THE HIACE CHRONICLES: "NORTHERNER" IN SPANISH?

Did you know that "The Northerner" in Spanish is El Norteño?  It so happens that this is also our new vans new name.  Yup, we named him (it's a him), El Norteño.  I'm rather obsessed with the desert, we both love taco's/ Mexican food and we're from Canada so it made sense to us to combine all those things into a name for our little Toyota Hiace.  Alison didn't agree with my various naming ideas, but we finally settled on the Spanish translation of "The Northerner," pretty cool right? (On a side note, the word Norteño is also associated with Mexican-American gangs, music, food and people that live in New Mexico.)

I've swapped out my large and well equipped shop for a driveway and warm weather since I last wrote.  Alison and I traveled from Vermilion, Alberta to Abbotsford, British Columbia in the first week of November.  After a week of getting settled at my parents place I dove into van renovations and haven't really looked back since.  First step was, of course, to strip the vans interior to metal.

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I wanted to start with a clean slate which meant everything had to come out of the van, that included the existing bed and vinyl plank floor.  Thankfully there was very little rust and the flooring came out easily.

Flooring aside, I did find a significant build up of rust in the wall around where the door slide rail is secured and was forced to pull off the door and address the rust problem immediately.

Flooring aside, I did find a significant build up of rust in the wall around where the door slide rail is secured and was forced to pull off the door and address the rust problem immediately.

This bolt secures the rail which the sliding door slides on, it's apparent that water has been able to get in and sit for a long time which enabled the rust to eat right through.

This bolt secures the rail which the sliding door slides on, it's apparent that water has been able to get in and sit for a long time which enabled the rust to eat right through.

The damage.

The damage.

Grind out rust, rust primer and bed liner.

Grind out rust, rust primer and bed liner.

My solution for this problem, being away from the welder, was to make up two aluminum bandaids, fill them silicone and sandwich them together preventing further water from accessing the metal.  I'm not sure how long this solution will last, I may be forced to weld in a new steel plate some day.

My solution for this problem, being away from the welder, was to make up two aluminum bandaids, fill them silicone and sandwich them together preventing further water from accessing the metal.  I'm not sure how long this solution will last, I may be forced to weld in a new steel plate some day.

Next on the list was putting in a new sub floor.  Luckily the van provided a subfloor template which I simply traced, this cut down on a lot of extra measuring and expedited the process of putting in the floor.

Next on the list was putting in a new sub floor.  Luckily the van provided a subfloor template which I simply traced, this cut down on a lot of extra measuring and expedited the process of putting in the floor.

When it rains it pours...this is how I managed to work during a downpour.

When it rains it pours...this is how I managed to work during a downpour.

First piece in.

First piece in.

My solution for insulating the floor was to drill hols in the subfloor and fill the cavities between the ribs with expanding foam.  I'm not particularly concerned with insulation as most of my travel is done in warmer weather.  Alison and I have also had plenty of experience with sleeping in the cold so we're not bothered by it too much.

My solution for insulating the floor was to drill hols in the subfloor and fill the cavities between the ribs with expanding foam.  I'm not particularly concerned with insulation as most of my travel is done in warmer weather.  Alison and I have also had plenty of experience with sleeping in the cold so we're not bothered by it too much.

All the heavy things I could find were placed in the van to keep the floor from rising.

All the heavy things I could find were placed in the van to keep the floor from rising.

I found this insulation option called Durafoam which is 1.5" thick styrofoam coated with a reflective layer.  I figured it could double as c-200 and reflectix and it was considerably cheaper, so a definite win.

I found this insulation option called Durafoam which is 1.5" thick styrofoam coated with a reflective layer.  I figured it could double as c-200 and reflectix and it was considerably cheaper, so a definite win.

Walls insulated.

Walls insulated.

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Hardboard in place.

Hardboard in place.

Now that the walls and floor have been done, it's time for accessory placement and planning for cabinetry..

Now that the walls and floor have been done, it's time for accessory placement and planning for cabinetry..

Before I could move on with the ceiling I had to put in place the roof vent that I had purchased earlier which meant cutting a big'ol hole in the roof...this was a full day project for me, but I'm pleased with the result.

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Fan-tastic fan in place and cedar lath ceiling installation in progress.

Fan-tastic fan in place and cedar lath ceiling installation in progress.

I'll let you know that the smell in the van is amazing, gotta love cedar.

I'll let you know that the smell in the van is amazing, gotta love cedar.

Due to one of the engine access panels protruding into the living area I needed to find a way to keep it accessible in case of the need for engine/ transmission work.  My solution was to build up the area a little (allowing me to insulate it the area under the fridge more) then I will make a fully removable kitchen.

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The kitchen is now underway.

The kitchen is now underway.

Next step will be finishing the kitchen and moving on to the rest of the cabinets throughout the van, then a steel frame for the bed will be made and installed then flooring and drawers.

THE HIACE CHRONICLES: CHANGES, SLOWLY GOING THE WAY OF THE BUFFALO

If you're reading this, hopefully you've followed my link looking for an explanation as to why my IG handle has changed from @northamerican_overland to @roaming_northamerica, well you're going to get an explanation.

