Sept 20, Bellingham
We slept in a bit, savoring the large soft bed in our AirBnB. Then I sought out my favorite breakfast food, donuts! Some Rocket Donuts and Woods Coffee for our lazy morning was perfect. We hung out at the park by the bay for bit then headed south along the coast for a scenic drive. Soon we were out of the city and back in the blanket of the moss covered trees with the coast peeking through. Driving without a real destination was nice. We found ourselves in Bow, a small farming valley, checking out the farmer's market and creamery. Our next stop was the Deception Pass Bridge, a huge old bridge 180 feet high built in 1935 over the water below. There were even seals playing in the teal water of the bay below! On our way back we stopped right on the water for some fresh oysters. I am not usually an oyster person, but Taylor's Shellfish had delicious ones! We sat right out on the water shucking them ourselves, after a brief lesson, and throwing the shells on the ground
Sept 20 cont...Back in Bellingham, we sought out more raw fish and got some yummy sushi. Earlier in the day we had driven by a local theater and saw they had an improv show that night for $8, so that is where we ended up that night. We settled in our seats in the small comedy club, 100 people max capacity, when I noticed a guy that looked like the tall guy from 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?' Nick turns and upon seeing him, said, that is him, Ryan Stiles. Turns out, he owns and occasionally does improv there! So we were treated to a great improv show with a full cast, including Ryan!
4 days ago
Sept 19, Bellingham, Washington
We headed into the city of Bellingham, the sun shining. After a quick bite at a cafe, some shopping and walking around downtown, we sought out a park to relax for a bit. At the Boulevard Park, we soaked up the sun laying out reading by the bay. Mid afternoon we headed to our cute AirBnB and settled in for a bit before heading to some local breweries. If you don't know, Washington is big on beer, there are 16+ breweries just in this small Bellingham area! We had some delicious beer at Kulshan and some yummy food truck dinner. When we pulled up at the brewery there were all these buses parked right by it, like 6 or so buses! We hardly ever see any buses out and about so I had to find out why they were all there. I asked the waitress and said hello to the VW group that was gathered there. Before our next brewery, we stocked up on some delicious Washington honey crisp apples (my favorite!) for super cheap! A nice day in a great city!
5 days ago
Sept 18 cont... This 10,781 ft iconic mountain, which moments before was completely hidden, seemed only just on the other side of the ridge, it was so huge! We soaked in the view before the clouds swooped back, once again shrouding the giant peak in clouds. I forgot to mention, to get to the trailhead you drive 40 minutes on a bumpy road... so back down we went. Almost at the bottom of the road we saw a little "campground" by the river to set up for the night. It had a pit toilet, flat spots, some fire rings and the river, perfect! The forest to one side and the river to the other. The forest is like a rainforest jungle, except no toucans or monkeys! Haha. Moss covered trees, large ferns filling the forest floor, trees upon trees, and mushrooms galore.
Sept 18, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
We slept in a bit and enjoyed a lazy morning, chef Nicholas making another delicious scramble and us enjoying the sunshine in the forest clearing we were camping in. With the sun shining, we decided we should do a hike. A friend who lives in Washington and the ranger at the Visitor Center both suggested the Skyline Divide trail. Well as it would suggest, you get a great skyline view! It was an almost completely uphill hike through the foresty jungle, but the views when you get on the ridge! At first we had a beautiful view of the large Mt. Shukshan and Cascade range and the other side of the ridge was literally a cloud so we couldn't see anything. The clouds hung to the ridge- you could actually feel the cloud passing right through you, the cold moisture breezing by! As we enjoyed our late picnic lunch, the clouds cleared and we were greeted by the majestic snow covered Mt. Baker.
6 days ago
Sept 17, Vancouver to Mount Baker National Forest, Washington
We grabbed a coffee and pastry and then were on our way to the lower U.S. of A! It felt like a happy hug from an old friend as we drove into Washington. Our first stop was North Fork beer shrine. This place is the best! A real Wisconsin homey feel in the country with the mountains just to the west! After a delicious beer and pizza we headed back to the mountains, naturally! We drove up to Artist's Point and did a short little hike to a beautiful view point of the Cascade Mountains. Snowy mountain peaks, check! Green, lush valleys, check! We found a little spot off the national forest road and made camp for the night. Nick greased the sticking locks on the door and I reorganized our stuff before we settled in.
7 days ago
Sept 16, Vancouver, BC
We got up early so we could get moving before the Packer game, which on the coast starts at 10am! We watched the first bit in our hotel room till check out and then walked down the street to a sports bar. Thankfully they had the game on. It was a rough game at times, but we made it. We wandered through the public library and streets of downtown and then made our way to a food truck festival. I had a delicious slavic roll with ice cream and nutella!! Nick had a Malaysia meat sandwich of sorts. We walked a bit more and then back to the bus and off to our next hotel that was a bit out of the city. (First Nick had to jump the bus with the solar battery because the wiring got wet and killed the bus battery, took 2 minutes so no big deal). Our hotel was on the Fraser River, almost literally on the water on stilts!
8 days ago
Sept 15, Whistler to Vancouver, BC
We stopped in Squamish on the way south for a shower at the local gym and some coffee from a cute cafe built in this kind of storage unit. After some game planning and a splurge hotel booking, we were on our way out of the forests and into the big city. It took us a little bit of time to get used to all the people and noise and lack of nature everywhere around us. We had a great night! We walked to Granville Island and took in a play, Angels and Aliens, as part of a local festival. It was super funny and so great to do something local and so very different than what we have been doing. Thanks Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson) for the push to go see live theater! Before the play we stopped for a beer and falafel burger at Granville Island Brewing, it was touristy. After, we took a cab with the last of our Canadian dollars to Gastown where we saw the iconic steam clock and grabbed a bit to eat.
9 days ago
Sept 14, Williams Lake to Whistler, BC
Nick stepped out into the Walmart parking lot and noted with a bit of a chuckle, "it's snowing". I didn't believe him at first, but when I climbed out of the bus, sure enough, there were flurries coming down! We got a move on heading south then!! We decided to take the scenic road, the 99, or Sea to Sky Highway, down towards Vancouver. I was driving when we turned onto the road and it soon got pretty intense, so I gave the wheel to Nick. The road winded through the mountains with sharp curves and steep drop offs. We planned out that morning to celebrate Pumbaa rolling 200,000 miles by buying party blowers, searching for party hats, and putting up a few balloons in front! (We could not find hats so I made some from red solo cups and rubber bands. Haha). Later that day I filmed the mileage turn and our celebration, mimicking a viral video scene.
Sept 14 cont...Soon we had to focus more on the road though as the grades were becoming intense, like 15% grades! We made it into Whistler late in the afternoon and spent the evening walking around the village and seeing the beautiful resorts in this ski town. We camped on the south side of Whistler in a small turn-out. Since it was raining, I got to watch one of Nick's favorite childhood movies, Mouse Hunt.
