skinny dipping

We pulled off at a boat launch after getting some food.

Nice art! The pumpkin coconut soup was good.

And the water was SO clear and green…

There was a spot where I could make my way to the beach in my teva sandals, which I hate, but are great for water.

This seagull saw EVERYTHING

The water was VERY cold. First i went in up to my knees, and it was cold, sure, but also, I have not gotten a shower since Anchorage, and it has been grubby and warm in the car.

Someone decided to stay in the van…

I couldn’t see the road where we had pulled off, and the boat launch was around the bend. Off with everything! The water was so crisp and cold! Not as cold as the polar bear dip, but still pretty cold. I went under and came back up and felt like a brand new person. And way cleaner!

That’s all you get to see!
So much better, even with super wet hair!

Kluane lake camp

We stayed again at Kluane lake, the first place we camped on the way up, parked on the rocky shore. This morning, I heard a sound sloshing around in the water and saw this guy…

He was digging up sticks from the bottom and playing with them like stilts, trying to jump out of the water

We packed up quickly, but he really showed little to no interest in us.

I called AMHS and scheduled us to take the ferry tomorrow instead of Friday. We should be in Haines in a few hours after lunch here in Talbot Arm.

Anchorage, heading home

Such a beauty
Look at the face!
We could hear her strip the leaves off the branches!
She crossed the road very cautiously
My friend Josh by a somewhat horrifying piece of advertising art
What are those? She asked me.
Alaska grown cucumber and tomato salad
A sign at our hostesses home in Talkeetna
Such food. Yum.
Alternate ‘view’ of Denali
Since I paid the five bucks, I took pictures of everything.
Even moose poop!
And footprints
This was maybe worth the fee.

Beaver dam near Cantwell

We Stayed in a quarry outside the par last night with a number of RV’s who also did not have reservations for the booked full park. it rained a teeny bit last night and there was a ton of traffic, but we still slept pretty well until nearly 10 am. the temperature was just right and the screens kept what few bugs there were out of the van.

we stopped in Nenana and saw the markers they use for the breakup bets
We ate at a Serbian restaraunt outside Denali
Nenana Ice CLassic. John Oliver did a fun write up- try searching YouTube!
a beaver Dam. did not see the beavers…
This is what much of Alaska has looked like on this trip
Pano near the beaver dam we stopped by in Cantwell
Very Black Petunias in planters at Denali Park
Beaver Dam
Waking up in the van at the Quarry were we slept last night outside Denali Park
Zinnias outside the Little Owl Cafe in Fairbanks
Mellie’s drink at Little Owl. The lid had a cool imprint of Alaska

Kyle gets the catalog for this place- I wonder if they will ship the cabin kit to Juneau?

Well, Denali was kind of a bust. We had tickets for the 1 pm bus tour of the park, you can only drive part way in a private vehicle. Mellie had a meltdown while packing up the van in the morning when it was time to go and we missed the tour.

We are on our Way to Talkeetna for the night. might just get a pull through site for the night. not sure yet, but there are sites, or, I’m sure we can find something, there have been plenty of places that allow overnight parking along the roadside.

hopefully we will go into anchorage tomorrow, maybe get a room for some showers, and meet with my friend for Sushi at the secret sushi place Kyle told us about.

Time to drive!


We decided against going North all the way to Prudhoe Bay. After we left the hotel this morning, we headed over to Fred Meyers and got some produce and mosquito repellant. The local dance academy had a car wash fund raiser and we got MeenY washed.

The dancing girls did a good job!

I talked to one of the parents while the van was being washed about things to do in the area. He explained that there really isn’t much up that way except oil rigs. Most of the iOverlander descriptions of campsites mentioned: “mosquitoes,” or “many mosquitos,” and “hundreds of mosquitos…” which seemed unappealing. So we decided just to go north to Coldfoot.

We got headed out of town and we realized it was after lunch time and we got lunch at a Sonic drive thru. It was yummy!

After about 20 minutes heading north on the highway, Mel and I both started talking about how unexcited we were about the destination. It seemed sort of useless to drive up and just turn around and come back down the exact same road.

SOOOO…. We headed back into Fairbanks and decided to see things around town before heading to Denali. Mel wants to go to Valdez, and we could do that after Denali.

Mosquitos: over it.

Friday night we stayed at a paved rest area with fewer mosquitos.. when we set up. It rained overnight and the screen was covered with them, and we still have stowaways in the van that we couldn’t wisk out the window or smoosh.

