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).

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