Tag Archives: Backpacking

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.

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Road Trip Leg 1 – Chugiak, AK to Calgary, AB

On August 2nd, 2013 the Jetta, freighted down to the maximum recommended amount, started turning it’s wheels north from Chugiak to the Alaskan/Canadian border. We had 6 full days to cover the 2,500mi trek to Calgary so that Lindsay could meet up with her oldest sister Breanna and carpool to their middle sister Chelsea’s bachelorette/stagette party while Hunter and I (Clay) would hang out it Calgary for a few days. The first day we made it past Tok, AK and ended up sleeping in a gravel pit about 50 miles into the “Top of the World Highway”. As if it were a good omen on our future endeavors, the late summer sky blessed us with possible the most beautiful sunset we had ever seen. All seven colors of the spectrum were visible (and I could even see 6 of them… I’m slightly “color deficient” for those who do not know) in either the sky, reflection off the clouds or off the mountains. Of course, we didn’t end up with a picture of the sky, we just sat on our camp stools admiring it.

Literally, we carried our house on our back for 10,000 miles.
Literally, we carried our house on our back for 10,000 miles.

Day two held some bad luck and a little adventure. We had to cross about 150mi of rough gravel road to make it to the Yukon River Crossing and the awesomely unique little frontier/gold rush town of Dawson City. Well as fate would have it, in the most abandoned, rural part of the dirt road we popped a tire; nonetheless, with a can of fix-a-flat and a little bit of cussing we were headed toward civilization. We had 3 flats on the drive up to Alaska three years ago so at least this was an improvement…

A historic Yukon gold dredge from the 1900s
A historic Yukon gold dredge from the 1900s

After a stop in Whitehorse, YT for a pair of brand new front tires and a workout, we headed south along the Cassiar Highway taking us from the Yukon Territories down to civilization in British Columbia. We took the complete ALCAN (Alaska-Canadian) Highway north when we moved to Alaska and the Cassiar became a welcome alternate route and a bit of a gem in hiding. We spent the day driving past working gold mining operations, the worlds largest wholesale jade dealer and saw only 7 black bears and 1 brown bear next to the road… and of course Hunter thought he should play with them all.

One of the 7 black bears. If we had stopped for a clear picture it would've been another buffalo incident.
One of the 7 black bears. If we had stopped for a clear picture it would’ve been another buffalo incident.

The last day of Leg 1 brought us from Jasper, Alberta to Banff, Alberta via the Icefields Parkway. A 3 hour drive turned into 6 just because of the beauty of the land around us… and the unbearably slow driving of some tourists on a windy road. We stopped for a few pictures, but a drive through the park just wouldn’t do it justice and we both agreed to return for a week or two of backpacking from Banff to Jasper when time would allow.

2% of the awesome scenery in the Icefields Parkway
2% of the awesome scenery in the Icefields Parkway

We ended up making it to Calgary just as time ran out, leaving Hunter and I to enjoy a “guys’ weekend” which he spent barking at all the homeless guys that walked by while the girls went and played at a vineyard. Hey, can’t complain too much about sleeping in and eating a 1/2 gallon of ice cream with the puppy.

Table Mountain – Teton Mountains

Our first day playing in the woods after finishing up in Boise happened in Jackson Hole, Wyoming which is located on the in the shadows of the Grand Teton and Grand Teton National Park. Originally we planned on going into the park for a day or two and then heading up to Glacier National Park in Montana for a 5 day backpacking trip. Well… while I finished up getting our back country camping permit for Teton it just occurred to me to ask about the dog, which is when the Park Ranger informed us he was not was not allowed anywhere in the National Park that an automobile couldn’t go. While this came as a surprise, it is understandable when you think of the Parks as a museum that you can loot but not touch. So Plan B it is!

Tetons from the Park Road
Tetons from the Park Road

After that,  we ran into Teton Mountaineering in Jackson, WY, to pick up a map and a couple necessities (like shoes for Lindsay, who sold hers for drug money in Anchorage) and decided on a 12 mile day trip on the back side of the Tetons to a peak called Table Mountain. We started nice and early, waking near the crack of dawn which allowed us to get to the trailhead at a brisk 11am. The first couple miles were a pretty easy nature walk through to forest… until we arrived at 1.5 miles of switchbacks, starting at 9,000ft above sea level. Coming from sea level in Anchorage and sitting in a car for four weeks we were in less than stellar 11,0000ft mountain climbing shape. Nonetheless, after a pretty brutal trip up the hill we ended up at a breathtaking (bad pun… I know) view of the back side of the Tetons.

Lindsay and the backside of the Tetons from 11k'
Lindsay and the backside of the Tetons from 11k’

As opposed to the view from the park road, we gained an additional 4,000ft and had a “backstage look” of the awe inspiring Grand Teton and his fellow compadres to the left and right. We sat on the plateau of the Table Mountain summit, only a half mile of horizontal distance to the Grand, for all of ten minutes before a storm quickly came rolling in on top of us with an unpredictable broil of high altitude showers and hail. We ran straight to the trail that lead from the summit down the face and dropped 2,500ft(+) in just over a mile, basically a controlled fall to the parking lot. This was great an all… except the 68 year old couple we met on the way down kept chasing us down the hill and a little bit of pride kept us from taking a break. Yep, they were 42 years our elder and chased us down a 1 mile scramble, kudos to them, I guess…

Last 1.5mi of open bald trail from the summit
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Last 1.5mi of open bald trail from the summit
Hunter impatiently waits for his bipedal counterparts
Hunter impatiently waits for his bipedal counterparts
Clay and Hunter at the peak of Table Mountain
Clay and Hunter at the peak of Table Mountain
Storm clouds swallow up the Grand Teton
Storm clouds swallow up the Grand Teton

2.5hrs Late – Right on time

Well if there is one common theme from when Lindsay and I travel – or do anything actually – no matter how hard we try we are always late! Ask Dustin Gray, he can write a thesis on how much our tardiness pisses him off. Well this pattern of non-punctuality didn’t stop when we left Alaska, no sir!

2013 Alaska Travels 643
Our normal set-up at a campground in British Columbia.

I don’t know if it is a product of lofty goals and unrealistic expectations or just the fact that we LOVE hitting the snooze button, but it is impossible for us to get on the road when we are supposed to. In the first 7 days of driving we got started on time just once. The other 6 days? Oh let’s just say that if the car is headed down the road by 11am it’s a good day. Seriously, it’s like a plague that we can’t get rid of. Neither Lindsay nor I are morning people. We’d much rather drive until midnight than get up at 7am to get on the road. Some days it was just damn ridiculous! By the time we get up, eat breakfast, pack up the tent and subsequently pack up the car it’s been at least an hour if not more since we actually dragged our sorry butt’s out of the tent. I’ve seen Afghan day laborers work quicker and more efficiently than we do some mornings, it really is that bad sometimes. Oh yeah, our goal was to be driving by 8:30am.

I sit here writing this post knowingly defeated. No matter how much I’d love to be like my parents when they travel; wake at sunrise, eat breakfast at 7am and start driving soon thereafter, I have to accept the fact that the only thing that is going to actually make us get out of our sleeping bags is the dog freaking out in the tent because he either has to pee or there is squirrel outside that needs to be taught a lesson, whatever that lesson may be.

I guess on the bright side we will have headlamps for the Appalachian Trail…