Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sourdough & Cottonwood

It feels like a long time ago that we had our first legit, on-the-road experience camping with our new Cricket trailer.  It was only about two weeks ago, but I've decided that a massive road trip has the tendency to warp perception of time.

We're coming to the end of our journey at the time that I'm editing this post - but two weeks ago?  We were Cricket camping rookies.

So I have to say...not too shabby for a couple of newbies.  

Our first two campsites on the road were way nicer than I expected. I had a preconceived notion of, well to be blunt - dirtiness.  I imagined moldy showers, questionable bathroom facilities, and too close for comfort camping neighbors.

Granted, this is coming from someone who has pretty much no experience with camping, campsites, RV's, etc.  So I'm not exactly  working from a vast knowledge base here.  A long winded way to admit complete ignorance!

I'm happy to report that my assumptions were dead wrong. Let's hear it for busting uninformed expectations with reality!  Hooray, enlightenment!

The first campsite was Sourdough Campgrounds in Tok, AK.  We're a little further down the line in our trip as I'm writing this - with several more campsites under our belt at this point - but I can easily say that Sourdough has been my favorite so far.

Our first campsite at Sourdough Campground in Tok, AK

Each campsite was secluded and tucked into the pines.  It was quiet, serene, and relaxing with the cheeps and peeps from the birds and the crisp, clear air. 

Sourdough was a fun little atmosphere, and you could tell that the owners put a lot of love into the place.  There was a self-guided outdoor historical museum, and all sorts of antiques, historical artifacts, & vintage decor displayed all around the facilities. Made for a unique stay.

They also do a pancake toss each evening, but we were a little road weary and didn't make it over to see what it was all about.  We did hear the hoots and hollers, though so I'm sure it's good, clean fun.

The must-do sign photo-op and morning snuggling with the Pugbull in the Cricket

We had breakfast at their cafe in the morning before hitting the road to cross the border into Canada and head into the Yukon.  While we were eating, I couldn't help noticing a yellowing, 1970's era board game on the shelf.

Went along with the whole vintage theme the campground had going on.  Ready?  It was called Alaska Pipeline: The Energy Crisis Game.  How funny.  Fun for all ages!  I wish I grabbed a picture.

Our second for reals-y on the road campsite was across the Canadian border at Cottonwood RV Park in Destruction Bay, Yukon.  Good Lord, the views!

Cheety enjoyed the views, too.  I'd like to think.

The campsite was right on Kluane Lake.  Imagine a startlingly blue lake bordered by snow capped mountains with a truly unbelievable reflection.  Striking!

The hubby wasn't crazy about how open the campsite was.  Not enough trees to hide in for him.  This is a man who values his privacy.  But, I was digging the scenery, and there were plenty of trees for me!

We settled in to relax and cook up some camp dinner - Spaghetti Bolognese a la the hubby.  Tasty and such a satisfying belly warmer after driving all day. We threw in a little vino and we were some happy campers.  Heh.  Couldn't resist.

Our campsite at Kluane Lake & our road trip mascots - Jesus & The Dude

After too much wine and bellies full of pasta, we tucked in to get some sleep.  Destruction Bay isn't hugely further north in Alaska than Kodiak, but I was completely taken aback when I woke up at around 2am to go to the bathroom, and it was full on sunny out.

I thought it was somewhere more like 6am because it was so freaking bright out!  Thank God for sleep masks, I tell ya!

We enjoyed some easy breakfast by the lake before getting back on the road again to Whitehorse, Yukon.  Not much to complain about when the day starts like this.

A little oatmeal, Cheerios, fresh cherries & bananas and coffee to fuel us for another driving day

Our next driving day was a short one of around 3 hours to Whitehorse.  We've been switching it up between camping and hotels, and Whitehorse was a camping break at the Westmark in downtown.

Another day of about this...

So I guess we can say we're not quite Cricket camping newbies anymore.  More like salty road warriors.  Too much?

Yeah.  Too much.

Ta-ta for now.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Moose, Beer, & The Bus

While we spent some time in Talkeetna, AK we also drove a few hours north up to Denali National Park and 49th State Brewing Company in Healy, AK.  Fun day!

