The gang goes North: Part 8- Girdwood, Valdez, McCarthy/Kennecott and the Yukon

July 26-August 1

Glass on Kenai Lake awaited us the next morning. We’d decided to make our return trip back up the Kenai Peninsula that day, but had some time to spare.

Blowing up the kayak, we floated out onto the water. About a mile wide, and about 22 miles long, with two deep bends, I wanted to get to the east side, across the skinny way. A mountain cascade poured into the lake from beneath a tunnel of small trees, and we traveled to the mouth of it and relaxed for a half hour or so, in silence, save for the stream. Jamie and Charley took a nap. I couldn’t stop staring up at the long bowl that we floated within.

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The gang goes North: Part 7.2- Kenai Peninsula (West side)

July 21-25

Not shockingly, we left Seward the morning of the 21st in the midst of a rain shower. Heading north along the Seward Highway, then splitting off west along the Sterling Highway, our surroundings changed from mountainous to rolling forested flats. Homer sits at the end of the Sterling Highway, and “The Spit” stretches a handful of miles out into Kachemak Bay, only few hundred yards wide and marks the end of the road- as far south on the Peninsula as a car can take you.

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The gang goes North: Part 7.1- Kenai Peninsula (Seward)

July 17-20

Rain again. We slept in at Porcupine Campground in Hope, hoping it would dry up outside before we started packing. It didn’t.

Jamie finalized a blog post as we huddled under our awning. We’d be heading further south in the Kenai, to Seward, so we grabbed coffee at Kayak Coffee Co in town to give our bodies a little extra fuel. I spotted a guy wearing a Bills hat under a pavilion beside the coffee shop’s parking lot.

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The gang goes North: Part 5- Hatcher Pass, Eklutna Lake, Anchorage

July 6-10

We grabbed breakfast in Talkeetna the morning after our flightseeing tour.  We talked with Nguyen, Jim’s wife, before leaving the Homestead cabin, as their home was on the same property.

“I used to live in Anchorage. Too many people, and no peace. There’s always noise. Here I’m happy. I hear the birds and the chickens and no people. I work hard on the gardens and house, and it’s long days. But I’m happy here. And now I’m thin! Always moving. When I lived in Anchorage, I was too heavy!”

We chuckled together, and she wished us well on our trip. Charley gave her some sniffs and Nguyen reciprocated with pets.

Denali was in clouds that day. It made us even more grateful to have seen her the prior day. We set out towards Wasila, down in the valley, taking the Parks Highway south again. Groceries and laundry. By now we’re at our most efficient getting errands done. I drop Jamie at the market, and head to the laundromat (in most towns we’ve come across, the two are quite proximal). Charley lays in bed in Archie.

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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.

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Enchanted

Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is a vast expanse of wilderness in central and northern Washington. Headlining the region is, as you can guess, Mt Baker- a 10,000 foot glaciated volcanic peak.

We’d been up there last time we were in Seattle, and were itching to return. With a few days off, we loaded our gear and our Charley into Archie and rode I-5 northbound toward Bellingham, cutting northeast and into the Cascade range. We found a dispersed camp site near Artist Point, a jump off for several day hikes around Baker and the surrounding forest.

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Mountains, oceans & trees

May 29. Waking up after an excellent night’s sleep, it was time to move on. We slept til 7, prepared oatmeal, loaded with peanut butter, mixed berries, granola and honey, 2 mugs of coffee.

“Where should we go?”

“Head toward the coast and up?”

“Sure”

Be skated westbound from Yosemite and the Stanislaus Forest. Route 1, riding the coast northward, would be our initial destination. I figured we could pop the roof tent on any of the number of pulloffs along the highway overlooking the Pacific. Two slowly realized issues to this thought: 1- it’s not legal, and 2- its very very windy in those spots, anyway.

We began to (slightly) regret our decision to take Route 1, instead of the inland US 101- very beautiful in its own rite. Every mile we continued along the coast got us farther from any possibility to get back to 101. Every campground sign along the coastal byway: FULL. Every inn along the coastal byway: NO VACANCY. Memorial Day weekend, probably the worst time to be improvising a road trip with no reservations for lodging or campsites.

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If I ain’t got you, I ain’t got nothing at all

We awoke early Friday morning and prepared to start our camping journey (for real, this time). With the wind at our backs, we loaded up Archie with our duffels and dog, set our heading toward the Alabama Hills, and were off. But not without a stop at Four Paws coffee shop in Palm Springs, the same spot we stopped at on our way out of town two years prior. 

The whole wind thing? Turns out we were not nearly finished with it. Pulling out of Palm Springs towards San Bernardino, the gusts blasted us, bucking the roof top tent and forcing me to keep the needle no higher than 60mph. The wind turbines were thrilled, spinning gleefully as their lifeblood whipped through the valley floor. Wind advisories flashed on the highway all along I-10 and up US-395 a we began the trip northward along the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada.

As we approached Lone Pine we could make out the  Alabama Hills, a massive outcropping of bizarre granite and volcanic rock. From there we took in the distant storm looming over the Eastern Sierra. Seemingly only miles away in the craggy horizon, it was dumping snow in an aggressive fashion. Though to us, near the floor of Owens Valley, it was a slow motion procession.

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