30 June 2008

AK to CO Travel Map

Here is a very rough map of my road trip (courtesy of AAA/ CAA). It's the only map I was able to find that included all of the areas I drove through. My approximate route is the thick grey line. Do you guys want more detail? I can provide it but it will have to be a state by state, province by province map. This at least should give you a good idea - just imagine it that I pretty much followed the spine of the rocky mountains all the way down (they go north-south until the Yukon at which point they turn and go east-west).

Photos are up finally! They're posted on the original posts. Let me know what you think.

Day Hikes

'Tis the season to hike. My skis are finally put away. Technically, I could probably continue to find patches to ski but I'm done with the season. My ice skates and sleds, my skijor lines, sleds, and other winter paraphernalia are packed away.

It's hot and I try and keep biking to the cooler hours of the day but as the snow melts out of the high country there is increasingly more and more places to hike. My first day hike of the season was a mild 9.5mile round trip hike before and evening shift at work. It's gorgeous and there is lot of water for happy dogs. My friend is training to hike the JT trail so she carries a 40lb pack mostly filled with spackle containers.

This weekend found me with another friend traipsing through a wildflower strewn meadow and then up the hillside. I don't know the mileage for this one because when the batteries in my camera dies the GPS was sacrificed and we weren't exactly following known routes the entire time. We flushed a sparrow from it's nest and bend down to see four beautiful thumbnail sized, pale blue eggs with brown splotches. we come across a deer skull with blue flowers blooming through the eye socket and we get wet and muddy. We had a lovely picnic lunch along a lakeside where two pooches swim and the Parental Pooch dips her toes (she's supposed to be a water dog but she'll only get in up to her ankles).

From L to R: Parental Dog, Summit, & Disreputable Dog

At some point in the afternoon while we are gaining altitude the Disreputable Dog suddenly keels over in the duff and has a seizure. I catch him before he hits the ground and hold him, leaving the other dogs to my friend. The whole thing lasts about 10 minutes and I am so focused on him that I don't notice the mosquitoes feasting on me. And then he's okay and we are a bit shaken. My friend recently lost a good dog friend and I, while having seen the DDog do this before, still find it jarring and a bit scary. We take this as a sign that we should turn around. We go slowly at first as the DDog is a bit wobbly on his legs but by the end of the hike his tail is in the air again and he is happy.

Deer skull, baby deer tracks, coke kiln, sparrow eggs

We stop, on our way home, at the little cabin owned by the Original Marlboro Man and gather some rhubarb for pies and make sure that the lawn has not dried out entirely. I come home to relieve my dad from caring for my mother and she and the Disreputable Dog sleep side by side the rest of the evening.

Cataract Surgery

My mom had her second (left) eye operated on for her cataracts on Thursday and this time it didn't go so well. By Saturday her vision was going black and when we called the emergency hotline they wanted us down in Oil Drill City immediately. Upon examination it was confirmed that her retina has detached and she immediately needed more surgery. That went fairly well although it's extremely painful and now she must lie on her side with her head at a 75 degree angle for 3 days and it may take as long as 3 month for full recovery. She's in a lot of pain and she's also very nauseous - it makes me wonder how eye sight relates to balance as it almost seems as if she's got motion sickness.

Speaking of balance. I highly recommend the book "Balance: In Search of the Lost Sense" by Scott McCredie. I'm in the middle of reading it (if I had finished it I would know the answer to the eyesight question). Scott was one of the authors we had who came to sign and speak about his book. It's non-fiction and it is really well written not to mention fascinating because balance is really something with so many unknowns still.

24 June 2008

Of Doings

Grumph....working on uploading pictures of the trip but between being on the wrong computer and internet connection issues it feels slow in coming. Maybe I will try again tomorrow.

Went for a hike today, pre-work, around 9 and a half miles with the Disreputable & Parental Dogs and a friend from Peach Country. It was a glorious day and the first real hike of the season. Luckily the hike we chose was snow free - there is a lot of snow still in the high country and post holing is the name of the game if you go too high up in elevation. As that snow melts, rushing off the mountain sides in rivulets which lead to swollen streams which cascade into swollen rivers, the flood threat grows. Daily I watch as the local rivers rise and listen the the grinding of the rocks under the water which are being moved by the force of all that water. It's perverse, but I find much pleasure in it's raw power even when it threatens to take out a chunk of roadway or a local bridge.

