Thursday, August 21, 2014

The End of My Alaskan Adventure

Well, I suppose this is the end.  I've kept this blog for two years and chronicled our life and adventures living in Alaska.  It was an incredible experience that I wouldn't trade for the world. To close out this blog I just wanted to show you some of my favorite parts of Alaska. Here it goes...

1.) The view from my front porch.  There was nothing more peaceful that waking up, walking outside with a coffee, listening to the eagles, and watching the sunrise.



2.) The people. We met some truly incredible friends in Alaska and they ultimately turned in to family.  These people helped us out whenever they could and kept us sane.  We love them all so much!





















3.) The outdoor recreation.  I loved getting to go exploring whenever I wanted.  Juneau had thousands of trail miles to explore and I tried to make the most of it every chance I got.




With every end, there is a new beginning though. Cody, Specks, and I are heading to our new home in Michigan tomorrow.  I start teaching in two weeks (Michigan schools don't start until after Labor Day) and couldn't be more ecstatic. We will always have a little Alaska in our hearts.  Hopefully we will make it back there one day to do more exploring and adventuring.

To close out, I would like to encourage you all to stay tuned for one last post.  I will be starting a new blog that is less "location specific" and it will focus on minimalist living, teaching, vegetarian cooking, and general lifestyle topics.  I have loved writing for all of you and I encourage you to go visit the new blog.  I promise that I'll be back to post the link sometime this week :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Driving The ALCAN: The End

Temperature: 90°F-80°F
Weather: Warm, Stormy
Mileage: 2,441 miles
Lodging: Various

Our last days of driving were LONG.  We were no longer on the actual ALCAN and were having to navigate through lots of cities, towns, and even some teeny mountain villages.  If anyone is interested in our actual route, feel free to message me or leave a comment and I can post it. 



Anyway, we entered the US at the Babb, MT border site. It was incredible scenic! If you are entering in the western US this isn't a bad place to do it.  We had very short lines and great views.  Cody and I must have looked very non-suspicious too because the border patrol wasn't concerned with asking us many questions.  There were also some super scenic little towns lining the border that were worth stopping at to snap some fun pictures. 





As the trip went on we cruised through North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and then headed into Michigan's UP.  The UP (Upper Peninsula) was probably one of my favorite places that we drove through in the states.  It is incredibly beautiful up there.  The weather was great and there are views of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, both look like oceans in their own right.  Plus, the Porcupine Mountains and places like Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore are in the UP and make for some incredible views.  Unfortunately, we hit some nasty storms (tornado sirens were ringing) and we didn't get to spend as much time here as we wanted too. 






Finally, we made it to out destination! We stayed a few days at my dads house in Michigan and then went on a tour of the Midwest to visit a bunch of our other family (basically whoever lived in a 7hour radius).  It's been a great month-long adventure and I am so happy that we got to experience the US and Canada in this incredible way. 

Questions:
Where is your favorite US vacation spot?
Have you ever visited the UP?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Driving The ALCAN: British Columbia and Dawson Creek, BC

Temperature: 70°F-60°F
Weather: Sunny, Warm
Mileage: 281miles
Lodging: The George Dawson Inn

The next leg of our trek took us through a chunk of British Columbia and we eventually ended our day in Dawson Creek, BC.  Dawson Creek is also known as "Mile 0" of the Alaska (ALCAN) Highway.  Somehow, this fact slipped my mind and I didn't get a picture of the famous mile-marker! Doh! 


I did manage to snap some other great pictures though! The scenery really started to change once we got farther into British Columbia.  Our day started out with HUGE mountains, those gradually changed into rolling hills and farmland though.  I wouldn't say that this part of our trip was the most scenic by any means.  It was a very easy and stress-free leg of the trip though.  Towns and amenities were much more frequent, which gave us a little bit of peace.  The terrain was also incredibly easy, as most of it was relatively flat.  



Dawson Creek was a nice little town to stay in for the night.  I could definitely see why people like to visit this famous city on their ALCAN trip.  While it may not have been my favorite leg of the trip, it was certainly a relaxing part of it. I recommend staying the night in Dawson Creek, getting some tasty food delivered, and relaxing/refueling for your other days of driving.  It's a great spot to fit in a day of r&r! 

