August 30: life with Aurora. Living with our little 9 week old German Shepherd puppy has been entertaining to say the least. Before we got her, we listened to a fantastic book called the “The Art of Raising a Puppy.” Monks in New York City raise and train all breeds of dogs and wrote a book about it. It’s a fantastic book if you are interested in getting a puppy. We thought that we were all ready for a dog. We read the books, we researched the breed, we got the supplies. Oh man were we wrong! Aurora has presented so many new learning lessons for us. When to take her out…when to feed her…how much to feed her…what to do when she bites…how to get her to sit on command…what to do when she just doesn’t listen. I’m not going to lie, it has been an experience that has brought both Alec and I to tears from frustration. The first few nights were rough. She woke up every 2 hours crying and looking for her mom. We have now had her for over 2 weeks and she is finally starting to sleep all the way through the night. We did get extremely lucky with her. She came completely potty trained. She knows to cry to wake us up and we will take her outside to go to the bathroom. Every day seems to come with its own challenges. Sometimes she wakes up wanting to be the demon doggie and other days, she is a complete angel. That’s what raising a puppy truly looks like: working with her consistently everyday in the hopes that things will stick and that she will grow up to be a great adult dog.
She really is a great dog overall. She has sit, stay, come, and lay down almost all down. We both told each other that if we ever got a dog that we would work with it everyday. That’s exactly what we have been doing. Everyday, at least 3 times a day, we train her. The training lessons don’t last long (about 5-10 minutes), but we really want to consistently show her what we expect of her. That includes sitting and staying at the entrance of the RV and waiting for us to exit the RV first when leaving. She also has to sit and wait for us to enter the RV before her when going back inside. We are trying to teach her to sit when we stop walking. We are crate training her and are slowly increasing the amount of time we leave her in the crate for. Of course, we are constantly trying to teach her to not bite and to kiss our hands. Puppies love to bite things to express themselves and to understand their surroundings. Our hands and legs are so marked up from her not understanding that we aren’t another dog that she can play with. At times, training can be super frustrating. She gets in this play mode where we can’t seem to calm her down. That’s where her “time out” time comes into hand. We have learned with Aurora that if she is getting too wild to calm her dow, we put her in a time out in her crate. Might seem cruel, but isolation can be necessary for a dog at times.
We have been loving taking her out on hikes. She can’t go too far (even though she would love to) because of her size, but she LOVESSS to hike around.
We have recently been taking her on walks with our friend’s 1 year old German Shepherd, Maggie, and she loves it. Maggie has been really good for her. They can play together and Maggie can teach her some boundaries. Aurora is a very confident dog, so it’s nice to have an older dog kind of put her into her place. It’s fun to watch her explore her surroundings.
September 1: We hit our 6 month full-time traveling mark. I can’t even believe it. I don’t really understand where time is going to. We did something amazing for our 6 month mark. One thing that we had to see before we left Alaska were the Northern Lights. We have been stalking the Aurora predictions page in Alaska for the chance to see it. We finally got our chance with a super high score of Aurora 6. We have learned that that’s insanely high for the Northern Lights to have activity. We decided to get into our car around 22:00 and drive two hours north to Denali National Park just to see them. The more north you go, the better chances you have to see the lights. Plus the weather was reporting clear around Denali. According to the website, the best times to see the lights were between midnight- 03:00. We drove the farthest into Denali National Park that you could in our own personal vehicle (only 15 miles) and set up to watch them. Strings of greens, purples, yellows, whites danced above our heads. It was just outstanding. I just sat there with our little Aurora in my lap wrapped in a blanket, crying out of joy. I was crying for many reasons.
First, I was crying because we officially hit our 6 month mark of traveling. It has been such a crazy adventure so far and I couldn’t believe the fact that we have been able to do this for a half of a year. I really have the best husband in my eyes and I still can’t believe that we have been able to experience this together. I’m so grateful and so blessed. Ahh! Secondly, I was crying because I was holding the cutest little dog in my lap. The dog that I have been dreaming about for many, many years and finally had. Thirdly, I was crying because we were staring at the Northern Lights. They are just so beautiful and unexplainable in person. It was just overwhelming! We sat there watching the Northern Lights for a few hours, freezing our butts off in the process. It was worth it. The entire trip out there in the middle of the night and having to drive home super tired was worth it. It was an exciting time.
August 10-29: busy bee. Wow, it’s been a hot minute since I have sat down to write anything. We have been super busy exploring the beautiful state of Alaska, hanging out with new friends, and making big life changes. This is going to long blog post so be prepared! Where do I even start?!
Curry Ridge Trail. It’s a beautiful, recently-made, wide trail that overlooks the Alaskan Mountain Range. I don’t know if you have ever been on an Alaskan hiking trail, but they are usually very overgrown and narrow. Most of the time, I am clapping to let the bears know that I’m coming around the corner because I can’t see what’s coming next. That wasn’t the case for Curry Ridge Trail. It was a beautiful, sun shining day and the mountains were out. Watermelon berries lined the trail.
It was very a well trafficked trail and we found ourselves chatting with people along the way. The trail itself wasn’t very steep or difficult. It took us about 4 hours (with many berry picking breaks and lunch on the ridge) total to complete 7 miles to the ridge and back to the trailhead. Our muscles didn’t feel too tired during the hike, unlike hiking up the Kesugi Ridge (10 miles and very steep). At the top of the ridge, we were sure to stop, eat lunch, and admire the GORGEOUS views of the Alaskan Mountain Range.
I have been finding it hard to just stop and absorb the views around me. Life seems to move too fast these days. It just a nice break away from the craziness of life and back into the wild.
Making friends. We have been blessed with a great group of people around us. It’s really helped being so far away from any town. There is a family here from Texas that is also campground hosting a few miles down. They were originally taking care of the grounds that we are now responsible for. It’s been great hanging out with them all. Jay and Reim and (the parents, obviously) their two kids, Luke (14 yo) and Ireland (12 yo). Alec and I will go on little hikes with their kids and hang out around their campground. One thing that I have been absolutely loving is girl time. I love Alec, but he really could care less about make up even though he will sit there and allow me to talk about it for hours. Ireland and Reim have been a great channel for me to just be girly again. Girl time includes chatting about makeup and even getting my make up done. For only being 12 years old, Ireland has some crazy talent when it comes to make up application. We are currently going through every color of the rainbow on my eyes. Yellows eye, orange eye, etc.
We have had some parties with the parks employees like a whiskey tasting night!
Also, Projector movie night! The kids have never seen Dumb and Dumber, so we had to fix that.
Lower Troublesome Creek Trail. This is a very small, but notable trail in my opinion. It wasn’t notable because of the trail itself. Frankly, it was nothing special. It was short (0.5 miles one way) and lined by ferns that were taller than me.
I found myself clapping around every corner so that I didn’t spook a bear. This particular trail has been known for bears to hang around. What made this trail great is that it leads out to the Chulitna River and has an excellent ground view of the Alaskan Mountain Range.
We got very lucky that day because Mount Denali was out without a single cloud covering it. The end results of this hike were just absolutely beautiful!
Chena Hot Springs. We made sure to take a day to go relax and soak in the Chena Hot Springs near Fairbanks. It’s $15 a person and provides a pool, 3 hot tubs, and a large hot spring water lake area. I’m going to say much on this other than it was amazing to be able to relax in the hot water!
The Dalton Highway.