Denali Mountain

I knew this, but sort of forgot along the way - Denali is the tallest mountain in North America.  At breakfast one day, we sat next to a bunch of mountain climbers who were in Talkeetna to try and summit Denali.  20,000 feet at the peak!  A little too hard core for me, but hey - if that's what floats your boat, by all means have at it.

Since we had the pup with us, we were limited in which trails we could hike in Denali.  We were good little park patrons and followed the rules, only hiking on paths that were dog friendly.

We didn't see as much or as deep into the park as we would have if we took a bus tour, but what we did see was still memorable and fun.

Especially when we were flagged down by a passing vehicle to let us know there was a moose ahead of us on the trail we were on!

As we rounded the corner, sure enough...moose alert!  Imagine the most enormous horse you've ever seen.  It was gigantic.

That was definitely the highlight of our hike! We ended up veering off the trail we were on and walking on the road to avoid the moose.

It's not like we could have walked past him - way too close quarters for that.  And frankly, kind of dumb.  So, we trotted along the road until we could cut back into the trail again without it being blocked by a massive wild animal!

And P.S. - Cheety didn't even see the moose.  If he did, he would have barked like it was his job.  Probably good that the hubby shuttled him off before he noticed it.  Who knows what a barking little-big dog would have led to!

We came upon some other hikers and warned them about the moose, but their reaction wasn't at all what I expected.  I thought they'd be glad to know so they could avoid running into it unexpectedly.  Not so much.

They basically blurted, "Oh, wow!  Cool, thanks!" As if I was giving them a hot tip.  And then they practically ran in the direction of the moose to try and see it.  Hmmmm.  Not sure about that one. Good luck, boys.  Try not to get charged.  They're seriously enormous beasts.

Like everything else we've seen in our time in Alaska, Denali National Park was truly beautiful. I'm so glad all of this land and natural environment is protected.  Thanks Teddy Roosevelt!

After our moose encounter, we headed up to the 49th State Brewing Company.  What a fun pub with excellent beers and great food!

You've got to love their decor.  Nothing says Alaska like an enormous moose antler I right?

I went with their Baked Blonde ale and the hubby had their Solstice IPA.  Tasty beers, and I was able to branch out and order, for the first time, a yak burger. 

That's right...YAK!  How could I possibly have the option of eating a Yak burger and turn the opportunity down?  Inconceivable!  It was delicious, by the way. Juicy and flavorful - not gamey at all.

A unique feature of 49th State Brewing Company is "the bus."  As some of you may know, the book Into the Wild by John Krakauer was made into a movie in 2007.  It's the story of the fate of Christopher McCandless, a young hiker who disappeared into the Alaskan bush in search of freedom.

The bus at the brewery is a replica of the actual bus where McCandless's remains were found, and is the bus that was created for and used in the movie. 

The actual bus is still there - about 20 miles away out in the wilderness, and there have been several folks over the years who attempted to hike out to see it and either needed to be rescued or died.

Myself - I'd rather check out the movie prop and get a beer and a yak burger than hike 3 days to the real thing, but I don't have that pull so many others do when it comes to the story of Christopher McCandless.

My "carpe diem" is pretty simple.  Good food, good drinks, good company.  But hey, like I said - whatever floats your boat...have at it.  

Wrapping up our time in Talkeetna with moose, beer, and the bus?  Works for me!

Ta-ta for now.

Thursday, June 23, 2016


Our Alaska farewell driving tour is off to a fabulous start!  I've wanted to visit Talkeetna since I first learned about the Denali Brewing Company when I discovered their Single Engine Red Ale the first year we were in Kodiak.

It seemed like a town that had a sort of rugged, wild allure.  And of course there was the draw of visiting Denali Brewing Company.  So somehow, while we were planning our PCS road trip, a detour up to Talkeetna became part of the grand scheme.

Excellent decision!  We drove about 6 hours from Homer up to Talkeetna after catching the ferry from Kodiak, and my first impressions about Talkeetna were spot on with what I expected.  End of the road isolated and a healthy dose of mountain hippies. With a touch of cheeky tourism and extreme sport aficionados added to the mix.