For a while now I've been thinking about a change.  When I started North American Overland it was in anticipation of the Yukon & Alaska trip that I completed this summer.  Since inception I have done a fair amount of traveling and through doing so have evolved how I travel.  After traveling up North this summer I realized that I don't really like traveling to reach a destination, I prefer to just go and wander for months at a time without a plan and the word overland doesn't seem to fit the bill any longer as it describes, "self-reliant adventure travel to remote destinations where the journey is the primary goal."  In addition to that, it seems like the word 'overland' is being used on everything nowadays, from bags of coffee to wall mounted bottle openers, it's reaching the realm of overuse.   Thus, I figured that I would simply change my IG name to something a little more indicative of what I actually do, hence the change to @roaming_northamerica.  I thought that seeing as I like to wander/ roam around and my mission statement hasn't changed (traveling all 50 states, 10 provinces and 3 territories), the new name does a better job of letting people know what I'm about.  So, there you have it, the reason for the change.  As well, if you take a gander through my website you'll notice that I've created a new page called Roaming North America.  This page will be where I feature all my vehicle born adventure content.  Last but not least, I've created a new logo for the IG page, check it out!

I'm sticking with the bison...it's my spirit animal.  Deal with it.

I'm sticking with the bison...it's my spirit animal.  Deal with it.

SO!  Having said all that, lets move on to the good stuff...the van.  There's been a few developments on the van this week.

Lets start with paint.  After repairing the worst of the rust on the van there was a fair amount of exposed metal which meant I had to paint it.  I painted the lower half with grey primer in preparation for bedliner.  Turns out the grey looks pretty good and considering the van is going to be completely repainted next summer I figured that I could keep the primer grey for the winter and save $100 on bed liner (every dollar saved means more travel).

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With the help of my father in law who is a maestro with metal, we were able to correct the back right corner of the van that had been pushed in due to some accident before the van arrived in Canada.  

Mr. Metal Maestro

Mr. Metal Maestro

Ken fashioned up a special tool that matched the curve of the other light socket and we used the swinger to slowly pull out the pushed in panel.

Ken fashioned up a special tool that matched the curve of the other light socket and we used the swinger to slowly pull out the pushed in panel.

Almost like it just came out of the factory.

Almost like it just came out of the factory.

I also spent a day or two repainting the SR5 wheels I salvaged off the decrepit 4Runner we had in the yard.  Almost immediately after getting the van back home I had ordered new tires for the van.  I 1" bigger in diameter and wrapped the SR5 rims in 215/75/r15 BFG KO2's.  I've wanted KO2's since they were released but always seemed to wind up with different tires on my vehicles.

For some reason BFG discontinued white lettering on their tires so I've ordered a special marker that is specifically made for tires, I'll color the lettering in.

For some reason BFG discontinued white lettering on their tires so I've ordered a special marker that is specifically made for tires, I'll color the lettering in.

The van is building up badass points like a boss...

The van is building up badass points like a boss...

Mmmm...fresh meats.

Mmmm...fresh meats.

I've also started to plan out storage on the roof rack and mounted our ARB awning.  I'm thinking I may also rework the solar shower I had built earlier so that we can give that a go while we're down South this winter.  

I have loads of storage space up on the roof rack.

I have loads of storage space up on the roof rack.

Today I spent about two hours pulling out the rats nest of wiring I found buried under the carpet.  Whoever owned the van in Japan installed a bunch of aftermarket tech and obviously didn't care at all about clean wiring.

I wasn't anticipating learning how to effectively pull apart the whole dash in the van so early, but once I found the rats nest of wires it pretty much became mandatory.  

I wasn't anticipating learning how to effectively pull apart the whole dash in the van so early, but once I found the rats nest of wires it pretty much became mandatory.  

Anyone need a minidisc/ GPS system for their vehicle?

Anyone need a minidisc/ GPS system for their vehicle?

Wire exorcism in progress.

Wire exorcism in progress.

Found me some Japanese Yen in the battery box...oh ya, I found the battery box too...

Found me some Japanese Yen in the battery box...oh ya, I found the battery box too...

That's all of it...

That's all of it...

I was pretty stoked when the deck from 4Runner not only bolted right in, it also plugged right in...score.

I was pretty stoked when the deck from 4Runner not only bolted right in, it also plugged right in...score.

So far I'm really stoked on the progress I've made on the van and I'm getting stoked to rip out the interior to start building our living quarters.

#adventuremobile status.

#adventuremobile status.

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THE HIACE CHRONICLES: YES, I BOUGHT A VAN.

I'm going to start with a disclaimer:  Although it may appear that I'm copying Desk to Glory in purchasing a JDM van...I am not.  Granted it's an excellent idea (great minds think alike?), the van plan has been a long time coming.

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Let's start from the beginning, shall we?  As I believe I have recounted before, the decision for a mobile, hard-walled living space was made winter of 2015 when Alison and I had our roof top tent and the mattress soaked through our first two nights on the road during the El Nino.  Apparently that memory has been burned into my mind.  In response to that experience, we bought the Boler.  In short, Casper the Boler was great...when parked.  If you talk to Alison, she'll tell you that Casper was the greatest thing since sliced bread, I have a slightly less flattering opinion of the trailer.  I found that my mobility was limited with the trailer, not to mention my fuel economy was drastically reduced, plus the trailer wasn't holding up well to off-road use and was looking like it would be a continuous repair project, thus the trailer was sold and I went, temporarily, back to a roof top tent setup.  