10 days ago
Sept 13, Glacier View RV Park, to Williams Lake, BC, Canada
I enjoyed a long hot shower while Nick made us a delicious scramble breakfast and hot coffee! All clean,we were back on the road again. The signs of civilization were approaching all day - far many more towns, I had cell phone service almost all day, and more and more cars zipping by. It will be strange heading into the west coast; all of a sudden being by so much civilization and way less nature... As a suggestion by Ben we had been listening to 'Stranger in the Woods', the story of Christopher Knight, the Maine man who lived in the woods for 27 years. It was a thought provoking read (listen) for sure (don't worry Mom, I am not going to run away to the woods!) Our day was spent driving though farms, small towns, alongside rivers and through some forested areas, ending in the small town of Williams Lake. We enjoyed some free wifi and fried food at McDonald's before crashing at Walmart...not the most picturesque, but it worked
12 September 2018
Sept 12 cont... (You don't realize how much the weather affects you until you are living half outside. It has been an incredibly humbling experience in many ways to think of all those who have no choice but to struggle to stay warm living outside. Also, we are consistently filling up water at gas stations and visitor centers to have water, something that can seem like a pain to not have access to so easily. Then we are reminded of all those around the world who have to walk hours for water that isn't even clean enough to drink. Again, a humbling reminder. )
Sept 12, Cottonwood River to Glacier View RV Park, Smithers, BC
The sun was shining, the river sparkling as we awoke, frost evident on the exterior of the bus. More miles to put down today so we were on our way. This highway was incredibly scenic, I know, it sounds like a broken record, but we have not been on a road with no views in a looong time. We are trying our best to soak it in each and every day. We drove through 3 mountain ranges, passed the large and beautiful Dease Lake, had a picnic at a bush plane airfield watching a small plane take off, stopped to observe a brown bear alongside the road so close we could hear it "woofing" and crunching through the brush, and saw a black bear run across the road. We decided to stop at an RV park so we could have hot water for dishes, a shower and an easy spot to sleep. Nick made a delicious pork chop dinner that we enjoyed inside the bus as the cold spell affecting BC was still upon us.
11 September 2018
Sept 11, Whitehorse, Yukon to Cottonwood River, British Columbia
Our journey back south was going to take a different highway than the Alaska Hwy to experience a new route. We started our journey down the Cassiar Hwy today. It is a far less traveled route with many more gentle curves and a more narrow road. We drove till about 8pm and then stopped at a rest area by the river that allowed informal camping, whatever that implies, I'm not sure. We were the only ones and there was little to no traffic going by... it was a little creepy if you let your thoughts get the best of you. We enjoyed some of our newly acquired sausage from the Yukon Meat Company in Whitehorse and hung out in the heated bus as it was below 30 degrees outside. Thank goodness Nick installed a furnace in here! (And yes, we have carbon monoxide detector for safety).
10 September 2018
Sept 10, Haines, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon
Started the morning with some pancakes and pork belly, compliments of chef Nicholas! We drove 10 minutes out of town to the Chilkoot Lake State Park where the salmon were running on the Chilkoot river. We had driven up and down the road the day before and saw no bears, but where there are salmon, there is often bears. And there were bears! Within a few minutes a large dark brown grizzly appeared in the river. He was swimming, batting at salmon, ferociously biting into the fish and walking up and down the river. There were 15 or so people taking pictures, like professional camera gear photos. We were about 75 feet from this bear and that still felt way too close. The bear decided to head back into the woods which meant crossing the road. I watched the bear jump up the bank crossing, not but 5 feet from this retiree standing there with his camera. The bear looked back at him, I froze some 50 feet away, as did the guy, and then...
Sept 10 cont... I froze some 50 feet away, as did the guy, and then the bear continued on its way. Phew! Then a momma bear and three cubs came out to fish!! It was amazing to watch, from a safe distance, momma bear fish, passing off fish to the cubs. Mom would get ahead of them and then the cubs would scamper through the river over the rocks, or through the brush to get by her again. As we have often felt, it seemed like a National Geographic special happening right before our eyes! Then we headed north back up the beautiful Haines highway! A day driving in this beautiful country is greatly rewarding. I saw a large fox at a rest area just outside of Whitehorse as dusk was settling in. We met up with Ben and Argos at a spot overlooking Long Lake just on the outskirts of the city. It was a great little free spot. We relaxed and hung out for a bit before turning in.
9 September 2018
Sept 9, Haines, Alaska
We woke up and boogied to Haines. We were hopeful that all would work out in getting to do the flightseeing tour of Glacier Bay National Park. The park is only visible from flight or cruise so we had our fingers crossed that the other couple would also still want to go on the flight. (Many of the tours require a minimum number of people so you are dependent on others wanting to go at the same time as you). We did some laundry and got a shower once in sunny and warm Haines waiting to hear about the flight. I got a call about an hour and half before that it was all good to go at 1pm! As we arrived at the hangar the sun was shining on the amazing blue and white de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver plane we were about to set off in. We climbed in the middle seats, a woman up front with the pilot, a retired couple in front of us and one more woman behind us. After all the necessary checks, we were off!
Sept 9 cont... First flying over the Chilkat River Flats, the Chilkat Range to our South. We saw glimpse of the snowy St. Elias Mountain, the second largest mountain in the United States. Soon we were upon the dramatic Glacier Bay. Described by Muir as "a picture of icy wildness unspeakably pure and sublime". It was exactly that! Turquoise bays swirling with the silt of the melting glaciers as the massive icy glaciers themselves stretched down to the water, hung on mountain cliffs and through entire valleys. We flew over valleys that once were filled 4,000 feet thick with ice! Now the ice barely meets the waters of the bays, some vanished all together. The land below the plane looked like we were on another planet at times, rocky and filled with large soil stained ice, sometimes piercing blue with crevasses the size of buildings! It was an incredible and unforgettable experience! And then we got to watch the unforgettable season opener of the Packers!! Go Pack Go!
8 September 2018
Sept 8, Deadman Lake, Alaska to Takhane River, Kluane National Park
A day of driving. We crossed back into Canada heading west then south as we made our way to Haines, in southeastern Alaska. (Also, Alaska maps are almost never to scale on most U.S. maps that we 48ers are used to seeing. Seriously, Google "size of Alaska compared to US." I was quite naive to the size and shape of Alaska!) Anyways, the drive borders the St. Elias Mountain Range, the largest coastal mountains and when combined with the Canadian Kluane National Park and Alaska's Glacier Bay forms a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is stunning!! And the colors! It is seriously every shade of fall color- dusty plums, crimson reds, yellows in every shade- as far as the eye could see! We stopped right before a blue bridge crossing the river and saw Ben's dodge van again! We had a bonfire on the beach by the river, complete with roasted marshmallows!
7 September 2018
Sept 7, Chena Lakes Rec Area (Fairbanks) to Deadman Lake Campground (Tetlin National Refuge)
Left our little spot by the lake to head south, making our way to Haines eventually. We got a few more errands done in Fairbanks and enjoyed the sunshine as we drove. I spent most of the afternoon driving Pumbaa!! I learned many of the quirks of driving a 40 year old vehicle...but it went well. The colors were in full fall fashion as we drove through the mountains and valleys. A sign noted that the boreal forest we were in is also called, Taiga, land of little sticks. So accurate! It is as if a normal forest is just all shrunken and more sparse with moss and lichen growing instead of grass. We missed the Alaska sign upon our arrival so we took a picture on our way out of Alaska interior!
Sept 7 continued... We found a free campground on the Tetlin National Refuge-- it is amazing that these beautiful places have so many free accommodations. It was a quiet and pretty lake teaming with wild birds, river otters, and fish. As we drove in, we saw a familiar vehicle- our friend Ben from the drive up to the Arctic ocean was at the campground. We hung out with him, Argos, and another couple around their fire, ending the night out on the dock enjoying the star filled night.
6 September 2018
Sept 6, Denali to Chena Hot Springs
This morning we got to view another form of transportation in the park, dog sleds!! We got to meet a few of the dogs, see the original sled house built at the opening of the park in 1929, and watch a demonstration of the sled dogs in action (they use a supercool standing go-kart thing!). There was even 3 week old puppies you could view!! And no, I sadly did not end up with a new puppy! Haha. After visiting the dogs, we headed north towards Fairbanks. Stopped in Fairbanks for fuel and food and then headed to the Chena Hot Springs. A natural fed hot spring pool. It was a bit more commercial than the first one we went to, but the hot relaxing water was so nice! We found a little spot by a lake that was part of a primitive campground (no real structures, but there was a pit toilet). It was such a cute little spot for the evening!
5 September 2018
Sept 5, Denali, part 3: It was straight up, but OMG, I have honestly never seen anything more beautiful in my life. You could swear you were watching some hi-def helicopter shot documentary on the park. We climbed along the ridge a bit more taking in the view as much as possible. The ride back we saw more bears and all the amazing scenery again. That night we camped in the park, right by the entrance in the Riley Creek Campground. As I was filling the water for the pasta I wandered almost into a moose! She was just munching away about 15 yards away!