The Disreputable Cat met her first grass snake. It surprised her so much that she leapt in a quick arc over the head of the Parental Dog and out of her harness in one fell swoop. I grabbed her as she bolted for goodness knows what. As soon as the surprise wore off she was ready for another look but I like grass snakes so I deposited her inside and let the snake make its get away and live to eat more bugs that destroy garden crops. After such excitement Missus Cat needed a rest and slept the rest of the day away. Meanwhile the Disreputable Dog finally got those staples out of his face and although the vet keeps telling him he should turn his scar into a bear story he insists on sticking to facts.

20 June 2008

Happy Summer Solstice!

I hope you spend part of the day out in the open air, swimming or biking, walking or relaxing, enjoying the longest day of the year. Or if you are one of my readers in the southern hemisphere, sitting in front of a warm fire, laughing with friends, and taking heart that the shortest day is over.

Today is a big holiday in Alaska although it's a bit bittersweet knowing that it's all downhill from here, that winter will come, but there is still plenty of summer to enjoy and the darkness will not make itself felt for many months yet.

17 June 2008

Mile 4,113/ Km 6,619 or Journey's End

Well, here I am in Colorado again. While I was gone summer has come and with it the heat. It's not really heat - it just feels like it after being in the cooler north. It seems that almost the entire west has had a long winter and a slow spring. My rear hurts from all that sitting. I'm tired and dusty and both the Disreputable Dog and I have full blown hay fever. We are welcomed mightily by the rest of the pack. The Disreputable Cat comes bolting down the stairs along with the Parental Dog. When I take the dogs out for a walk both of them are wagging the tails fiercely, happy to be together again. My parents, too, are happy to see us.

The next day I open for the bookstore and find my boss already there brewing coffee. It seems, as the day wears on, that there was great deal of uncertainty that I would actually come back. Bets have clearly been made. Perhaps they, and you, knew what has taken me a little bit longer to see clearly - that I will be back in Alaska sooner then later.

PS - Pictures coming soon!!

14 June 2008

Mile 3,276/ Km 5,272 (Montana, Idaho, Utah, Colorado)

The last day of travel - I had to hammer it out. By now my rear hurts and I'm just ready to end the trip but somehow the miles I had left were more then I expected so I did about 800 miles in one day - most of the US portion of the trip.

Montana is a memory zone...I drove through the once small town that used to be my refuge a summer when I did field work in the eastern prairie. The camp was small, the person coordinating was temperamental, and the prairie vastness rolled on forever such that I thought sometime my soul would roll out and away and I'd never be able to reign it in again. I could understand how those prairie wives who were stuck in one place and could not travel like their menfolk might lose their minds. I spent the 4th of July in this town, alone. I attended a bluegrass festival in the local park and then camped by the river, lighting a lone sparkler by myself at twilight.

Idaho is a short portion of our drive but we are back - or is it still - in the mountains. I've spent time here too and I watch for the pronghorns and the coyotes.

We hit the heat in Utah - we forgot about heat and it was stifling. The poor Disreputable Dog was panting heavily and the rivers we stopped near for him to swim in were lukewarm and didn't cool him very much. Utah was full of more road construction then the entire rest of the journey - and I had thought it was bad in the north. I almost got lost a few times with the detours. Utah is another memory place, and the heat. I wonder now, how did I ever live in this heat - spending full days out in the sun with no refuge? I watch the prairie dogs on the roadside catching grasshoppers with fondness.

Utah Photos

In Utah bright red poppies burned through the desert gardens. We stopped at a river for a swim and at a nearby gas station I jokingly asked a guy with Washington license plates "Are we there yet?" and he said not yet, took a look at my license plate and asked whether I had ferried down. When I replied no he jabbed his finger at me an exclaimed "You guys are CRAZY". Well, I've heard that before.

