. Even though we had simple tastes and had no desire or expectations of living in the really expensive homes in these areas. Our previous living strategy was to rent nice apartments at a very good rate, in the best locations we could find, so that we could enjoy these same areas, without having to pay all that the homeowners would have to.

While driving through one neighborhood that we thought on more than one occasion would be a nice place to live, Kim found the name of a realtor that we would ultimately work to buy our new property. He was a part of a real estate agency called Jack White Real Estate which has a significant presence in the Anchorage area and nearby locales. She did some research, as she always did when we were apartment hunting, and discovered that there were 2.5 acre parcels of land for sale, and that he was the agent. It was listed at a price of around forty-four thousand, which was more than we wanted to spend for that amount of land, but seemed reasonable. Since my family lived on just less than 2 acres, I knew that two and a half would be plenty to place an RV or build a small home, and have plenty of nature to experience nearby. It happened that these small parcels were also in the hillside portion of Anchorage, right up by Chugach State park, meaning there was a state park of incredible quality just nearby, with few neighbors. We were interested and so we contacted the real estate agent to take a look.

After contacting our new real estate agent, John Wilson, we were invited out for a viewing of this smaller parcel, that we were hoping would provide our respite from living in our tiny RV, that we dragged here and there, seemingly perpetually in a state of flux.

After driving out into the upper recesses of the mountainous hillside, along roads and then side roads, and finally roads with signs like “End of Municipal Maintenance”, dirty and bumpy, we came to our destination. Houses here made it quite clear that trespassers were not wanted, and our Realtor impressed upon us the need to makes sure to create no disturbance, or approach no property without permission. Specific homes were called out for having onry homeowners. So we parked in a spot that seemed to be out of the way, and were soon accompanied by our agent who parked in the same location. Even parking in these neighborhoods is not a simple matter. When someone parks in these neighborhoods, there is a reasonable assumption that they will be trespassing, or doing something otherwise unnecessary, and therefore unacceptable to many homeowners, particularly if the cars are unfamiliar.

So we met John, who is a handsome, outdoorsy looking man, around six feet tall. He was carrying a weapon, which was to be expected, although at that time, I was not an experienced gun owner. I owned a shotgun which was purchased for a trip to Prudhoe Bay, on the arctic coast of Alaska, from and adventure I went on with my Uncle, about ten years prior; but he was the gun expert, I was not. I never used a handgun, or had any experience shooting or carrying one. So it was not in the usual to be spending time with someone openly carrying a large revolver. But it was necessary in this country since bears are plentiful, and while there is no expectation of a deadly or risky encounter, it is foolish to not have some form of protection, over and above the bear spray that is sold to tourists and other new visitors.

The property was not where we parked. We had to walk up a dirt and gravel road further up the mountain, and then hike about a quarter mile into the woods, to find the properties. While we were attracted to one add, there were a number of properties to choose from, so he took us off the road to see several. There was no clear path, and no driveway. This location was completely in the wilderness without any electric or other utilities, and no way to get to it, other than on foot. We were told that a landowner in the area was ready and willing to clear out a roadway to each of these parcels, and that he fully expected that this work would be done in the upcoming summer, although maybe that we would have to urge him to do so.


Our house hunting destination.



Our house hunting destination, satellite view.



Position on the globe.


So we hiked off the roadway, through the lush forest, which was full of ferns, moist soil, marsh and spruce trees, to find what might have been our new home. As we got further from the road, it became increasingly more beautiful. It was on a mountainside, which had views down into the bowl between mountain ridges, to a creek that was fed by seasonal streams, fed by melting snow. Further down the creek a gorge is carved out, and finally Potter Creek empties into Potter Marsh, an incredibly well known marshland that is a bird sanctuary, making up part of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. Backdrops to this creek emptying out into the marsh, and the inlet, and what looks like a vast bay or ocean, are ridelines and rocky peaks, and one peak in particular that stands out like a pyramid, called McHugh Peak.

Our guide, or realtor, carrying heavy weaponry that was very obvious, took us from one spot to another, each of which would have be an amazing location to have a home. As long as a road could be put in to get to it. Some spots had clear views of the vistas, while others didn’t; but all had their charm. Closer and closer to the park, we found the views to become more and more spectacular and open. At one point in our adventure, “house hunting” in the backwoods, which is really just an Anchorage suburb somehow, he pointed out a piece of land completely across the valley. Down to the creek, and back upwards near the other ridge. Maybe a distance of three quarters of a mile to one mile away. There was a driveway already there, and it was well made. It gave complete access to the other parcels on that side of the valley. He said that the views from that property were even more incredible. Spectacular even.

Kim and I thought about it, and realized that we thought it was really unlikely that a road would be built to give us access to the parcels that he showed us. We thought it would be a much better idea to get a property that already had access, so we were curious to see this other piece of land. But there was an issue—it was much larger and much more costly than what we were aiming for, with our quest to have a cost free “early retirement like” lifestyle. There were two parcels, one that crossed completely across the valley (including positions on both sides which was an amazing feature), that had a home placed on five acres, awkwardly towards the center of the property. It completely encompassed the smaller property in the center that was like an enclave to the larger property. And it was fairly marshy, being in the lower portion of the valley where all the water would drain by the creek. But there was another property, slightly larger, at 80 acres, that was up higher on the other mountainside, which was bisected by the roadway, meaning it had complete access to many portions of the property. Once we heard that, and saw it from that side of the valley, we were eager to take another look, and scheduled time to go back out with John. This time, we wouldn’t be hiking through the forest, armed and wondering if bears were lurking about. There was plenty of wilderness and territory for wild animals on 80 full acres, but this time we would have a roadway to drive through, to take a look and see if it was worth becoming our new homesite.

Chapter 8. Seeing the 80 Acre Parcel for the first time

Not long after we saw the 2.5 acre lots on the one side of the valley, we went with John to visit this other parcel on the other side.

From the other side of the valley, it was possible to see the road traversing this parcel and the other properties. The side of the mountain was completely undeveloped, so the well worn, well built pathway cutting a terrace along the slope was very clearly visible, probably from almost any vantage point not blocked by trees. Our realtor insisted that this property had stunning views that were an incredible sight, so we were looking forward to just having the experience, which would give us a unique view of the courntryside, just like our little excursion, off the roadways to see the other remote pieces of land.

At that time, we didn’t think we needed more than an acre. The two and a half acre parcels that we already saw were already quite large, and offered plenty of privacy and natural surroundings, and were larger than most people had where we were from in the more rural suburban locations in Maryland we were more familiar with.

Before we could view the property, we were told we needed to have permission from the owner who had the property near the gate. I don’t recall if we obtained permission for him at that time, or if we obtained permission afterwards, in order to see the property on our own, but either way, it was clear that we had a neighbor who would be concerned about his property rights, and access across his parcel. Frank Pugh, the owner of this 120 acre property, had a secure gate and cameras at the entrance of this property, that was locked with a chain and a pair of interconnected padlocks. One padlock had a combination that our realtor had, since he was given permission, and he was able to let us through. At a later time we learned, that this gate was not the original gate. After learning that, it became more obvious on inspection: the original gate was a swing gate that you might see at the entrances of farm driveways or parks in many locations across the United States. While these close and lock, blocking vehicular traffic, they are really easy to bypass or walk over. Because of some issues that I will explain later, it became important for the owner to fortify this gate, even to prevent foot traffic. So he welded numerous pieces of rebar (inexpensive steel poles you often see inside of concrete blocks at construction sites for construction), to make it more fence-like, and much taller. At the top, there are pieces of rebar pointed outward, with barbed wire, which makes it resemble a fence at a location where security is more important. It doesn’t go so far as to have razor wire, and really does not look like overkill for the purpose of keeping people out, but it is significantly more protected than it was with the regular gate construction, that apparently predated even his ownership of the property.

While we were a little more cautious, or at least more perceptive about the need for privacy, we had no worries or reservations about the value of the property we were going to be seeing. Instead, it was quite nice to know that it was a private driveway, and that there was a measure of security, and limited traffic. In some ways, the property seemed more like a property within a gated community on a golf course. A private resort of sorts, except instead of a luxury golf course, this had views and access to a high quality state park, with protection against anyone and everyone coming through who might create some security threat.

We parked our cars outside this gate, which is another thing the nieghbors are not happy about, and took the realtors car to see the lot. We had to pass through about 1 kilometer of our neighbor’s property before getting to the beginning of the parcel we were viewing, and the driveway proceeds another kilometer to the end, where there was a staging area of sorts, and an oblong, culdesac like portion of the driveway, where there were two pathways that could be used. At the end of this culdesac (which wasn’t a culdesac really, because the road went through one other parcel, before finally reaching the endpoint closer to the park), was a large rusted pipesticking out of the ground, apparently marking the end boundary. At the time, however, it was not obvious that it had no function.

While driving along this path, which is on a cleared terrace, which is much like other backgrounds that follow the side of a mountain, was on a slope, which had a steep dropoff in some points on the right side, and a mountain ridge on the left. Straight forward along the path one could see McHugh Peak towering in the distance, perhaps a couple miles away. It feels very close, and looms like a massive wall, although it is still some distance away, and one can tell because of the small size of the trees, and the intricate detail of the rocks and scree in the higher elevations. It creates that awesome feeling, in that you can see that there is so much there, but you can only vaguely mark out all the detail, even though the textures and colors still feel clearly visible. It is so large and so detailed that it is impossible to take it all in, but it still feels close for inspection. In the opposite direction, down the valley and outward, is the vast water body of Turnagain Arm, which is the water body wrapping the peninsula like protrusion that Anchorage proper creates. Also in the distance, below, one can see the famous Potter Marsh preserve, and Seward highway, with little cars driving along it, small and quiet, not at all disturbing the environment with any sounds, providing the only access south of the city of Anchorage in Alaska. One can also see the vast mudflats, which in the winter are overtaken by ice, and chunks of ice, and other materials, give the edge of the beaches below a variety of intricate designs, sometimes looking fractal in nature, or otherwise regular and irregular simultaneously, making the view of the water a far from monotonous thing to look at.

As we were driving, I honestly felt like I needed to write out a check. My wife would probably laugh today, at my readiness to reserve this property with a deposit. I was ready to write it on the spot, and my realtor had to interject, basically to say there was no need, and I could provide a deposit later. That was on our exit. I wasn’t totally certain I wanted to buy the property, but I was certain I wanted to give myself the time to be able to purchase it, if I wanted to, without anyone else having the opportunity to snatch it in the meantime.

The views were more spectacular than we expected. And the ride back in the opposite direction is of an entirely different character and perspective, than the drive in, and at least as valuable in terms of scenery. Most of the houses in the nearby neighborhood, which are little over a mile away, look in one direction, out towards the ocean. Homes on the lower portion of the valley, had really beautiful views of the more heavily wooded areas, and views, from various perspectives, of the mountains around, and some also had a view of the water also. But what nearly all of them lacked, in this particular area, was a view of McHugh peak and the ridges at the back, and the water in the front, the creek running along the bottom of the valley and Potter Marsh below. When I was there, I felt like I was on a multi-million dollar property in the making, and couldn’t believe it was being offered at the price it was being offered at, which was recently 400,000 dollars, and recently brought down to $390,000. I could imagine Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, or other magnate building a gigantic mansion in to the side of the mountain, with the slope providing southerly views, and year-round sunshine (even in the winter, for the short period of time that the sun is out), with views of the mountain to the left, and views of the water to the right. But there is a lot of land in Alaska, and it is much easier to procure land there, than elsewhere, In Maryland, 80 acres, in a “hillside community” equal in elitism, would cost around 80 million dollars, and these views would not exist at all.