Guys, we finally went to the end of the road. It has been our goal for this entire trip. Way before we even decided to become campground hosts, we had this vision to be able to drive all the way to the end of North America. Only 20% of Alaska is accessible by road and we wanted to be some of the few who actually made it to the end. Here’s the thing…to get to the end of the road you have to take the famous Dalton Highway. This highway was placed on BBC’s “World’s Most Dangerous Roads” due to the remoteness, uneven gravel roads, potholes, busy/fast semi-trucks, and weather conditions. Let’s just say, I was nervous. We made sure to bring extra water, food, gas, spare tires, and even a CB radio. There is no service on the roads and the only way truckers communicate with other cars is through their CB radio. It was worth it because trust me when I say that those truck riders ZOOM. They are coming down mountain passes and not stopping for no body. It was nice to be able to communicate that we were coming up a pass. We had a plan. First night, we were going to drive to Fairbanks, camp, get supplies, and get a head start. From our current campground, it was about 17 hours to get to Deadhorse, AK or the end of the road. We wanted to complete it in 3 days, so we decided to get a 3 hour start by driving to Fairbanks, AK at night. Fairbanks is a bigger city in Alaska with Walmarts, Targets, Fred Meyers so we knew we could get supplies there. We didn’t take Callie (the Caravan) to hold our food due to the rough roads ahead. It was just us and our CVT rooftop tent for this adventure. We managed to find a quick pull off that some of the locals use for that night.
Day ONE: We had planned to get about 8 hours into the Dalton Highway. That would put us passed the Arctic Circle Sign and at Galbraith Lake for camping. We had talked to a lot of people about driving the Dalton Highway. The main advice we got was to make sure that we took extra gas and spare tires, be okay with our windshield getting cracked from the truckers making gravel hit your car, and be sure to camp at Galbraith Lake. They weren’t lying..it was probably top 3 campgrounds that I have ever stayed at. We will get to that in a second. The Dalton Highway was just gorgeous. The entire way up the highway you traveled alongside the Alaskan Pipeline. This pipeline stretched 800 miles long.
It seemed strange to be in such gorgeous scenery with a pipeline running in the background. After a while, I really came to enjoy the uniqueness of having that pipe there. The roads were rough. Potholes were everywhere. It became a game of avoiding the pothole to not blow a tire and to try to avoid oncoming trucks. We found ourselves driving of the opposite side of the road often just to avoid some of the potholes. Even though the roads were rough, the scenery was just amazing. It reminded me a lot of the Scottish Highlands. Mountains, valleys, passes, fall colored leaves. It was gorgeous. I think that my favorite stretch of terrain was the Atigun Pass.
That reminded me the most of Scotland. Another favorite part was reaching the Arctic Circle. Guys, we got into the Arctic Circle for the first time ever. That was pretty cool. Our neighbors from Florida ( the retired couple who told us about the campground hosting position) bought us a thing of whiskey to have a celebratory drink once we hit the Arctic Circle.
It felt GREAT having a little sip of that whiskey and reflecting on another accomplishment.
Next was the little town of Coldfoot. Coldfoot provides the only gas station in between Fairbanks and Deadhorse. Be sure to fill up on your gas at the Coldfoot Gas station because it is the only gas station for another 244 miles away. That is the longest stretch of road without a gas station in the America. After 8 (roughly) hours of driving, we finally made it to Galbraith Lake Campground. It was a free campground and even came with free firework and a beautifully maintained bathroom. It was just after the beautiful Atigun Pass and completely surrounded by mountains. It was a cold night so we were sure to take advantage of the firewood.
We popped our rooftop tent into place, had whiskey and our dinner, and then headed to sleep. I’m so incredibly happy that Alec got us some 20 degree sleeping bags because we needed it that night. We woke up the next morning with snow covering our tent. It was just nice to be warm and snuggly.
Day TWO: We were determined to get to the end of the road. We had a 4 hour drive to get to Deadhorse, AK and we were going to do it. Atigun Pass developed a snow storm out of no where. The first hour or so, we were driving through it. It wasn’t that bad. It always makes me nervous driving through snow, but the roads weren’t icy and it was still easy to see. The 3 hours or so leading towards Deadhorse was the absolute worst part of the road. Truckers, workers, etc. have completely torn that road up. It didn’t help that the snow quickly turned into rain with an elevation decrease. The potholes that were already a problem became that much more difficult to drive through. It was hard to see what was a pothole and what was a reflection. Plus, trucks would pass you and dump water on your car. This stretch of road wasn’t fun to drive and you really need some experience with those road conditions before driving them yourself. Even I was highly intimidated and I have driven across the United States. Finally, we got to the end.
Deadhorse, AK is nothing special. It’s actually sad. It’s a very small area with buildings that are barely labeled. It was just a little town for all of the oil production. I only saw one other car that went there to go to the “end of the road” like Alec and I. The rest of the vehicles were for the workers. It honestly was the most removed that I have felt from my family. We were only in Deadhorse for 30 minutes or so, but it felt lonely. This adventure wasn’t necessarily about the destination. It was about the all over experience and the road itself. The scenery, the animals. Just don’t expect to bring your children to Deadhorse, AK for a good time. It’s more about the Dalton Highway drive that is so amazing. Before we left Deadhorse, we were sure to stick our feet in the Arctic Ocean. We couldn’t go all the way to the end without doing that!
Alec and I both took a minute and got very emotional. We made it! What a surreal feeling driving from Tampa, FL all the way to Deadhorse, AK! Over 22,000 miles, many states, many national parks, Canada, and we finally got there!
There is much more to see and many more miles to go, but it was just a great moment. We jumped in the car and headed towards the Arctic Circle Sign Campground. That would bring us to a total of 12 hours in the car for that day. We are used to traveling in the car, so we didn’t mind. We just sat back and enjoyed the mountains, the animals, and the feeling of accomplishing something great. Speaking of animals, we were lucky to see a lot. We saw a herd of musk ox, moose, owls, caribou, linx (looks like a bobcat), and mountain sheep.
We got to the Arctic Circle Campground still without blowing a tire or cracked windshield. We both really enjoyed that campground. It’s free and provides a great amount of single campsites with fire pits and even picnic tables.
Day THREE: Leaving the Dalton Highway. It was finally time to exit the Dalton Highway. We had planned to get to Fairbanks to have dinner and spend the night with a family friend, Mary Ann. We had about 5 hours to get to Fairbanks and were both just excited that we had such a great experience of the Dalton Highway. At the end of our adventure, we didn’t blow a single tire or get any cracks on our windshield.
We found that pulling off to the side of the road and reducing speed when a truck was coming really helped us not get the full effects from the flying gravel. Of course, it’s all a gamble. It just takes one rock at the right angle to get a cracked windshield. We also found that the CB radio purchase was one of the best decisions. We ended up taking it back once we got back to Fairbanks, but it really was fantastic for communication with other drivers/workers. Alec and I had such an amazing time driving and camping the Dalton Highway. What a great experience and story!
One more life update. I mean this one is HUGE! I realize that this blog post is a little of everything. I just figured that I could consolidate everything into one post because why not. Alec and I have been talking about getting a dog for years. We had always said 2020. 2020 is the year for a furry friend. Well, that didn’t happen exactly how we thought. We have been around a lot of dogs lately which sparked Alec to just look online to see what Alaska had to offer. We knew that we wanted a German Shepherd. Our buddy back home in Florida has the most gorgeous and very well trained all black female GS named Mako. She has been our absolute inspiration for a dog ever since we met her. When Alec went searching online, he found a great deal for an all black female GS puppy. Of course, I melted when he showed me the picture. After doing our research, we found out that we could bring her through the Canadian- United States border without a problem. We also realized that we would be passing through the area of the owners on the way back from our adventure. The owners were out of North Pole (just south of Fairbanks) . She was the first one that came up to us and started licking my hand. She was just a ham! The owners let us take her to a local park and see if she would be a good fit. We were both in love! I am soooo excited to announce that we bought our first dog together, Aurora!
We decided to name her Aurora after the northern lights found in Alaska. Aurora even has the most beautiful green eyes. It was bizarre leaving with a dog and realizing that that is a commitment for the next 15 years. She is totally worth it!
She came potty trained (THANK GOD), is already learning basic commands like sit, and is the sweetest.
Well there you guys have it. An update on our life in Alaska!
