How does a 20 year old from Illinois end up in Alaska? Well you pack a bag, throw into the car and off you go. Drove northwest to Canada, then got on the 1,400 mile Alcan highway which in 1959 was a gravel road. After days of travel ended up in Anchorage Alaska. After 1,400 miles of gravel, ended up with 18 holes in the windshield of my car. Gas tankers on the Alcan flew at high speed on the Alcan, and when they would pass, the rocks would fly everywhere.
Went about another 40 miles to Hope Alaska and started prospecting for gold. Had bought a gold pan for testing for gold in streams. Only when an old timer told me how to pan, did I start finding gold flakes. One has to place a metal pan in the fire to get it black, then one can see the flakes of gold. A pan is just used for testing a stream. Real money requires some heavy equipement, out of luck again.
So then I bought a raft and did some river rafting, then as the money was running low, headed to Anchorage to seek out a job.
By the way Gold was $32.00 an ounce, and the last year for homesteading 160 acres in Alaska for free was in the year 1959.