the value of being uncomfortable, homeless and alone

Denali is special,” the Park Ranger explains.

She is smartly dressed in her khaki green uniform and bubbling forth with information.

Not only is Denali a National Park but it is also a Wildlife Preserve. This means that aside from a handful of maintained trails and the one main road that leads 92 miles into the park, the remaining 6 million acres is untouched wilderness. No motorized vehicles or even power tools are allowed off of the main road. A recent suspension bridge repair was completed with the use of sled dogs and hand tools.

Photo: Triple Lakes Trail Suspension Bridge

When people choose to hike the backcountry here we don’t offer much in the way of route advice. We want each person to have their own experience, their own interaction with the wilderness and as a result, their impact is varied and leaves minimal damage to the vegetation and to the wildlife. To be honest, it can be a very humbling experience to be dropped off by a park bus and set out on a hike without a path to guide you. Being uncomfortable is a good thing. We want you to be reminded that as humans we are the visitors, Denali does not belong to any one of us.”

UNCOMFORTABLE

I discover that she is right. Being here in Denali and stepping out into the wilderness is humbling. I’ve experienced equal parts respect and reverence, discomfort and grand appreciation. On my end, the discomfort is due to my desire to embrace the wilderness, but not necessarily the proximity to animals (mainly grizzlies) which I don’t typically share my space with. It’s not an unusual tradeoff (experiencing something new in exchange for facing a fear), just one where the stakes seem slightly more elevated. Yet the desired effect is achieved—I don’t feel at home here. I am the outsider trespassing on land that is not my own.

Photo: Savage River Loop Trail

As our time in Denali unfolds, I find myself enjoying more and worrying less. My routine now involves grabbing bear spray before heading out the door and my vocabulary has widened to include the ranger suggested, “Hey bear!” alert call as I move through the trees. I venture out to hike the Mount Healy Overlook trail with Ashlyn and three other friends, ascending over 1,600 feet to overlook the park without Trent’s protective presence. It feels like a double victory to return home both alive and successful in our hike. Continue reading “the value of being uncomfortable, homeless and alone”

our Mecca | the Alaska Hwy

Photo credit: Madison Sloan

As our little caravan pushes northward, I am settling into a predictable rhythm:

 

Wake up.

Eat breakfast.

Workout.

Prep the RV for travel.

Hit the road between 10 and 11.

Chat with our traveling friends (the Sloans) via walkie-talkie about road conditions, a joke, riddle or perhaps a verse of the day.

Help the kids with school in the car.

Watch for animals.

Pause for breathtaking vistas, overlooks, lakes and towering mountain ranges.

Call out animal sightings (black bear, moose, wood buffalo, and rock sheep) over the walkies.

Stop for a potty and lunch break.

Spy additional animals.

See more spectacular views.

Discuss where to stop for the night.

Find a pullout and set up house.

Cook dinner.

Prep lunches for the next day.

Pull down the shades to block out the sun.

Head to bed.

Wake up.

((Repeat))

 

We are currently on day six of this routine. Our hair is greasy. My laundry basket is plump and we are ready for a solid 24 hours without movement. Yet, despite the fervent pace of our travels, we’ve been blessed by several beautiful pauses:

Continue reading “our Mecca | the Alaska Hwy”

something strange, something new, something big, something blue

Back in January, we attended a Fulltime Families Retreat in Southern California. One evening, we invited the Sloan family over to get to know them better. Part of our conversation included upcoming summer destinations. They planned to visit the East Coast and our plans included Alaska.

SOMETHING FUNNY

The next morning the Sloan’s informed us that their summer plans had changed during the night—they now planned to go to Alaska with us! Surprisingly, this isn’t that unusual in our lifestyle. You meet people. You like them. You travel with them. But it is funny to take myself out of the fulltime travel mindset and try to picture a scenario like this happening. You invite someone new to the area over for lunch after church. You talk about your upcoming plans for a family vacation to Florida. The following Sunday they announce surprise: they’ve booked the same flight and plan to tag along! I can’t imagine that ever happening, yet it does when you live your life on the road and get the freedom to choose your neighbors and travel companions.

Photo: Our Alaska travel buddies

We couldn’t be more thrilled to be traveling to Alaska with the Sloans. Besides the fact that we all get along great, Jeff has been to Alaska on several occasions. He has a wealth of knowledge and handy skills in case we run into any trouble with our RV. Continue reading “something strange, something new, something big, something blue”

toward Alaska | Banff National Park

I thought I knew what beauty was. We are just days into our trip to Alaska and already I’ve had to rewrite that page in my mind.

Photo: Dry Gulch Campground just South of Banff

COMPLETELY CONFIDENT

Banff is dripping with the dignity of royalty, wrapped in her glacial blanket of majestic wonder and completely confident. With each turn of the road, we are surprised by her splendor and sure that we have now seen the best she has to offer. Yet, each outing outdoes the one before and the auspicious* adventure continues in an unabashed fashion.

Water filled with glacial runoff permits lake colors too vibrant to accurately describe.

Photo: Lake Louise, Alberta
Photo: Moraine Lake, Alberta

Placid pools reflect snow-cloaked mountaintops.

Photo: Bow Lake, Alberta

Continue reading “toward Alaska | Banff National Park”

Alaska bound | a quick recap

Hello dear reader! Remember me? I used to write on this blog a tad bit more often than once a month. I bet you thought we got lost somewhere on the side of a lonely highway with no Internet.

Good news, we are not lost, we know exactly where we are!

Allow me to give you a quick recap of the last few months and bring you up to speed on our current adventure: Alaska! (Heads up: every link in this post will bring you to a corresponding YouTube video.)

Our February exit out of Southern California into the Pacific Northwest allowed us to successfully catch winter’s tail and enjoy the dramatic contrast between Death Valley and Northern Idaho. Trent vlogged our interaction within the two beautifully opposing climates of Death Valley and Northern Idaho.

For the last four months, we’ve tucked ourselves into the folds of the Idaho mountains and breathed the pine scent deep into our lungs.

Continue reading “Alaska bound | a quick recap”