August 6: Talkeetna Air Taxi. The weather has been pretty terrible lately. It’s been very cold and rainy here in Alaska. The mountains have been hiding, the trails have been wet, and the bugs have been vicious. That really hasn’t stopped us. We have been doing a lot of work for the parks department: brush clearance, painting bathrooms, etc. Yesterday we woke up to sunshine and blue skies. It was time for an Alaskan tour.
Campground hosting comes with a lot of amazing benefits. Not only do we get a free place to stay and some extra money, but a lot of the local tour companies will allow us to be on standby with heavily reduced tour costs. It’s good for their business. We come into contact with thousands of people and it benefits them to give us cheap tours so we can brag all about how amazing it was to the tourists. We decided that we wanted to try to get on an airplane tour. We choose the Talkeetna Air Taxi. With standby, there is always a chance that we won’t get a flight or that someone could kick us off to other customers. We didn’t care. If we didn’t get a flight that day, we would get a beer and try again another time. We were extremely lucky though. We got right on the next flight. Normally the price is $220-$320/ person. We got on for only $30/ person. So insanely blessed. Wow. The parks department really takes care of their employees/volunteers. I had mentioned in a previous blog post that in order to summit Mt Denali most climbers get an airplane ride out to the base of the mountain. Talkeetna Air Taxi will provide that service. They provide a number of different tours all ranging in price. I believe that we got the Southside Explorer Tour. “Follow the river systems of Talkeetna across the Susitna Valley into an incredible landscape of icefalls, glaciers, and snowy peaks.” —direct quote from the Talkeetna Air Taxi’s website.
The airplane tour that we went on held 10 people and was roughly 2 hours long. We flew through valleys, over glaciers, in between the Alaskan Mountain Range, into Denali National Park, and even landed on a glacier.
That’s right. We landed on a freakin’ glacier! It was just breathtaking. Mount Denali, Hunter, and Foraker were beautiful up in the clouds.
I would even dare to say that it was the best tour or adventure experience that I have ever had. That’s obviously saying a lot since we have been traveling for the past 5 months and have been exploring around for years together. There was just something magical about it. I can’t even really describe it other than saying it was just amazing. Different hues of blue peaked through the glacial cracks. Sheets of ice and snow lined the mountains. It was absolutely outstanding. I think that pictures will be better than me stumbling on my words trying to explain it. Insert pictures now…
Landing on the glacier was kind of intimidating. I am from Florida. I have never landed on snow in an airplane. How deep is the snow? How much would we glide? Will the glacier crack? It went perfectly fine, but all the questions raced through my head. We landed in the Don Sheldon Amphitheater. Yes, I guess these crazy Alaskas perform shows on this glacier. I thought that the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver, CO was amazing. I can’t even imagine seeing a show on that glacier. It would have ruined any show for the rest of my life. We were given boot covers at the very beginning of the tour so that we could go walk around on the glacier. We stepped out of the airplane to be completely surrounded by glacial- covered mountains, ankle-deep snow, and rumbling and forever shifting rocks. You could watch the dust from the rock debris reforming the mountain sides. Standing on that glacier really reminded me of everything that we have accomplished during this trip. It’s still bizarre that we are living in Alaska. It’s bizarre that we are traveling full time. We truly live such a blessed life and it makes me very honored to share our experiences with other people. On the glacier, we were able to chat with the pilot, Nick. He has been working for the company seasonally for over a year. He lives in Moab, UT during the winter (great spot). Through the conversation, Alec won himself a prized spot right next to him on the plane being his copilot.
All of our headsets come with a microphone, but only the pilot and copilot are able to talk through it. Alec had some amazing questions on the flight back including the size of glaciers, the layers of glaciers, climbing mountains, etc. Alec had mentioned through their conversation that you can’t really understand how big glaciers actually are. There is a serious lack of perspective that we have about the glaciers with an aerial view. A glacier we thought might be 2 miles wide turned out to be 4 miles wide and 40 miles long. Amazing. Another thing that I learned was that only 15% or so of Alaska is accessible via car. Go look at how massive Alaska is. 15% is a shockingly low amount of land that you can get to with a car. Crazy.
The only bad thing that I found about this airplane tour was that towards the end, I felt slightly sick. The older I get, the more that I struggle with motion sickness, boat sickness, car sickness, airplane sickness. I am just very sensitive to lots of motion at times. Be sure to bring water, a snack, and some gum with you. If you don’t struggle with motion sickness at all, still bring water and a snack. It’s a long tour. Besides getting slightly motion sick, it was an AMAZING experience. I would highly highly highly recommend it to anyone coming to the Denali National Park area. Talkeetna Air Taxi was safe, clean, and very fun! Make sure to check those guys out!
July 26-31: figuring it out. We are still doing well. We are just continuing to try to figure things out around here. That’s the initial struggle for any move. You have to reshape your entire life to now fit into a new location. Where to go for groceries. Where to go for supplies. Where to get gas. Who to talk to to get information of a upcoming job. How to drive to certain places. I will say that we seem to be acclimating nicely. We really have taken control of our situation and seem to have things down for the most part. It gives me a lot of hope for the future. If we can easily acclimate to this change fairly quick then we should be able to acclimate to our future new home and location. Wherever and whenever that may be. Hope is nice. I’ll take that lovely feeling of having hope.
We have done a lot of exploring lately. It’s been throughout the last 2 weeks because everything is super far away, but we have still managed to go to a lot of the main areas around us.
Trapper Creek is one of the closest little towns. We can get our gas there. It is only 30 minutes away. Yay! They do provide a small market full of the essentials, but you are going to pay an arm and leg for it. Besides, they don’t really have a ton of selections. Just 30 minutes of that is a cute town called Talkeetna. Talkeetna is the central location to get aerial transportation to climb Mt Denali. If you are were to hike in, it would be a shocking 30+ miles just to get to the base of the mountain. That doesn’t even take into consideration that actual summit of over 20,000 feet. A lot of people go to Talkeetna to get a plane ride to the base of the mountain to climb it. It also has a rich mining history. That’s what initially brought people to that area. Over the years tourists have joined the party and benefited from the airplane tours, train tours, and the restaurants. I think Talkeetna is my favorite town that we have been to north of Anchorage. It’s full of little, “hipster” shops and stands.
It has the absolutely delicious Denali Brewing Company and stands that carry items like “spinach bread”. If you go a hour south of Talkeetna, it gets you to Wasilla. There you find your bigger store chains like Walmart, Fred Mayors, Three Daughers, and Carrs. Just a little farther and you hit the Palmer area. You finally get into your populated areas again. I really do enjoy being in a type of peaceful seclusion. It can almost be overwhelming getting back into a well-trafficked area again. For groceries, we try our best to plan ahead for 2 weeks. That way we aren’t having to make a 4 hour (total time) trip very often just for some food. We try to make it worth our time with little stops to some local breweries throughout our travels. In Palmer, we enjoyed a drink at the Ale House Brewery. They also have AMAZING gluten free pizza there…just saying. North of our campground takes you to Denali National Park. It took us about 2 hours to get there. There are some little towns in between that are full of lodges and small restaurants: Cantwell, McKinley Park. Other then those tiny towns, it is just open fields that lead to the mountains. It’s a beautiful drive. You can going along the Alaskan Mountain Range. Just passed the park entrance is a huge tourist strip of restaurants, shops, and bars. Of course, we found the brewery. It was the 49th State Brewing Company. Moose horns and other random stuffed animals lined that place. They also had a replica of the “Into the Wild” bus outside. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google it and go watch the movie. The original bus is still in Alaska and people hike some good miles just to see it in person. A women just recently died attempting to cross a roaring river to reach the famous bus.
I think that everyone should watch that film and have a natural fear of what nature can do to a person.
We have been taking advantage of the blueberry season in Alaska. Alec and I took a hour or so picking blueberries on the side of the road.
It was time for a gf blueberry crisp. That’s exactly what I made. We gathered more than enough blueberries and I went to work making the dessert.
It was amazing if I do say so myself. It really has inspired me to have a garden with fresh herbs, fruits, and veggies one day. One day, Natalie, one day.
