Imagine driving into the woods on a dirt road you have never traveled, looking for a boarded-up cabin, and hoping that it might be a shelter for your family after six weeks on the road. The grass and fireweed is head high, and only the roof is visible from the dirt trace someone called a road. You wade through the greenery and the mosquitoes full of questions. Is the cabin sturdy and dry? How much garbage has to be cleared away? Where is the outhouse? Until the grass and alders are hacked down to ground level, it would be hard to see anything. But when you walk out past the cabin a few yards, the land falls away to a view of the shallow creek running through the muskeg and disappearing into the spruce forest on its way to the inlet. This was Happy Valley.
—Letters from Happy Valley: Memories of an Alaska Homesteader’s Son by Dan L Walker
Letters from Happy Valley is the story of discovery that began when a box of old letters arrived in Alaska from Ohio. Post marked 1958, these letters had made full circle, for they were letters from the authors’ parents to family left behind in Ohio when Chet and Briar Walker moved their six kids to homestead in the Alaska. The Walkers left Sugar Tree Ridge, Ohio in June 1958 and drove north to Southcentral Alaska with the dream of an Alaska homestead. Author Dan Walker was part of that family, a five-year-old tucked between his sisters in the backseat of a fifty-one Ford. This family memoir is a collaboration between the author and his parents. These letters which appear unedited to tell the story of the Walkers’ journey north and their first months of homesteading on the Kenai Peninsula. The writer has braided family history, the Alaska homestead experience, explorations of memory, and his search to know a father he lost in 1965. The result is a tale told in three voices, two from the past and one from the present searching for a past he poorly remembered.
“An instant Alaska classic. Artfully woven of letters and finely crafted, often poignant personal narrative, it transports us into the daily travails and adventures of a homesteading family in the late 1950s; at the same time, the author searches for a lost father, and explores the passages of the human heart.” —Nick Jans, author of A Wolf Called Romeo
“Walker displays his unsurpassed ability to bring to life his family’s Alaska pioneering history in a manner both informative and riveting. It will be no surprise to me should this book become a beloved north land classic.” Dan Seavey, Iditarod Icon
Dan Walker was raised in Alaska and graduated from East Anchorage high School, where he was sports editor for the school newspaper and wrote sport stories for the Anchorage Times newspaper. Dan lives in Seward and has more than thirty years in Alaskan education and was named Teacher of the Year for Alaska in 1999. A son of homesteaders, Walker has published in Last Frontier Magazine, Alaska Magazine, and the Journal of Geography. He is a member of Alaska Writers Guild, SCBWI, and 49 Writers. His debut novel, Secondhand Summer, was published in 2016 by Alaska Northwest Books. Letters from Happy Valley is available in paperback from the publisher, Ember Press and other major outlets.