Life Update!

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!

I was only in the water for 30 seconds because it was so cold!

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!

Brenchley Travels

Blog posts every Fridays (for the most part).

Talkeetna Air Taxi.

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.

We were excited to try to get on a 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!

Brenchley Travels.

New posts every Friday. 

5 Months!

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.

Google Image. Not mine.

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.

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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! 

Brenchley Travels

New posts every Friday