Sept 5, Denali Cont... The bears were mostly pretty far away, except for a few of the sightings, but to see so many was amazing! Many of them were frenziedly feeding on berries, stocking up for the winter. About halfway to our final stopping place, views of the mountain started peaking out! To south of us for most of the drive was a view of the expansive Alaskan Range, so breathtaking. We got to the Eielson Visitor Center early afternoon and decided to stay a while and catch a different bus back. The center has incredible views of the valley with mount Denali and the range. It felt out of a movie to be enjoying a picnic in the midst of such beauty. Most of Denali has no developed hiking trails, it is designated as a wilderness park and that is very clear in the minimalism of human impact and structure on the land. However there is a trail, the Alpine Trail, that brings you to the ridge top with complete 360 view of the area.
Sept 5, Denali National Park
We were back at the bus depot by 9:20 the next morning, waiting for our bus to take us 65 miles inti the park. It was drizzling and dreary and we were really trying to keep our spirits up that the weather would turn around...and did it ever! By 30 minutes into the drive the sun was starting to burn off the clouds. It was an incredible morning!! The road winds uphill passing forests so thick you can't see more than 2 feet in, beautiful valleys that stretch out until they meet layers and layers of snow covered mountains, rivers ribboned with gravel bars, and steep cliffs. Wildlife abounded as well on our journey. Two young grizzlies playing in the brush, one even standing to see his friend better, a mama bear and her cub, another large male grizzly just taking a nap, moose munching on the foliage, shoeshoe hares, artic squirrels, dall sheep, and 8 more grizzly bears!
4 September 2018
Sept 4 cont.... The drive north to the park was just as beautiful, gorgeous fall colors, valleys and mountains as far as the eye can see. Once at Denali National Park we got a campsite for the next night as the night was full already. We drove the 15 miles of the park roadway you can drive. The 90 mile single road that goes through the park is closed to public traffic, you have to take a bus (Pumbaa didn't count as a bus for that!) The drive through for us that evening was nice but it had clouded up again so it wasn't as picturesque (the weather changes here in a blink of the eye). We found a free camping area just 10 minutes from the park entrance for the night. It was raining so we just stayed in the bus for the night.
Sept 4, Willow to Denali National Park
A morning of laundry, breakfast, cleaning up a bit, and journi updates. Then we were off in hope of seeing "The High One", Denali Mountain, even though it was a bit cloudy. The park says that of all of those who visit the park, only 30% get the opportunity to see North America's largest mountain, especially in the summer. The mountain is so massive it generates it's own weather. And it generally prefers "cloudy." It wasn't looking good as we drove north, but then all of sudden through a small gap in the trees I saw it. My magical first words might have been, "oh, shit, babe!", poetic I know! Soon after we pulled into the Denali State Park North Viewing area and there it was!! Standing 20,310 feet tall among the equally impressive Alaskan Mountain Range that stretches the entire skyline! I was giddy snapping pictures and standing in awe of its magnificence. From the base to summit it is taller than Mt. Everest! We had a little lunch w/a view!
3 September 2018
Sept 3 cont...
Anyways, the trail was all uphill, almost 2,000 feet up by the end of it. It took almost 1,000 feet just to get your first viewpoint of the glacier, but wow!, it was worth it! The glacier blue (yes, like Gatorade), is incredible to see firsthand. We hiked the next 1,000 to see a view of the whole Harding Icefield that the Exit Glacier descends from. It was the first day it was hot in a while-- all our layers had been shoved in the pack and the sun was shining! We enjoyed some sammies upon our return and then started our trek north to Denali. We stopped in Anchorage to pick up the transmission from Justin and Rebekah's house then dropped that off in Wasilla, then made it just north of Willow to a very nice RV park that had super nice showers, laundry and amazingly fast wifi! A nice hot shower and an episode of Friends was the end of another amazing day!
Sept 3, Exit Glacier, Kenai National Park, to Willow, Alaska
We woke early as we had planned so we get to Exit Glacier for the ranger-led hike that left at 9am. It was cold that morning so we bundled up, a little too much we would come to find out. There was a group of 6 of us, along with plenty of others heading out on the Harding Icefield Trail on the crisp, clear morning, just as the sun was cresting the mountains to the east. The trail traverses through the lower forest then into more tundra terrain. I have always pictured a tundra as snow covered vast prairie with almost whiteout conditions, and I'm sure in the winter it often is. However, in the summer the tundra up here is absolutely beautiful in an understated manner. Teeming with miniature shrubs, flowers, grasses and other plant life, all in the perfect "fall color palette". Nick noted a few days later that it looks as if you have turned up the saturation or put it filter on it, but it is really those colors.
2 September 2018
Sept 2, Homer, Kenai, Captain Cook, to Moose Pass, Alaska
After enjoying our grocery store donuts, we headed back north from Homer to take in more of the peninsula dubbed "Alaska's Playground." We explored another old Russian Orthodox church in Kenai, saw an oil rig and filling dock, went for a quick swim and shower at Nilchiski pool (can you tell the Russian influence here!), went agate rock hunting on the mud flat beach and for a hike at Captain Cook State Park, and gazed out at the mountains across the inlet more. It was a sunny and cloudless day exploring the peninsula. We found a great little spot by Moose Pass on a lake, camping only 15 feet from the water's edge! Nick made us a delicious pork tenderloin... I had the task of potty cleaning. It was a full day, but amazing, and made us reflect on just how lucky we are!
1 September 2018
Sept 1, Homer, Continued...
First two bull moose, a little ways up 2 cows, and then another bull. All were a safe distance away, but still pretty close. One of the female moose definitely had a "don't mess with me" vibe. It was such a cute place- this non-profit nature center started from a man's love of all things wild! You can tell this town of Homer in general really appreciates all the nature around it. Shortly after, we got to experience nature really up close and personal as we dug Pumbaa out from the sandy beach. Yes, we got stuck on the beach. Thankfully with the help of some rocks, two men who pushed, and some luck we quickly became unstuck and got to some safer terrain. We wrapped up the evening with another beautiful sunset on the beach.
Sept 1, Homer, AK
We woke up to the sun shining and the Bay's waves crashing on the shore right beyond our back window. After making some coffee, we hit the local farmer's market. It was so delightful, many locals and tourists mingling all around yummy foods, and hademand goods. I got a lovely pair of earrings and we each got some local breakfast! The visitor center gave us some suggestions for the rest of the day (honestly, visitor centers have been so helpful this trip!). After a trip to the Island and Ocean research center, we set off to the Wynn Nature Center up north of town. So cute with its wooden boardwalk, cozy log cabin welcome and teaching center, adorable outhouses, and even hot tea! It unfortunately started drizzling as we started our walk, but we were fine. And well, the rain turned out to be a good thing, because it brought the moose out of the shade now that the hot sun had gone. We saw 5 moose in the matter of 20 minutes!!
31 August 2018
Aug 31, Homer continued...
The bay's turquoise water stretches towards a glacier filled mountain range. We went out on the Homer spit, the thin stretch of land spreading 4 or so miles into the sea, filled with all the shops, restaurants, taverns and the like. We had a drink at The Salty Dog Saloon, an old lighthouse turned bar, and nailed our dollar to the ceiling like all the others! The spot we had parked in was free overnight parking so we decided to stay here and walked and danced a little along the beach to take in the sunset before turning in. (The sun now sets at about 9pm, not midnight like before! Yes, it has messed up our sleep. Haha)
Aug 31, Watson Lake to Homer, AK
Waking to the sun, we appreciated the nice day, but slept in anyways! I tried a first for me that morning, a spam sammy... I was skeptical, but it was actually good. In that 'this is definitely not good for me' way. Again, another beautiful drive. Wehave driven close to 7,000 miles so far, it helps that most of it is quite spectacular! All of a sudden along the drive, you get small peeks of this mountain range, then all of sudden, you have the most beautiful view across Cook's Inlet of some of the "Ring of Fire". Part of the Aleutian Mountain range with 4 active volcanoes! We stopped in an old Russian village with a stunning beach and chapel on the hill. A tour bus driver gave us a great recommendation to come into Homer on Skyline Road instead of the main hwy. WOW. A totally different kind of skyline here- a few thousand feet above the town, you look out across the Kachemak Bay, the famous Spit, as well as the town itself.