Long story short, there were definitely some concerns with this property. It wasn’t the scenery that was the problem, or the quality and buildability of the land. It was all zoned residential. The problem was the history, and the people, and the legal contention over the driveway, and maybe other parts of the property, that long antedated my interest in purchasing it. But it was not immediately obvious, at the time, that any issues with strangers or neighbors, would culminate in any costly issues. It just seemed like a place that was so beautiful, that even neighbors and people nearby, who already owned beautiful homes and properties themselves, in excess of the cost of this property, still wanted to walk to get a view of the wildlife and nature.

Chugach Sate Park was a couple miles away from the gate, but everything past the gate, is as beautiful as the park. And that’s why people wanted to get through the gate, and was also the reason why my neighbor needed to lock it up.

After looking things over with Kim, and getting back to the gate, and anxiously trying to hand my realtor a deposit, to reserve this gorgeous property, Kim and I really started to wonder if we really should buy the 80 acres instead of the 2.5 that we were looking at. We were there to retire. We were in it for the frugality. But 2.5 acres at just under 50,000, compared to 80 acres at 8 times that price, seemed reasonable. It wasn’t what we were looking for, but maybe it was far better than what we ever thought was possible? We could afford it and so we seriously started to consider buying this property, because it had a hold on us the moment we saw it.

We were in Alaska for the nature, not just for the RV or tiny house life. Not only to realize the plans we had for so long. And what better place would we find, than one that had the closest possible position to the state park, and private access, along a high quality driveway that was already built for us to use?

Chapter 9. Buying our property

Chapter 10. Igloo RV Hybrids

Much is taken for granted living in normal homes and apartments, which are designed to be stable, comfortable, according to building standards that are not necessarily recognized for what they contribute to our daily lives. This fact becomes slowly, and depending on the situation even painfully apparent, when one departs from the norm. There is a reason why it can be characterized as an adventure, to shift from a normal lifestyle to a tiny-house or RV lifestyle, or any alternative lifestyle departing significantly from the norm.

After spending some time in Anchorage, living in an Apartment with the RV that I arrived in stored and covered beside it, we decided it was time to try out living in the RV, even if not on a piece of land, to get the experience needed to make the big switch. We bought our land, but we could not yet develop it. After buying the land, we questioned the costs of having an apartment. We needed to take the steps necessary to get closer to living on the land itself, without having to pay duplicate monthly fees for both locations. We decided to move out of Anchorage, to an RV park that was willing to have long-term renters, even over the winter, in a safe and stable location we knew already from our first travels (we stayed there for a few weeks and loved it), in Palmer Alaska.

Palmer, Alaska is a gorgeous location, worthy of the tourism it receives as a prominent location on a northwest system of roadways, connecting Homer to the far south (where some of “Deadliest Catch” was filmed, with Prudhoe Bay, off the Dalton Highway, to the far north on the Arctic Coast, where “Ice Road Truckers” was filmed in part. This location, along the way, is beautiful, considering all that can be saw along that entire roadway system, and I have been along this entire course, which is 1,072 miles, which may give some indication of the massive state that Alaska really is.

Even after many years living in Alaska, Palmer is no less spectacular than on first arrival. It sits in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, between two rivers coming from the north and east, approximately 40 minutes north of Wasilla. This valley is very close to sea level, but has towering mountains on two sides, that are very rugged and rocky in appearance, and covered by snow for much of the year. Between these mountain ranges, in the distance, on a clear day, one can see more glaciated mountains, which are white with snow all year long. Wind blows between these mountains, into the valley, making it a windy location from time to time, which affected us, living in our new spot. The area is also very agricultural, which might come as a surprise to non-residents, but there are many farms, and they are highly productive, some with record size pumpkins and other fall/winter crops that benefit from a short but extremely sunny season of growth.

This RV park, called Big Bear RV Park, was a wonderful place to stay. It was quiet, and the people there were calm and relaxed. The facilities were clean, and we had bathrooms, showers, electrical hookups, and sewers that would make our stay straightforward and simple. The two drawbacks, given our situation, was that we would have to pay nearly the same rent that we would pay for an apartment, and even more, if one included the propane tank and fuel we required during the winter, and the electricity; and that we were not really off grid, but living more like a mobile RV lifestyle. We also had a long drive into Anchorage to get Kim to her work location, which was still in Anchorage.

By this time, we had already experienced RV/Tiny House style living in the Desert, in the swampy and humid climate of Florida, the Mountains of Canada, and many places in between. So we knew very well how to do the day-to-day tasks in an RV Park. What we did not know how to do yet, and we knew it would not be really easy, was live in an RV in the winter. We hardly tested our propane heater system, and never did all of the weatherization necessary to live in it during the winter, and not just store it during the winter, like we had to do when we were living in our apartment.

To make a long story short, we learned the hard way, and were tested in the following ways:

Coming from living in beautiful apartment complexes, approaching resort living, in Miami Beach, Charlotte, NC, and McLean, Virginia, this was quite a transition!

The biggest difference between living in a Tiny Home, or an RV, is the likelihood that the construction is for mobile transport, and that it is designed to sit above the surface of the ground, atop wheels, or some other supports. For RVs this is a given; but for tiny homes, it is optional to an extent. Many tiny houses are designed to sit atop inexpensive trailer beds/platforms, so that they can be periodically moved into place as well. But, for tiny homes, if one chooses a location and wishes to make it permanent, it may be possible to transition the structure from siting on a trailer bed, to sitting on a normal foundation on the ground. Since tiny houses are like normal houses in construction in various ways, and are customized, one has considerable flexibility in what one can choose to achieve regarding this, as long as one doesn’t design oneself into a stuck position (i.e. permanently mounts it in a way that makes it hard to remove from a trailer bed). Either way, RVs are mobile, and Tiny Houses are often built and transported, and so do not have permanent foundations in many situations.

One could bypass the considerations below, by procuring land, and opting out of the more flexible mobile lifestyle, by buying a normal mobile home that is set on a foundation, or by building a more permanent cabin, cottage, small home, or tiny house, in a place where it will not be moved. Tiny house living is not new; there are many names to small getaway homes. People even live in sheds and caches. What is different is the quality of the construction, and the desire to live in a mobile and flexible way, with few possessions, costs, etc… to attain maximum freedom. So if one wants to live a tiny house lifestyle, one could easily opt to take another pathway and achieve the same.

This is what we did. We decided that an RV was a tiny home, just with a higher degree of fabrication, and ease of transport since they are designed for roadway travel from the start, and are already aerodynamic, tested for the road, with published limits on weight etc… and easy connection to trucks according to methods that are interchangeable and well understood.

By having a home that is mobile, and mounted permanently to a mobile trailer chassis, the RV will always sit over a foot above the ground, with plenty of space for air to pass underneath. If you were to ask me what this would mean for living in Alaska before I purchased it, I would have no idea. Maybe heat would be sucked out by the cold air passing underneath? That turns out to be true. I could figure that out coming from the fireplace and home heating industry. But there were many other things I would not have thought of.

Here are some of many examples. Firstly, if you actually go underneath an RV, and pull away the materials that cover the bottom, you will likely find, as I did, that everything is basically exposed with hardly any protection at all. RVs make manufacturers a lot of money. They are listed at very high prices, that still seem cheap compared to normal homes, when one first starts shopping for them. Even better, there is considerable latitude to negotiate a lower price. When we came to the final cost of our RV, we were shocked it was even possible. It had a kitchen, bathroom, entertainment system, furniture, AC unit, heater, etc.. etc.., nearly endlessly. It has 3 pop-outs that expand to give it a larger living space, that open and close like what one sees on TV for motorhomes used by famous people. But it turns out, after living in an RV, that everything is much cheaper than it appears. And of all places one can look to see how inexpensive the construction is, one should look underneath. This is where no one thinks to look, and as a result, is no-frills, because it has no part in the sales process. The goal is to show a beautiful living space, with mostly everything that you could need; and not to highlight that underneath there is no insulation. Sewer pipes and water lines, that are really cheaply constructed, are just in the open, which is completely unlike the construction of a normal home.

Electrical lines, HVAC tubes transporting heat from the furnace, are exposed and are really cheap. The heating tubes, on inspection, in my RV, were like foil tubes, that one could rip in half if one wanted to. The protective material covering the undercarriage was just a thin fabric cover, which I could hardly believe held up in the 10,000 mile plus trip across the united states, with all that can happen on the road, underneath the vehicle.

If one does research about cold weather environments, one immediately finds that RVs are not designed for them. That they definitely need work to prepare for winter, and that winter weather packages are available to make life easier, but not for life well below zero in really cold climates. Furthermore, while they are adequate to live in in many ways, the biggest tell is that life is considered “camping” in an RV, which sounds ridiculously contradictory. It has everything that a hotel room seems to have, so how can one consider it camping? That it is called “camping” should not be dwelt on. Instead, one should just look at the red flag, that it is not permanent, and that it is not a residential dwelling. “Camping” means “cheap, and inadequate” for permanent living.

Now much of this can be overcome, but what is interesting is that it must be overcome with work and planning. An RV only becomes a suitable replacement for a tiny house, or permanent house on a foundation, with work.

I mentioned that in Palmer, AK, in this location, we would experience 80mph gusts of wind for days. 80 mph freezing subzero air underneath an RV will definitely do the following:

  1. Freeze water lines,
  2. Freeze sewer lines,
  3. Break unwinterized water heaters,
  4. and suck all the heat from the bottom of the RV,
  5. and create really cold, uncomfortable floors.

This is what happens if one does nothing. What can one do to prevent this?

RV skirting.

The process is really straightforward, but takes a fair amount of work. The good thing, however, is after one winter, one knows how to do it forever. That was why this experience, while it was at an RV park, still provide really good learning opportunities for what would come later, when the RV was placed on Vacant land. By the time I had the RV on the vacant land, I had a really good idea about what winterization would consist of, and what level of preparation I cared to take. Some things I cared about before, I didn’t care about later. Somethings I knew were vital, and needed to be dealt with. But the work to be done was the same. It amounted to covering the bottom of the RV in a cheap but effective way, and to insulate wherever and however one wanted to, for the level of functioning one did not want to give up.

So while at the RV Park, I learned the skirting process. The simplest possible way to do this, I found, was to buy thick insulated board from the hardware/lumber store, and hand cut them into panels that would cover the gap between the RV’s body and the ground. It is necessary to buy a large number of panels to be sure that the gap is covered. Panels are better if they are thicker than 1/2 inch, to be sure they are stable, and do not shake lose during the winter. I got panels that were closer to 3/4" thick, and even doubled them up in locations so there was added stability. I then taped—and yes, you hear that right, I taped these panels to the RV using heavy aluminum tape, which is rated to well below zero. I chose aluminum tape that was graded to -40 degrees Fahrenheit, and this turned out to be more than adequate. Through this experience, I discovered a love for this tape! It is highly adhesive, holds under high winds, and really cold conditions, and is easy to tear and apply. It’s expensive at upwards of $30 dollars a role, but has many applications, and save an incredible amount of work. With tape like this, and panels, and experience, it is possible to do all of the work in a single day. Without experience, I would plan for three days to do perform all of the steps without cutting too many corners.

