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Forrest Mankins: A Life Alive


Forrest Mankins: A Life Alive

Christophe Chaisson

To me, to live A Life Alive is to pursue your greatest dream. Pursing a dream has nothing to do with age or time, though it is often blamed. Many of us read the inspirational stickers stuck on the back of car windows, we watch the inspirational films projected on the big screens and we have listened to the inspiring speeches given by the greatest leaders of our world, but how many have acted? Few. I want to live A Life Alive by doing what I started months ago. I am sixteen, and a published writer. I go to school. I deal with the common difficulties all teens face. Some of my days consist of school, and school alone, but I make time to do what I love. I have been told that my writing is good, and with that I will use it to make a difference. The difference now is sharing the inspiring stories of people like Forrest Mankins, all who decided life is not something of the future, but life is now. Do with it something you want.

“There is great freedom that comes with a full tank of gas,
an open road, and an open mind, and I chose that
-Forrest Mankins

After five months on the road, traveling from Oklahoma to the Artic Circle of Alaska, Forrest Mankins and travel companion Garrett Danz will release their trip documentary: A Life Alive.

"A Life Alive is a 'call to action,' says Forest, “Everyone has a dream; you have a dream, and I think it’s worth pursuing. It’s easy to postpone our dreams until ‘Someday,’ but the reality is that we aren’t guaranteed any time in this life, and we deserve to pursue happiness. This is about overcoming and realizing the power that we all hold to take control of our lives. We can accomplish anything if we put our mind and our hands together.”

It started with Forrest asking Garrett, "Hey man, what's up? I just sent you a photo of a weird looking vehicle. Want to go live in it with me for a couple weeks? Oh yeah.. I'm leaving in four days, do you have a passport?" Four days later, after a restless night, and a morning spent with his father, Forrest picked up Garett, and the two were off. They would spend their days and nights in Forrest’s blue 84’ Toyota Land Cruiser. One that Forrest spent weeks on preparing it for the five month journey.

Forrest and Garrett are both from Oklahoma. Garrett is a creative producer and director, he has created and directed many music videos that have appeared on CMT, MTV and Billboard. But after years of doing this, Garrett wanted something new. A phone call from Forrest later, and he was on the road creating the new that he had been searching for. The two spent the five months in twelve places. It started in Oklahoma and continued to Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon Territory and finally Alaska. It was Alaska that Forrest experienced his favorite memory of the trip, and took his favorite photograph still to this day.

Forrest's father had dreamt of seeing Alaska for 55 years. He had wanted to see his own father, Forrest’s grandpa, who was a guide there. He wanted to see what is considered the Last Frontier. But as a father himself, he dedicated his days to his children and family. ”As children we can never repay our parents for what they do for us, but this was one thing that the ALA project was able to,” Forrest says on subject of his father. While in Alaska, Forrest was able to fly his father there. Upon his father's arrival Forrest snapped what is now his favorite photo.“I see the wild eyes of a child in this photo, the happiness and excitement, and the lifetime of waiting mixed with memories of his father.”

Another memorable moment on the trip was the night of the blizzard. Forrest, Garrett and two other friends Dewey and Mikey loaded Dewey’s $900 FWD Mazda Van, and headed for the Arctic Circle. It was hearing about Dewey and Mikey's past trips there that sparked Forrest’s desire to see it too. Two hours and sixty miles from the Arctic Ocean the sky developed a haze, and the temperatures plummeted. Forrest does not recall the exact temperature, but he claims it was cold enough to make you wish you had not already been wearing your heaviest coat. The road that they travelled was lined with delineators that allowed drivers to see when visibility was low, but even they were disappearing by the miles in. By this time the four had no choice but to keep north, for the only gas station was at their destination- and their gas was nearing empty. The four quickly progressed from phase 1 to phase 3, phase three being the worse conditions. These conditions brought two options, stop and risk the chance of being hit by the incoming semi-trucks, or continue into the storm.

They went forward. Twenty miles short of Prudhoe Bay, they hit a snow drift, turned sideways on the highway, but miraculously recovered. As they recovered a light generator was seen to their left. They sat there in hopes to wait out the storm. Dewey made the point that a Phase can last an hour, two hours, or even two weeks. This spurred the question, “We had plenty of food and warm gear, but in reality, how long could we 3 stay here until we became the bottom of a snow drift, or until a semi came by and sideswiped us?”

Help then came. Two snow plows came and notified the group that they were only a mile from a Disaster Area. The Sag River was washing away the entire road north. Forest and the group were then directed back to the workers camp. They spent the night freezing in the Mazda, and were awoken at 5:33 am by the wind shaking the van, and a man telling them to come inside. After breakfast, hours of waiting in the TV Room and lunch, they were told that the road south was “OK”. With a full tank of gas they headed South.

It was events like this and the people that they met that made this a once in a lifetime experience. One that allowed Forrest to meet new friends, find new places, and fill his camera. Forrest hopes that A Life Alive will go beyond the footage. He hopes to inspire others to step out of their comfort zone and chase a dream. To live a life alive.

Written by : Lillian Green. 

To experience A Life Alive for yourself visit

All photos belong to Forrest Mankins.