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 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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SB: Part 2

April 6- May 25

We’d been in Santa Barbara for a month and a half, and had yet to get out on the water. Jamie took the occasional float in the harbor on a paddleboard, but other than that, it had been a dry stay.

We linked up with Maggie and Brandon, booked a whale watch on a catamaran with Santa Barbara Sailing. It turned out being just a nice day out on the water, as the whales played shy. But it was nice to see the coastline from an offshore vantage point and we spotted some harbor seals sunbathing and perhaps a dolphin. The company gave us a voucher to come back and try our luck again in the future.

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SB: Part 1

February 25 – April 5

It felt like it had been a while. It also felt like it was just yesterday, that we’d been walking the streets of Santa Barbara beneath the Santa Ynez ridge, gazing out over the Channel and distant islands.

It was good to be back, for sure. Again we found ourselves saying “this place isn’t real”.

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Seattle to Santa Barbara: Part 3 – Death Valley and the American Riviera

February 21-25

It was hot. It was cold. It was windy. It threatened rain. There was sun, there were clouds. Death Valley gave us a little bit of everything on our brief 3 day tour.

We left Morro Bay Campground the morning of Feb 21, picking up some rocket fuel from Top Dog coffee shop. I got a “Bad Dog”: cup of coffee and double shot espresso. They have a “Rabid Dog” as well: 4 shots of espresso dumped into a coffee. Or in other words the Arrhythmia-Maker.

East to Bakersfield, we said “see you soon” to the Pacific. We’d be dropping Charley off at a dog-sitter Jamie found on Rover before heading to Death Valley.

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Seattle to Santa Barbara: Part 2 – NorCal and Central Coast

February 14-20

We left Harris Beach State Park and made our way into Brookings OR to do some laundry. Brookings is a beautiful area, but the town itself didn’t do much for us.

Jamie restocked on groceries at the market while I tended to our clothes at the laundromat.

About an hour later we were in familiar territory among Northern California’s Redwood forests. A quick walkabout along Cal Barrel Road in the National Park got us stretching our legs a bit, and gazing upward frequently. Nature’s kingdom. We had walked the same road a few years back on our way north to Seattle from Phoenix- with a dog, it was the only exploring we were permitted to do within the Park.

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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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“Forever I will move, like the world that turns beneath me”

May 26-28

Waking up Wednesday morning at our June Lake campsite, we already knew our plans for the day. Yosemite. We cooked up some breakfast sandwiches on the stove as the campground yawned and folks rose from their tents around us. It was a beautiful clear morning, brisk and fresh. Birds were singing their morning songs, all was well. Then, of course, somebody’s car alarm chimed in. Half a minute later it ceased. Then again. And again. Five times in all, as we wondered what the hell could possibly be keeping the campers from figuring it out. There goes our peaceful morning.

We have a morning ritual that includes unzipping all four windows to Nancy the Nest and letting the air rush in. Condensation inevitably fills the interior plastic roof with water droplets from our heavy sleep breaths. After about 30 minutes, while we make breakfast, the tent dries out.

We hit 395 again, heading north. We’d be saying goodbye to California’s scenic interior highway, cutting west on CA 108 up and over the Sonoran Pass in the Sierras. Rocking out to the latest Black Keys album, Delta Kream, Jamie played captain and steered us up winding routes that had Archie struggling to maintain 15mph.

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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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That’s a wrap!

December 31 2020 -January 11 2021

To ring in the new year, Jamie and I worked three consecutive shifts again. Hopeful that COVID would magically disappear with the end of 2020, we were left disappointed, as case numbers continued to rise while bed numbers shrank. A dull hum of baseline stress seeped into the entirety of each day at work, as it seemed inevitable things would unravel more. 

Selfishly, we could not wait for our two week break from work at the end of our contract. I think we both started to feel burnt out, and I had to keep reminding myself that what we were seeing on a daily basis was not normal, because we were getting so used to it.

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