The tops of the panels were taped to the RV, but that left the bottoms to deal with. My neighbor at the RV park had a system for creating wood framing underneath the RV, in which to affix the panels. This makes the panels really sturdy, and resistant to the wind. I trusted his opinion and method because he lived in that location for more than one winter. I looked at his work, and results, to guide me in my approach. However, I opted to not use any wood framing, and had considerable success as well, with much less work and cost. What I opted to do, is buy many long galvanized steel 10" spikes (later I bought longer ones, but these were excellent), and I hammered them into the ground, in front and behind each panel, to create pressure in both directions, holding the panels in place. I left only approximately an inch and a half, or an amount approaching that, for all spikes around the panels, around the RV. This worked surprisingly well to hold the panels in place, and survived the entire winter, even with the 80 mph hour winds. I don’t think there is a better, easier, or more effective option than this, that requires less thought or planning. I can think of some methods, like using rope, or truck tie downs, around the whole RV, securing all planks together tightly, as another method that might provide even more protection; but I don’t think I would do this without also pinning the panels to the ground with these spikes that could be re-used over and over again.

I still have spikes and these panels to use in case I want to winterize the RV the same way in the future.

While I did much right doing this work, I did not do it fast enough. I could have done it all in a couple days. But instead, I did the front of the RV (the most important part) and half of the sides, over the course of two days, if I recall correctly. But I left the back exposed, with plans to do the same work, at a time that it happened to snow. And ti got cold, it snowed a lot.

Suddenly, by doing half of the work, I had a half winterized RV. It was mostly OK, except for the sewer line, which froze, leaving the dirty task of unthawing a pipe that was frozen with urine and “grey water” which amounts to sewer water that does not have raw sewage in it (think of kitchen water, from dirty dishes, and hand washing). We did not choose to use the bathroom for feces, which is what creates black water. Instead, we used the facilities of the RV park for that. And to make things simple, we used the showers in the facilities too. Off grid, we would not have these facilities, and this causes problems, but under these conditions, we could choose to make life a little easier and not winterize or plan to do these things in the RV itself. But we did use the toilet for urine, since it would be really annoying to have to leave the RV, already equipped with a bathroom, to pee every single time.

Can you tell that RV living is already starting to seem unlike living in the comfort of a real home? Especially in the winter?

So I started to experience issues with the sewer lines, from freezing cold air, and just cold temperatures, that came from the back of the RV.

The goal, I discovered, is not merely to have a well insulated RV underneath, but to find a way to heat the underside of the RV!. This is because, the RV is not designed to heat the outside of the RV, in the undercarriage. Which makes perfect sense. You spend yourself the box sitting on top of the wheels, not underneath! So in the winter, if you create more box underneath, that will insulate the pipes, you need to think about how those pipes will remain heated.

You can achieve that, by creating an additional outlet of the heating tubes, from the main heater, into that newly created crawlspace of sorts, that exists after adding the insulation. I did not do this. In fact, I did not do much of anything aside form insulate it, and that is inadequate. So what I ended up doing, whenever it got cold enough to freeze the pipes (which were heated to some extent by heat form inside the RV, emanating outwards, and by convection from the inside), I would use some form of electric heat temporarily underneath. One can use a space heater for this purpose. I temporarily used a heating lamp, while doing work to unthaw sewer lines (which worked well and provided light to see while working), and a space heater. These were both temporary solutions for doing the troubleshooting work, and are not good permanent solutions. Permanent solutions are certainly desirable. I learned this the hard way, as I came across real obstacles, and would definitely advise to reroute heat from the heater, into the space underneath, and expect to have greater heating expenses because of it, but also probably warmer floor boards and a better experience overall.

Another thing, that I found, was that something that we learn as children playing in the snow. When it snowed, it actually took care of some of our insulation needs. It did not feel as cold inside, and seemed to help with the insulation in the underside of the RV.

This is the principle used in temporary shelters used in the winter, like with ice caves and with igloos, which I had some experience creating, simply through play in my backyard, when we would experience heavy snowfall in the Maryland area outside of D.C. Interestingly enough, the harsher winters, with greater amounts of snowfall, apart from this experience in Palmer, which was much longer in duration, and darker, was in Maryland. We had times where we had nearly 4 feet of snow, that stuck around for very long periods of time. I remember digging out our driveway in these conditions and having feet of snow on both sides afterwards. We would dig half-pipe like tunnels down a hill beside our house, and sled down it during the winter. We would also dig places to play and feel warm in the snow, and make small ice caves, and poorly constructed igloos as well, that we would stay in for hours to feel warm. Sometimes, we would pour water over top o these shelters to crate a crust of ice that would make it more durable and last longer, as the snow melted.

Knowing this information, and experiencing the insulating properties of the snow, I noticed one day that I could cover the remaining gap that I left in the back of the RV with chunks of snow. As the snow came to be compressed over time, and after loose snow was blown away by heavy winds, I used my kukri knife, which is like a curved, slighly shorter machete, to cut chunks large chunks of snow and ice, to lay against the RV, to cover the air space. I did this around much of the exposed area, in an unplanned way, that ended making my RV look like it was half-winterized, and half really poorly cosntucted pseudo-igloo. It was funny. It worked, but not really well. It lasted maybe a week, until, unfortunately, much warmer weather suddenly appeared. However, if it was like many winters, like the one I just experienced this year, with more snowfall, and colder conditions, it would have been a decent temporary solution for a long time. Maybe months.

Mostly it was fun. Once it snowed, it was not an easy task to attempt to add the remaining panels. But it was easy to add chunks of snow, to the snow that already accumulated near the RV. As I added snow, the children living temporarily in the large RV beside ours, became excited and started to do the same. They also did not have their RV thoroughly winterized RV, and added supplementary snow chunks. Which is another thing—even if you do perfectly winterize the RV, you can have some fun can cover the panels with ice chunks to make it like a half-RV half igloo for the winter.

Oh and those children that lived in the RV next door. There were five, including a very young child/baby, and a teenage girl, for a total family of seven, living in an RV that couldn’t be more than 400 square feet, beside us most of the winter! Kim and I thought that must have been hard! We were not getting along much of the time by that point, and while it wasn’t too difficult to live that way for the two of us, it was not very comfortable. It must have been really uncomfortable for them, although by all appearances, they seemed to be doing just fine, and they were really quiet and well behaved. Quieter than we were, if I’m not mistaken.

Living in an RV can work, and work really well, in many climates across the US. While using the RV in places like New Mexico and Arizona, it was really easy! Very home like in may RV parks as well. Virtually no work needed to get done, and RV parks were like mini resorts. The only odd thing about it was, we were really young by comparison to most people living that lifestyle. Others were much older. It made it feel safe, and secure, since these people were not really interested in difficult lifestyles, and were not in anyway looking to live in a dangerous living environment.

In Alaska, unfortunately, especially in the winter, it does not feel this way.

People living in this situation, are willing to put up with sever winters, with less security, for a reason. They were facing personal hardships, or had less money or flexibility, or were in between more comfortable situations (maybe like us), which doesn’t necessarily signal danger, but does signal insecurity, and people do show discomfort.

An RV is usually a luxury. It is something people have to enjoy a life of leisure and travel. In the summers, and in good climates, RV parks look like places where people have money. The have toys and are enjoying them. RVs clean, and big, and complement often high-end trucks, and sit beside motorhomes that may cost many hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In Alaska, in the winter, by contrast, you have RVs that otherwise would look like luxury vehicles, half winterized with insulating board, making them look more like temporary shacks, and unfinished homes, exposed to elements without paint or anything that looks complete, converting a situation that could be a show money, to maybe a show of poverty.

We were not at all impoverished. But suddenly, were in a situation that maybe looked like we were. We didn’t fit in. It didn’t feel normal. And we had to reassure ourselves, that this was a learning experience. We didn’t need much, and were used to living frugally, in small apartments, even though sometimes they were quite nice or had amenities. But were were fine with few things, few possessions, lived on the road before, and so could get through it without feeling our lives had changed too dramatically. In retrospect though, we were in a lot of discomfort, and I don’t think many other people would be nearly as ready to feel normal, or endure that situation. Most would have decided it was just not a good idea, maybe before even starting.

Several years later, however, I can also say, I learned so much from that situation, that I have the skills, knowledge, and resources to better decide how to be comfortable, or just what matters and what doesn’t for a whole bunch of situations, I could encounter living off grid. And if you think this sounded uncomfortable, it was nothing compared to what I was going to soon experience, once I moved the RV from the RV park, to the property.

Chapter 11. Strangers and Neighbors

Not long after moving onto the property did we start to naturally come into contact with neighbors. One neighbor was kind enough to offer to meet her at her home, that she built herself with her husband, before they separated. She was a bit older than ourselves, perhaps in her early sixties, although it’s not quite clear (she declined to be interviewed). She was a former iditerod contender, which is the most well-known dogsled race, covering over a thousand miles from Willow, Alaska, to Nome, Alaska, on the far west coast of the state, right near the Bering Sea, which separates the United States from Russia (and supposedly was the point of migration for Native Peoples across the land bridge, when the ice made it possible to cross over land from Asia to North America; although this hypothesis is now being questioned). The fact that she was a real Iditerod contender was fascinating to us, and made us wonder what other neighbors we might have. We did join her at her home, and were given a tour of her home, and were happy at being welcomed by somebody. She was a friend of our immediate neighbor, Frank, who we already met in the process of buying the property.

While we found our visit with her to be very nice, and appreciated, we did get mixed signals as to whether or not she was supportive with respect to our property rights. She did not seem to interested in using our driveway for access to Chugach, but it was clear that she did have some friends who were interested in gaining access. But more importantly, for some years prior, she trimmed and groomed a trail that covered a lower portion of the property that started from Frank’s, and passed roughly a quarter mile through my tract, before ultimately exiting into another property nearby. She seemed really Interested in continuing to maintain this trail, for mostly unknown reasons. She was older, and presumably, she was able to get out more and get some exercise. We welcomed here and assured her that she would continue to have access, because she was concerned that someone would ultimately block it off, and anticipated that some day that might happen, and like others, she wasn’t looking forward to that day. So for two summers I gave her permission to trim the trails, and said she could walk along that trail if she wanted.

Most new contacts were with folks along our driveway, which were usually very uncomfortable, unfortunately. Instead of being welcomed, we were either ignored, or were questioned about why we were there, or why we were able to drive through, given there was a locked gate at the entrance. We would have to explain that we were new owners of property up the road and that we had access, and that while we were accepting of people passing through, we did want to have agreements that were in keeping with those that our neighbor Frank was already collecting. So we didn’t hinder anyone from passing through, but were perturbed about the anxiety that we found some people in, or the disingenuousness of their welcomes, and the excess curiosity they had about how much land we procured, and what our plans were. Upon relaying our plans, to have a small home to live in, we were greeted with distrust and disbelief; as though our true intentions were to develop the property to a more substantial degree, or find a way to block their access permanently. Most folks who passed through were people who lived nearby, although some did not, and were not very clear about where they were coming from. There were others who arrived at the gate, somewhat sketchy in appearance, only to depart.

Overall, we became increasingly annoyed and worried about who our neighbors were, and what their interest was.