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Since my time down South last winter I have been trying to figure out the best option for living on the road.  Obviously a van was an option right from the get go, but there are a lot of area's that I'd have to compromise if I went with a van.  I boiled down the necessities for a van to two things, 4WD and Diesel.  I wanted the ability to get way out and not really have to worry about getting stuck due to 2WD.  A Swiss couple I met on the road traveling in a 4WD Sprinter put it perfectly when they said this, "you don't need 4WD for 98% of the time, but for that 2% that you DO need it, you REALLY need it." As you all know, I've been driving a Tacoma around for 2.5 years.  Great truck, kind of crappy fuel mileage.  I loved the reliability of my Tacoma and where I could go in it, but I felt like I was at the pump a lot.  My friend and co-worker, Kaas, builds Cummins diesel motors and quickly had me on the Diesel Train when he told me the fuel mileage he was getting in his big truck. 

My two swiss friends from the road in their bad ass 4x4 sprinter.

My two swiss friends from the road in their bad ass 4x4 sprinter.

SO, next challenge...name me a factory diesel van that has 4WD made in North America.  I bet you only name two, a Sportmobile and 2014(15?) and up Sprinter van, both grossly over budget for me.  I knew the reality pretty early on and searched through different options from converting a diesel short bus to 4WD, excepting crap fuel mileage and getting a Chevy Quigley van, building a Four Wheel Camper style camper on the back of a 2nd Gen Dodge 2500 blah blah blah.  None of those idea worked out, obviously.  I had pretty much accepted the fact that I was going to get crappy fuel mileage and had decided to build a camper on the back of my Tacoma, until I came face to face with a Toyota Hiace camper on the sunshine coast.  Admittedly, I had heard of a Hiace before and had done a little research on them, found one in BC.  I think I was initially frightened away by the right hand drive and the price and how rare they are; however, when I spoke with the owner of the Hiace on the coast it put a serious bug in my brain.

Not a month later I had my truck listed experimentally which turned quickly to me trying to sell it 100% when the exact van I wanted showed up on kijiji.ca.  A month and huge hassle later I had a deposit on the truck and I was calling the owner of the van to set up a pick up time.

Now, on to my next disclaimer:  I've done some stupid things in my life, among them would likely be what I did to get the van.

I was finishing up a day of combining and had been speaking with someone on kijiji about my truck.  The conversation came initially as a blatant offer WAY below my asking price.  I'd had a number of offers like this, and just for fun I fed into it a little.  Long story short, by that evening I had a deposit in my bank account.  I guess sometimes you have to accept what life throws at you.  The day I received the deposit was Monday, the agreement was that I'd drive the truck to Red Deer on Thursday.  The next day we started work knowing that we'd likely get shut down early due to weather.   Sure enough, as night came the wind kicked up and a crazy storm ripped through our area.  Realizing that I may not have a day of work the next day I began to formulate a plan.  In under two hours I had made the calls and put my plan in motion.  I loaded the Tacoma onto a trailer that night, stripped as much after market stuff off it as I could, prepared a quick go-bag and went to bed.  The next morning at 4am I left the yard and drove to Calgary where I dropped off the truck with the buyer and received payment for the truck, from Calgary I drove all the way to Kelowna.  The "stupid" part of this story comes when I realized as snow began to fall that I was pulling a heavy-ass trailer with no trailer brakes with a truck that had balding tires through the mountains.  Oh ya, and this realization also came as I hit a snow covered bridge while passing a car and truck kicked out to the side and abruptly snapped my sleep-deprived mind out of its fog.  Lets say, my trip from Banff to Revelstoke was VERY slow.  But I made it.

I met the seller the next morning, looked over the van, agreed on a price, loaded the van and was back on my way by noon.  Twelve hours later I arrived back at the farm.

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I chose the Super GL version of the Hiace due to its large weight capacity and longer wheel base.  You can find camperized options but I wanted the roof top storage space and prefer the aesthetic and center of gravity of a lower van.  Apparently after the early 90's the drive-train changed from selectable 4WD to full-time 4WD which I didn't realize till it was too late, but I'm fine with that, the van still gets over 27mpg!!!!  So without further adieu, the van.

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This first weekend with the van has been quite productive.  There were a number of area's that needed immediate attention.  A number of rust spots were developing; I hate rust with a passion so the two holes on the tailgate and had to be dealt with quickly.  I removed all the plastics on the van as well as the roof rack and a number of other things.  The paint isn't in great shape so I began prep for a new (temporary) coat of paint.  Today, with the help of my father in law, a large dent in the rear right corner was pulled out and made straight again. I'm going to leave it at that for now as this blog is getting a little long for my liking.  I'll discuss the plans for the van and some other changes I'm going to make in the next blog.

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The previous owner installed a converting bed in the back along with faux-wood flooring.  I have yet to determine if I'll keep the flooring, but the bed will be removed at some point, we'll cut up the mattress to fit our needs a little better.

The previous owner installed a converting bed in the back along with faux-wood flooring.  I have yet to determine if I'll keep the flooring, but the bed will be removed at some point, we'll cut up the mattress to fit our needs a little better.

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Initial checks turned up really good.  Brakes look like they were just installed, although the sway bar links are missing on both sides up front.