Questions:
Do you ever take a "rest day" on big trips? 
Have you ever visited Dawson Creek, BC? 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Driving the ALCAN: Yukon and British Columbia


Temperature: 60°F-40°F

Weather: Scattered Showers, Cool
Mileage: 590miles
Lodging: Ramada Inn Fort Nelson, BC

We began to move from the Yukon Territory into British Columbia as our trip progressed.  The transition area between these two territories was beautiful.  The days we spent in this area were my favorite in terms of scenery and wildlife viewing.  We saw grizzlies, elk, moose, bison, and caribou.  The moose was my favorite animal to see on our trip.  They are so statuesque.  We saw our first moose, an adult male, just bathing himself in a roadside pool.  We were able to pull over and watch him splash around for quite some time.


A little further down the road we saw a sign warning us of wildlife on the road.  Within minutes we were at a standstill, stuck in a traffic jam of bison! There was an entire herd of bison on the road in more than one spot.  These huge animals would do some serious damage to cars so this stretch of road had to be driven very cautiously.  Safety is key on the ALCAN!




The roads were some of the most remote that we traveled on the entire trip.  There is a stretch of the ALCAN between Whitehorse, YT and Fort Nelson, BC that is incredibly isolated.  We saw very few cars and virtually no hotels, stores, or other signs of civilization until we approached the oilfields outside of Fort Nelson. We filled our gas tank at every station we saw (and carried a spare 5 gallon gas can as a precaution). Even with these precautions though we pulled into multiple stations, marked simply by signs pointing down dirt roads, and found them long closed.


My biggest pieces of advice on this stretch of road is drive cautiously, keep your gas tank full, plan on camping, and take lots of pictures!! It was a beautiful and isolated stretch of road.  But, it was also a wonderful place to chat with locals and the roadside was littered with scenic pull-offs.  One of my favorite areas to pull into was the Muncho Lake area.  The lake was beautiful and I highly recommend checking out the camping here if you are ever in the area and looking for adventure!



This stretch of driving was extremely incredible. We did some serious wildlife viewing, enjoyed some isolated driving, met some kind travelers, and even had a kindly man pay for our gas! The area between Whitehorse and Fort Nelson could be a week long vacation on its own.  Cody and I hope to take a trip back to this area one day and really spend some time exploring.

Questions:
Have you ever visited any of these locations?
Would you take a long road trip with your SO?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Driving The ALCAN: Yukon Territory

Temperature: 80°F-40°F
Weather: Sunny, Breezy 
Mileage: 244miles + mileage from ferry ride
Lodging: Wolf Creek Campground

Our first official day of driving had us traveling from Haines, AK to Whitehorse, YT.  It was beautiful!


We crossed the Canadian Border just outside of Haines.  I was worried about crossing the border, as I hadn't ever done it (at least not in the last ten years).  The border at Haines was EASY though.  It was just one officer checking passports.  We waited less than two minutes, behind the only other car on the road.  The officer was super kind to Specks, offering him a pat on the head and some kind words.


Once over the border we were cruising through the Yukon Territory, heading towards Whitehorse. The drive was great.  There were hardly any other cars on the road so we could stop whenever we saw something beautiful or scenic.  We saw a couple of grizzlies on our first day on the road, which was mighty surprising.  They were just loping across the road, unconcerned with cars. We also saw some HUGE ranches in the Canadian Rockies.  It was very neat to see horses and cows hanging by the road.


Keeping up with mph vs. kmh was probably one of my biggest challenges that first day. Gas conversions had me a little baffled too.  Canadian gas, particularly in the Yukon, was nearly $6/gallon.  We didn't notice the gas prices until we got the final bill for our first fill-up though because of the conversion system.  We were mighty surprised at the price! After a couple of days though I got the hang of the conversions and it all seemed a little easier.



As we approached the city of Whitehorse we began calling hotels.  We assumed that finding Canadian hotels would be similar to finding US hotels…we were VERY wrong.  There was a serious lack of pet-friendly hotels and rooms were sold out weeks in advance.  We decided that camping would be our best bet after calling around a bit and we ended up staying at a neat little campground outside the city.


Wolf Creek Campground was a beautiful little spot in the woods, right along a rushing creek.  We were the only people there in a tent (at least that we could see) but the sites were clean and nice.  I assume the wildlife was a big deterrent for tent campers, we didn't have any wildlife problems though.  Tent camping in bear country requires certain precautions, we just made sure to take them.