Frank, our neighbor, was already well aware of many of the neighbors, and explained to us before, that while many were willing to sign agreements, many others were not interested, and suspected that signing anything would somehow lead to their being permanently blocked from use of the pathway at a later date. Around this time I consulted a lawyer who explained that this perspective was legal in basis, and concerned the requirement of “Hostile use” for obtaining a prescriptive easement. “Hostile use” he explained immediately, is not about being “hostile” in any way, although many walkers appear to be confused on this point. Instead, it is about showing disregard for the landowner’s claim to the property, such that it is made clear by the path user, that they have a claim of their own to the property. This makes sense, from the perspective of Westward Expansion, and times when there were vast chunks of vacant land owned by magnates or others who rarely ever went there, which was around, on, or near people who actively lived on or used the land. For example, if aboriginal people’s, or Native Americans, used tracts of land, and paths, to obtain water, or other necessities, from tracts they owned, after a period of time it would become reasonable to conclude that they required continue use of the pathway as a dependency of sorts. If landowners were vacant, and apparently didn’t care about access, and didn’t give permission, one way or another, to users of the pathways, they could end up having to provide access. Access does not in this case mean giving up the land entirely, although certain used along the easement would then become somewhat difficult or prohibitive. “Easement by prescription” amounts to “Because of your prior use, you prescriptively attained rights to pass through, to gain an easement”, and the easement is provided through court judgment.

States vary in how a prescriptive easement is gained, but in all cases I’ve seen in my research, including for the State of Alaska, court order is required and there must be a history of roughly continuous hostile use. In the present case I’m facing, folks who walk through my property, trespassing, will need to show that they had no less than ten years of roughly continuous use, along with other factors that I cannot mention because I cannot share every costly legal detail publicly (lawyers and research are costly, which is what I tell neighbors when they pry too much). The biggest downside to this is that they aren’t merely trying to gain permanent access for themselves. Once a prescriptive easement is gained, it entails public access for that use. Meaning, since they want access for themselves to walk through to the park, everyone who wants that same access is entitled to that. For myself, and my neighbor, it doesn’t sound so bad to have these neighbors pass through, except perhaps those who are most disrespectful and wontonly trespass, even during court proceedings; but it does sound quite bad indeed to have many strangers from all around crime-ridden anchorage passing through, and teenagers at night, and random people from tour buses from all across the united states, and elsewhere, arriving as tourists.

Another way to put it. Our road in some ways seems like a natural destination on an outskirt of a city to 1) dump bodies, 2) trash the place, or 3) congregate without any onlookers without driving too far. In many ways it’s like a country road outside of Las Vegas, where in the movies people are brought to be executed and left behind. Without completely public access, and a gate, however, it just seems like a nice neighborly path and private community, safe and protected like those in the areas immediately surrounding the gate. The gate just blocked entry to a location that went out where nobody could see, by a private park, with no lights, where anyone could go without the gate, and do things without detection. It didn’t even end all of the way at the park, it ended near the park, but not quite there. Another vacant parcel at the termination point that was privately owned blocked full access.

While it could be true that nearby landowners had other plans, it was never shared with us what these plans might be. The goal of just having access for hiking never rang true, and there seemed to be ulterior motives around, having to do with additional development, and it seemed to be true that money played a role, although that role was hidden and not easily known. As mentioned earlier, it was curious that so many politicians, officials, and notable figures were involved. Also, landholding organizations were also in the mix, and there seemed to be some interest that was known to a few, but not everyone. Certainly not myself, my neighbor, or other landowners nearby who were impacted. That is, unless they were not sharing information with us.

So we met many neighbors who simply were not very interested in knowing us as neighbors. They simply wanted our plans and our legal information. They gave us chilly welcomes, and left us feeling threatened. Even our neighbor who welcomed us into her home seemed to have conflicting interests, and only our Neighbor Frank seemed to share precisely the same interests we did, although he also was protecting his information about his goals, and was somewhat duplicitous at times in his treatment of me versus his treatment of some favorite neighbors. Nevertheless, I’ve been in alignment with him about our legal situation, and we are co-defendants in this case. He’s primary, in my opinion, because he instituted the gate, which precipitated the case. I’m mostly an adversely impacted collateral damage victim.

Even after multiple years dealing with this situation, things have not much improved. There are a few neighbors who seem much more hospitable, but for a variety of reasons, including preoccupation with work and divorce, and many other commitments, I haven’t been able to develop relationships.

However, there is one, far more important thing I came to realize. Gossip is a problem in Anchorage. Not only gossip: harassment and ostracism. I soon became a victim of a level of ostracism that I found so hard to believe, I didn’t even know it was happening. Later, I realized it was the sort of thing that happens only when minorities are being purged from a community, or people have things at stake, like financial rewards, or other situations of political corruption, which also became apparent since so many politicians are and were involved. It took me a very long time to really realize it was entirely true that this was the situation I was facing. I was always under stress in Anchorage after buying the property anyplace I ever went, I’m experiencing obvious harassment in Wasilla, where I now reside, since I still cannot live on the property. The only relief I would experience, is leaving town to a remote location, where finally I would re-experience calm. As soon as I’m back in Alaska, an insidious stress creeps in, and a level of open adverse gossip and verbal hostility that seems impossible comes back into my life.

So while some neighbors even started to ask me “Why do you not have more friends” and so on, or “Who are your friends” which are really off putting questions to begin with, since I have friends scattered all over the globe, and my work is not in the state, I came to the conclusion:

Friends are dangerous to have in Alaska.

They are duplicitous. They tell your life to everyone else. They put you at risk.

I could not afford to spend my free time with people I could not trust, and I did attempt to do so on a number of occasions, only to be disappointed by strange behaviors, similar to some that I mentioned above, and worse. Although I’ll save more of that for a later chapter on the specific harassments I’ve encountered, and unfortunately, had to track.

I Can See You


My First Entrance Sign Design

It didn’t take long after purchasing the property to realize that I would need to include no trespassing signs around the outer perimeter and the main entrances; both at the location where people would enter my portion of the shared driveway, and at the end, where they would exit and need to re-enter once again.

It may seem as though only a few no trespassing signs would be necessary, but it turns out, some are quite confused about what constitutes sufficient signage, and in fact, it isn’t clear how much is truly necessary to put an intruder on notice, that the property they are entering is not someone else’s, or public land; Even though my property, while close to the State Park, with no neighbors between myself and that Park, in terms of people spending much time out there, am still completely encircled by other private lots. In other words, trespassers are well into private properties, trespassing on others land, by the time they have ventured across my borders.

When I say border, I do almost imagine that I’m trying to bound and surveil a small country enclave within the State of Alaska. It’s not far from the truth, in terms of the amount of differences that exist between myself and everyone else here. However, it also feels true, because it seems as though I’ve got a long border to protect, and lots of people, who for some reason, are intent in crossing through, making me want to create a border wall of sorts, to keep out all of the “illegals”. (I don’t at all think of immigrants without papers as “illegals” but I’m not fond of the behavior of trespassers on my property so I like to think of them as illegals to amuse myself. Well, as of writing this down at least.)

They are now illegal immigrants when they come onto my property.

But more seriously, the circumference of the entire thing is 6,144 feet, which is over one mile in length. Much of that boundary is impossible to walk, because of dense alder forests, which easily conceal large bears in the summer time, especially in combination with chest-high grasses surrounding and in between clusters of bushes. Other parts of the property are very difficult to walk in a straight line around the boundaries, for the same or similar reasons. The slope also makes it challenging to walk, since it is taxing on legs, and it makes for a high difficulty hike, or bushwhack of sorts. Additionally, there is an elevation change of over 700 feet from top to bottom, and multiple climate zones. The bottom of the property has many black spruce trees, and a marshy environment, which is impassable in straight lines in the summer, because of the water, mud and muck. Bears probably can cover a distance in the muck without issue, so it isn’t the most comfortable place to be walking around.

I have never made a walk around the edge of the property in a single traversal because it really is that difficult or uncomfortable.

Adding No Trespassing signs along the boundaries of the property in these conditions is very difficult, and not entirely necessary, it would seem, because if trespassers would face the same issues, it’s not at all clear that they need trespassing signs to keep them out. They want to walk on trails like everyone else, to avoid crawling through bushes. Although it does seem a bit humorous, to consider adding signs even in these locations, for the remote possibility that someone crawling around, or trying to find a path without being seen or noticed, would still run into signs!

Not long after joining the community council, in my region of South Anchorage, Rabbit Creek, I discovered that there are many members who seem interested, if not bent, on knowing everything about any development projects that are happening, or might be happening in the area. Strangely enough (or maybe familiar enough to others), these nosy, gossipy people, who enjoy interfering with the lives of others, are of the more aged variety, some well into their seventies and eighties, quite well off and not without beautiful properties of their own. They spend there time reviewing their neighbor’s plans for permits, so that they can actively oppose them if they see anything they don’t like, that seems to contradict anything in their personal plans for the community. Well, many of them share the same views, so they aren’t entirely personal, but they don’t at all represent the bulk of the community, who they hardly ever converse with. They are known for taking action, including making anonymous complaints, or open complaints at the council, and trespassing onto properties to snoop around and see what they are up to. And they seem to feel quite entitled and behave smugly as if there is nothing at all wrong with doing it.

On one occasion, a diminutive older woman who is quite nice to speak with in person, one on one, when in a good mood, gave a short presentation on a property that had a corner portion being developed perhaps too close a stream, within a stream setback, which had to be a certain distance away, based on Anchorage Municipal requirements. It makes sense for the Municipality to approve or reject permits, or enforce them, whenever they are out of compliance, within reason. There are ways around permit issues, with variances and so on (although these are actively opposed by these folks as well), so if their permit got rejected, they would have possibilities. But this community council, and some members, are not interested in letting the Municipality handle these issues. This one woman, who is quite cantankerous, perhaps due to anxieties, began telling the tale of how she discovered that they were out of compliance, while out in the neighborhood snooping around. After explaining how this property was building an extension too close to the stream, she was questioned by my neighbor, who wondered how she was able to see it from off the property. She then admitted, that she had, in fact, walked out onto the property itself, to take a closer look. Clearly, she was admitting, openly, that she was trespassing, and astonishingly, many people in the council did not seem concerned, as usual. My neighbor, however, continued to question her, about whether she would observe No Trespassing signs, to which she replied, in a fit of frustration, that No Trespassing signs, had to exist every ten feet around a property. So it was her belief, or her excuse for her behavior, that since such a plethora of signs did not exist, she could ignore some signs and go wherever she wanted.

Now, imagine placing not less than 614 signs around my property?! Certainly that was an absurdity, and there was no way I could afford to spend time time creating that many signs, or placing them all, out in locations where there aren’t even any trees, and posts would have to be installed. Posts, 10 feet apart, closer than fence posts in some cases, all with No Trespassing signs!

These were the neighbors I was dealing with. So whatever signs I placed, they had to be visible, obvious, and in key location at least.

Initially I installed really a couple really inexpensive and flimsy, cheap aluminum signs from Home Depot, and wrote in black permanent marker, a message about staying away, and about buying the property if they were really interested in using so much. After not too long, I found a couple of these signs were wiped, such that the messages, in permanent marker, were completely removed. This was not by weathering, and from future observation, it was not out of the ordinary to have folks remove, damage, destroy, or otherwise deface signage.

Later, I decided it would be much more fun to have professional signs. So I took the time to design my own signs, and order them at significant cost to myself online. These signs had a large eyeball in the center, to indicate that they should not feel as though they could pass unobserved or without being surveilled. And, in fact, I followed my neighbor’s lead, and purchased a number of trail cameras, and scattered them around the property at locations that people would frequently pass by. These are quite nice, because they happen to pick up wildlife too; that is their purpose primarily by design. And so I get wonderful footage of a variety of animals, most frequently Moose, Bear, Coyote and Lynx. Once I even got a shot of what appeared to be a wolverine. While these critters are what I’m most happy to see in the trail cameras, and they use paths even more frequently than the people do, I do find a lot of human photos of people who either don’t have permission to be there, do have permission (I quickly pass by these when reviewing), and people who are entirely unknown to me.