Initial checks turned up really good.  Brakes look like they were just installed, although the sway bar links are missing on both sides up front.

I hate chrome, it does not get you home, thus I have taken off the grill and stripped the chrome off.

I hate chrome, it does not get you home, thus I have taken off the grill and stripped the chrome off.

I have been searching for these rims all over kijiji, craigslist and local toyota groups with no luck...then I remembered we have an old 4Runner in the yard, turns out there were 4 SR5 rims on it.  Didn't have to spend a dime.

I have been searching for these rims all over kijiji, craigslist and local toyota groups with no luck...then I remembered we have an old 4Runner in the yard, turns out there were 4 SR5 rims on it.  Didn't have to spend a dime.

Rust holes on the tailgate.

Rust holes on the tailgate.

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Rust holes all welded up.

Rust holes all welded up.

Gotta love having the right tools for the job!

Gotta love having the right tools for the job!

No more rust!

No more rust!

A GUY AND HIS DOG: BACK TO WHERE WE STARTED

Well folks, this is the last blog for my Alaska/ Yukon trip.  Here goes...

Waking up at the Salmon Glacier lookout I went through the usual morning motions, packed up, put the truck in gear and pulled away.  I had been told that there was a lot of derelict mine activity further down the road from the glacier, and since I was there, decided to see what I could see.  I'm quite glad I went the extra distance.  Slowly, ever so slowly the sun began to crawl over the mountains bringing light to the valley before me.  The visual extravaganza that I witnessed beyond the Salmon glacier is an experience I will never forget.  Not far from the glacier look out you'll begin to see evidence of a past mining presence.  

My morning routine, stare at the pretty sights.

My morning routine, stare at the pretty sights.

Willow's morning routine, cover herself in the pretty sights.

Willow's morning routine, cover herself in the pretty sights.

Fingers of light.

Fingers of light.

There s a large power line going in to run a mining operation further into the mountains.  

There s a large power line going in to run a mining operation further into the mountains.  

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This tunnel used to go through which would allow mining traffic to pass through during the winter because the road ran through an avalanche path.

This tunnel used to go through which would allow mining traffic to pass through during the winter because the road ran through an avalanche path.

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Mountains...mountains everywhere!

Mountains...mountains everywhere!

I traveled all the way to end of the road where there's an old airstrip and a few more glaciers.  While traveling there I had the opportunity to explore a large derelict mine facility.  I thoroughly enjoyed walking through the old industrial areas and imagining what they looked like when still operational.  

VIP parking at the mine tours.

VIP parking at the mine tours.

Can you imagine how big this facility would have been before it was dismantled?!

Can you imagine how big this facility would have been before it was dismantled?!

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Willow, my fellow adventurer, taking in the sights.

Willow, my fellow adventurer, taking in the sights.

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The end of the road.  This is the last glacier you can reach via vehicle.

The end of the road.  This is the last glacier you can reach via vehicle.

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Look at it all...just look.

Look at it all...just look.

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Morning views...

Morning views...

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Chilling on the landing strip.

Chilling on the landing strip.

As I began my return journey I spotted some mine shafts across the valley and decided to do a little more exploring.  I made my way along the mountain side stopping at each opening and poking my head in.  What really impressed upon me was how cold the air was inside the shafts.  Often I thought of the mines of Moria from the Fellowship of the Rings and how cold it must have been for Gandalf, the hobbits and their protectors.  I'd say I have a pretty active imagination...it's the main reason I couldn't bring myself to walk further than a few feet into the abandoned shafts in fear that something from the depths would come out and grab me.

Derelict mining equipment.

Derelict mining equipment.

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I've searched this picture in detail to see if I captured anything staring back...the results are still inconclusive.

I've searched this picture in detail to see if I captured anything staring back...the results are still inconclusive.

30*+ outside, maybe 12* inside the tunnel.

30*+ outside, maybe 12* inside the tunnel.

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Turbo getting a little flexy.

Turbo getting a little flexy.

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I met these two, Melissa and Jason, in Golden, BC while on my way to my parents place from Alberta.  The whole way up to Alaska and Yukon and back down we were in contact via IG but never managed to cross paths until Hyder, Alaska.  Pretty stoked that I have an open invitation to stay with them in North Carolina when I'm through there one day.

I met these two, Melissa and Jason, in Golden, BC while on my way to my parents place from Alberta.  The whole way up to Alaska and Yukon and back down we were in contact via IG but never managed to cross paths until Hyder, Alaska.  Pretty stoked that I have an open invitation to stay with them in North Carolina when I'm through there one day.

From Hyder I made the journey back to Smithers in one go.  I had previously planned to drive the Telkwa Pass from Terrace, BC to Telkwa, BC with my friend Zach; however, due to smoke in the area and the risk of forest fires I decided to cancel the trip and instead spent a night with Zach and his family at a lake near Smithers.

Took this while giving instruction on how to shoot night photos.

Took this while giving instruction on how to shoot night photos.

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Good morning Willow, morning stretches?

Good morning Willow, morning stretches?

