Hearing that someone drove thousands of miles just to live in a tent for an undetermined amount of time, could leave most people with the assumption that there must have been a lack of planning or foresight. But in our case, it was all part of the plan!
Naturally, we had looked into housing options before we came up to Alaska. Being a popular tourist destination, Seward didn’t have a lot of long term options in general, and most of the short term options were not within our price range, or just didn’t feel right. However, the thought that we would not have a place to live when we arrived in Seward, Alaska didn’t concern us. I mean, we had lived out of Ryan’s Isuzu Rodeo the week after we got back from our honeymoon because we didn’t have an apartment yet, and neither of us were strangers to ‘roughing it”! So, we made the well calculated decision that as long as there was a place to camp, we’d be good!
Beautiful National Forest land covers a large portion of the Kenai Peninsula, so I knew there would be ample places to camp. As I looked more into our options, though, I discovered a ‘tent only’ campground within the Kenai Fjords National Park just outside of Seward! The best part, it was also free!
We had taken our time to get up to Alaska, but still arrived before the tourist season had really started to take off. So, we had no trouble finding a spot! In fact, we were the only ones in the campground the first few nights! Anticipating that we would be there for a while, we didn’t skimp on any amount of effort to make our setup sturdy and ‘homey’! We had a five person tent for sleeping, and a two person tent for gear. We had rain flies on both tents, as well as a couple tarps strung up in an a-frame style over the tents to really make sure we stayed dried! To top it off, we took out the backseat of our van and put that in the tent so we’d have a couch! We were no longer ‘camping’, we were ‘glamping’!
Despite the fact that I had been told that there was a much more casual and accepting attitude in Alaska, I wasn’t entirely sure how people would respond when they found out that we were living in a tent. I was a little tentative about disclosing that particular bit of information with the first few people I met, especially when asked in a couple of job interviews, but the reactions I got were a complete surprise and a strong reassurance that we had truly found the ideal place for us! Literally everyone I met had at some point during their time in Alaska, lived out of a vehicle, a tent, a trailer, or a dry cabin, and not just for a couple weeks or months, but at least for a few months, and often a year or longer! So we were nothing out of the ordinary.
The many bear sightings we had had as we were driving up did worry me somewhat, but you can’t live in fear! The National Park campground had been well designed to help campers avoid as much unwanted contact with wildlife as possible. A pavilion specifically designated for cooking and storing food was located at the edge of the parking lot. A small trail then led campers back to the various tent sites. There was even a little room in the pavilion, like a pantry, where you could leave your food and cooking supplies while you weren’t using them. We called it our bear closet! Needing to open up more room in our van for passengers, Ryan and I stashed two big totes of food and cooking supplies in the bear closet! It worked great...until one night...
Ryan and I had spent a long day in town working on figuring out final business logistics, and had just eaten in our van while we were in town. We got back to the campground late in the evening and went through our routine of brushing our teeth in the parking lot and changing out of the clothes we had eaten in so that our sleeping clothes would not have any scent of food. We started heading back to our tent, when I realized I needed to grab something else from the van. Ryan went to take the keys from his pocket, and immediately had the sickening realization, ‘they weren’t there!’ We made our way back to the van, and there on the front seat were the keys. Surprisingly, neither of us had much of a reaction. Perhaps it was because we knew there wasn’t much we could do. We were at least 10 miles from town, no cell phone reception, and the Exit Glacier Nature Center, the closest resource to us, was closed for the night. As we stood there looking at the door, an image flashed into my mind! I remembered that I had seen a couple of wire hot dog sticks on a shelf in the bear closet when we had stashed our food! Running to the pavilion, I pulled open the door to the bear closet. ‘Yes! There were the hot dog sticks!’ ‘But wait, where were our two totes?’ They were gone!
I couldn’t believe someone had taken them! Wasn’t there some unspoken rule that campers in bear country shouldn’t steal other people’s food from the bear closet? Well, unspoken rules or not, they were gone and we were still locked out of our van. So, I headed back to tell Ryan the good news (finding the hot dog sticks) and the bad news (the missing totes).
To say we were bummed or annoyed, would be an understatement. There hadn’t been much in the totes by worldly standards, just food, a dutch oven set up, some knives I had crafted handles and sheaths for, lanterns, and other camping/cooking gear, but at that time, when we had so very little in general, and were living out of a tent, our loss felt huge!
All we could do, though, was report that they had been stolen to a Park Ranger the next morning. Even still, we had zero hopes that we would ever see those totes again.
A couple days later, we found an amazing dry cabin for rent, and although it did not have running water or electricity, it did have a door that locked! Yes, the solid roof, propane heater, a mattress, and an attached bathroom (albeit was only a composting toilet), were also major upgrades!
It was a little sad to tear down the campsite we had put so much work into making comfortable and durable. Not wanting everyone in the campground to watch as we lugged a bench from our van back to the parking lot, we got up early the next morning to pack everything up while the other campers were still asleep! It makes me laugh remembering us carrying that through the campground, and a bunch of other random things that you don’t usually take camping!
As we were about to leave, I remembered we had a couple of water jugs in the bear closet that hadn’t been stolen. When I opened the door to grab the jugs, I stopped dead in my tracks! There in the bear closet were our two totes that had been stolen a few days before! We quickly went through them to see if anything had been taken out, but everything was there! It was unbelievable! The Park Ranger had never gotten back with us, so I doubt he had anything to do with it. It was a complete mystery! I have absolutely no explanation except that it was a miracle! As we drove away, headed to our dry cabin and reunited with our two totes, I was flooded with an overwhelming feeling of abundance!
Ryan & Courtney Bringhurst, we are a happily married power couple! Our purpose together is to inspire and uplift others to live the life they were meant to live, as well as to find true joy and satisfaction in their life's journey.