The town itself is tiny, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in character.  Lots of inns, guesthouses, restaurants, pubs, and gift shops.

Downtown Talkeetna

Our guest house was cute and worked for us as far as being dog friendly, but it was nothing to write home about.  A place to sleep at night after we went out exploring each day was about where it fell. 

Denali Brew Pub didn't disappoint!  They had a dog friendly outside patio we could sit at with Cheety, and we ordered dinner and some beers.  I couldn't resist getting a t-shirt and a Denali Brewing Co. pint glass.  Because yes.

We made a point of checking out The Roadhouse after learning it was built around 1917 and was a legitimate Alaska frontier roadhouse.  More importantly, it's reputation for being the best breakfast in town.  Priorities, right?

All I can say is I had one of the best breakfast burritos ever and their rhubarb pie was divine.  I don't know what makes it so good, but I suspect copious amounts of butter and lard are involved. 

Here's a fun fact about Talkeetna that you wouldn't know until trekking up there yourself. During the summer, the air is absolutely teeming with puffs of cotton wafting in the breeze.  Little white fluffs just floating all through the air.

Not just a few here and there.  It's literally snowing cotton.  It almost looks like the puffy white dandelion seeds we all used to pick and blow on when we were kids.

But, it's everywhere. Floating in the breeze, collected in fluffy white drifts all along the sides of the roads, hovering over every surface.  It's remarkable.  You can tell a little bit in the Roadhouse picture above. Makes for a unique atmosphere! Although, I'm sure it's an interior Alaska thing, not just a Talkeetna thing.

I have more to share about our time in Talkeetna, but I'll save it for my next post.  I'm long winded enough as it is.

Alaska Farewell Driving Tour 2016 to be continued!

Ta-ta for now.

On the road...

Friday, June 17, 2016

So Long, Kodiak

It finally crept up on us.  The inevitable.  It was time to leave Kodiak.  I was more sad than I ever thought I would be, that's for sure.

Based on the amount of bitching I did about the rainy, gloomy weather over the last 3 years, you'd think I would be doing a jig as I danced onto the ferry.

Not so.  To my surprise!

And of course, it was sunny out as we waited for our ride, the M/V Tustemena, to arrive at the port.  Kodiak's last laugh, right?

Our ride, the M/V Tustemena

We had a whole bunch of folks surprise us and come by the harbor to see us off as we queued up to board. It was unexpected, and so welcome!  Yet another very Kodiak touch to our last day on the island.

We popped up the Cricket, cracked some beers, and were practically camping at the port while we waited for the boat.  Add in the steady stream of friends dropping by to say goodbye and it was a damn party.

Our road trip gypsy wagon, popped up while we waited for the ferry

We reserved a room on the ferry since we opted for the 11pm departure time, and the plan was to sleep until we arrived on the mainland in Homer about 10 hours later.  Worked like a charm.

I get extra points for not getting sea sick.  Thumbs up to calm seas!

Our stately state room

He makes for a good bunk bed model, no?

Ferry fun

We spent the day in Homer, and stayed at the same hotel we stayed in on our way up here, The Driftwood Inn.  Cute place, lots of character.  We took a walk around downtown Homer and along some of the trails and beaches, mostly took it easy before hitting the road.

We also had an out of this world dinner at a local place called Fat Olive's.  Incredible pecan crusted salmon with roasted veggies.  Top notch eats!  So of course, I was a happy lady.

Oh, by the way, the dog was beyond pissed off at us.  Dogs are allowed on the ferry, but unfortunately they have to stay in your vehicle on the car deck for the duration of the trip.

So he was alone in the Jeep all night.  This did not make for a happy Pugbull.  I swear, he wouldn't even make eye contact with me for the whole next day.  How hilariously grumpy is he here?

That's one angry pup!

Not to worry, he bounced back to himself pretty quickly.  He's nothing if not adaptable.