Colorado Photos

Just across the Colorado border I see a semi truck rolled over and burned, emergency vehicles surrounding it. Clearly it has burned a huge swath of the median and their is less then a 3rd of the truck left. I hope that the driver is okay. I pass by the red rock country that started in Utah - the country I always yearn for in the spring with it's eons of history running through the stone - and into the grey cliffs which as a kid I used to imagine were precisely what dinosaur skin would have looked like. Of course, now we know that it would have been a lot more colorful as their relationship with birds has become more known but the texture of these cliffs still reminds me of skin. Now I'm in the home stretch and soon I am home, in the cool of the evening, the scent of my parents' garden wafting out at me. We park and end the day and the journey at mile 4,113 / km 6,619.

13 June 2008

Mile 2,618/ KM 4,213 (Alberta & Montana)

Alberta Photos

I am impressed by the vegetated wildlife overpasses throughout the National Parks in Alberta. I've always thought that making wildlife go under a road was a bad idea - after all, most animals do not like to go underground or in dark confined places where predators might lurk.

I pass the US border in Montana, a little outpost where the border guard is mostly concerned that I might be bringing animal products in. He asks me if I'm tired of Alaska and offers me a "welcome back to the lower 48". Of course, I'm anything but tired of Alaska and I tell him I'll probably be back this way sooner then later. All the same I am pleased to be welcomed. I am taking a slightly longer route then necessary through Montana but I want to drive along Glacier National Park.

Montana Photos except for lower right which is Idaho (with a milage card)

It's a beautiful drive. All day we see more coyotes then anything else - some lit up by the morning sun, a pair running along a fence line - and the occasional pronghorn, and one lone elk with his silly little velveted antlers which are just sprouting and thus look very small on his head. We stop near the park to walk on native lands which have been burnt by wildfire. The sun is warm, the wildflowers blooming, and little rivulets of water fill the dirt tracks and the Disreputable Dog does his best to lie in them although they aren't quite deep enough to cover him.

At the end of the day we find ourselves at a KOA campground and feel like we are at a hotel. We are parked on lush grass and can hear peacocks calling in the distance. Last night a bunch of teenagers had come through my camp running their fingers along the tent and the Disreputable Dog launched out of the tent on defense barking and growling. I shouted at them and they nonchalantly pretended they didn't know they were in someone else's campsite. I had been fast asleep and my adrenaline was so high my hands were shaking - I had removed the safety off the bear spray and had my knife in the other hand. Luckily, none of it was necessary but it took a long while to get to sleep. Now at the KOA station I experienced my first darkness and had to rummage for my headlamp which had been unnecessary up until now.

Mile 2,282/ Km 3,673 (British Columbia & Alberta)

Photos of Alberta - that's a mountain goat top right

I'm over another time zone now and the vegetation has changed dramatically. Gone are the spindly little bog spruce and the quaking birches. At first they were replaced by aspens and pines but now I am into the wetter parts and the trees are huge and mossy and there are many species, too numerous to list. The disreputable Dog and I had a lovely day, humming along to the blacktop. I find it so interesting talking to all of the random people I run into and meet in a day of traveling. They are almost all friendly and almost without exception they start their conversation with a comment about the Disreputable Dog who is obligingly friendly. I am starting to run into tour buses coming north although the summer travel season is only just beginning up here and most of the campgrounds are busy getting last minute construction projects finished. I seem to be making faster time as the construction zones grow less and less. I've lost track of the days of the week and sit down to reckon it. Friday.

Photos of Alberta - bottom left is a wildlife overpass

As you can see I've finally found an Internet connection and so am now posting my backlog. I'm not sure I'm ready to glance at my email yet since I have been enjoying the oblivion from such real world intrusions. It's amazing how the bookstore, job worries, everything just fades away into the contentment of the here and now while on the road. A real vacation even though that is not what it was planned to be. Cheers!