We finally hiked up to the Kesugi Ridge.
Every time we walk outside our RV, we can see this Ridge that lines Byers Lake. We have been told countless times to hike up there and see the amazing views and so we finally did. It was a great hike. There are a few ways that you can get up the top of the ridge and we happened to take the one of the hardest and longest routes. We took the Cascade Lake Trail to the Kesugi Ridge. We started off hiking along the Byers Lake Trail which then connects us with the Cascade Lake Trail.
This is a very diverse route. It takes you over a suspension bridge, through loosely placed wooden pathways, through thick bush, around many switchbacks, over creeks. I’m going to lie. There were parts of this trail that intimidated me. The bush was so thick and so overgrown that at times you couldn’t see through it. It got confusing where the pathway was. Not to mention, it was scary because you couldn’t check to see if any wildlife was around the corner. That definitely is something that you have to be aware of. We didn’t see any bears and moose throughout our route, but there is always a good chance when you are in the backwoods hiking.
The trail was completely lined with big blueberries and watermelon berries. They really weren’t picked off because the lack of people around them. That was a very distracting part of this trail for me. I wanted to stop the entire time to pick and eat them. Can you blame me?! This was a very difficult hike for us. We haven’t been hiking for about 2 weeks and it was just a challenging route to begin with. It was definitely steep and the heat of the sun didn’t help us. When we came across the creek, I took clothing off to soak it in the cold water and placed it back on my body to prevent overheating. That’s a hiking tip that I have learned over the years. If you are overheating and find running water, either dip your body or a piece of clothing in water to maintain a good body temperature. Even in Alaska, our parks team get emergency calls for overheating issues. I was just glad for the cold water. The end result made all for the work and sweat worth it. The trail takes you out to the every top of the ridge which overlooks Byers Lake and the Alaskan Mountain Range.
It was just absolutely amazing. My body was no longer sore while enjoying that view. It was like nothing else mattered in that moment. We made sure to sit down, hydrate, and eat some lunch. I must say that it was one of our best lunch spots yet. We found a flat boulder rock and just sat back watching the mountains. Unfortunately, Mt Denali was covered by the clouds. It has been hiding for the past week anyways. That would have been an extra site to see. Holy crap. The way down didn’t seem to take as long. One because it was mostly downhill and two because we now knew the route. In total, it took us over 6 hours to hike 10 miles with an elevation gain of over 2000 feet.
It was worth every second! Our feet were screaming at us by the end of it so we enjoyed putting them in the cold water of Byers Lake. It was a perfect way to end our day.
August 1: 5 months! We have officially been on the road for 5 full months. Crazy, wild, amazing. I still can’t believe it. Being on the road like this has really shown me the opportunities that we could have. We have seen so many families travel full time and work from their RVs with kids in homeschooling programs. We have been asked a lot where we are going to settle down and maybe you don’t really have to settle down in one particular area. It’s amazing to see that stepping out and taking a risk like this just proves to me that Alec and I are capable of absolutely anything. This trip just inspires me to stretch my comfort levels even more. The more that I allow myself to step outside my comfort zones, the more I learn, grow, experience. It’s been amazingly fruitful since I allowed myself to let go. 2020 will be an interesting year! For now, I’m going to go celebrate living, breathing, and traveling with my husband for the last 5 months straight!
July 17-25: Campground Hosting. I figured for this blog post that I can give an update about our experience and also answer some questions. *UPDATE* We are doing very well here in Alaska.
We have officially seen the beautiful Mount Denali. It was exactly how I imagined it would be like. We went out to the grounds to start our work for the day and BAM!
There it was in its full glory. It’s interesting that you only have a 30% chance of seeing that beautiful mountain when visiting the Denali parks. Good thing we have 2 months to thoroughly enjoy it. Some people don’t get so lucky. Some people spend thousands of dollars to experience it and never do. It took us a long 5 days before we even got to experience it. Not only do we get 2 months to enjoy it when its out, but, our grounds have an exceptional view of the Alaskan Mountain Range. We get to stop our work and just marvel over its beauty. We have been absolutely loving this location. We are right next to the Byers Lake. It’s a beautiful lake and a local hang out to go paddling, swimming, or fishing. We finally got a chance to take out the park employee’s canoe.
The paddle out on Byers has got to be one of my absolute favorites. You could see the entire Alaskan Mountain Range from the lake. Mount Denali seems to tower over it. There is something enchanting about being on a lake that is surrounded by mountains. It was almost difficult to concentrate on paddling.
After our paddle, we jumped in the lake’s clear water. The weather has been warming up recently. It made the chilly water seem refreshing. Our campsite has continued to be wonderful and provide for our needs.
The cabin next to our RV has a washer and broken dryer. We just have to hang our laundry to dry. Reminds me of my childhood. My mom never allowed us to machine dry any clothes. I have vivid memories of going outside and hanging up our laundry on a hot summer day. We made a little clothes line on Callie. We now officially have whole water, power, and sewage for Callie. I had mentioned that there is a decent sized generator at our campsite. Alec has hooked that up to our RV. The cabin also has water hook ups, so Alec connected that. The only thing that we didn’t have at first was sewage hook ups. Alec took no time in figuring out a way to rig up a dumping system. He found old pipes in the yard and went to work connecting them all together. He duct taped the piping together leading it towards Callie. He even cut wood to help with the slope of the pipe so that they would properly drain.
I just love watching his mind and hands create something. So now we officially have sewage. That means that I don’t have to worry about it building up and conserving water. We have made a habit of having to turn the water off in between washings during showers and even washing dishes. With our full hook ups, we don’t have to worry about it at all. It’s nice.
Work here is great.
We love the people that work in the parks department. They are super friendly and always down to answering any questions we may have. We have also been blessed with meeting another family who are also hosting a campground down the street. Previously, they maintained the grounds that we are at now. Jay and Reem for Texas and their two kids. They are a lovely family. It’s been really helpful having people around. We are in the middle of nowhere or at least it seems like it. To get to a Walmart, you are looking at a 2 hour drive there. The local groceries are extremely overpriced and usually don’t have anything you need. It’s just nice to have a support system if they happen to go into town or if we need help with anything. They even had a little cook out for the parks employees. We got to just hang out everyone with beers, games, and chili. Now that we have been here for over a week, we seem to understand our job responsibilities more. On Thursdays, we all get together at a location and do bush work, painting, etc. That’s something I have noticed around here. It’s a never ending yard work project. Trees needing to be trimmed, grass needing to be cut, trails needing to be made. It’s been fun being able to work around other people again. It’s something that Alec and I have both craved.
I had people ask me questions online about our travels. This is what I got.
How are you guys handling being so far removed from a city/ huge society?
Ten years ago, I did some mission work in Nicaragua for a full summer and then again for 2 weeks during Christmas. It was in a small village that didn’t have a big grocery store, we hick-hacked everywhere, and lived simply. We never knew when the locals would come around with fresh veggies/fruits. We sometimes didn’t have fresh water to drink or take showers. We had to burn all of our trash/ toilet paper. It was different and it was eye-opening. You really form an appreciation for the things that you had back home and realize that you don’t really need the fancy crap to survive. The shirts, the shoes, the make up, the fancy technology…none of that matters. At the end of the day, you just need your basics to survive and that’s it. I really craved for that simple living. It’s been refreshing to be able to sell all the crap you don’t really need and live simply again. With that being said, we are in no way are we struggling. We have more than we will ever need even with living in a small RV space now. I just really enjoy living like this. We have an amazing set of people around us and a job to do. We have water, food, protective clothing. We even were blessed with cell phone service (we were not expecting that at all). It’s more of a challenge to live far from a big city, but you just have to plan your meals and plan your visits. It’s easy and it’s relaxing. This will be a nice season for us both.
What did you learn about your spouse that you did not know before your adventure?
