Cud Eastbound grew up idolizing Dick Proenneke. On an empty lot his friend loaned him for the winter, 11 kilometres south of Dawson City, he’s experimenting with a home that would’ve made the famed Alaskan bushman proud.
More than 100 bales of straw surround his 1977 Dodge camper van (“Night Danger”), equipped with a steel woodstove he welded himself, attached to six metres of chimney pieced together from tin he scrounged from the local dump. Eastbound and his German Shepherd-Husky-Blue Heeler best friend lounge comfortably inside, at a cozy 25 C.
The temperature outside? -50 C.
“I just wanted to find a way to spend my first winter in the van,” says Eastbound, a constantly touring folk musician, “because it’s been my home whenever I’m on the road.”
Why straw? It’s recyclable (he’ll give the 117 bales to a Dawson farmer when he no longer needs them), and a good insulator. He had it trucked up from Whitehorse, bartering his graphic design services for a cheaper price. The straw bales are covered in plastic house wrap. “My goal, outside of the straw and the plastic, was to try to use everything from the dump,” says Eastbound.
But he hasn’t skimped on safety. A steel sheet shields the woodstove from the van and layers of floating corrugated metal surround the chimney. “I can put my hand on the outside of the pipe, and even if the inside pipe is red hot, the outside is cool to the touch.” And if a spark were to go astray outside, it’d fizzle out on the van’s other insulator: snow.
Although the van’s big enough to house a kitchen, a three-burner propane stove and two beds, Eastbound isn’t considering making it a permanent home. He plans to build a small log cabin this summer.
Besides, Night Danger might be on its last legs after its cross-Canada trip last summer. “I promised it that it could retire if it made it to the Yukon,” he says, “so I feel if I don’t follow through with my promise, things won’t work out too well.”