One of Many Moose Photos, Near My RV.

Not long after buying the property, I had to get insurance just to cover liabilities, for all these people crossing through. If someone were to get injured, it couldn’t be completely on me, to pay any damages, even though they are clearly trespassers. This is one major reason why my neighbor and I require folks to sign an access agreement, with waiver and promise to not misuse the property, in order to get through. This agreement is entirely like a typical waiver someone might sign for access to other parks. It’s probably less than what might required to enter an amusement park or other destination with risks, that they would certainly sign for readily and quickly. But instead, many are worried about revocation, and have ulterior motives, about gaining access for the public, for other probably selfish reasons that have not yet been disclosed and will be disclosed in court.

So at first, I had a few standard trespassing signs, and couple rather large “eyeball” signs, at the front and rear entrances. Later, out of concern for ladies who apparently need endless signs, I purchased many smaller ones, and scattered them at areas of interest across other parts of the property that are possible to traverse without too much difficulty. Many were also eyeball signs, and others were signs indicating I would actively work with the police if they did not exit the property. Those who had agreements, and were kind and considerate, knew they could pass by without issue. In fact, anyone could, since I did not cause anyone any issues and did not want altercations, although that did happen on one occasion with three strange guys, that I’ll later describe.

Despite having to put in the effort to create these signs, it was a good time in a number of ways. I am in technology, and had some experience designing websites and ads, and this gave me a chance to play with creative software again. Also, the signs I received were highly reflective, and quite well done, and I felt accomplished just making them. Unfortunately neighbors would destroy, deface, and/or remove them, but most were left intact, and I enjoy seeing them as I hike around. I was worried, that being quite obvious and reflective, they would be bothersome, taking away from the natural experience, but it hasn’t turned out that way at all. I hardly notice them, and when I do, I’m glad to see them.

While out and about in town I do believe I’ve heard references to the signs on more than one occasion. One time, while out to dinner, I believe I heard a loud “Why would you choose an eyeball?” or something similar. I’m sure some were not happy with the signage, but it is much less imposing and threatening, than other signs around town, that threaten to kill anyone who walks onto their property, and about having plenty of ammo and guns to get it done!

Since I bought the property, I’ve been astonished at some ill will, and poor treatment I’ve received. It only escalated from the beginning, but from the very start, people were often hostile, made veiled threats, or were thoroughly disingenuous when hearing there was a new buyer in the neighborhood.

I suspect there was some jealousy, and some anger about having some new threat, or person to deal with, about being able to pass through, or use the land. Since it was vacant before, people could enjoy themselves in various ways without anyone paying much attention, but now that there was a serious owner, it appeared there could be development, and that there were changes in a location that was hitherto mostly untouched, like the park they were supposedly walking to. The reality was that the vacant parcels were the park too, and they really didn’t make it all the way to their supposed destinations.

So not long after buying, I made sure to protect my investment, comply with insurance, and otherwise make it known to others and that the property was in fact mine. Without doing that, many who walked through would ask who I was, driving along, as if I weren’t the owner, and that they had a greater claim than I did to be there.

Between my signs and cameras, I wanted to make it clear that I could see folks, and they came in very handy, for presenting evidence to the police, and should continue to be helpful in dealing with the legal complaints I’m now facing.

Chapter 12. Trespassing and Safety

As time went on, and the issues with neighbors began to increase in severity, I became more and more concerned with safety. It didn’t take long before I was able to confirm some serious limitations with RV and Tiny House living when it comes to safety.

A factor that hardly goes noticed, or is ever pointed out, on television shows about dreams of living in tiny houses, and of tiny housese with various designs for making life easier, is the fact that in tiny house, people know exatly where you are at all times.

This is not something we normally think about if we are living in a normal home, that might at least several rooms, or more than one level.

While on the road, this was something that I did think about, and wondered if it would matter. In an RV, it is very clearly where the bedroom is. This means, at night, if I’m in the RV, peopel not only know where I am within a less than 300 square foot space, they know most likely I’m in a box that is little more than a cage, without even the normal ceiling space, and about 50 square feetor less.

People already worry about home break ins, even if not living in this type of space. As a kid, when I thought about home break-ins, or fires, or tornados, or any other event that would scare me, I would imagine various plans for how I would escape. I would go through this window, or I would go out this door, to this other room to this other window, and get outside, with the perpetrator, or the fire, in another location of the house. But where do you go when there is only one door? Where do you go, if an attack is directly on your bedroom, when you’re sleeping?

While it might seem that this is something that is not really worth thinking about, it does actually matter. When I was finally living in the RV, temporarily in RV parks, and out on my property, mostly in the middle of nowhere, I did end up having passers by who I did not know. On my land, roughly one mile from any neighbor (except one who was somewhat closer), I would have neighbors walk right up beside my RV with myself inside.

Similarly, I’m also living in a location with Bears. I would wonder to myself, if the flimsy RV door could ever be ripped off, and if a bear would ever come through it, or another window. If so, how would I escape? While this might not seem like something worth worrying about (and over time, I became much less concerned about the risks posed by bears), I did awake on more than one occasion, once at 4 a.m., to a bear scouring the back of my truck. Once, in dark conditions, I was awoken to a bear that was in the bed of my truck, less than 8 feet away from me! I looked out the window, which was part of a wall that was only inches thick, to see a brown bear, aggressively tearing through a tarp, trying to find some trash that happened to be there. While I try to be very careful about such things, occassionally, here and there, oversights and negligences of the sort do occur. And on this occasion, I was very sorry to see that a bear had actually appeared where I was hoping it would not. And again, living in a small space, there are not many places to go, and I found myself in the darkness, holding my shotgun ready to shoot the thing if it tried to come into the RV after tearing through the truck. And while I have not experienced this sort of thing frequently, it only takes one occurrence to be killed by a stranger, breaking into your home, and I’ve heard stories about bears breaking into peoples garages, and even nesting in their homes (in pilesof possessions that they’ll collect from inside your house), so bears will try to enter, and obviously murders do in fact take place in homes after breaking and entering events.

Taking it just a little further: if you were a drug addict and you were desperate, and you were going to break into a nice tiny house, or RV, to get possessions from someone who was of high repute, or known to have money (because who wants to live in a tiny house or RV, and not at the same time, have some repute and high quality lifestyle and living conditions?), where would you break in? You would only have one or two places to enter. You would enter through the main door, or a secondary door if you had one, or else a large window.

Conversely, I’ve never found myself living in a large house. Living in a large home might create some alternative fears, so it could be, that fears associated with living under one set of conditions, are simply replaced with fears assocaiated with living in another. For example, in a large house, how do you know if someone isn’t hiding in a particular location? Or, if someone breaks in, how do you know if they are still in there or not? In a smaller home, you know right away if anyone is still inside. It’s pretty easy to look in your single room and say “Nobody’s here.” So there are still benefits, even if there are drawbacks about fears living in a smaller house.

Although I do admit, I wonder, here and there: What if someone just sets fire underneath my bedroom, or what if someone justdecides to shoot through the side or back of my RV? What if someone decides to gas me out of it.

And what is totally astonishing, is that I do, in fact, deal with break ins to my RV. I have come home to see my possessions moved, or things stolen. I’ve had vandalism. I’ve entered my RV, and founds things different. I was tipped off, by my neighbor, when I moved the RV there, that “Teens might want to enter it to have a plact to have sex” (or some similar comment). I found that a bit odd, but the reality is, I do experience break-ins. And with the number of passers by, I have no idea who is doing it, or when, and what they’ll do when I’m inside of it.

So even though I have an RV in a beautiful location, and a wonderful property with amazing scenery, I’ve experienced some pretty severe stress, about what happens to my home when I’m gone, or whether or not I’ll ever be harmed by someone passing right by my window, or right underneath my bedroom, while I’m there sleeping at night.

Chapter 13. Elected into Community Council

Not long after buying my property, I discovered that a large number of those wanting to take my drieway for public use, and many trespassers, made up the leadership or at least influential portion of my community council. My neighbor, Frank, who was already a member out of necessity, suggested that I come along. So in 2017, I started to visit mostly regularly on a month to month basis. It was a very interesting experince and was my introduction into local politics, and in politics in Alaska.

Meetings immediately reminded me of church. They were held in the local middle school’s library, at a section that had two rows of maybe 8 long rectangular tables, that had 4 seats each. There was an area where presentations could be given, and folks could awkwardly turn to watch the front from various angles in the room. Overflow participation was held towards the back, near the enterance of the library, where some would find additional seats or simply stand. This is where some of the more anxious or introverted folks would hang out, and periodically jump in as required. Guest speakers, police officers, fire fighters, and local politicians would also frequently join in at these locations, standing, waiting foropportunties to share, or otherwise join in.

The crowd was definitely older. The age group appeared to be skewed towards folks in their mid fifties, who were mostly well-to-do landowners or property holders in South Anchorage, which is an area where some more affluent people live; that being said, there wasn’t any appearance of great wealth, although some in the room may simply project more humble or at least, lest ostentatious appearances. Most did not appear to be professionals, altough many were. Dress was casual or comfortable after-work attire. When the schools were closed, meetings were held at a local church, which certainly made it feel more church-like, although demeanors and manners of interacting also, to my mind, recalled a “church house gathering” type of organization, reminiscent of earlier America. Gatherings were generally at the schoolhouses or at churches, and this is still the casein remote alaskan villages, and I most would recognize thta this is a fair comparison.

Sign-in sheets were in pencil and paper, and there was a resistance to having any remote attendance or any kind of teleconference. During several meetings, the option for remote attendance and voting were raised, and supported by travellerslike myself, and a pilot in attendance, and others who were more familiar with technology. I recall emphasizing how I worked entirely remotely and conducted important business meetings routinely with no issue through a wide array of teleconferencing tools, like Zoom and Skype, and there was a very strong resistance, particularly from those, unfortunately, wanted access to my property. They wanted to keep it a very intimate gathering place, were community really was church like. I found their perspective to be not that unexpected, but still quite luddite. Especially, since later, during the coronavirus pandemic, I began to see links from the group, ready, seemingly excited and willing, to do everything over video, and I’m certain, all are quite aware that it is not as infeasible as they expected.

I found myself among a group of between 20 and 25 people in regular attendance, although when things got interesting and more convroversial, we had nearly one hundred participants, and even discussed possible changes of venue for if there were more people. There was a clique of about 10 or fewer people in regular attendance who made up the normal board. These members routinely discussed property rights, and were very interested in being involved in the municipal approval of permits, even though this was not in their specialty. They were and are very concerned about the uses of property, about who owns what, who is doing what-with-what. A few key members of this clique were more knowledgeable or invovled in anything around property planning, and one person in particular, had a career around land-use, named Nancy Pease. Nancy Pease has an impressive resume, and is a hall of fame Alaskan runner, who leads most efforts two write to the municipality on property rights related issues, and whenever she creates a motion to write a letter, most quickly and almost involuntarily vote on her behalf.