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The next morning I set out and drove from Smithers to just outside of Kamloops.  Approaching Clinton, BC I was detoured along highway 24 due to forest fires.  As I drove the highway soot fell from the sky like snow flakes, a slightly surreal experience to say the least.  As it got late and dark I chose a road off the highway at random and ended pulling into a recreation site at the South end of Long Island Lake which is in the Emar Lakes Provincial Park.  The park has a portage route which I hope to do with Alison one day.  The next morning I woke up early, hit the road again and arrived at my parents place in Abbotsford, BC shortly after noon.  The remainder of my stay in BC before I went home for harvest was filled with small projects, mountain biking, family time, weddings and family vacation.

My hiking buddy, as usual. 

My hiking buddy, as usual. 

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Matt and I hiked Elk Mountain in Chilliwack, BC with the dogo's.  Good times, good views.

Matt and I hiked Elk Mountain in Chilliwack, BC with the dogo's.  Good times, good views.

Mount Baker in the distance.

Mount Baker in the distance.

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I had the honor of shooting Francesca and Tyler's wedding in August.

I had the honor of shooting Francesca and Tyler's wedding in August.

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One of my favorite people to hang out with.  Andrew and I went mountain biking on the Sunshine Coast before meeting up with our parents for family vacation.

One of my favorite people to hang out with.  Andrew and I went mountain biking on the Sunshine Coast before meeting up with our parents for family vacation.

We've been jumping off this cliff for well over 10 years and will surely continue to do so for many more years to come.

We've been jumping off this cliff for well over 10 years and will surely continue to do so for many more years to come.

The boys playing in the water, the girls staying dry.

The boys playing in the water, the girls staying dry.

Skookumchuck Narrows has apparently become a well known kayak destination since I came here as a kid.

Skookumchuck Narrows has apparently become a well known kayak destination since I came here as a kid.

A view of Rogers Pass on my way back to Alberta.

A view of Rogers Pass on my way back to Alberta.

I am now back at the farm working harvest.  I'll be here with Alison till mid to late November depending on how long harvest takes to complete. We'll leave to go to my parents place for a little while till Christmas then leave to travel South again for the winter.  Stoked for more adventures!

Bison in the back field.

Bison in the back field.

Northern lights captured the other night.

Northern lights captured the other night.

A GUY AND HIS DOG: FROM YUKON BACK TO ALASKA

I knew that I was going to be in for a big day of driving when I left Carcross.  It's about 5 hours from Carcross to Watson Lake then another 2 hours to my paradise, aka Simmons Lake, BC.  I did the drive slowly so in total my drive stretched to about 8 hours.  I had planned to camp again near Boya Provincial Park but after filling up my drinking water at the Artesian well in the parking lot it was only 5:45 and I still had a lot of life in me so I continued South.  6:30 came around a began my usual routine, if you've been reading my blogs you know what I'm talking about.  As I was passing a small chain of lakes I decided to pull over to an info booth on the side of the road and let the people behind me pass.  I hopped out to take a look at the lake and noticed a small sandy beach at the South end.  There was a gravel path off the pull out so I followed it.  This is when I happened upon a little paradise.  

Hello again BC, good to see you.

Hello again BC, good to see you.

There nestled in the trees was flat open ground right beside a small flowing creek that made its way into the a beautifully serene lake.  Unfortunately I wasn't alone, there was another traveler there, but after a short conversation it was clear that it wasn't going to be a problem sharing the paradise with him.  After dinner my neighbor came out to the lakes edge to fish.  I wandered over with Willow to say hello and he promptly offered me a puff from his fat joint.  Nah, I'm good I said, then we continued to chat.  Willow sat at the waters edge transfixed on whatever the fishing line might bring up.  A while longer and he retired into his camper and me to my tent.  

First impressions...am I right?

First impressions...am I right?

Whoever owns that cabin is a smart cookie for buying land there.

Whoever owns that cabin is a smart cookie for buying land there.

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I've learned that Willow is fascinated by people who fish.

I've learned that Willow is fascinated by people who fish.

Look at that focus!

Look at that focus!

The next morning was pretty glorious.  A warm sunrise brought me to consciousness, shortly after with a full belly the smell of coffee filled my nostrils.  After breakfast I took my towel down to the lakes edge and sat in the sun for a while before jumping in.  The water was cold and crisp but felt amazing.  As I bathed I had two people stop in the same pull out as I did then watch me...kind of awkward, good thing I hadn't decided to go in naked that morning.  Feeling fresh and clean I packed up the truck and said good bye to my beautiful campsite, I'll be back campsite, I promise.  My next destination was Stewart, BC then Hyder, AK.  This time I hauled ass to get back down the 37.  I didn't really stop except for dog walking/ pee breaks, I knew the drive would be long but I didn't really know what to expect when arriving in Stewart so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to find a decent camp spot.  The drive West of Meziadin Junction is like a slow ramping up of excitement.  The mountains get bigger, the snow a little more prominent and then...glaciers.  I was freaking out while passing the gargantuan mountains spilling their cold glacier gifts into the valley below.  

My little paradise.

My little paradise.

Entering the coastal mountains on the way to Stewart.

Entering the coastal mountains on the way to Stewart.

A little haze from local forest fires making for some interesting views.

A little haze from local forest fires making for some interesting views.

Bugs littering the windshield and smoke obscuring my views...still loving the views though!

Bugs littering the windshield and smoke obscuring my views...still loving the views though!