12 June 2008

Mile 1,834/ Km 2,952 (British Columbia)

Grizzly, Stone Sheep, and moose damage on Aspen Trees

This is the first time I've been able to type outside of my tent, where neither the weather nor the mosquitoes chased me away to type from my sleeping bag. Today was a good day. I was up early in the morning and once again sampled the delights of the hot springs where I was camped and swam away the morning chill just before setting off on the road again. Since the nights are still relatively chilly up north, despite the 24 hour daylight, the inside of my rain fly is damp with condensation and needed to dry out later along the road when I hit a sunny spot. This is part of my daily road routine - sometimes it's wet on the outside from rain, sometimes on the inside from clear, cold nights.

The Boardwalk is a picture of the famous Alcan hotsprings

The road was very interesting today, windy through mountains and valleys and over braided rivers and mountain streams. I saw lots of wildlife - bison dotted the road way early on - mostly sitting in the verge like great moss boulders chewing their cud. Stone sheep & their young crowded the mountain passes and at one point I had to pull over abruptly in order to avoid being creamed from behind by a semi when the vehicle in front of me suddenly stopped to gawk. I saw mule deer along the way sides - they seem larger here which is only to be expected as it is lusher. I saw some caribou too - they were lighter in color, almost tawny, in comparison to the bull on who stopped me several days earlier on the road, his coat dark and shiny. A few moose were to be seen, young bulls with their newly emerging velvety antler which look almost comical at this stage being smaller then their ears, and a female kneeling to drink from a puddle. There were the few requisite black & grizzly bears, mostly munching at the new vegetation on the verge a few sniffing marking stakes left by road crews.

A black bear & more stone sheep - geologists check out that mountain!

The Disreputable Dog and I walked longer and more frequently today after my aching hips and sciatic nerve from yesterday and we wandered through to a gorgeous mountain lake and up a hill side where the water flowed down huge slabs of rock like poured concrete and then through the woods. Interestingly, although we hiked more frequently and longer, and I started later, I made better time on my mileage then yesterday and stopped earlier too. From a bustling town I called my five year old niece to wish her a happy birthday and could hear her shouting over her birthday party to her mom "she's driving from Alaska to Colorado!". I'm doubt she understands what that means but she seemed excited nonetheless. Having cell phone coverage at that moment, I then called my mother who had eye surgery yesterday for cataracts and was relieved to hear she is doing well - the surgery had made her very nervous. Apparently the Disreputable Cat is disconsolate without us.

Moose & black bear & you guess who!

This evening Disreputable Dog and I have had a lovely camp-made super and took a walk down to a lake near our campsite where I caught a glimpse of deer mamma and her young to which, luckily, my dog was oblivious being focused on a thrown tennis ball. The wind is keeping the mosquitoes off but my battery is running low so I must go.

11 June 2008

Mile 1,380/ Km 2,221 (Yukon Territory & British Columbia)

Yukon Photos - a grizzly & an elk

It was an on again off again kind of day. An RV pulling a truck careened across a graveled section of the road and dislodged a softball sized rock that went through my windshield. Thankfully it went through the passenger side as glass sprayed all over my dashboard even while the windshield itself stayed mostly intact. I saw wild bison two grizzlies, one black bear, a beautiful little porcupine by the side of the road. At one point I was feeling sleepy and pulled over near a grassy river bank and slept - only to wake up and find I had rolled my legs in some sort of animal feces. I washed in the cold river. Sore from driving, my hips aching and my sciatic nerve throbbing, we took a hike off into the woods along a dirt road and came across fabulous crashing waterfalls. I made the famous hot springs in BC for the night and enjoyed them thoroughly until two local boys took too keen of an interest in me. When they inquired after my tent site and phone number I took refuge with a bunch of German tourists, asking them in their language, which the boys couldn't speak, if it would be all right to walk with them until I reached the place the Disreputable Dog was tied up. Sure glad he's along. It was a long boardwalk to the springs and he wasn't allowed. I brought him as far as I could - lots of single men in the campsite who eyed me as I went to pay my fees this evening but with the dog, they won't bother me. Little do they know that they would also have to face a full bottle of bear spray. I'm sure it would work just as well on them (don't tell the Canadian Boder Patrol - they only let it in because it is stated clearly on the bottle that it is for animals - where as the US border will only let it in if it states clearly that it's for humans!).

