Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What You Bring Back From a Roadtrip

Canadian Rockies reflected in Moraine Lake near Lake Louise, Alberta. 

A road trip is a collection of images, impressions, and maybe, changes in perspectives.  In retrospect, we don’t know whether the travel changed us permanently, or just temporarily. Certainly, on the road, on the trail, in the camp, in the forests, on the mountain summits, and at the foot of glaciers we were seeing, doing and feeling things differently.

We began with a simple and general plan devoid of the details of where and how long we would go. We were guided mostly by the desire to be open to the open road.  It worked for us.  It is difficult not to become a “travel evangelist”- to want to convince others that maybe this too may be “just what you need”.  At the very least one thing is certain.  We have a huge country out there that you can and should explore.  You are bound to discover something, either about it, about yourself, or both.

Here are some of the snippets of images selected from the thousands of miles we traveled.

Heading north on Hwy 89 in southwest Utah.

The windshield of the vehicle frames a road undulating over hills and valleys, growing smaller as it merged and disappeared at the horizon.  The open country and the big skies of the west can make you feel small and exposed.

Saskatchewan Glacier on the Parker Ridge Trail in Jasper National Park, Alberta.

Another view on the same trail.

The most incredible and unbelievable panorama I have ever seen has made me gasp.  Two minutes later I round another trail switchback and see a vista more breathtaking than the last.

Highline Trail parallels the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Montana.

On the Highline Trail.

The narrow trail hundreds of feet above that tiny highway is both frightening and exhilarating.  My legs are shaking and my head is light, and all I can say is a feeble “wow”.

Columbia Icefield on the Wilcox Pass Trail in Jasper National Park, Alberta.

Columbia Icefield, Alberta Canada.

I have passed this glacier going the other direction, but now from this direction, I am seeing it for the first time.  

A bear along the road to Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana.

A cow moose and her twin babies in the Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Colorado campground.

I glimpsed something moving beside the road.  What is it this time - a bear, a doe and her fawn, an elk, or a cow moose and her twin babies looking back at me?  I consider, “Will I take a photo or I will I just watch?”

Chipmunk making a dash for home in Sequoia National Park.

I am entertained by a worried chipmunk scurrying around the periphery of the campsite. Finally, it made a bold dash for the hole, his home, next to the fire ring at my feet. This must be rush hour. 

Looking north along the Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area near Coos Bay, Oregon.

The Pacific Ocean viewed from windy dunes along the Oregon Coast marks the western edge of our travel that began in North Carolina at the Atlantic Ocean.  We have crossed the entire continent.

The sun pushing away the clouds along Bow Lake in Jasper National Park, Alberta.

Vistas of mountains shrouded by wispy clouds give way to mountains cheered by acres of sunshine.


Finding solitude in our campground along Caples Lake, California.  This was one of our favorite campgrounds.

We found uncommon solitude among granite boulders and scraggly junipers in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.  The original plan to camp among the crowd at Lake Tahoe fortunately did not work out.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Road Trip, Not Boat Trip

The open road beckoned us. (Desert along the California/Arizona border).

We are on the road – not the water.  We and Layla were ready, really ready to head south.  Packed and prepared as we were, the persistent and contrary south and southwest winds continued to discourage our plans.  It was obvious that unless we wanted to slog through uncomfortable seas, primarily motoring, this was not the time to go.  Hurricane season, July and August intense heat, contrary winds and seas, and the beckoning of cool mountain breezes persuaded us to abandon the plans for heading south on Layla this summer.

Layla was ready to go- all dressed up and nowhere to go. We decided “not now”.

The decision set in motion many tasks including off-loading perishables and valuable/vulnerable stuff from Layla, and moving Layla back to the boat yard and once again, putting her “on the hard” (boat speak for putting a boat on stands out of the water).  After all of the efforts to get Layla and us ready to go south over these many months, we had to undo some of it.

Coincident with the decision not to go south on Layla by water was the decision to go north and west by land.  Last year we took a road trip in the old Ranger pickup to the Canadian Maritime Provinces to escape the doldrums of July and August.  Inspired by that trip, we are now traveling across the US and part of Canada, in a leisurely circle to visit state, provincial, and national parks, monuments, memorials, mountains, prairies, deserts and seashores, as well as friends and family along the way. 

Sunset from our camp above Caples Lake near Carson Pass, California.

Campfires are our primary evening entertainment.

What is our plan?  We want to keep the travel simple with an open itinerary.  We are guided by the desire to spend nights in the open, with mornings awoken by the chatter of the local critters.  We envision days filled with journeys to a canyon, or river, or stream, or glacier, or mountain, or one of the many wonders of the land.  If we can get there via a small country road, the travel is even better.  We hope to be surprised every day.

This adventure demanded something more substantial than the Mini.

The Tacoma pickup is well-suited for the extended road trip.

Within about a week after we had Layla safely secured back on land, we had traded in the Mini Cooper and bought a Toyota Tacoma pickup.  It was apparent that neither the old Ranger pickup or the Mini were up to the task of this planned trip, which would easily total thousands of miles based almost entirely on tent camping.  The Tacoma seemed worthy of the plan.  We packed again, this time for land travel with gas stove, tent, sleeping bags, and lots of camping gear.

We also jumped into the 21st century to upgrade our phone and phone carrier to keep us better connected on the road.  We now are able to text, and now see the wisdom behind this means of communication.  We apologize to all of you for taking so long to embrace this technology!

Our route to date, highlighted in red, roams across the states and into Canada. 

We have been on the road since July 13th and have logged over 9,000 miles on meandering travel across 15 states and two Canadian provinces.  We are now in Tucson, Arizona for family visits and re-provisioning.

We sought glaciers, cool mountain air, breathtaking vistas and winding roads and found them here along the Icefield Parkway, Alberta, Canada.

One of the many charming critters, a chipmunk, we met along the route.

Icefield Parkway, Alberta, Canada

We have some time and good internet now and expect to make a number of retrospective blog postings to re-cap some of our adventures.  While by some comparisons, this road trip may not be considered an epic journey, it has been one filled with stunning landscapes, amusing and fascinating wildlife, interesting people, blue highways, lessons on “roughing it”, and the remarkable wisdom behind the efforts to preserve the beauty and the wonder of the natural world in the national/provincial parks.  

Oh, and one more thing- we are not done yet!