30 August 2018
Aug 30, Anchorage to Watson Lake, Kenai Peninsula
After a bit more checking in the morning, Nick said, want to start recombobulating the bus? Yes! Pumbaa is ready to go! So we were packing up at Justin and Rebekah's! (yep, they were kind enough to let us use their garage the whole time. And yep, I felt so much like we were inconveniencing them, but they were nicest people and really wanted to help. And yep, sometimes you need help and have to thank your lucky stars that help came.) Mid-afternoon, we were headed south from Anchorage to the Kenai peninsula. With the sun shining and the heat working better now, thank you Nicholas!!, it was a nice drive. The evening unfolded so casually and enjoyable in its "normalcy" to us: found a nice spot by a lake, set up camp, made a salmon dinner, watched a bit of a movie and went to bed. It is funny what becomes some of your new normals on the road. (P.s. we have watched a few older movies on this trip and they have been such a new joy to me!)
29 August 2018
Aug 29, Anchorage
Transmission changing day. We drove to pick up a part in town and then out about an hour to get the transmission. Nick then had to spend about 2pm to 10pm changing the transmission and reinstalling the engine. Not a great time, but it went well. He was burnt out by the time we made it back to the hotel. We were hopeful that the next day we could be on the road again.
28 August 2018
Aug 28. Part 3... The ride back was complete with fresh baked cookies, so obviously the best cruise ever! On the bay just south of Anchorage, we saw all these people stopped along the highway (we knew there had to be wildlife!) There out in the bay were tens of Beluga whales there little white backs and spouts emerging from the calm bay water. It was incredible to watch these massive animals in the water. Back in Anchorage we got Wendy's (the birthday boy's request) and crashed for the night.
Aug 28 cont... The waves rose the further out we got sending the boat crashing right through them. Along the way were huge sea lions, puffins, cormorants (sp?), fish jumping, and sea otters. As we cruised up the inner bay to the Aialik glacier, the wind grew in intensity. Like really, really intense. I went inside the common area/dining area and sat out of the wind for a while; Nick stayed out on the bow with the few other crazy people. We approached this massive wall of ice that rose from the seas only to carry on upward to the Harding Icefield. The wind was so strong it was hard to breathe, that or the glacier was simply taking our breath away (nerdy haha). We scanned the half mile wide swath of ice looking for calving (huge chunks of ice breaking from the glacier). Right as the ice hit the ocean, you could hear a thunderous echo of the crash. Loveseat sized chunks of ice floated around the boat! It was incredible to be so up and close with such a magnificent natural wonder!
Aug 28, Anchorage to Seward. Nick's Birthday!
We had to wait for the transmission from the VW guy till Wednesday so we decided to spend Nick's birthday doing something fun instead of waiting around. We drove our rental Mazda 6 down to Seward for a Kenai Fjords National Park glacier and wildlife cruise. It was a sunny day and in the mid 60s! (This far north the weather is so unpredictable and generally not so sunny and warm) The drive was beautiful- the bay to our west, mountains, glaciers, rivers, the train, and sparkling sunshine. All smiles from us as we boarded our cruise for the day! We got a spot out on the bow and enjoyed the breeze as we made our way out of the bay towards the Pacific Ocean. The bay looks straight out of a movie, one in which James Bond may be racing around in a high speed boat race! Mountains covered in glacial ice in the background with large rock pillars/formations (I can't remember the technical term) rising straight out of the sea.
27 August 2018
Aug 27, Anchorage
We got an early start that day, Nick set to remove the entire engine and transmission from the bus. It was a full day job, one in which I could not help but a time or two. There is no way that a trip in a bus is possible without someone in the group being mechanically inclined and I am so grateful Nick is! I got the better end of the deal, reading most of the day, checking in on Nick as much as one can when they can't really do much. We had gotten a rental car and a hotel room, hopefully reimbursed by AAA with our premium membership. Tired from the day, we still convinced ourselves to go out downtown for dinner. At the Glacier Brewhouse I had some delicious ahi tuna and Nick had some yummy rockfish. Alaska is definitely a place for seafood lovers.
26 August 2018
Aug 26, Anchorage
The plan was to go to Seward today. We made it about 35 miles towards it... We stopped in Girdwood, a hippy ski town, and had a delicious scramble under the awning with the table and chairs. (Scrambles have been a yummy staple to our travels... eggs, sausage, and whatever else we have on hand) Shortly after Girdwood, it happened. The transmission that we had just started worrying about gave out. It rumbled a bit, jerking slightly, then making this awful noise. We had lost 4th gear and kinda 3rd so it was slow going moving back to Anchorage. Unsure what to do, we texted the only people we knew in Anchorage. Again, their kindness was too much, them offering up a garage spot for Nick to work on it. Ensue a night of researching bus parts, posting on the VW forum The Samba, and trying not to freak out (that was mostly just me).
25 August 2018
Aug 25, Anchorage
We had a bit too much fun the night before so the morning was off to a slow start. After some McDonald's breakfast and a nap, we went for a bike ride. The couple from the night before had graciously offered to lend us their bikes for the day! We biked along the Coastal Trail for most of the afternoon, with lots of stops for the sights and for our 'tired' bodies! They had also offered to make us a real Alaskan dinner when they got off work-- we really lucked out running into him at Target!! The dinner and the company was so delightful and we went to bed full and happy.
24 August 2018
Aug 24, Anchorage
It was almost sunny when we woke up! We indulged in some IHOP breakfast and then set off on a list of errands. Somehow they are more fun in a new city, when you have been looking forward to a real store to buy things. Lowes, Target, the hardware store, car wash and vacuum, a shower! In the Target parking lot Nick was working on the furnace on nice dry real pavement, something not too common up this far north! The night was filled with fun- a yummy meal and beers at Humpy's, meeting up with a guy we met earlier in the Target parking lot and his girlfriend, grabbing another drink with them at 49th State Brewery, and then them inviting us back to their house to hang out and crash in their driveway! They are both nurses up here in Anchorage that love to travel and are super fun!
23 August 2018
Aug 23, Valdez to Anchorage
As we went to start the bus, something wasn't right. All of a sudden Nick swore and jumped out the door running to the back of the bus. The oil filter that he put on the night before didn't want to seal properly. Now out of oil and with a damaged filter, we had no choice but to get towed back into town. Thankfully, AAA sent someone there within 20 minutes. Nick unfortunately had to change the oil again while I got the better end of the deal checking out the Valdez library. We then headed out for Anchorage. I read a bit aloud and we listened to music. The cold and rain and fog came back and slowly made our moods a bit more gloomy as well. We pulled in late to the Cabela's parking lot to crash for the night.
22 August 2018
Aug 22, Valdez, Alaska
We weren't even really planning to go to Valdez, actually, I had never even heard of it before. It was such a pleasant surprise of a place! Driving south to the town is beautiful. We stopped at the Worthington Glacier, gazed at many more as we drove up the Thompson Pass and then through the Keystone Canyon only to emerge and see the town in this majestic fjord with the Chugach Mountains rising from the sea on both sides. Our first stop was the Solomon Gulch Hatchery, a salmon hatchery. The salmon are running at this time of year, meaning they are all trying to swim back upstream to spawn and then, sadly, die. I have never seen so many fish in my life. You look out in the bay and up into the river and all you see in the water are huge salmon fish. Lots of other animals were excited about the salmon too- sea lions, seagulls, eagles, and even a few bears! We found a nice spot on a gravel road by the Lowe river. Nick changed the oil and we settled in for the night.