Construction got more intensive

There was also a lot of construction Friday, all day, stop and go. We had some confusion about gas, as it appeared we had used no gas since filling up at a pump in Beaver Creek that gave me over 10 gallons when i only had been down what appeared to be 1/4 tank, which should have been no more than 30 litres. I stopped pumping at 40, as the pump was VERY slow, and it took almost 10 minutes to give me that much, while the man pumping diesel ended up pumping out fuel to the ground next to me because his pump didn’t click off. so yesterday, after leaving Fast Eddies for dinner in TOK, we decided there was no way the full fuel gauge was accurate, and we went back to top off the tank at a tesoro. MEENY took 2.7 gallons only.

Parts of the AlCan are REALLY ripped up.

By the time we got to Delta Junction, it was around noon. We had used a little bit of gas, and it was time to stop. We went to a little farmer’s market selling local goods and jams and baked goods.

These books were in the “Spiritual” section

We picked some Rhubarb jam and zucchini from a booth and found some interesting antiques at another.

Super neat!

The woman we bought the rhubarb jam and zucchini from also had these for sale:

The bunnies, not the teenager.

We got our little fuzzy adorable animal fix by holding a couple of bunnies. Miraculously, we were able to resist temptation to get one of these adorable little guys. But they were just the sweetest, softest, little baby bunnies!

This flood plain must be incredible when the snow starts melting!

We got to Fairbanks about 2:30 pm, and were going to stay and park in a parking lot of a hostel and use their showers, but when we got there, neither of us had the greatest feeling about stying there, both because there was Zero privacy, a dirt parking area, which was sure to have mosquitos and a gross time going onto the premises for the rest room in the morning, and traffic from the major intersection. We decided to see about a hotel for some showers, and got one fairly cheap, considering it was last minute on a Saturday night.

When we arrived five minutes later, they told us Priceline overbooked them, and there were no rooms. A booking that took me about three minutes to book online from my phone took almost three hours to correct. We ended up staying at the Pioneer Best Western, which is pretty nice. The bed was comfy, we got showers, hooked the iPad up to their “broken” TV and watched a little Netflix, and ordered Thai food on door dash.

This morning, we got free late checkout and that gives me a little time to catch you all up on our travels.

Hot coffee!

The breakfast downstairs was good, and now we need to plan our trip.

I think we made MUCH faster progress than anticipated. We are already in Fairbanks in just three days. at that rate, we could go all the way north to Prudhoe Bay, and still have time to spend a couple days in Denali. Once we get out of this central region, I suspect there won’t be much cell coverage. We have done pretty well, able to get it when we stop in any town with gas.

But continuing south and west making the loop down into Denali means we may end up waiting a few days early to get on the ferry and be stuck in Haines waiting for space to go home. We have a return booking for the van on the 28th. I’m sure we could find a place to make camp, it hasn’t been difficult so far, as there are plenty of pull outs, and so many RV’s, so there are paved rest areas and parking areas without prohibitive signage where we could camp. But I would rather go someplace new and see more instead of wait around close to home like I ended up doing last year in Skagway. I made some friends there, and had a relaxing time, but it was also a little boring just waiting around to return home.

Time to plan the trip and tear Mellie away from the wifi connection to her game.

Kluane Lake

We camped at a great site last night next to Kluane lake, which is huge.

Kluane Lake

We got in about 6 pm and watched some Netflix, which was very blurry with one bar of cell reception, but after getting up at 430, we were happy to have it.

Good news, the Camco Toilet- ALREADY WORTH IT! Was easy to use and set up, and so far no stank has been detected. We also made it our of the campsite BEFORE 9 am! It was actually, like 8:40! New personal best! The toilet was much faster to set up than the tent system we used last year, and since there was clearly no one around, we didn’t even bother getting the privacy tent out of the roof rack.

Our starting Mileage this morning, left camp BEFORE 9 am!

We are at Fast Eddie’s in TOK getting our hot meal of the day. I suddenly know why I feel like we were driving ALL day- There was a lot of construction, potholes, gravel, and I think I stared at the ass end of an RV all day with only a few chances to pass.

So much construction

There were some nice views though, here are a few:

So much Fireweed
Fireweed for miles
This might be wild geranium?

Even though it is only a couple hundred miles, it’s 5 pm. We crossed the border back into Alaska with no issues.

Best RV back end yet

Tonight after dinner, we plan to find a spot not too far from here to set up. Tired of driving. Need to decide if we are going from here to Anchorage or to Fairbanks first.

The food at Fast Eddies is good. You should stop here if you’re in Tok.

Ferry to Haines

We are on our way!