I think that the biggest thing that I have learned about Alec is how well we work together. We have made furniture in the best, but this trip stretches you, challenges you. It’s a great thing to see that even if we might find a problem, we always find a quick solution.
What was your greatest challenge?
I just think that leaving your entire life, quitting your job, and moving away from your family can present you with problems. At times it has been a challenge to always be together. Initially, I think that we had to really learn how to have our space. I think that the greatest challenge for this trip was just relearning how to fully communicate with someone else. We are almost forced to have full, honest conversation. Since we live so close, you have to be that way to function. It’s been annoying and sometimes painful, but that’s what we found works best to have a functional marriage.
What was our favorite location?
We both LOVEDDDD Utah.
Oh my gosh! It was just gorgeous and so different from anything we have ever experienced. I don’t think that we could ever move there, but it would be a top place to visit. We recommend that EVERYONE goes to experience that weird, “alien” land.
How do you take time for yourself when you’re with your spouse 24/7?
To be honest, we are still trying to fine tune this. Like I said before, we were extremely blessed with a great friendship. We both really do love being around each other and exploring together. With that being said, you need your “you” time. Now that we are settled in Alaska, there is definitely more room to have our own space. Alec can work on a project outside and I can have my space inside. Before we settled down, I found a lot of “me” time in the car. I would put my headphones on and listen to my own music. I tapped out a lot in my mind as well. We had a lot of car rides that were completely silent because we were just recharging. We would find interesting podcast to listen to. Everyday is different and requires more or less personal space.
Have you guys decided where you want to live when this trip is done?
No, we haven’t. We have a few places that we are extremely interested in so far. We have a solid plan up until just after Christmas and then will decide from there.
Do I ever get home sick?
Absolutely I do. I don’t necessarily miss Florida, but that’s not my “home” anymore. I miss my family and I miss my friends. I went through a bad homesick stage where I just wanted to go be back with my family again. I think that that is extremely normal to desire to be around the people that mean the most. We have been to dozens of cities. We have seen so much of what America has to offer. America is grand and beautiful and amazing, but it all doesn’t matter without having your loved ones near.
July 12-16: getting to our campground. You know when you are driving and you turn the corner to see a vast mountain range? You are now faced with the most breathtaking views. Pictures and videos don’t do them any justice. All you can do is just admire God’s creation and enjoy the ride. That’s what driving through Alaska has been like. I had mentioned in my last blog post the glacier-lined mountain ranges..Well, that is everywhere. It …is…stunning. Alaska seems like we are in another world. Not only are we 4 hours behind everyone we love, but, we are the farthest away we have ever been from Florida. Even when we went to Scotland, it was closer than Alaska. Crazy. It also feels like our early adventures throughout Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee seem like it happened last year and not 4.5 months ago. Time seems to be lost up here.
Quick update on our travels: we have finally made it to our campground. I’m going to lie. I cried a little bit the moment we set up Callie. This was a long awaited moment and we finally got here. Back in December of 2018, we discovered something called campground hosting. We became friends with our neighbors who were a great inspiration to both Alec and I. They are retired and travel literally everywhere. I once talked to her daughter and she told me that she never knew where her mom was in the world. “Is she in China or Russia this week?” Traveling has always been an itch to me so I really wanted to learn some tips from our neighbors. One night we got together for some wine and cheese and they told us all about campground hosting. You host a campground (duah), working with the parks department in exchange for free benefits like free camping, tours, etc. At the time of this conversation, we had already decided to go on this trip exploring America. The idea of hosting a campground and getting some extra money and a free campground was a bonus for us. Alaska was already on the radar to explore so we decide to look for a position there. There were many campgrounds to pick from and every campground had a different set of amenities: payments, washer/dryer, full hook ups for the RV, etc. We picked the Byers Lake Campground and requested it in the application. After a few phone call interviews, we were approved. I was beyond thrilled. I mean I did a little dance of excitement when Alec told me that we got the job. I also screamed a lot. Poor Alec.
In that moment we both realized that this crazy idea of traveling America was now a reality and we were able to now make dates on departure based on the job in Alaska. March 1 seemed like a great starting point for all of the things we wanted to do. Throughout our travels, we always had Alaska dates in the back of our minds. It crazy to think that that moment was nearly 8 months ago. It was just a time of pure accomplishment getting here, finally. Sweet and joyous tears were shed.
Just to mix things up a bit, we are actually not going to the hosting for the Byers Lake Campground this season like we originally thought. We were about half way to Alaska when we were informed that Byers Lake Campground would be closed due to pine beetles rotting out the trees. The trees throughout the campground were dying and falling down. They were unable to get all the trees cut down and cleared before the season due to budget and time. Instead of hosting for a campground, they shifted our responsibilities towards the visiting center right up the hill from Byers. We are still in the same area, but, we are maintaining a different section. Either way we have this opportunity still and we are settled in Callie.
The responsibilities around this area are simple and easy. We are essentially just maintaining and cleaning a well-trafficked visitors center/ memorable site. We got very lucky with this one. From the grounds, there is an amazing view of the Alaskan mountain range including the big Mount Denali.
Denali (originally known as the Mount. McKinley) is 20,310 feet above sea level and only peaks out on clear days. We have a straight view of the mountain whenever it decides to appear. We both can’t wait for the moment we go to the grounds to do our jobs and see that beautiful mountain. That will definitely be a day. Tour buses full of travelers come to this location. Not only for the 8 available bathrooms, but, for the beautifully designed memorial courtyard and the views. They did an excellent job honoring the fallen soldiers and veterans through this memorial site.
The parking lot area does not advertise overnight parking or camping, but, we do have overnight RV travelers every night. We would do the same thing if we were them. It’s a very nice, clean, parking area with a lot of areas to park. It’s been lovely to be able to meet and chat with so many travelers from around the world.
So lets talk about our set up. We have our own private area where we set up Callie. It’s behind a gate and shielded with trees and bush. It’s actually really nice. We have a huge lot of land to park at and a cabin where we can do our laundry and even take a long shower if we want (you better believe it). Our backyard is overlooking some of Byers Lake and the Kesugi Ridge.
We even have a stationary generator, water supply, and a dump station for Callie. It is a perfect location. There is a steep trail just behind the cabin that leads us down to Byers Lake and the surrounding trails. I lost my footing going down the trail it was so steep. We used it to walk down and see the Byers Lake Campground area. It’s currently closed to the pubic, but, we were just curious the status of the grounds. Cut down trees laid on the ground. You could see deadened trees throughout the woods. It’s truly a shame that it isn’t open for the summer. We have heard that it’s the locals choice to go camp at. It is lovely. We learned something that day. It’s blueberry season in Alaska. Bush after bush and bush were covered in beautiful blueberries. It was nice to be able to pick blueberries throughout the entire hike. Free snacks. You better believe that my happy butt went back to get some for the RV.
Can you say blueberry pancakes! Another berry that we discovered is something called the watermelon berry. It’s a small oval-sized berry that has a slight watermelon taste.
It’s a bizarre berry to be honest. The trails consist of thick and overgrown bush, some of it being just under eye level. It was difficult to see through it at times. We found ourselves questioning the direction of where we were going. Thank God we found a family that we decided to hike with. Safely in numbers, always. We decided to hike not only with our bear spray, but, with our shot gun.
It is bear migrating season in Alaska and there is nothing like running into a grizzly without defense. I was thankful that we brought that gun after seeing the conditions of the trails. We found ourselves clapping before going around corners, especially when it was just the two of us. We didn’t want to spook any bears or moose. We wanted to let them know that we were coming. We were fortunate not to have to deal with wildlife during that hike. It is just smart to be prepared. For that hike, we took the Byers Lake Loop Trail to the newly-constructed suspension bridge.
It’s a beautiful bridge that goes over Byers Creek. We took the trail right off of Byers Lake on the way back and stopped at the boat launch for Byers Lake.
The water is quite chilly, but, would probably feel amazing on a hot summer day. I’m not sure if we will actually get one of those. It’s been in the 60s during the day.