21 August 2018
Aug 21, Tok to Valdez, Alaska
We had a delicious breakfast burrito made by chef Nicholas, enjoyed al fresco with the creek and mountains in the background. It started raining just as we finished packing up. The morning was a rainy and cold drive and when we got some cell service, we decided a #treatyoself stay was in order! It had been 12 days since a hotel. We found this great deal for a beautiful ski lodge by Valdez. Thankfully we stopped to take a photo of the mountain and glacier it overlooks or we would have missed the lodge set up on the hill! We smiled ear to ear at thought of a warm shower and bed and a delicious drink overlooking the mountains. In between laundry, we enjoyed some great food and relaxation!
20 August 2018
Aug 20, Dawson City, Yukon to Tok, Alaska
Today was the day! We were going to be in Alaska!! We crossed the Yukon River Ferry and were on our way on the Top of the World highway to Alaska. It was very aptly named as you drove along on top of a ridge looking out at just an endless horizon of mountains and valleys. After a few hours on a gravel road that might as well been freshly poured asphalt compared to the Dempster, we made it to the border crossing. With a few quick questions answered and a "welcome back" we reentered the US of A into Alaska.
We made our way to Chicken, and stopped off for some lunch and a beer. Chicken pot pie and BBQ chicken (they have a bit of a chicken theme going on there.) After a delightful lunch and a perusal of the mercantile we headed on towards Tok.
Aug 20 continued...
The weather was getting crummy and after a quick stop at the local grocery for some supplies we drove off towards a site mentioned in our newly downloaded iOverlander app. A nice little spot by a creek just off the highway would be our campsite for the night.
19 August 2018
Aug 19, Dawson City, Yukon
Today was a 'recombobulation' day. We spent a few hours at a cafe with a delicious breakfast and wifi going through photos and catching up on the outside world. We washed the bus, and ourselves (at different establishments!), and reorganized the bus. It was finally sunny and nice out! We did a walking tour of the town hearing about the bizarre stories of how people struck it rich without ever striking a shovel into the ground in this old gold mining town. We met up with Ben, one of our new convoy crew, and saw the show at Gertie's and then checked out a local band at the "microwave" bar. Quite a local dive joint... one that we felt very much at home at.
18 August 2018
Aug 18, NWT/Yukon border to Dawson City, Yukon
The weather hadn't improved overnight and we had to drag ourselves out of our warm cozy bed into the cold and rainy mudpit to leave. We made some coffee and were on our way. It was a sloooww go. Calling it a road, let alone a highway, is very misleading. After the recent weather conditions the road was now a mud track with massive potholes. A pickup truck upside down and a semi on its side revealed that as well. This road really tests your f*$@&*# fortitude and makes you realize a view of the arctic ocean is hard-earned. With no heat in the bus we were cold, wet, tired and very beaten down by the idea of 300 miles of this at an average speed of "crawl."
Aug 18 cont...
Thankfully after the first few hours it got much better- the fog cleared, rain stopped and the road was getting better. It was "pedal down" all day as we had 300 miles to cover, on dirt/mud/gravel road. We ran into some of the crazy kids from our convoy at the Eagle Plains lodge where we quickly popped in to warm up.
After several hours of hard driving we finally hit pavement at the end of the highway. We literally whooped with joy!!! We considered getting a hotel just to warm up, but it was about 60° now back in relative civilization so we got a campsite right outside Dawson City and made a nice fire. Warm and relaxed in front of the fire, we were able to think back on the last few days more fondly. As with many of the best things in life, it took overcoming many challenging and uncomfortable obstacles. The journey to the Arctic Ocean was incredibly brutal, but in the end, for sure worth it. Especially thanks to the great company we were fortunate to meet on the road.
17 August 2018
Aug 17, Tuktoyaktuk to NWT/Yukon border area
The next morning was a rude awaking. It was still awful weather, including even muddier, and a car was honking its horn repeatedly. They needed to work on the picnic shelter where we were so we had to move. The weather was even worse. The photographer, Lee, who was tent camping the night lost his tent to the Ocean. It literally blew away!
We moved down the road a ways so Nick could try and get the furnace to work while on the move (it does not like all the water and mud). There was mud everywhere and no shelter or real road to be found. We made it back to Inuvik and had a hot shower (kinda).
Drive back down conti... then we had to continue on our way after some tuning and fixing of the bus. The weather and furnace and our moods were all a bit gloomy. The roads had gotten even worse with the weather and the drive was tough. After several hours, we made it as far as we could, and pulled off into just a gravel area down to the side of the road. It was raining sideways with a strong wind and thick fog. Nick braved the mud and rain and freezing wind and got the furnace working. Then we cuddled under our sleeping bag comforter and had a yummy bowl of cereal for dinner.
16 August 2018
Aug 16, Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk (Arctic Ocean!), NWT
That morning, almost all of us slept in a bit. Each group looked out their windows wondering if they slept so long the others left (a tidbit we all shared later that night!). I was anxious to get to Tuktoyaktuk and the Arctic Ocean so we left before the others. The highway between Inuvik and Tuk was just opened last fall. It was a pretty decent road, but the weather was not. It was about 40° with 30mph winds and rain. I had really wanted to do a tour so I called the one tour company once we got there. Roger, the owner and operator gave us directions to his house (the roads are not designed in any kind of traditional organization).
TUK, arctic ocean cont... We climbed into a school bus with his grandson, Ty, after using the bathroom in his house. We saw the whole town and learned a great deal about the Inuit people and their life in the past and present. Our tour also included a dip in the ocean. Most in the group dipped their fingers in, Nick and I took off our wool socks and dipped our toes in the freezing cold water. Tuktoyaktuk is also the Pingo capital of the world, and we saw a few of them and walked on one. A pingo is a large hill formed by ice, with a layer of soil on top. The rest of our travelling Convoy had made their way up to Tuk and we thought we might tough it out and camp overnight at "the point", the little area by the Arctic Ocean. It was bitterly cold, windy and raining and the bus' heat had been so mucked up it wasn't working... Nick worked on that then we set up our own little fortress from the elements.
TUK, ARTIC OCEAN CONT... The bus blocked the wind, we put the awning out to keep the rain out, then Henri and Liza parked their Delica on one side and Kyle and Tori parked their Element on the other. Later when the last of the group, Ben, arrived he boxed out the other side. We welcomed in Lee also, a photographer tent camping nearby and looking for some shelter from the elements! We filled up on food, tea, wine, and good company in our little makeshift room. It didn't seem as bad outside, almost felt like tailgating for a Packer game! At 11:30pm we stepped out of the makeshift shelter and watched the waves thunder into the shoreline in the "midnight sun". We luckily had heat back in the bus so we went to sleep all cozy with the furnace on.
15 August 2018
Aug 15, Arctic Circle to Inuvik, North West Territories
We rolled out around mid-morning to continue north to the arctic ocean. We joined the other three vehicles we met the night before, creating our own little convoy. We stopped at the border between the Yukon and North West Territories (NWT) providence. It was cold and snow covered the tundra off the roadside so it was a quick stop. Unfortunately Pumbaa became a little grumpy- the fuel injection was acting up. It was a challenging drive, potholes, ruts, washboard and mud. We crossed the Peel River Ferry and had lunch in Fort McPherson. The tourist center there had a few local young women making delicious food, including Eskimo donuts! Those who know me well, know I LOVE donuts, so to get a donut up in this small First Nation's community, freshly fried too, was a dream! We crossed one more river on the Mackenzie ferry, Canada's longest river.
Inuvik cont... We made it to Inuvik, a small town with a surprising amount of people. We stocked up on some groceries (though a gallon of milk was $11, OJ, $19) and found a spot for all of us on a lake by a picnic area.