One of the glaciers coming down towards the highway.  While I was taking this shot a tour bus came and parked directly behind me and released an outpouring of tourists.  I was not thrilled.  Talk about an immediate buzz kill, moments earlier I was tripping out on this glacier then that was suddenly replaced by frustration and irritation.  I blasted out of there pretty damn quick.

One of the glaciers coming down towards the highway.  While I was taking this shot a tour bus came and parked directly behind me and released an outpouring of tourists.  I was not thrilled.  Talk about an immediate buzz kill, moments earlier I was tripping out on this glacier then that was suddenly replaced by frustration and irritation.  I blasted out of there pretty damn quick.

Arriving in Stewart I first mailed a letter to Alison, grabbed some groceries then continued on my way to Hyder.  When crossing over into Hyder its a little surprising when you're driving then suddenly there's a sign telling you you've entered Alaska.  There's no customs booth or border guards, you just drive in.  I drove in then realized that Hyder is a ghost town and there are very few services, aka no gas.  Having only a quarter tank left and another 25km trip one way I turned around and headed back to Canada to get some gas.  Turns out there's a customs booth going back into Canada.  I had a rather lengthy conversation with the border guard there, apparently she had little else to do and was rather intrigued with the North American Overland sticker on the side of my truck, I had to explain that it was kind of a club but really more of an Instagram account and that it had had multiple members till they all fell through two months before the trip.  After my little chat with the guard I went back to town, fueled up then entered again into Alaska.  Before driving to the glacier I stopped in at local watering hole to get "Hyderized."  Being Hyderized means taking a shot of 150 proof Everclear.  House rules is that if you can't hold it down then you buy the house a round, I kept it down...only because I'm frugal.

Views from Stewart.

Views from Stewart.

Hyder the ghost town.

Hyder the ghost town.

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It wasn't looking like I was going to find a decent place to camp in Stewart and I had been assured that I'd find something on the way to the Salmon Glacier.  So I drove, up and up and up.  I'll let the pictures do the talking from this point.

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This was my campsite for the night.  Nice, right?

This was my campsite for the night.  Nice, right?

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That's a big glacier.

That's a big glacier.

Seems pretty tranquil...except for the hum of bug hoards.

Seems pretty tranquil...except for the hum of bug hoards.

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Feeling pretty stoked.

Feeling pretty stoked.

I camped at the Salmon Glacier lookout that night.  Aside from the bugs (worst of the trip) it was a pretty magical night.  At one point I woke up to a moonlight glacier backed by an incredible starscape.  I felt pretty blessed to be there.

A GUY AND HIS DOG: SOUTH BOUND AND PICKING UP SPEED

The drive from Valdez to Tok was a 'head down, get on with it' kind of drive.  I woke up in a cold drizzle, the clouds were still hanging around the mountains and I couldn't think of much reason to hang around much longer.  So I hit the road shortly after waking up and drove.  Only as I exited the mountains did the cloud veil begin to lift and I could peak some clouds (see what I did there?).  It was pretty evident that I was missing a lot with the clouds being so low.  After the mountains comes the foothills then the Alaskan interior.  The drive is beautiful as you drive parallel to the coastal mountains for a good long time, but eventually you drive deeper into the interior and the mountains become smaller and the trees seemingly more numerous.

Peaks showing through the mist, the best visuals I got of the surrounding mountains on the way in and out of Valdez.

Peaks showing through the mist, the best visuals I got of the surrounding mountains on the way in and out of Valdez.

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Look at the price of gas!  1.45/ GAL!!!

Look at the price of gas!  1.45/ GAL!!!

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In my head the drive doesn't seem that long, but maybe that's because I am so used to long drives; the drive was about 6 hours at my usual rate of speed.  As I pulled into Tok I stopped off at the local liquor store, bought myself one of my favorite beers (Deschutes, Mirror Pond Pale Ale) then drove 12 miles out of town to my little lakeside resort spot just off the highway.  There was a small cloud dropping some rain but the temperature had risen at least 12*C from where it was in Valdez and I was able to get myself into the lake for a bath.  Feeling clean I made myself some dinner, drank my beer and listened to some tunes while reading my book, it was a nice change from the cold and wet of the coast.  I was joined by another European vehicle, a high top sprinter, but they didn't seem interested in chatting so I left them alone.

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My little lake-side paradise.

My little lake-side paradise.

The next morning I drove back through Tok, filled up Turbo and struck out for the Yukon border.  I drove all day.  Later that night I set up camp beside the Takhini River just outside of Whitehorse.  Sometimes I hate how I get into this mode of egress and feel the need to get back to somewhere, I think it's a problem of destination travel and me, to truly enjoy myself 100% I can't allow myself to have a destination.  The drive South from the Yukon/ Alaska border is absolutely stunning, it happens to be an area of the Yukon that I distinctly remember from my first trip up North, unfortunately I blasted right through it.  I find that vehicle travel is a constant classroom setting where you find out all about the things you shouldn't be doing, one of them being rushing yourself.  

Good bye Alaska!  I'll be back one day!

Good bye Alaska!  I'll be back one day!

The Kluane Lake region of the Alaska highway offers up some pretty incredible views.

The Kluane Lake region of the Alaska highway offers up some pretty incredible views.

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When you're alone on the road it becomes necessary to learn how to take photos while driving...

When you're alone on the road it becomes necessary to learn how to take photos while driving...

