On his 31st birthday, Dwayne Parton and his dog Bobby left home in North Carolina and set out for Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Since hitting the road in 2015, the web developer and his 7-year-old Pit-Lab mix have covered over 8,000 miles. Along the way, they’ve hiked Colorado’s highest mountain (Mount Elbert) met a fair amount of friendly strangers (who, in turn, have become friends) and chronicled the best ways to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).
Parton and his pup even hiked the infamous Stampede Trail to the Magic Bus (where Into the Wild hiker Chris McCandless died) before spending time in Anchorage. He’s no stranger to adventure, though. Before his 2015 trip, he hiked the Appalachian Trail (AT) with his late dog, Lucy, that ended up changing his life.
“I’ve always been athletic but outdoorsy, I don’t know if I would say that,” he says. “I told several people I would never hike [the AT] before I did. I just couldn’t understand the appeal. Then one day, it hit me; I had to do it. I had kind of been knocked down by life and it just made sense … it was one of the best decisions of my life.”
Parton gets personal on his blog about the events that led him to hit the road — specifically, a divorce — but says, “It was just a bad card. We get those every now and then. It kind of left me spinning. It reset my life in ways.”
Once the idea of road tripping to Alaska took hold, it took Parton about three months to get everything in order.
“You can’t plan too far ahead. Working out every detail will keep you in the same spot. I picked a destination, and decided I would go for it. No timeline, no itinerary, I wanted to see where the road took me as I made my way to Prudhoe Bay,” he says.
As a freelancer, all Parton needs is a laptop and a decent Wi-Fi connection to work, but there were other things to consider, like the logistics of traveling in and out of Canada to get to Alaska with a dog, getting mail forwarded and the like. “I set the leave date as my birthday. I feel like if you don’t have a leave date, it’s easy to make up excuses to stay. It’s easy to find a reason to postpone plans.”
Along the way, Parton chronicled his adventures with Bobby on Instagram and his blog, which helps him keep in touch with friends and family. “It’s really cool because my whole town [followed] along with the journey. I really like that, I love sharing the adventure.”
Homesickness is normal, of course, but it helps to have a canine BFF along for the ride. Bobby’s less interested in hiking and other outdoorsy activities than his human — “He’s very laid back and doesn’t like a whole lot of exercise. In other words, he’s a little lazy” — but he’s perfectly happy to ride shotgun and keep Parton company.
In addition to being an easy companion, needing little more than his share of Parton’s sleeping bag and some extra clothes for when the temperatures drop, Bobby is also a sensitive pup who knows when a extra snuggles are called for. “It’s interesting how they can often sense when you’re a little down and out. Like all good dogs, he makes you feel like you’re the coolest person in the world every time you get in the car. Lots of kisses and tail wagging,” he says.
Although the pair have settled back in North Carolina for the time being, Parton is waiting to see where the road takes him next. Exploring more of Alaska is at the top of his list, but after that, who knows? “I want to keep experiencing, and one day I image I will catch a spark that will define the direction more.”
In the meantime, Parton is collecting tons of tales to tell future grandkids. Hiking the AT gave him a taste of what’s continuing to drive his wanderlust. “It’s the ever-changing environment, meeting new people, the unexpected events that can only happen when you are traveling,” he says, adding, “Perhaps it’s a stranger helping you, or you helping them… The trail gave me a lot of confidence in being alone, I had travelled a lot before but not under such extremes.”
No matter where he goes, Parton won’t be alone. He has Bobby and his readers to help support him along on his journey.