14 August 2018
Aug 14, Dawson City to Arctic Circle
We grabbed a quick shower at the local pool and then headed to the visitor center. We got updates and more info on driving the Dempster Highway to Tuktoyaktuk. The highway is a 540 miles one way of gravel road heading straight north to the arctic ocean. We heard from a couple a few days before you could drive all the way to the ocean- we were intrigued. Based on all the info, we decided to give it a go. We decided to try and get to the arctic circle in the first day. It was an interesting 252 miles. The road would go from fine gravel road, to massive potholes (looked like a mancala board) then to mud ruts, back to fine. It winds through 10 different eco systems, numerous rivers and such gorgeous grey limestone rubble mountains. Nick was an excellent driver and Pumbaa scampered around quite well.
Up to arctic circle continued... the landscape up here is almost indescribable. Sorry Lambeau Field, but this definitely takes the cake for frozen tundra. The entire road is built on permafrost, ground that never thaws except for the first few inches every summer. The term summer is very relative this far north. It was about 35 degrees as we drove north and there was snow on the ground in some places. The bus does not really have heat, but thankfully Nick did put a furnace in for the back and with some of his infamous tinkering and engineering he routed some heat up to the front of the bus!! We layered up and it wasn't so bad.
We pulled into the arctic circle sign pull out area around 8:30. We hadn't seen anyone else in quite awhile so seeing 3 vehicles was surprising. They had a fire going and invited us to warm up around the fire.
Arctic cont... We figured why not sleep at the arctic circle so we settled in by the fire, roasted some sausages, and enjoyed the hot "foot stones" our new campmates offered. A Canadian couple, an Aussie/Kiwi couple and a guy from Colorado with his pooch, were all huddled around the fire. We chatted on the joys and struggles of our travels. They call this the land of the midnight sun and that is not an exaggeration. It was 11:30 and still clear visibility (like people in WI may still have not turned on their headlights quite yet). Such an amazing phenomenon! We put on our sleepy masks to catch some shut eye in the warm and cozy bus.
13 August 2018
Aug 13, Whitehorse to Dawson City, Yukon
we turned off the Alaskan Highway and onto the Klondike Loop. We headed even further north towards the old mining boom town of Dawson City. It was a long day of driving, but we did get to see a few amazing sights. A black bear ambling across the road, a majestic double full rainbow stretched across the valley and many momountains and rivers! As we rolled into Dawson around 7, we were hungry and thirsty. We grabbed some gyros from the Drunken Goat and some beer. Apparently Canada isn't as strict about their labeling as we first ordered Keith's IPA, which on the first glance at it and the first taste was clearly not an IPA. The bartender agreed, so, Instead we got the Stanley Park IPA out of Vancouver, much better! We spent the night grabbing a Dawson City version of an old fashion (they don't get many Brandy drinkers up here!), and then going to the local casino and show house for a little 1920's inspired cancan musical show.
Aug 13 continued...
As we were about to take the ferry and see if the campground had any opening, we saw a bunch of campers at the interpretive center parking lot area. One temporary inhabitant waved as we pulled in and set up our bed. It was still light out at midnight as we finally put on our sleepy masks to go to bed. The extended daylight is really quite disorienting and amazing because you have so much day!
12 August 2018
Aug 12, Teslin to Whitehorse, Yukon
I grabbed a hot shower this morning while Nick finished up the fuel pump fixing. I am so grateful for all his mechanic talent! We added some stickers to the bus and were off. I read the Yukon News and shared some happenings with Nicholas as Florence filled the bus with her beautiful voice. We stopped for the infamous sticky buns at Johnson Crossings. They were yummy!! We arrived in Whitehorse mid-day- a stop at the visitor center, got a campsite and then went to a local brewery, Winterlong. Here I write this update!
We are heading up to Dawson City tomorrow.
11 August 2018
Aug 11 continued, To Teslin
Saw lots of big hwy signs from Wisconsin, even a Packer sign!
We were heading northwest all day, then as we were coming up on where we might stay for the night, the fuel pump started acting grumpy. Nick gave it a few bangs and it made it to an RV park. Nick changed the fuel pump (again) while I made some dinner and set up the bus for sleeping.
Aug 11, Liard Hotsprings to Teslin
Had a nice scramble for breakfast, did some dishes, and packed up the bus. We saw some bison this morning on the drive, even a few cute baby bison!!
We finally found a place with gas that was almost reasonable. Gas has been around $4.25/gallon in Canada, we had to pay over $7/ gallon at one place on the highway! (Not a lot of options out here for gas...)
Another day of beautiful driving though. I read aloud the rest of our "A Bus Will Take You There" book (we'll have to get that back to Mike now) and we stopped in the sign post forest. Pumbaa had a bit of hiccup and wanted a push, as in, a push start. Nick tweaked some things and the starter was fine 20 minutes later. Meanwhile I used a dremel we had along to carve our names into a piece of wood we found in the bus to hang in the "forest". It is a large area by the visitor center of Watson Lake, Yukon where they have posts that people from all over the world hang a sign on.
Day 2 drive
10 August 2018
Aug 10 continued... Liard
They have a well known hotsprings provincial park so we bought a day pass. It was a .4 kilometer walk to the springs area, a cold wet walk. It had just started raining and was a bit chilly. All that disappointment disappeared the second we saw the hot springs. It was like a luxury spa pool made to look natural, except that it was actually natural! They had a nice deck around part of the springs and stairs leading into the steaming pool. The upper springs was hot and the lower was warm.
We chatted with a couple from Australia/Canada and Florida and a German guy who was working at the park all while floating on big logs in the spring. It was truly magical as we swam down a little channel to see where a cold stream trickled into the hot springs.
After a couple hours, we went back to our campsite across the street. We made sammies and watched Grumpy Old Men till we dozed off.
AUG 10, Sikanni River to Liard Hotsprings
The 300 mile drive today was beautiful! We snaked along numerous rivers in valleys, drove through the highest pass on the Alcan, had 360 views of mountains almost all day. Started seeing some wildlife too! Stone sheep (really creepy black sheep with red eyes), a moose, and a caribou. Listened to more of Nick Offerman's book. We stopped in Fort Nelson for lunch at a local park. Drove past the well known Muncho Lake (700 feet deep!) And arrived in Liard around 630.
Aug 10, the Alaskan Highway
We woke up at our campsite by the river. Pumbaa feels at home by the river.
9 August 2018
Aug 9, Dawson Creek to Sikanni River campground
We finished most of our to-dos in Dawson Creek: walmart run, oil change (in the Wal-Mart parking lot), photo upload, gas filled, and photo op at mile 0 of the Alaskan Highway! First day drive was pretty straight, flat, pine trees on both sides and kind of hazy from some far off forest fires. Also a lot of massive hauling trucks- logs, dirt, gas, and more. A ton of industrial happenings along the highway. Our campground was a little RV park by the river. We got a nice tree lined spot by the river next to a nice dad from Texas, Paulo, who got left behind by his caravan of friends after a few breakdowns in the states.
Nick made a nice dinner of chicken, pasta side and grilled peppers while I recombobulated (sp?) the bus. When we have to take all the camping gear out and when we go shopping it takes a lot to put everything back in its place and try to be as efficient as possible about space.Had a nice little fire and some ice cream s'mores
Start of the Alaskan highway!
8 August 2018
Aug 8, Jasper to Dawson Creek, BC
We changed our route a little and headed to Dawson Creek. A full day of driving along a two lane highway with a lot of logging and working trucks...and construction. If you think construction is a pain in Wisconsin, it is worse here. At one point we were driving on a "goat path" with dust and rocks flying all over... we made it fine though.
We spent the night getting dinner, doing laundry, enjoying internets, and walking to DQ. Dawson Creek is the official start of the Alaskan Highway! It feels so exciting to be at the start!! (Even though we have covered about 3,500 miles so far!)
