Greetings From… Canyon Lake, AZ

Harrison Boyink and “Not An Axe Murderer” Barth kayaking on Canyon Lake, Arizona.

Stories from eight years of living on the road in America

By Michael Boyink /

Barth was a fast driver. We were in his black, diesel-powered Chevy pickup truck, attacking the twisty Arizona back roads like we were second-place in a rally race.

My son was in the back seat. There were kayaks on the roof and coolers on the floor.  The three of us were heading to Canyon Lake for a day on the water.

I looked over at Barth and said “You could be an axe-murderer, for all we know.”

He laughed.

Canyon Lake, AZ

I’m pretty sure he laughed.

We had only met the previous day. MsBoyink and I were working the entrance booth at a campground in Mesa, Arizona. Barth checked in on the way to his campsite. I saw the boats on his roof and reminded him that we were currently in the middle of a desert.

He said Canyon Lake was a few miles away and he was planning a day kayaking there. I said it sounded like fun and waved him on. 

He backed up.

“Want to go?”

His wife had stayed home so he had an extra kayak.

I looked at MsBoyink. She shrugged. “Always say yes,” she smiled.

We had already talked about this. One reason we started traveling was to get out of our routines. We wanted to be open to new experiences. And new people. We decided that unless an offer was illegal, immoral, or unsafe, we would say yes to it.

Karaoke on the beach with off-duty Coast Guardsmen? Yep. Sunday dinner with reality TV show stars? Absolutely. Swimming with manatees in Florida? Yes, yes, yes.

Kayaking on a remote lake with an absolute stranger?


We left early the next morning and I got to know Barth on the hour-long drive to the lake. 

He owned a fuel-delivery company in Wisconsin. He had a son about the same age as mine. His parents lived in the Phoenix area. Barth kept his kayaking gear stored in their garage and was able to visit a few times a year. He had spent a lot of time on Canyon Lake.

We rented a 3rd boat for my son. We explored up river mouths. We saw bald eagles and Peregrine falcons. We beached the boats and rock-hopped up riverbeds to see snow-melt waterfalls. The conversation flowed easily. 

It was one of the most memorable days of our time on the road. 

And I know Barth at least smiled at my axe-murderer joke.

Canyon Lake is approximately 50 miles east of Phoenix and is in the Tonto National Forest. The lake offers boating, fishing, kayaking and swimming. Learn more at