Four months ago, Chris and I turned over the keys to the new owner of our house, and left on a road trip across the US and Canada. We drove 16,000 miles, and visited 18 states, four Canadian provinces, and 22 national parks. Plus a one week cruise, two flights, and two ferries! We made it to Burning Man festival in Nevada, and we got to stay with several friends along the way (always the best part of travel). We also spent ten days in Texas visiting family and friends, and then returned to Virginia for another ten days to visit family and friends, and pack for our next trip.
In case you missed any of the posts from the past few months, here they are:
Tomorrow we leave for Nepal. There, we plan to go trekking in the Annapurna Mountains, and we hope to do a side trip to visit Bhutan. We’d like to see Bangladesh, Maldives, and then spend the winter in India. If weather and international relations permit, we will try to visit the various ‘Stans in the spring. Click on the “Follow” button below if you want my blog post to come to your email each time I write one (about every 3 weeks).
Upon leaving Alaska, we drove some of the same stretch south along the Alaska Highway through Yukon. We stayed at a couple of provincial campgrounds near beautiful lakes and hiked a few hikes. Yukon is a pretty wild province, and there is a ruggedness to it… as well as a propensity towards mosquitos.
Once we got as far south as British Columbia, we decided to take the Stewart – Cassier highway, which is a little less traveled and equally beautiful as the Alaska Highway. In one small village, Kitwanga, we stayed in a free municipal campground. At the end of the Stewart Cassier highway, in Stewart, we found that the road dead ends at a small ghost town called Hyder which is actually in America. We crossed over a nonexistent border between Canada and the United States and spent one night in Hyder. Some locals told us about a gravel road that we could take for about 25 miles up into the hills and at the top we discovered the Salmon Glacier- about 60 miles long and is the worlds largest glacier that is accessible by car. What a really beautiful site!
Heading further south in BC, we stopped for two nights at Whistler, the site of the 2010 winter Olympics. It was BC Day and there was a yoga festival going on in Whistler so it was very crowded and had a fun festival atmosphere. We met two of Chris’s friends from Burning Man for some beers and had a nice chat with them. It was a hot day, so we hiked around a small lake and took a dip in the alpine water. We do a lot of driving, so we try to work in short hikes each day that we’re on the road so we can get our steps in!
Our next stop was the city of Vancouver, where we enjoyed visiting the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, Stanley Park, and the UBC Museum of Anthropology. We did a free walking tour of the city and explored downtown and Gastown, visiting several bars along the way home.
We took a ferry over to Vancouver Island, where we spent the next three days camping with some old friends of ours, Tom and Sue, who I taught with in Haiti. We swam, explored the island, and watched the Pleiades meteor shower. It was a lot of fun catching up with my former housemates.
We drove to Victoria and got in line for the ferry and were able to spend a few hours exploring the capital city of BC. We watched Dragonboat racing and caught the tail end of an Indian Mela festival, and did a short self-guided walking tour to see their government buildings and the Empress Hotel.
Arriving back in the United States by ferry at Port Angeles, we explored the Olympic National Park in the state of Washington for the next couple of days. It feels like a lost Jurassic world in there! We saw towering redwoods and old growth cedar trees, as well as dense rain forests, misty coastlines and imposing mountains.
Further south into Washington state we visited Mount Saint Helens and its very informative visitors center. Unfortunately, due to smoke from fires further south and east, visibility was quite low. We had an impromptu lunch with our friend Rob, who used to work with us when we lived in Chad, and then continued south.
Arriving in Vancouver Washington, we spent several days with fellow travel enthusiasts Shyla and Dan. They own a travel business (Wild Spirit Travel) and we had met them last year while we were all visiting El Salvador. What a fun few days we spent with them! For Dan’s birthday we hiked around the Columbia Gorge, seeing the waterfalls and Beacon Rock. They took us to several McMenamin’s pubs and breweries- so wild! We explored some of downtown Portland, sampled food trucks and went to Powell’s Bookstore, and visited drafthouses on Main Street in Vancouver. I discovered I’m a big fan of sour beers (its like a margarita mixed with a beer kind of taste). We all spent the night at historic Fort Vancouver for a stargazing event- we could see four planets and the moon through a dozen high-powered telescopes. On our last day, they took us to visit some friends who live on the Washougal River for a day of floating down the river and travel talk that evening- their friends are outfitting a bus to drive from Alaska to Argentina. What an adventure!
After a night sleeping outside next to the river at Andi and Kevin’s AirBnB, we left Washington and headed south. We stopped for coffee with a friend of mine from junior high, and we visited Bend and Crater Lake. We couldn’t see across the lake because of the smoke from several nearby fires, but we could see down to the crystal clear waters in some parts. Five trillion gallons of water! It’s hard to imagine.
We’ve just passed 10,000 miles on our road trip, and we are heading into Reno, where we will shop and pack for our Burning Man experience. We’ll be back online after September 4th so look for an update then!