My lovely windshield

I love being in my little tent, my home away from home, with the Disreputable Dog next to me - just the smell of the tent makes me feel at home. I've been listening to Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" on CD and I think it has been affecting my mood. It's a very dark book. Anywho, it's late again, I seem to always get to this very late at night, and I'm too tired to write more. I hope I get to post some of this before I return home! The internet connections are either very sparse or they insist that I have a local mobile phone company which, of course, I don't. Even if I do post pictures will have to wait until I return. Good night!

British Columbia Photos - wild bison & a black bear

10 June 2008

Mile 916/ Km 1,474 (Alaska & Yukon Territory)

Alaska Photos

Mmmmm....just got out of some local hot springs near my campground here near the Capital City of the Yukon. Feeling all loose limbed and ready for sleep so this may be short. These hot springs aren't supposed to be part of the deal but some guys laying tile let me in on their secret and I met up with a local girl who was also soaking with her dog on look out.

Alaska Photos

Last night I woke to rain and slept soundly through the rest of the night and its patter on my tent. The next morning the entire tent got wet while breaking it down. Everything was wet. But no matter - we hit sunshine somewhere along the route and in mid afternoon I had it hanging from the bike on the roof of my car while the Disreputable Dog and I took a walk. Most of our drive however was in and out of rain showers. Mountains hovering in and out of mist and cloud, gorgeous light peaking up just right to highlight the still dry grasses and the new leaves on the trees. Saw some deer and a grizz all munching contentedly on the side of the road. It felt good to get into the rhythm of travel and to stop for hikes and sunshine and picnics by river banks.

Yukon Photos

09 June 2008

Mile 416/ Km 669 (Alaska)

First day of driving, first night of camping. The Disreputable Dog and I are cozily ensconced in my tent and I can hear the water of a nearby stream rushing by and the warble of the varied thrush. The Disreputable Dog is already down for the count. I have been socializing my way out of the state. I started out at mile zero in Farthest North Ice Free Harbor Town with breakfast with friends, drove to Largest Alaskan City where I met friends for coffee, drove to Town Known For Its Particularly Large Cabbages where I met friends driving south from City of Largest Temperature Range in North America for lunch, then drove on to Town That Exists Solely Because Two Highways Meet, where the Disreputable Dog & have lived on and off, and dropped in on yet more friends having dinner. Of course, along the route we stopped for the Disreputable Dog to take a long swim, stopped for the lone caribou bull with his shiny new coat and velvety antlers who stood in the middle of my lane of the highway while the traffic going the other way roared by, stopped to fill my cooler with goodies, and stopped to sample some old favorite walks and haunts. It was a regular excursion down memory lane and seeing all of these wonderful people who turned out to see me made me feel very lucky. The drive was uneventful and scenic and familiar. We're about 40 miles (64 km) from the Canadian border now and I thought about pushing to get over it but decided instead to try and aim for a decent bed time because I am tired from all my packing and socializing. Clearly the Disreputable Dog is too although I'm sure he slept most of the drive.

08 June 2008

Visiting - Mile/Km 0 (Alaska)

I went south for a visit to friends in Farthest North Ice Free Harbor Town, Alaska. I have a busy social schedule planned but I am glad to be here. There is a grizzly bear mamma and her cub on the river gravel bars that run through town fishing for hooligan (a very fatty fish) and they have jammed up traffic. I feel the anxiety of the traffic patrol man who is trying to keep the tourists from going up and trying to pet mamma bear who would not take very kindly to such a thing. En-route to town I had to stop for mamma moose and her week old calf. Mamma stepped easily over the guard rail lining the road and the poor calf couldn't figure out what to do - and then it panicked and dove over the rail getting high sided on it and then crashing down into the gravel and dirt on it's beautiful little muzzle. Poor thing!!