The first day of driving was truly beautiful and adventurous. My main tips for traveling in the Yukon Territory are: get familiar with speed and gas conversions, fill up your gas tank often, plan your lodging far in advance, drive carefully to avoid wildlife, and take the time to enjoy the incredible scenery.  The Yukon was probably the most beautiful place I'd ever visited.  Something about it was just magical.  I was so happy that we chose to travel only a short distance that first day.  Taking our time and enjoying the beauty was well worth it in the end.

Questions: 
Have you ever visited the Yukon Territory?
Would you go camping in serious bear country? 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Driving The ALCAN: Ferrying A Car

Hey, folks! I am checking in from a little over halfway into our trip.  I am currently planted in Montana for a day of much needed rest.  I want to recap each part of our trip through pictures, stories, and tips.  Driving the ALCAN isn't something that most people do in their lifetime.  However, it is something very typical of people moving to/from Alaska.  So, here a little bit of our story from Day One


The first day of our trip started off with a 3:30am wakeup call.  Cody and I had to be at the ferry terminal by 5:00am in order to load our car onto the car deck of the boat.  The ferry was an important part of our trip because it is the only way to transport a car in/out of Juneau.  We had decided to ferry ourselves to Haines, AK.  Haines is a small community north of Juneau that is connected to the road system via the Haines Highway.  


Since the trip was only a few hours we parked our car and Specks (pets are required to stay in your car) below deck and headed up to the solarium that each boat provides.  The ferries each have solarium decks with big outdoor lounge chairs and heater vents (even though you are still outside).  The solarium is also an ideal place to pitch a tent for those traveling farther because you can camp just outside the awning and still be near the heaters. 


The sun came out as soon as we got about an hour away from Juneau, which was no surprise.  We then spent the morning sipping coffee and relaxing on the deck of the boat.  Part way through the journey we opted for food, I recommend just using the cafeteria, as the ferry restaurant seemed overpriced and only has mediocre food (in my experience). After some breakfast and relaxation the boat was pulling into port in Haines.  The ferry terminal in Haines is outside of town, thankfully the roads are very well marked leaving the terminal so we were able to get on our way quickly.  


The ferry trip lasts roughly 4hours and costs $150 for two people, one car, and one pet. There are tons of ferry ports in SE Alaska, Canada, and Washington.  I suggest checking out the Alaska Marine Highway website for more information. 


The Alaska Marine Highway ferries are a super fun way to travel and I highly recommend trying it out sometime.  Lower 48er's can jump on the boat in Bellingham, WA and spend a week or two combing the coasts of Alaska.  The prices are cheap and you have the option of purchasing a room.  However, people choosing not purchase a room are welcome to pitch tents, sleep in the movie theatre, or catch some rest in one of the "quiet lounges." Seriously, check out the AMHS sometime! 

To be continued...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Vegetarian Camping Meals

Our upcoming trip has required lots of planning.  One of the major planning aspects to a road trip, especially one lasting two weeks, is the meal planning.  Cody and I used lots of websites, personal experiences, and information passed on from other travelers to plan our meals.  This took some extra planning on my part due to my vegetarian lifestyle.  Many "easy" camp meals include meat.  We used these three links to help do a lot of our planning (link 1 link 2 link 3).  Check them out! You can also check out my list below.  Anything in italics is something that is NOT vegetarian and specifically packed for Cody. Feel free to throw in any "no-cook" suggestions! We still have one day before we depart on our ALCAN Highway adventure!



Breakfast Meals
·      Cereal
·      Almond Milk
·      Poptarts/Breakfast Bars
·      Granola
Lunch Meals
·      Bread
·      Cheese Slices
·      Salad Mix
·      Peanut Butter
·      Jelly
Dinner Meals
·      MRE’s
·      Turkey/Salmon Jerky
·      Instant Soup Mix
·      Crackers/ Pita and Hummus
Snacks
·      Oranges
·      Apples
·      Mixed Nuts
·      Fruit Cups
·      Pro Bar’s
·      Sweet Potato Chips
Drinks
·      V8 Juice
·      Green Tea
·      Instant Coffee
·      Non-Dairy Creamer
·      Water Jug

Questions:
Do you have any other meal suggestions?
What is your favorite camping meal?