9 lessons from a travel mistake

It was October 2013 and I was in Charleston, South Carolina, for a three-day speech pathology symposium.  At the end of that third day I was fried and more than ready to return to our hotel.  2013 being pre-Uber, I called for a cab.  “We’ll have a taxi there in five,” the dispatcher told me.  

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A weekend in charming Seldovia, Alaska

Seldovia, Alaska
Chainsaw carving (Artist: Derrick Stanton)

Seldovia isn’t on an island, but it might as well be—it’s practically surrounded by water, it can only be reached by plane or boat, and its single main street is lined with small businesses owned by locals, with nary a fast food joint to be found.  The minute we stepped off the boat, I felt myself relaxing into the place.  We were in the hands of the locals, and the stresses of daily life were behind us.  There was no place to be and nothing urgent to attend to.  The only thing missing was my flip flops (it was too chilly); otherwise, the trip was perfect.

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Katmai National Park: Brooks Camp bear jams

What they are, and how to survive ’em

Brooks Camp, bears at the Point
Bears at the Point, (probably) unaware of the disruption they’re causing
“Point, you’re going to want to retreat; Point, you need to retreat.”

During the day, park rangers stood sentry at various places throughout Brooks Camp, monitoring bear activity and sharing details with one another via radio.  We were on the Lower River Platform, and the ranger had his binoculars trained on a spot across the Brooks River known as the Point.  He was letting his counterpart know that a bear was headed their way.

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Barrow (Utqiaġvik), Alaska: How to get there, when to go, and other travel tips

Barrow, Alaska from the plane

The first leg of our trip to Utqiaġvik was a 100-minute flight to the oil town of Deadhorse.  Barely a dot on the map, Deadhorse is one of three cities above the Arctic Circle to which Alaska Airlines flies, the other two being Kotzebue and Utqiaġvik (formerly known as Barrow).

We celebrated when we landed; we’d left Anchorage at 7:39 that Saturday morning, and now, not even 2 hours later, we were above the Arctic Circle!  The plane sat on the runway for a few minutes, allowing us time to revel in this knowledge.  A few people disembarked the plane and others got on; then the pilot made his usual pre-flight announcements, saying that we were “number one for take off.”  This made us laugh—we were the only commercial plane in the airport.  It wasn’t long before we were back in the air, and Utqiaġvik was just a short flight northwest along the coastline.

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Solitude, scenery, and seafood: The benefits and downsides of Camino del Norte

Isolated stretch of Camino del Norte trail with a view of the North Atlantic

 

There are numerous Camino routes throughout Europe, including Camino Francés, the most popular walk and the one featured in a favorite movie of ours, The Way.  So why, then, did we choose to walk one of the lesser known routes, Camino del Norte?

We had a particular vision for what we wanted in our Camino experience, and Dale did some serious homework to find the trail that most matched that vision:

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Camino del Norte guides, maps, and other resources

 

I experienced a great deal of anxiety while walking the Camino, and much of it was centered around getting lost.  A part of me feared that we would disappear into the wilderness of northern Spain, licking the peanut dust off our empty snack bags to survive.

Never mind that Camino del Norte is not that wild; I was neurotic about having the right resources during our journey.

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Seward, Alaska: Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise (part one)

Glacial ice floating in the Holgate Arm

People from all over the world come to Seward to explore Alaska’s waters on a tour boat.  Last week, we joined the crowd.

Yes, it’s touristy, but such attractions are often popular for a reason (because they’re awesome), and a boat excursion out of Seward is no exception.

It’s got glaciers.

It’s got pristine waters.

It’s got virgin forest and rocky islands and wildlife galore.

So even though we consider ourselves Alaskans now, we’re still wide-eyed newcomers on the inside, and we felt no shame in going for a boat ride with a bunch of tourists.

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The Iditarod: Alaska’s “Last Great Race”

The Iditarod wrapped up yesterday, with the last few mushers trickling into Nome.  Iditarod 2017 may go down as one of the greatest races of all time.  It was fast, with the top four mushers coming in under what was the standing speed record.  And the champion, Mitch Seavey, shattered that record (set by his son Dallas only a year ago) while also becoming the oldest person ever to win the Iditarod.

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Denali National Park: Hiking the colorful Alaskan tundra

Tips for hiking in Denali National Park

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The view at the end of the Alpine Trail

This is one in a series of articles about our trip to Denali National Park.


We expected Denali’s alpine landscape to be bleak and monochromatic.  After all, tundra is supposed to be a vast, perpetual wasteland, right?

Wrong.

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