This is where my interest in the community council was heightened. It seemed clear to me that there was one group in control, they were averse to property rights in a number of ways I did not like, mostly in the meddlesome quality of it, and the introverted nature of taking action without notifying homeowners and property owners (they would contest development projects without reaching out to those involved in those projects, and would make excuses about it). Worst of all, these people were the same folks who were forming a non-profit organization to take my driveway for public use, and seeing the quickness that certain other neighbors would vote, without much thought at all, in favor of key member motions, was shocking. I came to view the RCCC (Rabbit Creek Community Council), as a special interest group, that would try to force through actions without much concern about what the larger public might want or need, and they did it seemingly compulsively. On one occasion, a motion was put to write a letter to the municipality, that I opposed, and after putting it through vote, when it was questioned what the letter would be about, all those who voted couldn’t remember what it was they voted for.

As a homesteader of the modern variety, in retrospect, I should have realized, I would have had to go down this unfortunate path, of being involved in the community, and of being involved with numerous other organizations and stakeholders, in ways that would on conflict with the way things were done previously. At this time, I was mostly shocked that I had to deal with politicians and notable figures who were mostly stuck in an old church-person’s process, with luddite tendencies, and very little mental flexibility.

It was pretty obvious from the start, I think, that I did not fit in very cleanly. Typically I would wear a baseball cap, jeans with no belt, that would sometimes sag, and a tight fitting athletic t-shirt, even on cold days, sometimes covered in a hoodie), that would show my tatoo and muscles. It definitely created some odd attention, since I would get stares, which were usually out of interest, out of being something new and different, but others would look with some disgust. Later on, it would be mostly disgust, until a point came, where people would actively attempt to shame and humiliate me, although I did not allow that to impatct me too adversely. I had no intention of simply changing my entire mode of life, built from years traveling, and my personal interests, style, and preferred appearance, which was certainly fit and attractive, but quite different from the drab and mundane appearances of older Alaskans who didn’t care that much about appearance, in a more rural/country setting. Interestingly enough, there was a group of newcoming younger people in Anchorage who did seem to dress more like myself, particularly those who frequented gyms and other establishments that certainly were not normal for the older-fashioned homesteaders. After all, during westward expansion, there were no gyms, and certainly, there were no technologist who lived at one time in Miami Beach, coming to Alaska to live like they did, but in a more modern mode.

Chapter 14. Large Earthquakes and Remote Work

One morning, while sleeping in my RV, just before arising for work, I was awoken suddenly to some violent shaking. In a mostly bewildered, foggy and slumberous state, I realized theentire front end of the RV, including the tiny sleeping quarters that normally sits above the truck bed, was bouncing up and down off the ground. It felt as if I were on the road and had encountered a rough and wavy part of the road, except instead of driving, I was sleeping. Despite such a strange way to be woken up, this did not last for a very longtime, and, characteristically I went straight back to sleep, since I’m a very sound sleeper, and it takesquite a lot to get me finally wake up in the morning. So back to sleep I went, as if nothing important had happened.

Not long after, however, I awoken again to rumbling, and before the rumbling, I could hear sounds deep within the earth, first at a distance, then approaching, before suddenly the RV was hit with a jolt; in a way that is reminiscent of lightening and thunder. This happened more than once. The sound was of a sort that I never experienced before, and may never experience again. It sounded like deep vibration similar to what is experienced the movies, with a very high quality surround sound system. Those deep bass vibrations that exaggerate the drama of the arrival of an alien ship, or an experience ofsuspense, in some movie trailers.

After this happened maybe two times, I finally decided to get out of bed. When I went into the living area of the RV I saw that most of my possessions that were on tables were on the ground, and it was at that point that I realized I experienced an earthquake. I had no idea, at that time, what the severity might have been. I’ve been through other earthquakes, such as the one that hit the Washington D.C. area in the early 2010s. I was also through a large number of small tremors while still in Alaska, but this was the very first time my possessions were shaking off of tables and other surfaces onto the ground, and so I thought it might at least be as serious as the one I experienced in DC, which was just over magitude 5.

I was a little shocked at this experience, but still went ahead and gathered mythings, to make a trip into town to get some work done. I then got in my truck, and began to make my way down my long driveway, which makes for quite a trip in itself, just getting to my gate, so I recall along the way having 5 minutes trying to get tuned into the radio to listen to music for my morning drive, instead finding nothing but emergency programming, keeping everyone aware of the emergency situation that existed. People were calling in, giving their statuses, letting people know which parts of town were safe and unsafe. It was at thistime that I realized I had experienced a serious sitaution, and when I got to the gate, where I had a solid internet connection through my cell phone, I discovered that we had experienceda 7.1 magnitude earthquake, and while I was safe up in the mountains in an RV, disconnected from the ground, mostly designed to bounce around on roadways with forces that probably greatly exceed those that would be produced by earthquakes, everyone else in Anchorage was either in a solid home with a foundation, or in solid buildings that may have felt like they would collapse. When I experienced my 5.4 earthquake, I was in Bethesda, Maryland, working at that time as a remote employee, in the business center in the lobby. When that happened, I recall hearing something that sounded like construction equipment suddenly started to begin work, and the building that was definitely not constructed for surviving earthquakes, since on the east coast where earthquakes did not normally happen, felt like it was swaying and made worried that it could collapse upon me. Given that this earthquake was far more powerful, I could only imagine at how people at work already must have felt.

That day, I ended up working anyway, at the only coffeehouse I could find that was open, which happen to be called, of all things, “Aftershock Espresso”. While most in town were reflecting on what had happened, I, as a remote employee, was able to get my normal days worth of work done, for my client, which was Petco at the time, who had their headquarters in San Diego, California. It was a normal work day for them, but was quite a strange day for me. One drawback of remote work though, is that normal occurrances that allow people in the office to take the day off, do not necessarily apply. On this occasion, and on the prior occasion in DC, I was still expected to get my work done, since I had no genuine excuse for not being able to work.

Later in the day, I decided to go out to a restaruant, despite the situation, and sat down to find the entire room quiet, seemingly in shock at what had happened. People were not boisterous, or enjoying themselves. It was a mostly sombre experience, with most people in their heads, reflecting on what had happened. This made it quite clear to me that people were genuinely shaken by the event, despite the fact that many were from the area, and most were not nearly old enough to experiencethe ~9.0 magnitude earthquake, from 1964, that caused landslides and massive tsunamis. But most were aware that such earthquakes were possible, and that Anchorage is situated in a way that everyone in the main portion of the city were at risk of true catastrophe if an earthquake of such a size were ever to happen again. Nevertheless I still could not quite comprehend just how scary the situation was, given the fact taht I was mostly in a protected environmet in my mobile home.

At this time, it became obvious to me, that I was extremely well situated on my property in case of earthquake or other similar disaster, unless of course, a landslide were triggered above me; but that doesn’t seem realistic or likely. Instead, I’m in a location that isover 1,000 feet above sea level, which is quite far above any tsunami that could hit. And again, with a mobile structure, there is virtually no risk of having a home collapse. Working remotely.

Remote Work

Not everyone can work remotely and I consider myself extremely fortunate for having a career that would allow me to be just about anyplace that has a solid internet connection, to get my work done. How else could I have a story about waking up in an RV in Alaska to an earthquake, only to be able to have a somewhat normal workday, and a normal paycheck, by finding one of the few stable and free internet connections available in town?

Remote work is something that seems like something one can be envious about, and there are definitely benefits, but there are many pitfalls as well. Especially when trying to work off grid. One thing of interest, for example, is that I had to leave my RV. Why couldn’t I just wake up, and start work then and there? That is possible, but it requires more planning than expected, depending on the situation.

My property is still fairly close to a normal neighborhood, but

In order to get any of the usual utilities, or internet, I would have to request them to create utility connections at no less than 1/3 mile from one location, which is unlikely, and nearly a mile and a half in the other direction, along my driveway. The costs to achieve this are incredibly high. I estimated nearly one hundred thousand dollars for electricity alone. So clearly, this was infeasible, and truly, I was in an off grid living situations.

In order to have a solid internet connection for remote work, directly from my home location, I had a few options, and I ended up testing them all.

Anyone who is considering remote work in a tiny house, in a location off grid should really consider the reality that one will still need a solid office location to work, despite having various ways to connect to the internet. Even though cell service seems reliable, there are days where meeting clarity is not good, and there can even be crossovers into other conversations, and even moments where eavesdropping seemed like it was happening. Other times, connections are not solid, or are just too glitchy for situations calling for professionalism, even when one might not expect the need—to give an example, my online school classes suddenly shifted to require a presence on the webcam for each and every class for multiple house. Any glitch would create stress, and bandwidth and data limits became a concern. If one cell phone didn’t work, I would either have to have another, or an alternative connection. Or, alternatively, I could drive to a location where a connection was better, but even this did not work on occasion. Nearly everytime I found a way to make it work, but it was something that caused unnecessary stress, especially given all of the other issues with living off grid.

Trying to have a realisitic option for work, I opted to pay for satellite internet services. I found a good deal at a 12 gbs bandwidth, and I was and am still very happy with it. But there are outages. Outages can be completely inappropriate for work. Furthermore, power is required. So I had to have the generator running at all times while using it, and if weather became inclement, I could lose my connection entirely. There were times that I would look at the router and wonder “Why me, why now?”, and have poor cellular connection at the same time. So again, even with Satellite, there is not an adequate level of redundancy created, and one still ends up stressign about having a good and solid connection, that would exist at a normal workplace.

Since my job is fairly elevated, it requires and especially high level of professionalism. Often I’m leading calls, or am asked to join in at key moments, when business decisions are going to be made. If I don’t have a solid internet connection, there are going to be problems, and even with a solid connection, I get questioned about the quality of my many microphones, which themselves cause stress. Between that issue, and itnernet connectivity, I have to say, while living remotely and off grid is nice, it is not really a realistic scenario to live in complete comfort while working off grid, because there is no way at all to have a stable connection. To have a stable connection, power must be assured (I’vehad generator failures, and have run out of fuel), and so on.

As this was occuring, I thought it might be useful to have an office. Fortunately, there are really good coworking spaces that allow access at a very low cost, on a restricted basis. For example, you can go to a location providing what appears to be a normal corporate work environment, and get solid internet access, and other services, at a fraction of the cost, for using several days a month or whole months. I opted initially to have several days a month at two different locations, in order to keep costs down and simplly have more options. After all, I could still work in coffee houses, and it seemed reasonable enough to distribute my work to a variety of locations, have plenty of options, to make myself feel confident that I would always have a way to handle interruptions at any particular location.

However, what actually happens in such a scenario is this. You’re working at a coffee house, and you have a meeting scheduled in an hour. Now, for myself, client calls area always confidential. I would have to be in a very quiet and mostly empty coffehouse to be able to have a truly successful business call, at least here in Anchorage, where people aren’t normally doing that, versus, say, in a coffeehouse in Seattle, where a large number of people may be having private meetings at the same time, and there is a greater understanding about minding one’s business when someone is conducting a phone call. This has been relaxed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but in normal conditions, it is not an easy thing to do, to have remote meetings in coffee houses. So when the calendar indicates that it is time for a meeting, suddenly you think “Where do I go now?”, and while it is nice to have options, those options soon lead to indecision. Do I have enough hours at this office, or that office, or do I really want to see these people, or those people again, at this or that other location? Especially, as time goes on. After a year of doing this, almost every location becomes an annoying place to work, and one finds oneself simply wanting solitude or a normal work environment, where everything is stable, well taken care of, and provides everything that professionalism requires. And, you only need to be at one place, drive to one location, and so on.