Why drive the 1500 mile Alaska Highway, which officially goes from Dawson Creek, Alberta, to Delta Junction, Alaska? Mainly because you won’t see a single Panera Bread, Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, or Burger King at any exit. Each stretch of the road is unique, with lots of sights, activities, scenery, and wildlife.
Here’s some of our highlights, heading north from Montana into Alberta, then from Calgary up to eastern BC and into Yukon, then into Alaska and ending at Fairbanks.
Craft beer at Medicine Hat Brewing Company: it was a little out of our way, but when else do you get a chance to visit Medicine Hat?
Banff and Jasper National Parks: driving through these two national parks is just sublime. Beautiful forests, glacial lakes, and the Canadian Rockies are a hard-to-beat combination.
Wildlife spotting: on this leg of the journey we caught mule deer, bald eagle, elk, moose, bison, porcupine, fox, coyote, wild swans and about six black bears on camera. We spotted but didn’t get a picture of a wolf and wolf pup, a marten, and a few predator birds, as well as a ptarmigan.
Picnics in parks, riversides, and lakesides: we favor easy to make foods like tortilla wraps, nachos, or bacon and eggs, with supplements from produce stands. With such lovely views to look at, it always tastes delicious.
Visiting local attractions: stopping in at Liard River Hot Springs felt amazing after a long day of driving, and the Kluane Museum in Yukon features over 70 taxidermied arctic animals. The Sign Post Forest was fun to hunt for local signs, and the Klondike paddleboat in Whitehorse was a slice of history.
Sign Post Forest
Going 100 miles out of the way to tag a new province: we left the AlCan Highway and traveled up to Fort Liard in Northwest Territories (population 534) just so that Chris could tag his second-to-last Canadian province (I refused to drive to Nunavut).
We drove along wildlife refuges, the largest non-polar ice field in the world, and along the Alaska pipeline. We saw the world’s largest Santa Claus, sent some mail from the North Pole, and finally made it to Fairbanks, where after more than 5000 total driving miles from home, we’re sitting still for a couple of days and enjoying a lovely B&B on the edge of the University of Fairbanks campus, before we tackle Denali and then the Marine Highway.
Giant Santa Claus
We’ll be in Alaska for the next few weeks, so it will be a while before we post again, as we head south towards the Lower 48. Be sure to give us any recommendations for things to do and see while we’re here!
After Chris finished the Appalachian Trail in Maine, we figured it would be the perfect chance to see what Canada’s maritime provinces are all about. So we headed to points furthest NE and found ourselves in Nova Scotia.
The main thing we did in NS is the John Cabot Trail, and by trail, I mean we did the drive. Poor Chris’s feet were still really hurting from the AT, so some car tripping was all we were good for. But the drive was amazing, all through the Cape Breton highlands, long windy narrow roads with the ocean beside you and in front of you. Majestic views.
While in Cape Breton, we also attended a caileigh (pronounced cay-lee), which is a Celtic gathering, usually involving several Gaelic fiddle players. The one we attended featured Ashley MacIsaac, who from what we learned from others in the crowd, was quite the famous musician a few years back. Well, he was amazing. I will definitely be downloading some of his stuff.
In Halifax, we went to the Atlantic Maritime Museum, which has a great Titanic exhibit, among others. Halifax was the closest port on that fateful night, so that is where they sent out rescue boats, and where the recovered bodies were taken. Tragic.
In Nova Scotia, we also visited Fort Louisbourg, a fort from the 1740-1780 time period that has been reconstructed and frozen in time to show you what life was like in that time and place. There are about a dozen buildings you can go into, and talk to the re-enactors about their daily lives. It was pretty neat.
From Nova Scotia, we took the ferry to Prince Edward Island. In Charlottetown, they were having a festival celebrating 150 years of confederation, so we attended that and listened to singer/guitar players Ben Caplin and the Mellotones. And ate lobster. Lots of it. Also on the island, aside from the unique geography and the stunning Gulf of St Lawrence views, are the settings and artifacts from the Anne of a Green Gables books. The author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, grew up on PEI and wrote the Anne books based somewhat on her childhood.
And finally, New Brunswick. No time for the Acadian drive (think Evangeline, “this is the forest primeval”), so we centered ourselves on the Bay of Fundy, this amazing place where the ocean tides recede up to 40 feet each high/low tide. In Moncton, we saw the Tidal Bore, which is a channel cut so that as the high tide comes rushing in, it creates a 23km long wave, that surfers can crest on. We saw three surfers attempting it on the day we were there. Also in the Bay, at Hopewell Rocks, we visited at high tide, where you can kayak around in the water and look at the interesting rock formations. Then the next day we visited at low tide, and we were able to walk on the ocean floor, looking up at those same rocks! Very fun and very muddy.
The days were cool- never above 75- and the nights were downright cold. We alternated between camping and hotels, and saw some amazing stars on the nights we camped out. We ate lots of seafood and poutine. Lobster!!On the way home we stopped for a night in Bar Harbor, Maine (I’ll include it in this post because its practically Canada). Cute little town- crowded! And the Acadia National Park was lovely as well.
Such great sight seeing, in our own nation and our neighbor. Next up: the cruise to Australia!