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  • Ken Ilgunas


(Coldfoot is where the red thingy is)

As I mentioned in my concluding post, I am moving out of North Carolina and heading up to Alaska to be Coldfoot’s first-ever “writer in residence.” In two days, I will follow a rather complicated travel plan to get there:

1. David drives me from his home to Winston-Salem (free)

2. Take a bus to High Point, N.C. ($2)

3. Take a train to Durham, N.C. ($14)

4. Take a Megabus to Washington D.C. ($5)

5. Take a subway to the D.C. airport ($2?)

6. Fly to L.A, then Seattle, then Fairbanks ($150)

7. Walk to North Alaska Tour Company’s offices in town.

8. Figure out how to get to Coldfoot, which is 250 miles to the north.

Frankly, I’ll be surprised if I get there.

While my travel plans may be complex, I’ve taken strides to simplify other aspects of my life. Because the Megabus only allows one large piece of luggage, I’ve had to condense pretty much my whole life into a large backpack. So I gave away lots of stuff from the van to Goodwill–my linens, my storage container, my cutting board, etc.–and threw out some ratty clothes.

I’d like to take a moment to say farewell to a couple of fine products that have served me well these past few years.

My cutting board, frying pan, etc.

Storage container and linens.

This was my first backpack. It’s traveled with me to Alaska, up Blue Cloud, on two cross-country hitchhikes, and on many other adventures. The bottom of the backpack was full of holes, it was missing half of its plastic snaps, and most of its tightening straps had vanished. I bought this thing for $30 off eBay in May 2005 and it’s been a loyal piece of equipment since.

This Pierre Cardin suitcase has probably been with me for ten years. At Duke, it served as my dresser drawer, holding all my clothes. When I ate in the van, I’d rest my feet on it which gradually took a toll on the material. None of the zippers work on it anymore.

Last but not least are my dear sweatpants. I’ve had these for about a decade. They were a curious pair of pants. They seemed to get longer and longer, no matter how many times I ripped off the tattered edges around my ankles. I must have ripped away about a foot of cloth from each leg, yet the pants still brush against the ground. I didn’t have any more room in my new pack, so I had to make one final cut unfortunately. Goodbye, dear sweatpants!

I guess you could say I have two types of possessions. I have a collection of “long-term possessions” and a set of “need-now possessions.” I sent 60 pounds of long-term stuff home to my parents house–things I don’t need now but may want in the future: important books, dress clothes, and sentimental items like a pair of moccasins.

Here are all my need-now possessions:

Stuff I mailed to Coldfoot, AK:

27 books

Pair of slippers

Pair of sneakers

Winter coat



3 pairs of wool socks

5 pairs of short socks

Expedition-rated thermals

5 crappy white tees

Bottle of aqueous wax

Stuff I’ll be carrying



Phone with pre-paid minutes

Sleeping bag

1-person tent

Water bottle




Hunting knife


2 books

Backpacking stove

Water filter

Wrist watch

Small camping supplies: matches, lighters, etc

3 pairs of pants

2 pairs of shorts

2 pairs of wools socks

7 pairs of underwear

Flannel pants

Thermal underwear

Baseball cap

6 shirts

Rain coat and rain pants

Backpack rainproof cover

Small travel bag with basic toiletries

Hiking boots

Here’s a picture of me carrying everything but the mailed package. (The backpack was a graduation gift from my family.)

I must also report (with some mixed feelings) that I have not sold the van. I had it up on Craigslist for nearly a month and had no bites. I lowered it from $2,150 to $1,800 and finally to $1,500. A family member of a friend showed interest but she lives in NY and didn’t have the money just yet. I got my first phone inquiry two days ago from a young man in Stokes County who inquired if I’d accept his “guns” as part of a trade deal, which I, needless to say, turned down.

Today I turned my plate in and canceled my insurance. Since I’ll be getting room and board in Coldfoot, I no longer have one bill of any sort in my life, which is a first for me. (I promised Coldfoot Camp that I’d work one day a week without pay for room and board.)

So I guess the van will stay here in North Carolina at David’s for the summer. I wish I could have gotten rid of this rather large possession, but sometimes I think things don’t work out for a reason. We’ll see.


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