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My campsite near Takhini River

My campsite near Takhini River

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Arriving back in Whitehorse I attended to the usual grocery/ supply restock then headed out towards Grey Mountain...but not to camp, hiking was on my mind this time.  It was my plan after my last few days of rapid travel to slow down a little and stay a while.  I was driving up the Grey Mountain service road when I spotted three guys just getting out of their van.  As I approached them all three of them stuck thumbs out, what a lazy bunch!  I slowed down to a stop and they call came over to my open windows.  It's pretty obvious as you approach my truck that there's not a whole lot of room inside and I watched as their faces dropped; luckily for them though, I have sliders and a roof rack.  I invited the trio to hang on and then proceeded to ferry them to the top of the mountain.  I cranked Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits as we drove and received many smiles from other hikers as we passed them.  At the top we introduced ourselves.  I had picked up Paul from San Francisco, Dave from the Netherlands and Eddie from Minnesota...kind of an eclectic bunch.  Paul and Dave had met years ago on another adventure then reunited in San Francisco to begin their journey to Alaska, Eddie was traveling by motorcycle and had met Paul and Dave a day or so earlier and had been hanging out with them since.  The three of them left on their hike while I ate a quick lunch then caught up with them later.  What started out as just a ride up the mountain became a dip in the lake, a big dinner with beers and whiskey then breakfast the next morning.  It was a great time hanging out with more random travelers and a refreshing change from the solitude I had experienced for the four days previous.  

#rigenvy the guy that owns this unimog is from South Africa and lives part time in the Yukon and part time down South.  He hunts and fishes...that's all he told me.

#rigenvy the guy that owns this unimog is from South Africa and lives part time in the Yukon and part time down South.  He hunts and fishes...that's all he told me.

Eddie on the left, Paul in the middle and Dave on the right.  We ate pasta.

Eddie on the left, Paul in the middle and Dave on the right.  We ate pasta.

I spent the remainder of the day hanging out and riding mountain bikes with another guy, Brodie, who I had met the night before.  We hit up mountain bike trails on the West side of Whitehorse then later went to the lake and grabbed dinner at Big Bear Donair in town.  As Brodie was also traveling South we decided to reunite in Carcross to ride bikes there.  Let me say, Carcross is a pretty fantastic place to hang out.  The small town at one point had virtually no industry and no tourism sector until some young kids got a government grant to build bike trails.  Now it's a really legit mountain biking destination in the Yukon.  In addition, there's a lake that has great opportunity for kite boarding and wind surfing.  There's a place called the Carcross desert and they have an old train that leaves from the downtown and delivers tourists to Skagway, AK!

Ephemeral friends.

Ephemeral friends.

The Carcross Desert.  All this sand was blown here by the high winds coming off the lake.

The Carcross Desert.  All this sand was blown here by the high winds coming off the lake.

Willow's first desert experience?

Willow's first desert experience?

The town of Carcross.

The town of Carcross.

One of the earlier trains to take passengers to Skagway.

One of the earlier trains to take passengers to Skagway.

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Brodie and I rode for about 8 hours in Carcross.  The day before we had planned out our route which would take us on every single black diamond trail on the mountain, which I ended up accomplishing and I had a blast doing it.  We camped both nights in a gravel pit just outside of town.  Carcross gets an A+ from me!

Our gravel pit camp spot.  Another win for gravel pits.

Our gravel pit camp spot.  Another win for gravel pits.

Mr Brodie and his 4runner.

Mr Brodie and his 4runner.

Finishing off in Carcross I pack up and continue South towards the interior of BC.

A GUY AND HIS DOG: MOUNTAINS, GLACIERS, WATERFALLS...VALDEZ

From Glenallen you travel South on the Richardson Highway to Valdez.  What starts as rolling hills coated with dry, spindly trees abruptly turns to large mountain peaks and deciduous trees.  As 7 pm rolled around I began my usual routine of slamming on the brakes at random, pulling u-turns and backing out of peoples overgrown driveways in search of a place to camp.  Finally after a little information was gleaned from a gentleman and his family I found a quiet spot beside a roaring river.  After a failed attempt at starting a fire I gobbled down a quick, warm meal then went to bed.  

Early next morning I wake up to a racket overhead only to find two bald eagles chatting in the tree tops above me,  'Merica!  The night was cold with showers so I huddled under my awning while sipping hot coffee.  Shortly after I packed up my stuff and hit the road once again.  I wasn't long behind the wheel before I spied Worthington Glacier from the road and went to investigate.

7 AM alarm clock wake up.  Thanks 'merica.

7 AM alarm clock wake up.  Thanks 'merica.

Approaching Worthington Glacier

Approaching Worthington Glacier

Adventure buddies!

Adventure buddies!

Misty mountain mornings.

Misty mountain mornings.

Mine and Willow's first glacial experience.

Mine and Willow's first glacial experience.

Does this glacier make me look epic?

Does this glacier make me look epic?

Standing below a gigantic sheet of ice is an experience you need to have.  It's humbling.  To think that something so massive and so seemingly solid is slowly moving down the mountain and that this same ice carved many of the mountain passes you've seen is really eye opening.  It's scary knowing that those same sheets of ice are receding, the Worthington glacier terminus was at the Richardson Highway not long ago.  

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Valdez by far has the best welcome sign in all of Alaska.

Valdez by far has the best welcome sign in all of Alaska.