Adventurer Nicholas as my number one! And our steadfast driver!
7 August 2018
Hiking Maligne Canyon
Pumbaa aglow at the misfit campground!
Aug 7, Jasper
After I decided to consume all the baked goods possible at the Bear Paw Bakery in Jasper (sticky bun and chocolate croissant, treat yo'self, right?!?), we stopped at the visitor center. Here we became very frustrated with trying to get the free wifi and make a hotel reservation and keep both of us from wandering off. (Getting internet and phone service in Canada is not super easy and only my phone works for some stuff).
Due to a lot of smoke rolling in from the various forest fires, we decided to go to the Maligne Canyon area and add canyon hike and viewing to our 'have seen' list. We did a short hike to Moose Lake, a nice picnic by the river, and then did the canyon hike. A 4 mile or so hike across bridges, over and through the steep canyon with water rushing below. You hike all the way down to the rivers edge, then back up. Burning off all the carbs!
We ran back to town, grabbed a beer at Jasper Brewing company, and then headed to the Overflow Campground...
Aug 7, Jasper continued
We came to dub this place the misfit camp for suburbanites. So many Canadians come to Banff and Jasper just like Wisconsinites go to the Dells. A very strange comparison to U.S. national parks. Many of the campgrounds here have 600+ sites, and they all book up months in advance. When you just roll up and need a site... you end up here.
Hundreds of campers in every configuration were just parked all over in any spot in this huge field and campground area. There weren't any real "sites", and it was basically a free for all. But, everyone was quiet, clean and respectful of each other.
Nick had us go over and look at this crazy vehicle we saw earlier in the day on the road; a military type looking truck owned by a German couple that had it specially built as an Overland vehicle and were traveling all over the world in it. They were previously in Mongolia. Nick wants to build one now, haha.
Aug 7, Jasper continued...
We spent a while talking with three other couples there as well; a pair of retiree couples from San Diego and Arizona, and a young couple from Germany. It stays light until 10pm so our sense of time keeps getting really thrown off. So at 9:30 we headed back to the bus and had "dinner"; a bowl of cereal, and then hung out at our site. We got a good spot in the woods that even had a picnic table.
Wapiti campground in Jasper NP
6 August 2018
Aug 6, Yoho National Park to Jasper NP
It got chilly overnight so we woke up all cocooned in our sleeping bags, made some oatmeal and packed up.
(Note: see the picture with some of our camping gear. We use the Jet Boil to quickly boil water and can then add the water to dehydrated meals - better than you think- or make tea or oatmeal or such with the water. It is super handy! It also makes our coffee every morning with a French press - not roughing it here! Haha)
We realized that the area does not have a lot of grocery stores so we made a delicious scramble for lunch once we got back to Pumbaa. The hike out was pretty easy and sunny, really beautiful views of the mountains, river and glaciers. The rest of the day was a gorgeous drive up the Icefields Parkways, renowned as one of the best drives in North America. Beautiful teal lakes, rushing rivers, mountains in every direction, high passes on the edge of cliff, and so many glaciers (hence the name!)
Continued... We were so lucky to get a clear day for the drive and it did not disappoint! (As a side note, we knew the drive was something cool to do, but when you do little research sometimes you are so surprised that it is way better than you thought, this whole day was that way!) We also got lucky that night and, despite all the campgrounds being reserved months in advance, we got a site in one of the main campgrounds with a shower!
Pumbaa loved the parkway
5 August 2018
More Twin Falls and mountain views!
Backpacking Yoho, Twin Falls
Aug 5, Banff to Yoho National Park
Backpacking day! We drove the hour and half to the trailhead in northwest neighboring Yoho. The crowds from Banff dissolved quickly! We enjoyed a yummy scramble, then gathered the rest of our gear up and were off. We were hiking through the Yoho Valley along the Yoho river, mountains surrounding us in a 360 degree view. So beautiful! Every once and while you would get a great smell of pine. We then spent part of the hike talking about our favorite things about Christmas! The hike also had more than 5 waterfalls. The best part was we got to set up our tent and leave our big packs at our amazing riverside campground and then hike further up to the gorgeous Twin Falls. There is a backcountry chalet there and the most beautiful little bridge and view, it was truly magical.
Watch a video of us exploring the falls (copy and paste the link in the next post!)
Aug 5, Yoho continued...
Back at the campsite we made dinner and chatted with some other campers, a young couple from Calgary and a Kiwi working at the Yoho visitor center! We have been so fortunate to meet and talk with so many people on our travels so far!
4 August 2018
Aug 4, Banff
We woke up early to go to Lake Moraine, a suggestion of many that our camping neighbors gave us! The parking lot is small and they close it once it is full. Thankfully we knew the phrase to get in (going to the paradise creek hike-- thanks neighbors!), so we fibbed a little and got up to the lake! It was only 8:30 and, while the lot was full, the buses hadn't started rolling in yet so it wasn't crazy busy, so we ate a little breakfast in the lot and then hiked up to the boulder lookout and around the lake. The amazing teal, aquamarine, turquoise color is indescribably beautiful and surreal. After getting our fill of lake views we drove the Bow Valley Parkway scenic drive through the park, stopping at lots of little overlooks and sights. We then found a shower at the local Banff Center, a really nice community/fitness center.
Continued Aug 4, Banff
For like $4 U.S. we got a pool, shower and I even blow dried my hair for the first time in 3 weeks (well kinda, I got impatient and decided air dry is better!) That night at our campsite just as Nick finished cooking dinner, our neighbor came over and asked to borrow our grill. The park had a fire ban so their plan to cook over an open flame was no longer an option. They were from Edmonton, originally from Algeria, and they were so greatful for our help they gave us a bunch of their meat (lamb chops too!)
Lake Moraine, Banff
Lake Moraine, Banff
Lake Louise and the Bow Valley Parkway
Our campground at Banff
3 August 2018
Aug 3, Banff
We slept in a little and then went into town and asked about hiking and seeing about doing another backpacking trip. We booked a site for Sunday night in the sister park of Yoho National Park to Twin Falls. We then packed some sammies and headed up the Sulphur Mountain Banff Gondola to see the view above Banff and the mountains surrounding. It is a breathtaking view as you step out of the observation deck and walk the 1k boardwalk (side note: we have been adjusting to everything in the metric system and military time!) We ate our lunch on a little bench 8,041 feet up! It was quite hazy as the neighboring National park, Kootenay is basically on fire (they had to evacuate everyone...). We then spent the afternoon exploring Banff, the town. The majestic Banff Springs Hotel and the many shops of main street. Off to the grocery store and back to our campsite for the night!
(Pumbaa even got to park by the "big boys" today in the RV lot, he felt very special!)
2 August 2018
Aug 2, Calgary to Banff National Park
We filled up on free breakfast at the Best Western (love those waffles!) and were off to Banff! It was a short 2 hour drive to the park, it is odd since the main freeway goes right through the park. We stopped at the visitor center to see about camping options and then scooted over to the Two Jack campground to snag a spot. For a town filled with $300/a night lodging we were lucky to find a $20/a night campsite! We then drove up the parkway to the iconic Lake Louise. It is truly beautiful, and all the other hundreds of people agreed too! Banff is gorgeous but certainly crowded with wealthy international travelers (seen more designer purses than wildlife thus far. Haha). We thought we would walk a bit further on the Lake Louise trail away from some of the people, however we didn't realize it went from Disneyland to wilderness real quick and with no water and poorly chosen footwear we were struggling... the views were still spectacular though!
1 August 2018
Aug 1, Calgary.
We woke up in our fluffy king bed and took another shower, because we could!! (The simple things you realize you take for granted!) We decided to spend the day in Calgary, taking in some city for a change. We went to the Big Rock Brewery and had a yummy lunch and some brews, we walked around finding a cute local bookshop and so many little gardens hidden around the city! We enjoyed some yummy pizza and ice cream (my tummy held up well to all the dairy!!) Also, as part of the day we tried to fit in a bunch of "normal people stuff" - laundry, bill paying/online account checking, picture stuff, trip to walmart, email checking, etc. We fell asleep to some cable TV, don't even have that at home.
