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.