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.
New blog posts every Friday.