Woke up at 430 am, but, woke up a lot all night checking the time in nervous anticipation of the trip. I know we brought less than last year, including one less person, but it still seems like a lot. We might be able to leave the road loft 75% set up for sleeping this time though. Kyle took out the middle seat behind the drivers side, and we brought the big propane tank, and a large tank of water under the floor again. Mellie and I finished packing the last few items last night, and this morning just grabbed our phones and got dressed, and drove off.

Waiting at Auke Bay terminal to leave

We are supposed to arrive around 11:45 in Haines. I have never been on the Hubbard before, and it looks like the cars drive forward on to the car deck, and possibly also drive forward to leave. We will see. The water in the channel looks smooth and flat. Once in a while a small fish jumps from the surface and skips backwards.

Mellie, Departing Auke Bay, Mendenhall Glacier in the distance behind us

We should cross into Canada some time after lunch, and hopefully set up in a campsite early, as both of us wished we’d had at least another four hours of sleep. I haven’t finished sewing magnets onto the second screen to keep the bugs out of the van at night.

Typical Grey Juneau skies

Time for breakfast. More to come!

2023 Trip to Denali National Park

This year Mellie and I are driving to Denali in the van. I have been looking at a bus here locally to convert into a Skoolie, but, that will not pan out soon enough for this year’s road trip.

I estimate this year’s trip will be under 2000 miles round trip. We leave on the ferry late next week and will be back by the end of July. This year, we bought round trip ferry dates, to avoid waiting on available space for the van. We will also be in Canada likely only one night on our way north.


The Bluetti EB 70S solar system worked like a dream last year with our 200 watt portable panel. We never had an issue running the fridge overnight and charging it off the Van’s 12 volt ports while we drove. Although our portable outhouse system also worked fine, and we we mostly able to find a place to dispose of the bag of waste each day at rest stops, it was still time to set up the tent and the seat, every single night we were not near a pit toilet. This year we are upgrading (we hope!) to a casette toilet.

We found the Camco 2.6 gallon model locally at Western Auto and Marine. We have a tote from last year that it fits perfectly into. All we will need to do is pop up the privacy tent and place the Camco in the tent.

The worst part about last years trip was the additional set up of stowing and unstowing the third passenger seat. The rear passenger seats fold into the floor of the van. Last year we removed one seat to use the big storage area underneath for water and propane. This year both seats will remain in the floor. We won’t have this additional storage, however, it’s a shorter trip, and we are not taking many things we took last year. We want to avoid any set up and break down each night when it’s time to sleep. With only two of us, we can leave the bed mostly made up at all times, and only scoot the foot area forward, instead of the extra lifting it up on to the rear section of the sleeping area.

Last year we brought a Jetboil, and a large Coleman FyreKnight stove. We used the stove twice. Most nights it was too much for me to have driven all day… and then set up camp… and THEN figure out something to cook… and set up the kitchen, etc. This year, I’m only bringing the Jetboil. If we can’t cook it with the Jetboil, we aren’t going to cook it. Mel and I made a Costco run today, and bought some jerky, cheese, canned fruit, canned beans, boxed cold brew coffee, boxed milk, granola, and instant pho noodle soups. We will also take some condiments in the fridge to make sandwiches, and plan to eat one meal a day on the road.

We broke several water containers last trip as well, and ultimately, this led to the situation where the bear broke into my van once we got home, while we were drying out the carpet one night. This year I have two heavy duty jugs, one small Reliance 2.5 gallon jug for every day use, and one 6.5 gallon jug we will keep in reserve to refill the smaller jug if needed. We really didn’t have any trouble keeping our personal water bottles full last year, on a much larger trip, and this year, I hope to wild camp the entire time. I’ll still bring the Platypus water filtration system, since it is so compact, just in case. We never once had to filter water last year, but, it’s good to have it just in case of emergencies.

I’m excited to see more of Alaska after living down in Juneau so long!

For those of who are subscribed, I hope you’ll drop me a quick comment to let me know you got this message, and that this web page is still working!


You know you’re an Alaskan when…

…your van looks like a Forest Service crime scene.

Last night the damn bear did this:

Broke my window!

We started removing the Roadloft components and getting them to storage. After removing the fridge and rear floor mat, I discovered that there are no drainage holes in the cargo pit. The leaky water jug we’d gotten rid of in Canada had left a couple gallons under the cargo mat, and the carpet was still saturated with water from over a month ago!

See the paw marks?

I vacuumed up a few quarts of water with the Bissell. Then I laid two rolls of paper towel in the cargo pit and sat in the back trying to soak up as much more water as possible. Finally, I cracked all the windows about 3 inches and put a fan in back to try and dry it out overnight.

Tinted glass everwhere!