Wildlife update: we still haven’t seen a bear while being in Alaska, surprisingly enough. We saw bear after bear in Canada, but, so far nothing here. Eagles seem to roam around everywhere through the skies here. We have spotted many of them flying around. We also had the pleasure of seeing a mama and baby moose throughout the grounds. It was just amazing.
That mama stayed very close to her baby the entire time. Fun fact: moose kill more people than any other wild animal in Alaska. I would never approach a moose, especially one with a baby. Seems like common knowledge, but, I watched many people stalk that mama and baby down. They made me uncomfortable by how close they decided to get to them.
It still doesn’t seem possible that we are going to be living in Alaska for a summer. So far, Alaska has proven itself to be worthy of a great adventure. Cheers to finally getting to our destination in Alaska and cheers to the next 2 months being here.
June 4-11: Exploring Alaska. Alaska has been amazing. I’m still not used to the fact that the sun never sets. My body feels off lately. It really is nice though. If we decide we needed to travel later in the day, we know that the sunlight won’t go out. That’s a huge reason why we don’t like to travel late at night. We don’t like setting Callie in the dark. It seems like we have been able to get a lot of things done ever since we entered Alaska. Thank you God for the never ending light source! Let’s talk about our plans while we are in Alaska. July 13, we start our campground hosting position at a campground in the Denali State Park. That will last for a little less than 2 months. The summer season is extremely short in this part of the country. By the time we start making our way out of Alaska after the job, winter will be coming. It will be nice to be able to enjoy the peak season here. We planned to have a week and a half to kill before we started the position. First things first, visiting family. Alec has some family, Aunt Kathy, Uncle Rich, Cousin Mike/ wife Kerry, in the Anchorage area. We spent a few days exploring Anchorage with them. I was very surprised by how big Anchorage is. I was expecting it to be a small town for some reason. I was wrong. There is a Target, Walmart, Costco, shopping malls, etc everywhere. That sounds very standard, but, we haven’t seen any of those stores in a long time. We have been getting used to the small town grocery stops. It’s been refreshing to have those amenities back. Aunt Cathy made sure that we saw the downtown areas, the local shopping areas, and the neighborhood walks. It’s always lovely to see someone else’s backyard. We didn’t do a whole lot of outdoor activities while being in Anchorage. It was in the lower 90s here, making some record temperatures for the area. I know I was born and raised in Florida, but, we haven’t had to deal with that kind of weather for the past few months. We have had lovely weather. Living in our RV with that heat was like living in an oven. Nothing we did seemed to help. There is an option for A/C in the RV, but, Alec needed a capacitor to run it, which we don’t have on hand. Like I said, heat hasn’t been an issue for us until that moment. With that all being said, we couldn’t stand the heat anymore and had to move.
For that move, we picked and went to the Kenai Peninsula, which is just south of Anchorage. For our campground, we found a fantastic and free location called the Upper Lake Trail pull off. Alec found the campsite on IOverlander. Not only was the weather dramatically cooler, but, we found a great spot shaded by the trees and right next to the water.
We literally have been falling asleep to the sounds of crashing waves. So peaceful. The one and only thing I would say about moving to the Kenai Peninsula is that we now had to battle the local forest fire smells/ smoke. The Kenai has been getting slammed with forest fires lately. Our campground is far enough away from the fires to get us out to harm, but, we still have been dealing with the smoke and smell of it.
Headaches and lack of views have been the worst of it for us. The Kenai Peninsula is just gorgeous. The first town to explore was Seward, Alaska. This beautiful town is home to the Kenai Fjords National Park.
That makes 21 visited national parks for us. We found that most of this national park is only accessible through a $200/person boat tour. It’s interesting to me that a lot of the Alaskan NP are only accessible through boat or plane. Due to the lack of views from the forest fires and the crazy prices, we decided to skip the boat tour. Maybe one day! It does sound amazing though. It is a 6-8 hour tour (depending on the one you select) that takes you right next to beautiful glaciers, by sea life, and through the mountains. Alec and I both really thought about it before coming to the decision that it wouldn’t be worth it while it was smokey out. The one part of the park that is accessible through car and hiking is the Exit Glacier. One mile hike and you are right next to this beautiful glacier.
We sadly didn’t get to see any wildlife or sea life while we were there. Next time. After the hike, we decided that a beer would be our reward. We went to the Seward Brewing Company right off the main downtown strip.
I heard one of the locals talking all about the Wonton Nachos. “You have to get them!” We didn’t get them ourselves, but, if you happen to get to the Seward Brewing Company try them out for us. Another delicious place we found while exploring Seward is the Sea Bean Cafe. They have the most amazing GF Nutella bread ever! Go check it out. It’s right on the main downtown area.
Homer, Alaska was up next. Homer was about 3 hours from our campground, so we made sure to make a day of it.
Homer is the halibut fishing capital of the world. It is also home to the Homer Spit. This is a long strip of land that is full of shops, restaurants, and beaches. We made sure to go into all the little shops, looking around at all the artwork.
It was a lovely town. We did not get the halibut while we were there. We talked to a local who said it wasn’t that good and very overpriced. We instead got the cod fish and chips. It was $10 cheaper and absolutely delicious.
Hope, Alaska was a place that we visited next in the Kenai Peninsula. We found out about this small town through a couple we started talking to while drinking our beers in Seward. “It’s like stepping into a different time.” Our curiosity got the best of us and we had to figure it out for ourselves. When they said that this town was small, they weren’t joking. It was small! I’m talking a museum, local library, and 4 little restaurants type of small. They only have a census population of 192 according to my friend Google. It was like stepping into a different time. All of the buildings looked like they were built in the earlier 1900s. It is best known for the salmon fishing and gold mining. I guess you can catch a mean salmon if you fish there. We didn’t experience this ourselves, but, we were told that there are amazing hiking trails throughout the Hope area. Just in case you were looking for something else to do in this tiny town. I will say the most beautiful part of our day was heading east on the Portage Glacier Rd towards Whittier, Alaska. Whittier, Alaska is rich in WW2 history. We were curious to visit until we realized that we had to pay a $13 toll road fee to enter Whittier. That curiosity quickly went down once we saw that price. You don’t really have to go into Whittier to see the beauty I was talking about. Just before entering Whittier, there are pull offs to overlook Portage Lake. That lake is surrounded by glacier-filled mountains.
It was the best part of the day. If you are heading into the Kenai Peninsula area, go towards Whittier and see those glaciers. They are outstanding.
Complete side-note! I do realize that I haven’t been posting consistently. I decided that I was going to go down to a blog post once a week. Friday will be the posting day! Once we head into our campground hosting position, we may not have cell service, but, I will try my absolute best to upload when I can! For anyone who actually reads this, thanks for being patient!
June 30-31: Oh Canada. We crossed over into Canada and started making our way towards Alaska. I don’t really think that it has hit me that we have driven from Florida all the way to Alaska yet. I don’t know if it will even hit me until after we are done with this trip. I have said this a million times before, but, this is just crazy. We thought of a dream and made it happen. Just goes to show you that anything is possible. Cliche? Yes. True. Absolutely it is. Canada has been great to us so far. Well, with the exception for having to wait in the American-Canada border security for three hours trying to get our gun legally registered. That’s a whooping pain in the ass, but, a necessary whooping pain in the ass. I wouldn’t want to be the foreigner in country with an unregistered gun. No thank you. Canada is wildly specific about the type of gun they allow. Shot guns are okay, but, not short barreled hand guns. They have a “stand your ground” policy, but, you can’t stand your ground with a gun. If someone comes at you to hurt you, my understanding is that you can’t defend yourself with a gun. Seems slightly off to me. Even the border patrol officer said that the laws are slightly corrupt for their guns. What country isn’t?! I will say this…don’t you dare try to sneak a gun or drugs or anything through the border. They will get you. We went through the border that was east of Vancouver, BC and they are known to arrest more people from attempted gun smuggling. They thoroughly searched through Callie for another gun that we might have (but didn’t have), even bringing a search dog in. Just be aware that they are anal about their laws and do some research on what’s allowed. Anyways, 3 long hours later and we were ready to set off through Canada. We decided to drive the Cassair Highway towards the northern section of the Alican Highway on the way to Alaska. It has been an absolutely beautiful drive. Some of the most amazing land was just coming across the border in British Columbia. You went through windy mountain passes and overlooked the river.
