Category Archives: The Alaska Road Trip

Leg 3 – Regina to Andover

Our final leg of the Journey should be properly referred to as the Suicide Run to New England. This put any Kenai fishing one-night run to shame. We left Regina the Monday after the wedding at about 1pm, only 7 hours later than we planned on leaving… not bad by our standards. We can honestly say that the car did not stop for anything besides food/fuel until we hit central Vermont. That’s 2,000+ miles! Lindsay and I traded driving duties back and forth, taking anywhere between a 4hr shift and an 8hr shift. These shifts were relatively uneventful until Lindsay’s 430am turn somewhere between Minneapolis and Chicago… in her own defense, she had just awakened from sleeping, it was dark and the “raccoon” that she ran over was on the far side of a little roller on the interstate. With that being said, I had just fallen asleep when the car hit something, hard, and I sat straight up convinced we had just gotten blown up. As my adrenaline and heart rate came down she tried to convince me that we had hit a raccoon but after a little bit of disbelief and realizing that it would’ve been the world’s biggest raccoon she admitted that we smoked a road killed deer’s rib cage section. Yep, this stuff really happens.

After a brief visit in Chicago with Mr Reeses, Dustin Gray, we headed into our second night of driving taking us from the Michigan-Canadian border to Montreal. We made it to Montreal when the sun came up and after some bickering over fuel stops and aggressive bickering over driving through Montreal we made it to our final border crossing. Hooray! Our first actual stop was at a truck stop in northern Vermont for a quick shower and then a morning in Burlington for breakfast/lunch/people watching. We spent that night with my adopted Vermont family from college in Rutland and then headed south to Rhode Island the next day. Couch surfing our way through New England we spent the following day eating pears off the tree and watching Hunter try to fight a pair of Scottish Highland Cows (it didn’t turn out well for him… now he has TBI too) at my senior project advisor and friend’s house.

One badass boat crew!
One badass boat crew!

The final stop on our travels brought us to beautiful Whitefield, Maine and my cousins’ to have a weekend of drinking, rafting and drinking. After a partially hung over drive to the Kennebec River we had one of the best days of our trip, hitting big water and drinking 99 cent Natty Ice tall boys on the float out with a decent boat crew. I mean, they weren’t the worst at least… not sure about the guide though.

The best paddlers on the river... after a couple Natty Ice's.
The best paddlers on the river… after a couple Natty Ice’s.

After watching the Patriots beat Atlanta and going down the YouTube Rathole too many times we seperated Hunter from his girlfriend and finally headed north to Maine, home sweet home in Andover. We arrived at my parents’ house to find boxes in the garage, guest bedroom and the basement… looks like that “relaxing break from driving” would be spent moving boxes and putting all our “stuff” we forgot about into storage.

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Cirque of the Towers

How do I capture the Cirque of the Towers into a 500 word blog post… easy. Go look at the pictures page and then put it on your bucket list.

When we finished up with our “to-do list” of checking out Oregon State and Boise State we started doing things just for fun. After spending a few days hanging out with some of the coolest people we met on the road, Luke and Lindsay, they recommended that we go do a hike called “The Cirque of the Towers”. It seemed like a great time for Lindsay and I to do our first multi-day backpacking trip together. After buying a map and few supplies, we headed into central Wyoming from Jackson Hole. With some bootleg map reading skills, the Jetta made it through 25 miles of dirt road at 1am with the last 10 miles being the worst washboards we had ever driven.  We parked the trail head at 9,000ft ASL.

Lindsay hanging out next to Sandy Lake
Lindsay hanging out next to Sandy Lake

After camping by the car that night, we headed up the trail at admittedly a snail’s pace. We spent the first night, after hiking only 6 miles, at the picturesque Sandy Lake to soak in the view and give our lungs a chance to catch up. Day two took us over the 11,000ft boulder fields of Jackass Pass and into one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring views I had ever seen. The cirque was actually a 180 degree arc of world class rock climbing with peaks around 14,000ft and a pristine high altitude lake at the center. No matter how eloquent the writer, I’m not sure even Thoreau or London could put into words how insignificant a human can feel when dwarfed by Mother Nature’s amphitheater. The icing on the cake: It was relatively virgin. To experience the cirque you had to really want to get there. The National Parks service had not built a paved road leading to the parking lot and the 9 miles to get to the top of Jackass Pass was no joke. Because of that, the people you met on the trail had an appreciation for the rawness of The Cirque and a mutual respect for what it took to get there.

Panoramic of the Cirque
Panoramic of the Cirque

Rather than going on our planned and ambitious 4 day, 35 mile hike we took our time and soaked in the sights. Playing cards in our tent next to a crystal clear mountain lake and taking a day hike up a 12,000ft ASL ridge line were experiences that could not be rushed. Sure, we could have put our head down and moved our feet forward to cover the mileage but we had food, water, time and one of the prettiest places we had ever seen, Alaska included. We spent our 4 days and covered about 25 miles on an out-and-back hike,  barely beating the Labor Day Weekend crowds who were on their way in.