I’ve done much more than this to try to keep things cheap and flexible. I’ve rented hotel rooms on whim to have a quiet location. I can really say I’ve almost tried everything at this point, and the only thing that’s brought me back to some normalcy was renting an office that was just for myself (which still turned out weird, because it was in a coworking environment where gradually people become too interested in what you’re doing and try to pry or compete with you and what you’re doing), and rented an apartment with a stable connection. The best option, by far, has beento simply have a stable connection at a rented apartment. And under those circumstances, one has to wonder “Why do I have a tiny house off grid, and an apartment also.” I’m still in this predicament, as I try to plan my construction for my more permanent home on my land. In the meantime, I have to pay for an apartment to have a more solid work environment, with duplicates costs.

Workign remote is amazing. Even if I have to have an office, I can still go where I want to temporarily. I can work from any city I want. I can and do travel internationally while working, and can accept any client at any location. I’ve had clients, and colleagues all across the globe. But what I can say for certain, at this point in time, which I hope helps someone considering working off grid, that the need for a stble internet connection in a remote location cannot be overcome with comfort, even with redundancies, unless one can work long periods of time without needing any external contact with a customer, for meetings, or for large downloads (and uploads!), and other uses of bandwidth.

Chapter 15. Unexpected Divorce

Another issue that can result as a consequence of moving into a tiny house lifestyle is pressure on relationships.

I was with my wife for nearly 20 years, since we became a couple in our senior year in High School. We even went to the same middle school.

After all that time, we mostly lived in small environments happily. Almost every living space we shared was less than 600 square feet, although we lived in a two bedroom condo together for several years as well. When we decided to shift to live a more frugal lifestyle, we also lived in much smaller efficiency and studio apartments, and had no trouble living that way either. Although we did get our needs for space by spending large amounts of time outside our house. We even refered to our house as a “house cave” to indicate that it was not an optimal place to spend too much of our time.

However, there are important differences between living in small apartments andliving in an RV or tiny home that creates more pressure.

Firstly, if you choose to have a tiny home in a location that allows it, there is a good chance it’s in a rural setting, where there are no neighborhood rules prohibiting it. Apartments are more likely to be more urban, and have closer proximity to restaurants, gyms, grocery stores, and other places that allow for some escape from one another. In a tiny house, or RV, one is more likely to feel “trapped” with no means of escape. Kim and I also shared a vehicle, to keep costs down, and this made conditions worse, because not only were we confined to a small living space, we had to commute together. Whenever we were together, it seemed we were always in a vehicle or the RV.

Our divorce was not due to the pressures of living in an RV or Tiny House, although living in more stressful conditions certainly lead on occasion to more conflict. Instead, we simply were in a declining relationship anyway, that became toxic, and we simply needed to separate.

Chapter 16. Foraging


Young, unfurled and edible fiddlehead fern. From near one of my seasonal streams.

Many have asked me “How can you be Vegan in Alaska?”. Of course, places in the far north approaching the Arctic do not bring to mind agriculture, and fields of varieties of vegetables. Instead, we think of fishing for salmon, hunting, trapping, cold, ice, darkness, and maybe even whale or seal hunting expeditions. After hearing so many people ask it, and recalling my original reasons for wanting to visit (to see the outdoors, and experience some survivalism), I can’t fault anyone for wondering. But the truth is there is so much to do besides these activities, and contrary to all expectations, Alaska does produce large quantities of produce, although mostly the hearty fall and winter crops, which can grow to massive sizes because of prolonged daylight in the summer time. There are also large varieties of berries and other products which are more commonly found here than elsewhere, and some native plant species which can be eaten.

Part of my interest in my land is to forage for food, although since I’ve been pre-occupied with so many other activities, I haven’t been able to fully take advantage of this yet. For many plants there is a very short window for collection too, so foraging is not exactly something that can be done most of the year either, except for one plant: rosehips. I walk around my property snacking on the infinite number of rosehips around. They taste like small tart apples. These are commonly dried and used for tea, and can be found in stores across the untied states. But I have never seen them fresh until I bought this property, and they are everywhere. I hear they’re a good source of vitamin C. While I’m out I eat far more than I should, and could easily collect gallons of them for many months of the year. Even after first snow, I’ve seen them popping out through, looking just fine and ready to taste.

You can also eat small ferns, and other plants while they are still very young, and tender, before they change character and become largely inedible. In this respect they remind me of bamboo shoots, that I used to see in Maryland, sprouting up through the soil, ready to be eaten for a very short time, much like white asparagus, and asparagus in general, before it becomes a tiny tree. My family grew asparagus in our garden when I was a kid, and I’m happy to have the chance to try to find anything and everything I can eat off my lot, at whatever stage of development the plant allows for it. I’ve even been chomping on dandelions, which are quite good, even though most think of them as worthless weeds. They are not native to Alaska, but nevertheless, are plentiful, and easily passed up, without good reason, for greens that must be purchased at the grocery store instead (not that one would want to stop shopping at the grocery store).



Everyone’s favorite weed: the Dandelion. Plentiful and yummy. And somewhat odd to eat.

One cannot be a Vegan in Alaska without depending on an outside source of nutrition, however. I would argue that one cannot be a happy Alaskan without eating food that comes from someplace else though, and the grocery system here is surprisingly high quality. I think grocery stores are significantly better than most I’ve grown up with and have had access to almost anyplace I’ve lived. Variety is good, prices are good, and quality is pretty high almost all year round. Produce especially. But it depends on where you live. In Anchorage, and the vicinity, there are too many grocery stores of high quality to count. Out in the Alaskan villages, that are found scattered across the state, much fewer options exist, and prices are extremely high. I once advertised for a company here in Alaska, when I first moved here in 2009, called “Alaska Bush Shoppers.” At that time, I recall that bush shopping through Sams Club and this company, and others, was more common seemingly than it is today, although I have not stayed apprised in changes. I think it is just easier to order online most likely. But at that time, people have the postal service air deliver and even air drop food, which came from a catalog that did not appear to be anything nearly as healthy as what existed in the grocery stores. People were willing to pay 5 dollars for a snickers bar, or some value near that amount, simply to have that taste they craved from not having access to the normal grocery store. Kim also had a job for a time in the early childhood education system (head start), and she would visit these tiny villages. She said the grocery stores were really expensive–incredibly so, and did not have a very large variety of options. This makes sense, because in many of these locations, there was very little there but an airstrip, some small number of stores, and a school house, which took on a more central role as a place to gather than elsewhere. She would even sleep in the schoolhouse, since there were no other accommodations. People who live in these areas, take sustainable living seriously, and get much of their diet from elsewhere. From hunting, fishing, or lifestyle that is more in keeping with what you would expect from indigenous peoples of the area.

While at one point I was fascinated by the idea of living a survivalist lifestyle, or a life off the land, I would only want to attempt that in a climate that could completely support it with the requisite legumes, seeds, nuts, and any other food that I could largely survive on, but in adequate variety to keep me from getting bored. But that is a daunting task, to be a farmer of so many different types of foods, wherever you happen to live. And I really prefer to have my home base in Alaska. That means I need to be able to get along with what exists in the store, and in that way, I’m not different from anyone else living in any city across the United States and Canada, and as I was saying, in many ways I’m better off for having land I could farm, forage, and grocery stores of high quality; even though that might come as a surprise to some readers that that would be the case. I can’t claim these stores would impress everyone from everywhere, but compared to Maryland, Virginia and Miami Beach, these stores really are pretty good. Produce can be better quality and cheaper. Some foods like Chips, processed vegan foods, and Cereals seem far more expensive though, presumably because of shipping costs associated with high volume boxes at low weight.

10 years ago, being vegan here was more difficult in the sense that restaurants did not really serve vegan options, that were not the same options everyone else at that happened to be vegan (bread sticks, french fries, etc…), although I can remember I could get the basic veggie sandwich at Subway, soy drinks at Starbucks, and veggie burritos at Qdoba. Today, however, there is a much greater variety of vegetarian and vegan options, and some places make special efforts to cater to these groups. I have innumerable options, and almost everyone has the more current veggie burger options, the newer vegetarian meats (“Impossible” and “Beyond Meat” burgers). One change was that every coffee place I visit seems to have any variant of veggie milk you could want. Coconut milk, almond milk, etc… in addition to the standard soy option. There is no difficulty whatsoever being Vegan here, and when I return back to Maryland to visit family, I feel as though I have the same or even fewer options.

Sit-in restaurants also have many more options than before, and in Anchorage I can find plenty of places to eat, such that I don’t get bored, or run out of new and different options. Even when leaving the area, there seem to be plenty of options. I believe this is largely due to the impact of the tourism industry, as Veganism has become so widespread that many people visiting Alaska, presumably, put pressure to offer these options to ensure that they are comfortable. Hospitality is good. I always felt like Alaska had superior waiters and hostesses, in comparison with almost every other place I visited. More recently I’ve had some difficulties, but that was only after living in the state for a very long time as a resident. Prior to that I only noticed that staff was really high quality at almost every restaurant I would go to.

More recently, I even discovered there is a Vegan Society of Alaska here, near Palmer, AK, close to where I was living in my RV in the winter, and near where I’m now living. I joined and there is a fairly large membership, with the last meeting hosting around 20-30 for a vegan potluck. I was invited by someone I ran into at a grocery store, browsing for veggie products that were on sale. I felt a little ridiculous that I did not seek out such a group sooner, but it is clear that groups of people do exist in and around Anchorage who characterize themselves as vegetarian or vegan.

People seem accepting of veganism too. A decade ago, I can remember debating about it, and maybe I could find people here who are still not exposed sufficiently to understand that it is a viable way of life. Nevertheless, I can tell there have been changes. I still don’t feel compelled to tell anyone about my lifestyle choice, but I also feel that it would be less of a cause for ostracism or stigma than before. An upcoming younger generation seems to be much more tolerant of differing lifestyles, at least from what I can tell, not being incredibly steeped in the community, for a number of reasons relating to business, my lawsuit, and my divorce, which considerably changed how I approached relationships with others.

“Do you fish?” and “Do you hunt?” are common questions that come up. My answers usually are “I used to fish,” and "My family hunts, but my mother kept me from getting involved in guns as a kid, so I mostly hike and enjoy nature.

I’ve been vegetarian since Thanksgiving 2000, and vegan since January 2001. So it’s been nearly 20 years. I could easily be criticized for not being more open with my lifestyle, but with my property situation, I find that people are so nosy an gossipy, I’d prefer to not share every detail about so others can converse about how non-Alaskan they think I am. This has nothing to do with receptiveness to the diet though, and more to do with social issues faced regarding the property, and the fact that so many neighbors who are involved in the situation are insistent on knowing information about me, just because I moved in, including who I am, what my intentions are being in Alaska, how I will develop my land, and many other minute details. And all the while, I’m wondering why I don’t know anything about them at all. As part of my lawsuit, I was even deposed, which meant I had to answer questions with a lawyer who was probing me about personal details. With these people, in this situation, then, I’m very much adverse to giving personal details at this point. I’m very open, and they take advantage of that. Some have even scoured my social media profiles to mock me in public about what they found. So the last thing I want to do is talk to people about my choice of lifestyle, and I certainly don’t spend my time trying to proselytize or convert anyone.