We have seen a bunch of wildlife while driving through Canada. So far we have seen 8 bears and one moose. One of the bears was crossing the road and we spooked it. It’s always fun to see those animals, especially from the comfort and protection of a car. If we ran into a bear on a trail, that would be a completely different story. Hints why we brought a shot gun in the first place. We aren’t taking any chances. Okay, lets talk about the terror of the mosquitoes up here. Holy crap. There are a lot of them and they are big and mean and annoying. The mosquitoes have been terrible. The moment…the moment we get out of the car to set up Callie for the night, we get surrounded by them. Just mobbed. We have tried to go do little hikes, but, always instantly regret it because of the bugs. It’s obnoxious. That’s okay though because we really have been spending most of our time in the car. I will say that I haven’t gotten used to our AM bug buzzing in my ear alarm yet. It seems like every morning that happens without fail. We have been moving pretty fast throughout Canada so far. Each day we do an average of 8 traveling hours. That’s wayyyy more than what we did in the states. Previously on this trip, we do a hour or two and then a hike. Not in Canada. The great thing about traveling through Canada is that there are a lot of free camping options all through the route. We have more freedom to stop or keep going knowing we can easily find a campsite for the night. We have found them through the app IOverlander. We didn’t know service for over three days while traveling through Canada and the IOverlander app still worked. That’s the great thing about it. It doesn’t require service to locate a campground or pull off. We have really enjoyed our campsites. One night we even talked and drank with these two Canadian men for 4 hours. We have met some of the coolest people. We met a French guy who is biking from Anchorage, AK to somewhere undecided in South America for a whole year. We met a women from Ontario who travels in her car solo and loves Arches National Park in Utah (me too). It just has been a super positive and amazing experience all around.
July 1: FOUR MONTHS. July 1 marks the four month mark of full-time traveling!!! AhHhHHHHHhhhhhhhh! That. IS. SO. AMAZING! I am just thankful and I am speechless. I am excited. I am just grateful. Let’s do a quick recap of the last four months. We have been to 20 National Parks: Great Smokey, Hot Springs, Great Sand Dunes, Rocky Mountain, Arches, Canyonlands, Capital Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Sequioa, Kings Canyon, Yosemite, Golden Gate, Redwoods, Crater Lake, North Cascade, Mount Rainier, and Olympic National Parks. We have been to 14 states and two Canadian provinces: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Yukon. We have meet so many amazing people along the way, some full-time travelers and some just passing by. It has been life changing. It has been just amazing. For our 4 month mark, we also celebrated Canada Day. July 1 is Canada’s day if you didn’t know. We didn’t know that until two days before we celebrated it. We got to see a small towns parade and go see the Boya Lake Park. WOW. This park was amazing. It is centered around the paradise blue, clear water of Lake Boya. It seemed wildly out of place, but, there is was…in the middle of Canada. We didn’t spend more then a hour there, but, it was just nice to get out of the car and dip my feet in cold water.
July 2-4: into Alaska. After 6 long days of driving through Canada, we made it to Alaska. I’m not going to lie. I cried a little bit from the amount of excitement I felt. We successfully were able to drive from Tampa, FL to Alaska. We have driven just shy of 17,000 miles.
We made it to our most Northern destination. It was an exciting moment. We were so ready for Alaska. We had made our black out curtains for the sun never setting at night. We had stocked up on food for the road. It was time. For the first time in Alaska, we found a small and locally-known campsite called Kelchina River off of Glenn Highway. It’s not a traditionally marked campground. It’s just a dirt road that led you towards a few open spots.
We found it through the app IOverlander. It was a really fun night. We ended up meeting this huge group of Alaskans who were camping just around the corner from us. They were setting out for a 4 days river rafting adventure the next morning. We spent 5 hours with these amazing people, drinking and sharing stories. It was bizarre because it was still light out when we finally went to sleep at 2AM.
Thank God for our black out curtains. More Alaskan adventures to come! Some of them completely out of service and some in service. I will try my best to remain consistent with blog postings, but, can’t promise anything due to that. Here’s to Alaska! Guys! We made it!!
June 22-29: Hello, again. I know I have been absent. Hopefully my consistency with posting will come back now that we are on our own again. We are officially in Canada. That seems so bizarre to me. We have been planning this trip for so long and we are finally in the Canada-Alaskan stretch. We finally left the Brenchley house in Washington after our short month there. That month went so incredibly fast. We arrived and then we left. It has just been absolutely lovely being there with family. We did so much while we were there. We did all three WA National Parks: North Cascade, Mount Rainier, and Olympic. Jade, Rich, and their kids visited with us. My aunt and uncle from California visited with us. We got to experience the amazing Scenic Hot Spring. We have been on so many ferries to get to the different islands. We did Whidbey Island twice and picked fresh strawberries. We got to spend so many nights hanging out with the family and with Grandpa Jack. Washington State is just absolutely gorgeous and seems to have endless amounts of outdoor activities. It was a great visit.
Okay, lets talk Olympic National Park.
Alec and I decided from the beginning that we really wanted to try to hit all of the NPs that Washington had to offer. We only had a few days left before we left for Alaska and had to go do it. Originally, Alec wanted to spend 3-4 days exploring in Olympic. That did not happen. We decided to shorten that to 2 days especially since the rest of the family couldn’t come along. We started off the trip by taking the Edmonds-Kingston ferry towards the Olympic Peninsula. I mean what a great way to start any trip. I know that people from Washington are used to traveling around between islands using the ferry system. Even after going on multiple ferry rides, I still wasn’t over it. I love the ferries. The sea breeze, the surrounding mountains (if they are out), the simple break from being in the car.
From Kingston, we drove about a hour to get to the entrance of Olympic NP. You don’t have to take a ferry to get there, depending on where you are staying/living. If you are south by Tacoma, you can simply drive around the peninsula. Like I said, it’s way more fun through a ferry. This park is just massive and provides visitors with many different ecosystems. You can be on the coast on the beach, walking through a lush rainforest, or picking wildflowers while looking at snow-capped mountains. The park is just so diverse and that’s why Alec wanted to take the time to explore it. We decided (like Mount Rainier NP) to tent camp instead of towing Callie. We get better gas mileage, we don’t have to worry about where to park her on hikes, and it’s just easier to get around. For camping, we set up in the Olympic National Forest land right outside of the national park. It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s right by the park. We found some land in the Forest Development Service Road 29. If you aren’t sure where to go to find free campsites, try using the apps Campendium or IOverlander. Between those two, we have been able to find free or extremely inexpensive campgrounds for the night. When we parked to set up camp for the night, it was raining pretty hard. A new and fun challenge for the night: setting up our equipment in the rain. Thank the LORD himself for the Rhino Rack awning that Alec purchased for the truck.
It’s very convenient because it stays attached to the car and fans out in just minutes. Alec had us shielded from the rain in no time. We folded out our chairs and table, set up the rooftop tent, and prepared for dinner. It was steak and asparagus for the menu that night.
We always have a portable grill with propane in the back of the truck. We set that bad boy up on the table and the cooking began. Overtime, we have really gotten very organized with our camping gear. I know that I have mentioned it before, but, it’s just so nice. We have a box for our camping essentials. We know what’s in it and what additional items we need to bring through a list that we made on our phones. We had camp set up, cooking done, and dishes washed within a hour or so from getting to the campsite. Not bad.
The next day, we went hard. We did a beautiful hike called Sol Duc Falls.