Clay eating his hiker's "Birthday Cake" for breakfast on his birthday
Clay eating his hiker’s “Birthday Cake” for breakfast on his birthday

As a side note: Our 4-legged, red headed son is 1/2 Chow Chow and 1/2 mountain goat. He never slipped or even struggled going through miles of boulder fields. He jumped from ledge to boulder over 3 foot gaps while we climbed hand over hand letting him lead the way since he was clearly the proficient one. Hunter loved the rocks and the steeper, more rugged the terrain the better for him… he just wished we could keep up with him! Hunter also met his first pack llama this trip (almost getting kicked in the head) and even jumped into the water up to his belly for the first time ever!!

The experiment is over, right?

As we left Alaska two months ago we had one overwhelming thought… is this really happening? The excitement and adventure that comes with a year of traveling had an undeniable pull on us, but our bond with Alaska could not be ignored. We were blissfully ignorant during the drive through the northern areas of Alaska and the Yukon Territories but by the time we made it to Whitehorse, and beyond, the ugly truth began to set in: we were no longer going to be living in the ‘wild’ that was Our Alaska. It should be noted that we never lived in the bush; in fact, we had a comfortable little apartment only 30 minutes from the downtown of the biggest city in Alaska. Regardless of that fact, we felt like we were where we belonged. A 30 minute drive in the opposite direction took us to mountains that 4 years ago we could only fathom and another hour on top of that took us into a unending wooded oasis that had back country hiking in any direction.

Joe, Leslie and Lindsay take the Hunter and the Labs out for a romp in the March snow
Joe, Leslie and Lindsay take the Hunter and the Labs out for a romp in the March snow

Driving into the “civilization” of the southern Yukon Territories snapped us back into reality and we could no longer say that “we live in Alaska”… from that day forward it became “we used to live in Alaska”. All good things must come to an end and more importantly than that, the world that Lindsay and I want to see is much larger than even the biggest state in the USA. None of that mattered though when we hit our first stop light at a 4-way intersection in British Columbia and I looked at Lindsay and said “The experiment is over, right? We can go back home and have our stuff shipped back… right?” and without a word Lindsay nodded with a sad look in her eyes as we turned left towards Calgary.

We miss you Alaska… a lot.

The Pee Incident

It was about 1230 in the morning and we were just coming up on the US-Canadian border to cross into Washington state from the British Columbia wine country of the Okanogan. My bad luck started when we made it to the border crossing and learned they were closed from midnight until 6am. With that news we turned the Jetta around and headed back to a campground only a few miles from the border. When we made it to the campground not only did we find the gate at the entrance shut and locked but we also learned that tent camping was prohibited anyway. Since we planned on making it to the border at 6am it was decided that we would just sleep in the car for a few hours. At about 2:30am I had enough of sleeping in the same chair I had ridden in all day and grabbed a sleeping bag (no sleeping pad) and threw it down beside the car for a few hours of sleep.

The air outside had an unfamiliar smell but considering the fact that we were in an unfamiliar area and basically parked in the shrubs beside someone’s lawn I decided that it was just the scent of humid summer air and lush greenery. As the night went on I woke up once or twice due to the pungent aroma in my nostrils and plunged my head into my sweatshirt to get back to sleep. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but think that it smelled distinctly like urine where I had laid my head.

The evidence...
The evidence…

Well in the morning I picked up my sleeping bag and with a little more clarity than at 3am I remembered on thing: Lindsay went pee behind the car before we went to sleep. Yes, I put my head next to the back tire. And yes, I washed my sleeping bag that night.

Leg 2 – Calgary to Regina

Our most eventful leg of the trip happened between Calgary and Regina, taking us more than 4,000 miles and included the biggest time span in travel days. We left Calgary mid August and made it to Regina on the 5th of September, leaving us about 3+ weeks to ourselves. We spent the bulk of our time in the Oregon coast area, checking out Oregon State and Corvallis, and the Boise area for Boise State and then spent a week backpacking/hiking around the Jackson Hole area and then driving up through Montana and Glacier National Park before finally parking in Regina.

The morning fog on an Oregon beach
The morning fog on an Oregon beach

After leaving Calgary we drove through the mountains and down to the Okanogan Lake area to take in the sights of beautiful vineyards and farm country. The scenery changed abruptly though when we came across the US/Canadian border to drive through the deserts of eastern Washington and Oregon. I had experienced this before but Lindsay thought that we were driving through Utah and Arizona not the Pacific Northwest. The next couple days took us to Oregon and Boise for some University exploring that we’ve already posted and then off towards Jackson Hole. Along the way we took a day and went whitewater rafting in Idaho and drove through the eerie Craters of the Moon National Monument.

Lindsay enjoying a delicous Canadian candy bar chunk
Lindsay enjoying a delicious Canadian Aero Bar chunk

When we finally finished showering and gorging ourselves in Jackson after the Cirque of the Towers we headed north though Yellowstone National Park on our way to Montana and eventually, Regina. The stop at Old Faithful on Labor Day weekend left a little bit to be desired but at least the people watching was top notch! We hung out a day in Bozeman, MT and Missoula, MT and got a chance to see two of the unique hippy/mountain cities in Montana. This part of the drive finished with an evening crossing of Glacier National Park, racing the setting sun on the mountain switchbacks and not stopping until we made it to Regina at 5am.