The drive through Keystone Canyon right before you enter Valdez is one of a true epic nature.  The near vertical rock walls tower over you as you drive along and do their best to make you feel like a little ant.  In addition to the massive scale of the surrounding canyon there are many waterfalls to view as you drive along two notable falls the Bridal Veil Falls and Horsetail Falls.

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Willow's first time at the ocean, not sure what she liked more, the smells or lapping up the salt water.

Willow's first time at the ocean, not sure what she liked more, the smells or lapping up the salt water.

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Mist enshrouded industry.

Mist enshrouded industry.

I had essentially zero reference points for the Valdez, so as I drove in I stopped in at the information center to get an idea of what I was in for.  I was told to walk the peer and wait for the daily catch to come in.  It was also suggested to go check out the Valdez Glacier, but I'd have to rent a kayak and paddle to go see it, having a dwindling bank account and less time than I had hoped for to get home and it was a little too wet and cold for me at that point I opted to browse the boats and wait for the daily catch.

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The Valdez Glacier flows into the Port of Valdez therefore the water is this beautiful green/ blue (I'm color blind so the color description may be off), that partnered with the colors of the boats makes for a wonderful aesthetic.

The Valdez Glacier flows into the Port of Valdez therefore the water is this beautiful green/ blue (I'm color blind so the color description may be off), that partnered with the colors of the boats makes for a wonderful aesthetic.

Catch of the day!

Catch of the day!

BIG catch of the day!

BIG catch of the day!

Can you see the bridge?

Can you see the bridge?

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As I drove away from Valdez and it was getting late I began my usual search for a place to camp.  At one point I turned off the highway and followed a road to a dead end; however, on the way in I spied a bridge (seen above, right).  Upon arriving at the dead end I hopped out of the truck and hiked to the bridge.  Turns out the bridge was built after a temporary military bridge was washed away after an ice dam blew sometime during WW2.  The permanent bridge was put in place to the behest of the military who wanted an immediately usable but not permanent bridge put in place to continue war-efforts.

semi-aerial view of Turbo.

semi-aerial view of Turbo.

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After crossing some private land and following a quad trail I found camp for the night on a river delta.  The next morning it was time to drive back to Tok.

A GUY AND HIS DOG: TRIP PREP, TESTING AND CHANGES

Did I ever talk about the trip I'm doing to Alaska and the Yukon this summer?  Well, if I didn't...that's what I'm doing.  The trip has been in planning for a year and a half now and it's nearly time for my departure.  What started out as a trip to Alaska with a friend of mine from California turned into plans for a mini series, a group name with a IG page and website and plans for future trips.  At the height of the stoke level the team was at five other people including myself.  In the past couple months the team roster has diminished to just...me (and Willow).  

It's just me and the dog.  Willow and I will be joined at the hip by the end of this trip...

It's just me and the dog.  Willow and I will be joined at the hip by the end of this trip...

The last remaining members of the team were Jessey and Tommie, two fellow overlanders who offered up there home as a refuge from the road and later became part of the team.  While at the North West Overland Rally in Plain, Washington, Jessey took a spill off his longboard and broke his ankle.  The resulting surgery put a plate and screws in his ankle and has forced him into couch jail for a large portion of the summer, scratching the AK/YT trip off the list of summer activities.  

So, as it stands, I'm riding solo plus dog for the whole trip.  My feelings about the change are pretty optimistic at this point.  I've wanted to do more solo travel and it looks like the opportunity to do so has fallen right into my lap.  Yes, it's unfortunate that I won't be able to produce the mini series that I had hoped for and I will undoubtedly have some pretty lonely days, but I think the experience will shape me in a positive way.  

The adventure buddies, Willow and Turbo.

The adventure buddies, Willow and Turbo.

Aside from that, I had a chance to test out the new set up this past weekend when I went to pick up Alison.  From Red Deer where I picked her up we traveled to Canmore, AB to enjoy a night together at a B&B then hike Mt. Rundle the next day.  From there we traveled up the Icefields Parkway from Banff towards Jasper, turning off at Saskatchewan Junction and heading East towards Nordegg.  The first night we joined a fellow traveler in a small camp spot along the river.  The second night we stayed along the same river a little further down towards Abraham Lake where we had a more open and level campsite.  

Contemplating life?  At least she chose a good spot to do it...

Contemplating life?  At least she chose a good spot to do it...

It's a trio now...

It's a trio now...

We got a good idea of what the new tent and canopy is like and how the well the pull out kitchen works.  I'm happy to say that each performed great!  The canopy is a lot more spacious allowing for better and more storage.  In addition the side access makes it a lot easier to retrieve stuff located closer to the cab of the truck.  The new tent is pretty swanky as well; although smaller, the tent is comfortable, spacious enough and basically wind and rain proof.  And lastly, the pull out kitchen.  It worked great and Alison was pretty pleased with how it made prepping food a lot more convenient.  Overall, pretty good results, I only came back with a small list of modifications.

Skirting the provincial park boundary.

Skirting the provincial park boundary.

Room with a view.

Room with a view.

Campsite on point.

Campsite on point.

Now I bide my time before departing for BC where I'll use my parents place as a final staging point before the trip.  All my gear for a month and a half on the road is being sorted and consolidated and I the truck is slowly being packed.  Just a few more days.