We did a loop hike through the Hoh Rainforest to see the vivid greens and big trees.
We walked on Ruby Beach and walked on the stones on the coast.
We went to see the blue Crescent Lake.
Olympic National Park was stunning and totally worth the visit. When you visit WA, don’t skip on it.
The last family outing we had was hiking the Dirty Harry’s Balcony Trail. What a weird name. It is located near the Snoqualmie Pass and off of highway 90. It is a 4 mile, out and back hike that gains 1,410 feet of elevation. It was a good workout. On the way to the overlook, the trail was very steep. Your legs really felt that elevation increase. I loved it. I really enjoyed challenging myself and working out my body. It’s very peaceful to me. Just make sure if you decide to try this trail that you hydrate because it might get ya. The end result was just magnificent.
The trail brought you out to an overlook of the valley and highway 90. The mountains surrounding it were so bright and green. It was just amazing. I love getting to the end of a trail. All of the hard work really pays off as you relax in front of the grand view.
We had such an amazing time in Washington State for the last month. The memories we made, the land we explore, the laughs we had will forever be with me. Now to explore Canada.
June 17-19: Scenic Hot Springs. While we were in Oregon, we found a serious love for hot springs. We went to a hot spring in Colorado, but, Oregon was the state that really sold it to us. Umpqua Hot Springs in Oregon. I will never forget that magical multi-tiered springs. We were determined to find and do at least one hot springs while we were in Washington. Scenic Hot Springs really caught our eyes while we were doing some research. This enchanted spring is on private property and requires a reservation to get to it. Alec and I don’t really seem to plan ahead. We really like to wing things, but, this is a place where you really should plan ahead for. The owners only allow 10 people per day and those spaces fill up very quickly. We did our reservations a month in advance and there were only two days in the month of June that was still available. It’s the place to be and people are planning for it. The fee is $10/person. Once you are approved, the owner will give you a thorough yet slightly confusing description of the location of the springs. The roads and paths aren’t marked on a map, so you really have to rely on the instructions to get there. It was quite confusing, but, we will have to revisit that story in a minute. First I want to tell you about the hike we did right before we visited the Scenic Hot Springs. Alec and I really wanted to get one good hike in before soaking. Alec wanted to show me this beautiful hike called the Bridal Veil Falls Trail. It was on the way to the springs anyways, so it worked out. This was a beautiful 3.7 mile out and back trail with a 1,000 foot elevation increase. Your legs feel that elevation gain. What I loved about this trail is that is was challenging and had different pathways throughout the trail. At first you are on flat gravel which then turns into climbing over boulder rocks which then turns to stairs. Like I said, your legs will be feeling this hike. If you wanting a free snack throughout that elevation gain, this trail has a ton of salmon berries lining the trails. Thank you trail!
At first I was hesitant to try these berries. In Florida, I just assumed that every wild berry wasn’t edible. These salmon berries are just delicious. I made it into a hunt for the most delicious berry throughout this hike. This hike was worth it. The end of the trail leads you to the stunning Bridal Veils waterfall. Holy moly. There was a wonderful breeze as the cold water bounced back towards you.
It felt so refreshing especially after the amount of sweat we produced trying to get there. Worth it. We were ready after that hike to go soak. We now had to closely follow the instructions on how to get to the Scenic Hot Springs. Turn down this dirt road, walk a little, go through shortcut. The hike to the springs was no joke.
There were times where Alec and I thought that we were lost. It wasn’t easy to get to by any means. We both felt like this hike was more strenuous than the Bridal Veils Trail. It was roughly 1.8 miles of straight elevation gain. It was a beautiful hike (even though strenuous).
We were in an open valley that overlooked Stevens Pass. If you are going to this hot spring, don’t do a big hike beforehand. We were feeling the burn the entire way up. Finally after many twists and turns, we made it to the spring. It was beautiful. There were three plastic tubs with the hot springs water running into it. The springs overlooked the mountains. Alec and I were so hot from the hike that we decided to cool off before even stepping foot into it. You can get overheated and dehydrated so quickly in a hot spring. Once we were ready, the soaking began. It was just gorgeous. The water was nice and relaxing on our aching muscles. All of the hiking/climbing didn’t matter the moment my foot went into that water. Ahhhhhh. Such relief.
I really loved that hot spring. It was nice that the owner only allowed 10 people per day. It wasn’t overcrowded at all. There were people there, but, we could all enjoy a corner of the tubs and truly relax. We met some amazing people while being there. A girl who does traveling nursing and has an assignment in WA, two Australians, and a guy who cliff jumps. I love hanging out, relaxing, and having genuine conversations with complete strangers. It was just lovely.
June 19-21: Family in town. I was soo excited because my aunt and uncle came into town from California. I love them so much. My uncle Ron is one of my favorites. I call him UBM: uncle by marriage. He calls me NBM: niece by marriage. We have this long joke that he isn’t blood and that we don’t want to directly associate with each other. So I will be calling uncle Ron UBM throughout this blog post. UBM and I have been close for many years. We chat throughout the year of the phone. He is always very interested in what I have been up to. He was so incredibly jealous of our trip and really wanted to get apart of it. “ I promise I will meet you somewhere.” I was so pumped that I could spend some time with him. We haven’t seen each other since Alec and I got married. It is just a big treat for me.
We had a lot we wanted to go do and not a whole lot of time. They were only here in WA for a full day. We decided to go do Vancouver, BC. Alec and I went there last year while visiting, but, it poured the entire time. We were both ready for a redo. I’m so glad that we decided to go there because the weather was just perfect. The sun was shining, the mountains were out, and the sky was blue. It was just lovely. To start the day off in Vancouver, we had to go to the Public Market downtown.
This market puts Pikes Place to shame. Row after row after row of fresh produce, walk-up restaurants, pop-up shops, and flowers.
It’s honestly difficult to decide on what you want to buy for lunch. The market has a lot of seating areas right next to the water. It was nice enjoying our food in the breeze overlooking the water. Be sure to check it out. Next up for the day was exploring Stanley Park. We all didn’t realize how big Stanley Park was. It was huge. There are so many sections of it: rose garden, kids playground, beach walks, the Lions Gate bridge views. It seemed endless.
The weather was just lovely as we walked along the beach. It was a beautiful park. If you are going to Vancouver, BC and want to do a suspension bridge, be sure to check out Lynn Canyon Park. This free park included many trails and a nice sized suspension bridge. I know if you google search Vancouver suspension bridge, the Capilano Suspension Bridge pops up. I have never been to that bridge before only because it is about $43 per person to get on it. The great thing about the Lynn Canyon Park is that is it free. Not only do you get some amazing trails, but, you can walk over a suspension bridge. Win, win.
The day was getting to an end and all we wanted to do was have a beer. We went to the Gastown in the eastern downtown area to see what we could find. If you ever go to Vancouver, be sure to check out Gastown.
It is FULL of trendy bars, restaurants, and shops. The Lamplighter Public House was our pub for the night. It had a delicious selection of beers, cocktails, and simple foods.
We ended our night in a fancy hotel. UBM has points for hotels because of traveling for business. They blessed us with our own fancy room that included a king-sized mattress, great view, big shower, and even robes.
Fancy stuff. It was a nice break from sleeping in Callie. Very refreshing. Alec and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the sunset over Vancouver. It was just gorgeous with the vibrant oranges and pinks. Alec and I just melted into the bed that night. Let’s just say that we slept extremely well under the fluffy covers.
The next day we were ready for another adventure. UBM and Claudia were leaving back for Cali that day and we had a lot to do. Our adventure on the way to the airport was through Whidbey Island. They have a family friend who lives over there and they wanted to see the island. We went over Deceptions Pass, walked Ebbey’s Landing, and went to Langley for lunch with their friend.
It was very bittersweet dropping them off at the airport. It was so good to have that side of my family back. Whenever my aunt laughs, I hear my mom. It made me really homesick. It definitely was a lovely visit with my crazy UBM and Aunt Claudia.