It turned out to be an eventful day. The Disreputable Dog and I hung out with all manner of friends both canine and human - we walked 3 beaches, had breakfast, lunch, and dinner with different groups, took a hike, and then, on the hike, as we were down by yet a fourth beach the Disreputable Dog took a sniff at another human's backpack and was immediately trounced by their dog who apparently is very protective of treats. My poor pup was left with a gash in his muzzle and his ear and we spent the afternoon hunting down the vet and getting staples put in. Luckily the vet was around, he can be very difficult to track down, but he was out mowing the lawn and quipped that I didn't have to get my dog injured in order to come by and see him. The Disreputable Dog was out for the rest of the day - all drugged up and in pain he could hardly lift his tail for a thump when he was greeted. Luckily he had a nice soft floor to stay in to sleep it off on.

It's very odd being in this town. When I left it was as if I had never been there at all - like I had imagined those two years. But now that I'm back everyone (from barristas to bar tenders) acts as if I never left, as if no time had passed since they last saw me. They ask where I ended up but they seem completely unsurprised to see me. I did have a few people track me down though just to shout - it is you! you're back! And then I had to tell them it was only for the weekend. I am absolutely delighted to see friends and catch up on old familiar haunts but I know in my heart that this is only a town I will ever only just visit in the future.

06 June 2008

Packing Day

Today is a packing day, and organizing day. And in between I am sandwiching visits with friends in Alaska's largest city. I am dividing my stuff up - summer things to go to Colorado, and household things to stay in storage. Along the way I come across a few things that shouldn't have been packed at all - like the cat food. Why did I pack it? I'm going to blame it on the cold weather and the wind and the snow and ice...it makes you rush your packing to get out of the cold. I'm very glad to be back here. I really missed it. And my friends have been kind enough to say that Alaska missed me. Of course, I don't think it did but it's nice to know that my friends did.

It's one of the good things about taking a break - it has made me realize what how much Alaska speaks to me. It reminds me of the quote "Home is not where you live but where they understand you." I have a little trouble readjusting to the long daylight but otherwise I am content. This is my turf, my stomping ground, and my heart is full with joy at being there.

Road Trip!

Wet spring snow falling past the windows, the Disreputable Cat catching her first live mouse (it was in the house), the deaths of too many young daredevils, meetings with an old friend, trips to the zoo with my niece, and to the park with my nephew, gardening, watching the arrival of western tanagers and cedar waxwings....

I've been a bad blogger and a bad blog reader the last month. I've missed you but things have been so crazy, as much in my head as anywhere, lately that I haven't had the time or the energy to even pick up the computer. And it doesn't help that my computer and Internet access have been spotty. Every now and then I'd wonder how all my blog friends were doing, wanting to catch up but since I knew I was unable to catch up with all of you I caught up with none of you. I've even gotten some new readers who have surely already given up due to the lack of blog posts. Thank you to those of you who inquired after my well-being! I have been fine although preoccupied with decision making. My head has been spinning like the legs of an upturned beetle, my thoughts chasing each other like a fox its tail. The dust is finally starting to clear a little and I hope I'll be around a little more regularly.

But now I'm going to try and make it up to you - I'm going to take you with me on my drive south from Alaska to Colorado. I have decided not to take any of the tempting summer job offers that while putting me in the places I want to be and doing the things I want to do don't actually give my career any kind of boost and just delay the current situation until the fall. So, although it's subject to change, at the moment I am planning on spending the summer in Colorado selling books. So with that in mind I desperately need some summer things which were not packed in my suitcase. So the Disreputable Dog and I are going to drive my camping & backpacking gear, my bike, and some summer clothes down the Alcan (more formally known as the trans Alaska-Canada highway). I've always wanted to drive it in the summer, having previously always driven it in January - I don't know precisely why, it just ended up that way. The Disreputable Cat is staying in Colorado to wait for us.

I'm going to write a post every day but they will only be posted as Internet connections avail themselves (we're camping the whole way down). This means I will continue to be a bad blog reader/ friend for a least another few weeks and have decided that when I start out I'm just going to clear my reader and start with where you are then....but I miss you and do wonder what you are all up to.

PS - CAE, Doris Rose, & Silver Fox, I got your tags, I promise I will get to them!