The gang goes North: Part 1

June 14-18

Archie was all stocked up the morning of the 14th. We were anxious as hell to get going. It seems that the longer you wait to set out on a trip like this, the more things pop into your head. “Maybe we need to get another basin for the camp kitchen. Do we have enough fire starters? Is my sock stockpile enough?” Sometimes you just got to get going.

It’s a big trip, no doubt. 7 weeks through Canadian and Alaskan wilderness, camping and living out of the car. But the anticipation can breed stress, and the best remedy is: to go. It’s not a regular vacation. It will be gritty, tough, stressful, spiritual, soul-filling, rewarding. A premium moment in our lives. We’re going to learn, grow, persevere, improvise. But staying present is the goal. We are here.

We crushed the first driving day. Over 500 miles took us from Southern California to the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in Northern Cal. We watched arid, thirsty yellow hills become evergreen-laden mountains of the southern Cascade range.

The first night we wild-camped beside Shasta Lake and got our wilderness legs beneath us. It had been a while, and these trips take a few nights to fall back into the routine. We got hammered by mosquitos that night- something we’d need to get used to. We hear the Alaska skeeters are brazen and massive.

With our push northward, dusk hung around until about 9:30. Again, we’d have to get used to plenty of daylight. Our final destination will keep the sun up for about 20 hours.

Hood River valley was our next stop on the 15th. We had a basic breakfast, yogurt with fruit and granola, cheese and coffee, and got back on the road. The first stage of our trip, SB to Seattle, would be brisk. 2.5 days of nearly all-day driving.

But we started the day with a stop at Lake Siskiyou, situated beneath and backdropped by Mt Shasta, a 14000+ foot peak covered in glaciers that sustain the surrounding flora and fauna for miles around. I took a dip in the lake, and we relaxed for a moment before setting out toward Hood River.

We made Bend, OR by (late) lunchtime and unpacked PB&J from the kitchen, enjoying it along the Deschutes River while Charley scoped out the riverside piles of granite that housed a city of chipmunks. Then it was time to get moving again.

Part of the drive is dubbed the “Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway” as it winds through the southern and into the central Cascade range. Along the drive we took in views of Shasta, McLaughlin, Jefferson, Three Sisters and Bachelor, Hood, and Adams. Every time we left a peak in our rearview, we crested a hill and the next came into sight. Jamie and I realized that we’re terrible at identifying the peaks. “There’s Mt Hood!” we would exclaim, only to realize that, no, that was McLaughlin. 

We traveled through thick forests of towering pines, making us feel insignificant as we pushed through the endless green tunnel. Oregon, what a gem.

Passing by Klamath Falls and into Hood National Forest, it was decided that we’d set up camp at Tucker Park Campground north of the National Forest. Nestled along the swollen Hood River, it seemed we made the right choice. 

We awoke on day three and I went for a run through the Hood River valley. My legs were screaming for some activity after two long car days. When it was time to go, we packed up quick, getting on the road west along the fog-blanketed cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge to Portland. We’d shoot north on the 5 and try to make Seattle by 2pm. Charley had a vet appointment to get all her documents in order before heading to Canada and Alaska.

Jamie connected with her hairdresser from our last stint in Seattle and got one last haircut while Charley and I were tasked with getting Archie’s oil changed and stocking up on dog food.

We’d stay near Seattle at Camano Island State Park for a few nights as we gathered the items still needed for the trip, and to put a bunch of our non-camping gear in storage for a couple months. Our friends from Seattle, Daisy and Jeremy, made time to get lunch with us while we were in town. It was so great to see them  and talk about their upcoming wedding and our trip. After some excellent sushi in their neighborhood, we bid them farewell and made it back up to Camano Island that evening.

We decided to push our departure across the border until Sunday. Having hauled arse up to Seattle, Jamie, Charley and I were exhausted. It’s a different type of fatigue than a long day’s work, or a day full of activity. We didn’t want to start our great Northern adventure feeling worn thin from the start.

Instead, Saturday was spent going for walks along the rocky beach and healthy forests of the island. We took our time, enjoying a bit of rest. In the afternoon we ran some errands, doing laundry and restocking the fridge and pantry bin. Jamie had been eyeing an inflatable kayak, and we pulled the trigger on one from Walmart. It’ll be nice to float on some lakes along the way, and all three of us now have life jackets.

British Columbia in the morning. It finally feels like we’re pushing off for our excellent adventure. Every day will be a mixture of thorough planning and improvisation, as all good road trips should be. North country, here we come.

Until next post, be good and stay curious!

Last note: Jamie has been whipping up some excellent camp dinners! Chicken parm with spaghetti, pizza quesadillas, chicken stir fry. As I’m writing this, she’s hard at work on some veggie enchiladas. How about that?!

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