Furthermore, there is the ongoing complaint about Vegans that we hear endlessly that we self-announce. Some may do that, and I may have done that while I was especially interested, when I first started. But the reality is, people are perceptive when they notice differences. At dinner, they’ll ask. When they ask, it becomes a longish conversation. It’s one I’ve had so many times at this point, I usually take a pass, even when asked in a dinner scenario, or give a polite response and indicate it might be better to share more at another time.

In summary, however, I have to say, it’s been really easy these days to be vegan here and on the road. I also think it is highly likely that writing about this topic will soon become unnecessary. Maybe ten years from now, it will be so mundane and mainstream, that it will be a truism that people can live in these areas easily, in a tiny house environment, growing and even foraging on property, with supplements coming from grocery stores, and plenty of other options to choose from.

Chapter 17. Trespassing Worsens

One day, while spending time in my RV on my driveway, trying my best to enjoy my new solitude, on my property, that was supposed to be quiet and remote, I had some unwanted visitors pass through.

My RV is off grid, with no electricity, no plumbing, and at the time, there were no network services. It is just over 1 mile away from a somewhat sparsely inhabited neighborhood with a normal road.

(View of the McHugh Peak, in Chugach State Park, just opposite the water)

While Anchorage was accessible, it is true wilderness where I was staying. A neighbor said I was “kinda crazy for staying out there.” There are bears, moose, and lynx, and many other wild animals. It is very close to Chugach State park, a massive park of National Park quality, full of dangerous animals, in their natural habitat.

A driveway that connects a nearby neighborhood roadway system starting at my neighbor’s gate, extends just over a mile through my property, most of the way to the park boundary of the park. No one lives along the shared driveway. Myself and my neighbors own vacant parcels of land, that we intend to build on, although we were not yet able to begin construction. I was the only one spending significant amounts of time out there, in a truly remote location, despite some proximity to civilization. At the furthest point of my property from the road, I staged my RV, in a suitable spot that would conveniently support my preparatory construction activities I was planning.

Long before buying this property, unfortunately, there were problems with trespassers. Since the driveway extended from the neighborhood to near the park, and there were no homes, it mostly resembled an extension of the park, attracting many people who wanted to walk through. Many of these people did not have the best intentions, however, and were frequenting many spots on the property that were not along the driveway, creating problems for knowing who was out there and when.



(“No Trespassing” signs intended to inform people that my property is privately owned and not a park.)

A group of neighbors, believing, or otherwise using, the story that a previous homesteader wanted the driveway to be open for public use, for access to the state park, hiked though without providing acknowledgement to landowners that it was the landowner’s land they were traversing. There was for a very long time an old gate at the beginning of the property blocking it off from vehicles. My neighbor became the owner of this gate when he bought his property a little over 5 years before I bought mine.

One day, upon returning from overseas, he found that his property was being flooded with hikers. Even a tour bus was reported to have shown up, dropping off visitors for access to the park. The roadway near the gate was lined with cars. The neighbors nearby where not happy, and neither was he, so he took the steps to reinforce the gate to prevent pedestrian traffic, and took an active stance against outsiders showing up to hike, without providing any acknowledgement to landowners.

There were plenty of other access routes to the park around Anchorage, and this was private property. Nevertheless, this event of extending and fortifying the gate, that was easily bypassed by pedestrians before, created conflict—between my neighbor and people who thought they were entitled to continue walking through to the park.

Just a few years later, my wife and I come onto the scene. We learn about some issues with hikers, but are fine with allowing those who are willing to provide acknowledgement, and sign an agreement, to come through. Despite this, some refused to sign agreements and took a hostile stance against use, and forcibly walked though, despite anything we might say about wanting to come to an agreement about how access should take place.

Today, newly and uncomfortably single, my resources are largely depleted, and I’m stuck in a lawsuit, with many neighbors who believe they have a right to cross through my property.

Solitude would not be as easy to get as I thought, even though my property is mostly inaccessible to the public, and is quite far from any other home.

One day, in May 2019, I’m alone in my RV. Trying my best to enjoy myself, despite all that has gone awry in my life, when suddenly some men pass through. I hear them chatting loudly outside the RV, on a lower portion of my driveway, not more than 50-100 feet away, depending on what portion they were walking through. Annoyed that I had unwanted visitors, I tried to ignore them, and was mostly successful. They hiked past, up towards the park, and all went quiet again.

While for the most part I do not worry about people who pass through, I do have security concerns. This location is very far from the road, and I had no means of communication. I also did not want any means of communication. Instead, I only wanted neighbors who were safe to pass through, and for everyone else, I wanted to be concerned about them… Just as anyone wants to be able to identify strangers, and separate them from those who are known and approved of, especially at home.

What is unique in this case, is the remoteness. I’m alone, and there are men walking through, who are likely armed, and sometimes they return at night. In this case they did not return at night. It seems they made their way down the driveway, to the end, but not the park, and then turned around. Because soon after they passed by, they returned. This time, however, they stopped near my RV, and began chatting loudly. This is where it became clear to me they were trying to provoke my attention with harassment, possibly with the desire to create a reaction, and as I would soon confirm, a they were opportunists wanting to create a story to gain media attention, and perhaps local fame for themselves. While this may seem like it is a small scale issue, it turns out it involves Anchorage politicians, up to the Mayor of Anchorage, and perhaps people operating at the state level. Current litigation may unearth exactly how widespread interest in this case is, but at the moment it is confirmed that all levels of Municipal authority in Anchorage have been involved. But this can be explained in depth later.

One man was an amateur journalist, who contacted me once before, about interviewing me for a story about the controversy. I was polite with him but ultimately declined, since there were clear signs that he had negative or at least a partisan, non-agnostic position, that would have been more becoming of a true journalist. We engaged in an email conversation when he reached out to me using that medium. At the end our our conversation, it suddenly soured when he made a veiled threat, or a joke, about being able to use his chain saw to trail blaze down my section-line easements.

For those who may not be familiar, as I was not until purchasing this land, a section-line easement is the portion of the property that anyone can walk through, although many landowners might not be aware of it. The borders of a property, around the circumference, are reserved for various forms of access for utilities and other government purposes. Anyone from the public can walk down someone’s section line easement. This would be odd for someone to do, and could provoke conflict and suspicions about a persons intentions doing it, but technically people are allowed hike or walk these borders. This is more obvious to us when we imagine long strips of cleared land we’ve seen, with telephone lines running down them. Since my property is wild, purchased from the original homesteader, the section lines are mostly overgrown wilderness, amounting to wildlife habitat. They are not easily passable. Knowing this, he said he could trailblaze them to create a path with his chainsaw, if he wanted to.

Such a comment was entirely disturbing to me, coming from someone who I had no relationship with at all. He was basically threatening to walk through these areas with a chainsaw to clear them out, and gain access however he wanted. And this person was claiming to be a journalist.

A second individual was the owner of a fairly popular blog and news website that might be characterized as sensationalist, or if not sensationalist, of local interest. I was tipped off by the son of a state representative / Alaskan Politician, supposedly representing me, that I should expect an article to be written about me in this very same news blog. I knew this person and his wife from my office building, which functioned as a co-working environment for professionals operating small businesses, and this environment was totally disconnected from my property. There was no reason I should be hearing anything about my property from a casual acquaintance from this workspace. So at this time I became aware that here was gossip about this issue all across town, and probably conspiracy, due to the connections with politicians, and due to other information I had from other parallel activities I was involved in.

A third man was probably the most active trespasser on my property, crossing through day and night, and even altering my trails off the driveway without my permission (based upon report from my neighbor). He appears to be in his 50s, and perhaps even early 60s. He appears to be in fairly good shape from making my driveway and other trails around town his exercise destinations. This was the one person who I encountered along my driveway who made very odd statements indicating he was watching me, and was maybe a threat to my well being. I have my entire interaction with him recorded, and there is no doubt that there was a disparity between myself and him in politeness and readiness to come to any kind of agreement. He was very threatening and unusual.

So one person known for walking through with a mission to take the driveway from me was now loitering near my RV; he was walking through with another guy who was journalist who threatened me; and the third person was an owner of a sensationalist online newspaper. By all appearances they had a mission coming out to pay me a visit, in a location where no one else stayed in one place for any long duration, except me.

And they were yelling out all sorts of pseudo-conversation with references to me, and my life, to either irritate me, or provoke me to come out. And I gave them what they wanted. I grabbed my things, put on my boots, and snatched my go-pro camera to let them know they were not welcome. A mile into wilderness, were three men, near my RV, and possessions, a half mile across my property, trying to cajole me to create a story.

I got in my truck, drove down my driveway to a common intersection where the two parts of my driveway come together, and I parked across the width of the driveway, perpendicular with the route they had to take to get back. My intention was not to prevent them from crossing back. On the contrary, I wanted to ensure they would cross my path, so I could force acknowledgement that the property was mine, question them, and encourage them to depart through my property, faster than they came in.

During this encounter, I filmed them. I have all of it on camera. And since I had my camera out, the journalist decided to take out his phone, and capture photos or otherwise take video himself as well. While this was happening, and I was telling them I wanted to leave, of course they argued that they had a right to be there. I argued that they did not, and insisted that they leave. The one older man, who is known for passing through and being disrespectful and threatening, told me “There’s three of us” and made me feel immediately threatened. They slowly made their way around my truck, and began walking down the driveway back. Again, trying to provoke a response, that same man, as they finally decided to just leave, said

“Well, at least he didn’t pull a gun.”

I was unarmed, although as a matter of fact, I usually am armed out there. There are wild animals, and people like him passing through at night, and it is the norm to have weapons for self protection in Alaska. But on this particular occasion, I had the presence of mind to realize they probably would try to make something out of nothing. And so I was unarmed, and only had camera in hand. And fortunately, I caught the entire interaction on camera.

Not long after this interaction, the story was finally published on that website, by that journalist, with photos taken during the interaction. Including an unflattering photo of myself holding the go pro, feeling quite irritated that I had to clothe myself and grab my camera, to deal with trespassers at such a remote location. It’s equivalent to having to walk out of your home to see a stranger who knocks on your door, who is yelling into your home, when you are in your pajamas and expect and desire no visitors.

Although the photograph was unflattering, and slanderous in my opinion, it does show that I was, indeed, unarmed, and makes it really apparent that this man was trying to force a reaction, and make a really uncalled for veiled accusation.

The article itself was better written than I anticipated. It was more balanced than I thought it would be. However, it presented one highly skewed perspective, and there were many details missing, and many statements that were incomplete or false.

For one thing they were trespassers, and of course they did not say they were. I used this situation as evidence against them, and have an open criminal case against all three of them for criminal trespass. It is now in the hands of the prosecutor to complete the case, but as always in Anchorage, it appears corruption is at play and I’m not sure it will comet to a real resolution.

But the story, and its falsity, and the way it was obtained, all provide me strong motivation for completing my book.

I thought to myself, “Why were these people taking such an aggressive stance towards me? They knew nothing about who I am, and took no steps to welcome me to my new property. Didn’t they realize, I moved out here married, with dreams of living in the ways they themselves admire? Like a real homesteader? Buying land, building a small home, trying to be off grid in the wilderness? Didn’t they realize what I lost in the process? How much I invested? What they are doing to me, aside from simply walking past my RV and trying to provoke me?”

Chapter 18. Talking to the Police and FBI

Chapter 19. Small Town Gossip

Chapter 20. Mayor and Municipal Attorney

Chapter 21. Large scale ostracism and stigma

Chapter 22. Going to school remotely and interacting in the High IQ Societies.

Chapter 23. Blogging

Chapter 24. First Winter Off Grid

Chapter 25. Conclusion