July 31, Glacier NP -- We made some oatmeal at the campsite and set back off on the 8.5 miles. That morning at the lake was a moose, he apparently didn't mind the ice cold water. It was a large bull moose (pictures below!) - he was diving for food, shaking his antlers and swimming about, so amazing! The hike out was a bit tough, I was getting a cramp in my foot that wouldn't go away, but we made great time and were back by noon. We got a much needed shower and decided to go to Calgary instead of staying another night in Galcier. So after a short lunch and Pumbaa making a Vanagon friend we were on our way to Canada!
The border crossing was easier than ordering at Wendy's, thank goodness! I had no idea what kind of city Calgary was, I guessed it was like Madison size. Oops, it actually has 1.2 million people! We got a hotel with wifi and laundry! We went to Last Best Brewery and Trolly No.5 for some beers and food. The vibe of the Beltline area was electric and really relaxed, loved it!
(*we finally got wifi so we added a bunch of photos, this app backlogs them to when they were taken, so scroll back to see some new ones!)
Continued of Glacier National Park
July 30th- we headed out for our backpacking overnight trip to Red Eagle Lake. It was my first time backpacking (actually one of my few times even staying in a tent...), so I was a little nervous but excited. It was a sunny beautiful day! We hiked the 8.5 miles through prairie, a forest that had been burned in 2006, and along a beautiful creek. Finally we came to the lake with our backcountry "campground". The lake was beautiful with the mountains in the background and birds and ducks swimming about. We had been wishing for a swim the whole hike, but a snow fed lake still feels a lot like snow when you put your feet in. The afternoon and evening was great with two other groups joining us at the site. We settled in early so we could wake up with the sun...and amazingly we both actually slept pretty well!
July 29 - July 31, Glacier National Park, MT
We spent the first day in Glacier getting a campsite, having a shower (hallelujah!! It had been a smelly few days...), and driving the classic Going to The Sun Road. It is the only road and cuts east to west across the park through high mountain passes, down to the lakes and rivers on each side of the park. We took a ton of photos along the way and stopped to explore some of the little treasures along the way, including the beautiful McDonald Falls. That night after dinner and while making some smores, I heard rustling in the brush about 50 feet from our campsite, Nick went to investigate and sure enough, it was a black bear wandering down by the campground. Thankfully he successfully scared it away and we moved on with packing all our gear for our backpacking the next day. I was pleasantly surprised at my lack of freaking out about the bear and slept well through the night - thanks Pumbaa for the thick German steel to protect us!
31 July 2018
30 July 2018
29 July 2018
28 July 2018
July 28, Yellowstone -- Glacier National Park. A day of driving from just north of Yellowstone to Glacier National Park in Montana. A yummy bakery treat and a shopping stop at Walmart in Helena on the way. Nick surprised me and came out with a Polaroid camera, cute green case and all!! 😊
Freak 5 minute hail storm!
27 July 2018
Lunches on the lake have been common and we aren't complaining!
Nick tightening some bolts in the parking spot at Yellowstone... always tinkering with Pumbaa. 😊
Friday, July 27, Yellowstone
We spent the day in Yellowstone. We acted like true tourists of the park, driving to all the big sights, getting out, romping around taking a few pictures and back in the car. But we managed to see a ton in a day - geysers, painted pots, hot springs, mountains, water falls, prairies, lakes, and even some up close elk. We also found ourselves in a random 5 minute hail storm, the bus handled it well! We stayed north of the park last night in Canyon Campground, a small little national forest campground full of people though.
26 July 2018
The Teton Range
We left the shower head and tent up over night and it rattled about a bit, making me freak out in the middle of the night when it fell. Nick confirmed it was just the shower stuff, so appreciated by me!
TETONS DAY 2:
The second day we set off on a 6 mile hike in the southern part of the park to Taggart and Bradley lake. A beautiful hike with views on the Teton range and such blue serene waters. We took our trekking poles out for their first trip, Nick loved them and I came around. They are really actually helpful, probably not needed for 6 miles, but my legs were less sore for sure. We headed back to our little lake spot after and enjoyed some afternoon sun and a dip in the ice cold lake (no joke, super cold!). We had some elk burgers from Nick's grandma and hung out with the other camper's dog who wanted to check things out!
TETONS DAY 1: The first morning the Tetons we went up to Colter Bay area on the north side. We took the 2 mile lakeside trail alongside the large Jackson Lake. We enjoyed a little lunch right on the rocky shores of the lake. We drove down through the whole park stopping for a few photos and then in Jackson City. The city is a bustling, upscale tourist area. We stopped at Napa for a bus part, the grocery store, and RadioShack (still have a bunch of those out here). We ate at a delicious Thai restaurant that we went to last year, Thai Me Up. Me having the "low spice" Pad Thai and Nick having the spicy Green Curry. Full we made our way back out east to the Bridger-Teton National Forest where we there were a few great free camping spots. The Lower Slide lake we stayed at last year had a few others at it, but we found a nice little spot just up from the lake. We set up the outdoor shower and rinsed off.
25 July 2018
We are back to internets! It is refreshing to be mostly offline for 3 days! We enjoyed a few days with Nick's Grandma and her husband Lonnie on their 10,000 acre ranch in the old mining town of Jeffrey City. The fresh air and open sky was amazing, not to mention all of Grandma's cooking! Nick was busy with Lonnie doing a few more adjustments to the bus and I finished a whole book, Piece of Cake, both of us working hard. Haha. Nick was beyond thrilled that the one day we got to take the ATVs up Green Mountain exploring. So much fun-- elk, antelope, badger, and horses a plenty, along with entertaining trails for 45 miles! The sand dunes and old abandoned cabins were a great part too! We loved getting to spend time at Home on the Range!
We rolled out of Jeffrey City in the early afternoon of the 24th, going a few hours to the Shoshone National Forest where we boondoggle camped (camping on national forest is free and dispersed in certain areas). We headed out early for the Tetons.
Jackson, WY. The antler arches are collected by the boy scouts from the elk refuge right there in Jackson area. (They fall off naturally so no worries!)
The Tetons! 😍
Heading into the Tetons, the Continental Divide! Pumbaa wasn't too happy about the 9,000+ ft elevation
Our spot in the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming
23 July 2018
22 July 2018
21 July 2018
20 July 2018
Day 3: woke up in the Badlands to an abundance of sunshine! Did a little stretching, made coffee, and had some granola. Off to Wind Cave National Park we went. The 7th national park, it is quite a unique cave with a great tour! One of the most complex caves ever to be discovered (they said that, I assume they aren't lying...but who knows).
We then started the trek through The Black Hills to Nick's grandma's house in Jeffrey City, Wyoming. Pumbaa was a champ and made it a whole 20 more miles than we thought possible on empty! (They just don't have gas stations in the middle of nowhere much...)
Another long day in the car, but in Casper now and only an hour or so left for the day. Not much in the way of internets in the old mining town of Jeffrey city so catch yah in a few days!
19 July 2018
Camping night 2 right outside the Badlands!
Making our way across South Dakota. Listening to some Nick Offerman and looking at a whole lot of nothing.
We arrived at our destination for the night, a cliff overlooking the western edge of the Badlands.
18 July 2018
It is official, Pumbaa and us are on our way to see a moose! Many stops and adventures on our way. See the link in my earlier post as to the rough route we might take!
14 July 2018
My Grandpa takes a ride in the bus on the way to a pre-trip brunch 🙂
8 July 2018
Getting excited! #parentstakingphotos
We have a rough outline/unofficial guide for our travels. See our map here:
7 July 2018
Lots of prepping going on in the garage to get Pumbaa and us ready for 3 months of living and traveling! Only 7 more days!!