It’s been sunny and gorgeous this weekend, so I figured it would be fine to leave the windows down a little to help with air flow. Clear skies, no chance of rain.

Mel and I were watching Picard and I heard a clattering sound outside below the deck. I went out on the deck and saw the fat bear’s ass walking up the slope at the end of our drive into our yard. The outside lights were off and I couldn’t see anything wrong, so I called downstairs to Kyle to peek outside and see what the bear had knocked over.

“He broke your window!” said Kyle.


With the lights on now below the deck I could see a pool of shattered black cubes of glass on the driveway next to the van.


These are the only moose we have seen. The kids and I have an ongoing bounty hunt. 10$ for the first one to see a live moose, payment upon verification by another set of eyes.

We’ve seen Elk…

There was visible wildlife along the park road. At one point traffic was stopped in both directions by a female sheep. I was the first car downhill. The Sheep just kept running in the uphill lane and didn’t seem to know how to get off the highway but to run along with the cars, but none of the drivers knew to stop and let her figure out they weren’t trying to “herd” her. I put on the emergency blinkers and opened my door and got out. I walked downhill toward her and waved her off across the road to the uphill side where it appeared she wanted to head. Traffic resumed. About 200 meters past that, her youngling was trying to follow, behind the traffic. I saw it too late to stop at the speed going downhill, but it looked like after the backed up traffic stopped, that it would be able to cross.

A few miles down the road, I saw the above Cow Elk running alongside traffic (going about 30 MPH!) with us. Looked like she wanted to cross but couldn’t figure how to go across the slowed traffic stream that had formed alongside her. Nobody wanted to stop and wait, or thought to. Again, I stopped in the lane of traffic. The people ahead of me had kept going, maybe they hadn’t seen her, or known what to do, or understood her predicament or stressed behavior. So I stopped in the lane and put on my blinkers. She slowed down and then stopped and started climbing the hill where you see her. After a minute she stared grazing away from the road side. To me it seemed that she was going to wait to cross. Suddenly I saw a bright red BMW convertible coming up the lane behind me to pass along the stopped traffic. He was honking and yelling at me as he passed. I had pointed my arm out the window at the Elk so the cars behind me might be able to figure out why I had stopped. But he passed, fast, and shouted that I was a F-ing moron, holding up traffic, stopping in the road, idiot, something like that. Well, I’d feel worse for the Elk than his Beemer if there was a collision. A LOT worse for her.

The park is more visual that verbal so I’ll just show you what we saw:

Turquoise waters
Zack, as always, with thumbs up.
Dragon Dress on the wall
Mel and MEENY
View ascending on Jasper Tramway
Canoeing at Fairmont Lodge in Jasper
Sky Tram
Roadside stop in the Park
Jasper Tram
Train station in town of Jasper
Descent on the Tram
Atop the Tram
In the National Park
Roadside stop in the park
Grounds of the Fairmont Lodge in Jasper at twilight
Lake at Fairmont Lodge
Thumbs again up.
Roadside stop in the park
Moths from the tram grounds
Fairmont Lodge grounds

We ended up not having a place to camp. Zack has as of yet been unable to go to a planetarium and I saw this on a bulletin board at the lower tram station:

A planetarium!

…So of course I went online when I got to wifi to find out.

Surprised this photo turned out!!

We got to see a planetarium show about local astronomical phenomenon as well as the universe at large. Afterwards we got a lecture about the Aurora Borealis, and got to handle meteors in a separate lecture. Finally, we got to see some stars and ring nebulae through their digital telescope setup. It was definitely not just basic information and we learned several things we didn’t know: Northern lights are primarily green because oxygen is most easily excited by the sun’s magnetic interference. The lower you are in the atmosphere, the less vivid the colors of the aurora will be. The sun is on the upswing of an 11 year cycle of magnetic activity. This will make the Aurora more visually dynamic. Contrary to Hollywood depictions, the magnetic disturbances from the sun can damage and alter our technology, but biologically, they do not pose any harm to Earth life, like plants, animals, or humans. Meteorites can be differentiated from earth rocks by being significantly heavier than surrounding rocks, as they contain much higher concentrates of metals, and can be detected by metal detectors. They also often have a burnt shell which is formed by the heat upon entry to our atmosphere. Smaller meteors (below a 1 km diameter) pose a lot of risk because they can’t be tracked by science, but the larger meteors, planet killer, can be tracked. The issue is that smaller meteors can still destroy a city’s worth of terrain without basically any warning. Also, the earth’s magnetic poles reversed in the late 1700’s. This means what we refer to as the north pole is ACTUALLY magnetically south. wow. That was a big brain dump, but there you have it!