So, our reality for the next several weeks will be driving, camping, driving, hotels, driving...and more driving.  With magnificent scenery and some stories to tell along the way.  It's our Grand Adventure, part deux.  Stay tuned!

Ta-ta for now.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Real Kodiak

I managed to find us a cute little cottage to park ourselves for our last week here on Kodiak, and I'm in love with it.  It's a tiny house down on Mission Rd. in a part of town I've come to think of as "the real Kodiak." 

Of course, Cheety adds interest to all pictures.  ;)

Why the real Kodiak?  Well, it's a part of town that was essentially washed away in the 1964 earthquake and subsequent tsunami, but many of the homes have been lovingly restored.  It's an interesting dichotomy of revived homes and cabins along with sagging, somewhat sad, old places that make the area original. And waterfront views don't hurt!

Our cottage is in a sweet location down the street from the beach and across from a small lake called Potato Patch Lake.  The view out to the lake through the back kitchen window is nothing but calming, and the mountains and Mission Bay out the front just begs you to gaze out and ponder...whatever you feel like pondering.

The backyard and Potato Patch Lake
The mountain view from the front of the house
Across the street

The inside is charming, decorated with Kodiak-themed art, nautical pieces, historical prints, and antique-style knick-knacks.  At first glance, it seemed cluttered and overcrowded, but somehow all the photos and artwork are cohesive and work together.

There are cute little details all throughout the small space, and it's those little details that add flair and individuality to the cottage.  Like the ceramic flowered doorknob and the whimsical gull salt and pepper shakers with Kodiak, AK painted on them.  Adorable!

Not only was the decor fun, but the practical features of the rental were just what we needed:  in-unit laundry, wi-fi, and it was pet-friendly. All of this paired with excellent views, lovely amenities, and the ability to explore neighborhoods in town I've never seen before was super duper.

It made me a little sad though, because I really wish that we could have lived in town during our 3 year tour here.  (Even more so now) What a different experience Kodiak would have been!

If you're wondering - as of 2013, Coasties stationed outside the continental U.S. are required to live on base unless you intend to purchase a home or your family is too large for base housing to accommodate.  Since we weren't prepared to buy a home in Alaska when we arrived and it's just the two of us and a Pugbull, on-base living it was!

We're on the 11pm ferry this Saturday night, so wrapping it up and relaxing before the big journey south is about where we are now.  This week of down time in the cottage was the perfect way to spend our last week on Kodiak.  The "real" Kodiak!  I'll miss it!

Ta-ta for now.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

House Camping

Aaaand, here we are.  The movers came this week and hauled away all of our worldly possessions.  They were like moving ninjas.  So fast.  Zip-zip, in and out.  And now we're temporarily living in a mostly empty house. 

Our first dinner on tiny, fold-up camp furniture

We held back our basic necessities like clothes and toiletries, and we've been using our camping cookware for dishes and pots/pans.  Throw in the air mattress and folding camp chairs & table, and we're downright minimalists. 

God bless the camp cookware!
Of course, it didn't take long for me to curse the fact that I didn't hold back my rain boots.  Because I was lulled into a false sense of summer sunshine when there was no rain and glorious, brilliantly blue skies for 5 days in a row. 

And then Kodiak remembered it was Kodiak and it's been raining every day since the movers came.  Dog walks in sneakers = soaking wet feet every time.  Ah, well.  Live & learn.

Speaking of his highness, he's so not on board with all the moving chaos and the now empty house. He begrudgingly sleeps with us on the air mattress.  Poor pup.  What a tough life he has. Ha. 

So we have a few more days in the empty house, a top to bottom house detail that needs to be done, an inspection check-out from base housing, dropping off the hubby's truck to be shipped on a barge to California, and then we're renting a little cottage by the beach for our last week here in Kodiak.

I'm looking forward to our cottage stay.  It'll be like a mini-vacation before we start traveling.  I've been saving my last library book in anticipation of the down time.  It will be a relief to have all the packing, cleaning, purging and anticipation of moving day behind us. 

Now I can start fretting about the ferry ride and road trip.  One fret at a time, right?

Ta-ta for now.