Monthly Archives: September 2012

Phases of Our Trip

People tend to divide their lives into a series of phases, one leading to the next.  Phases are delineated by major progressions in our lives, such as leaving home to start college, moving from one city to another, getting married, having children, changing jobs or becoming a grandparent.  A new phase might also occur due to an unexpected event, such as winning the lottery or the death of a family member.  Some phases we bring upon ourselves with purpose and intent.  Sometimes, new phases are brought upon us due to random chance, the same random chance that has affected the entire universe since it was born 13.7 billion years ago.

Even our trip of approximately 1 year has distinct phases.  We tried to be conscious of each passing phase so we could improve upon the experience to ensure the next phase was even better.  We’re now starting to enter the final phase of our journey and then we’ll return to something that at least resembles normal life.  These final phases have yet to be written.

Here are the phases of our adventure so far.

Phase 1 – Preparing for the Trip
Timeframe – April 2011 to February 2012
Duration – 11 months
Location – Cricket Lane in Union, Kentucky
The day we left Cricket Lane
Description – The year of preparation for this trip was filled with giddy anticipation.  We had talked about going on an extended RV trip for years and finally, we felt the time was right.  Once we made the decision to go, I counted down the days until we would depart.  Every evening, I went to bed dreaming about wandering the country in an RV, hiking and exploring.  I remember getting ready for work with a brochure of an RV on the sink, so I could start the day thinking about our “new home.”  I made a list of the songs that reminded me of the trip.  I never looked forward to anything as much as I did this trip.

In addition to looking forward to the trip, we also spent the year getting ready to go.  We created a task list of about 250 items that had to be done, such as selecting, buying and equipping the RV, buying health care, getting our investments squared away, figuring out how to get mail while on the road, getting last minute doctors checkups, getting the dog shots up to date, etc., etc.

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Tale of Two Cities

Complimentary photo of Timm and Theresa at the Seattle Space Needle

We have purposefully avoided cities on our trip, except when we needed to restock and refuel.  But we recently got to experience two of the largest cities in the Pacific Northwest: Seattle and Vancouver.

As you may recall, we had to dash through Canada to reach Seattle in time for Theresa to catch her flight back to Kentucky to close on our house sale.  I spent the week in Seattle, getting maintenance done on the RV and SUV, buying new tires for the SUV, washing both our vehicles and dogs, etc., while Theresa was away.  The weather in Seattle was fantastic–sunny and warm the entire time–quite unlike its reputation for chilly rain and gloom.  When Theresa returned, we spent a day exploring downtown Seattle, which seemed clean, safe, and bustling with activity.  Seattle is a top contender for where we may want to live after our trip has finished.

As for Vancouver, though it too is a beautiful city, we hadn’t planned on spending any time there due to our tight schedule.  But a bad recommendation by our GPS sent us through the heart of downtown Vancouver on a busy summer Sunday.  It was a 2-hour white-knuckle drive through crowded, narrow city streets in our wide RV with tow car.  Fortunately we made it through the city with no bumps and got to see many parts of Vancouver.

Please check out our photo tour of these two cities:

Seattle
Vancouver

Found: An Ax!

My favorite find of the trip: an ax! I found it at a campsite in Olympic National Park where someone had accidentally left it behind. This whole trip, I’ve wanted an ax for splitting wood and kept telling myself I didn’t really need it because most of the wood we get is in small enough pieces.  However, there were a few campgrounds in the Yukon that gave away free wood and said “BYOA,” Bring Your Own Ax.  We heard people splitting wood all about the campground and I was envious, wishing I had an ax to BYOA.

Yesterday, I FOUND one!  We split a few pieces of wood last night for our campfire.  It’s going to take some practice to get good at hitting the same spot more than once but by the end, I was starting to figure it out.  Timm got into the wood splitting act too.  It was fun!

Here’s Shadow modeling the ax.  He has no opposable thumbs so he didn’t try his paw at wood splitting.

Shadow likes the ax because it means more roasted marshmellows!

Nature’s Infinite Variety

Before we started this trip, I worried that I would get bored of hiking day after day for months.  I worried that the hikes would all start to look the same to me.  After 7 months of hiking, this could not be farther from how I feel.  I love getting out on the trail and seeing what nature has in store for me today.  I look forward to experiencing each hike and letting all my senses explore the path. 

Rialto Beach on the Pacific Ocean in Olympic National Park.

My feet feel the surface of the trail, sometimes soft with pine needles, sometimes scrambling over boulders, sometimes slogging up a gravity defying incline and sometimes walking over cobblestones rounded smooth by an ocean surf.

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Garibaldi’s Black Tusk

Black Tusk

As I mentioned in my last article, we zipped down through Canada in August because we were on a tight schedule for Theresa to catch a flight in Seattle.  Garibaldi Provincial Park was the one place in Canada that we stopped for a few days to explore in more depth.

Garibaldi is a large wilderness park that has very limited access.  There are five main roads that travel to the western edge of the park, and then you have to hike the rest of your way in.

The park is beautiful, filled with tall snow-covered mountains, alpine glaciers, turquoise glacial lakes, and a volcanic remnant called the Black Tusk (shown above).  The monolith is the result of lava filling a volcano’s cinder cone, cooling, and then the cone itself eroded away to reveal a black lava core.

Please check out our photo tour for more on this incredible wilderness park.

Zipping Through Canada

Coast Mountains as seen from the Cassiar Highway

For one of the few times on our trip, we were on a tight schedule.  It was early August, and we had just made a deal to sell our house.  We had to travel from Alaska down through Canada to Seattle in just 10 days, so that Theresa could catch a plane back to Kentucky to close on the sale of our house and move our possessions into storage. 

To avoid storing the RV and boarding the dogs, and to save money, we decided that I wouldn’t return to Kentucky with Theresa.  We expected that Theresa would have to call, text and email me frequently to discuss the move and closing, so it was important that Theresa fly out from somewhere in the USA, since phone and Internet prices are outrageous in Canada.  We could’ve stayed in Alaska, but we had been there for well over a month, and that would’ve been a much longer and more expensive flight for Theresa, so we decided that Seattle was best.

There weren’t quite as many parks to visit on our route from Alaska to Seattle through western British Columbia, as there were on our route north through the Canadian Rockies.  But we realized we’d still have to bypass a bunch of neat parks to make our schedule. 

We calculated that just the driving itself would take 5 days at top speed.  For the most part, the Canadian highways on which we’d be driving were two-lane twisty roads through the mountains.  So we expected we could drive at most 350 miles per day, and that turned out to be correct.  Our plan was to drive for 5 consecutive days down to southern British Columbia, stopping briefly or spending the night in some of the smaller parks, then spend the balance of our time in one large park, which we chose to be Garibaldi Provincial Park.

To be honest, we didn’t like the rush, and we didn’t like being on a schedule.  For most of our trip, we’ve made no reservations and no plans.  We’d wake up, check the weather, see how we felt for the day, then decide whether we’re going to stay and hike in our current location or move on to the next wonderful place. 

But we made the best of this hurried time through Canada, and still managed to enjoy some relaxing hikes and see some beautiful places.  Please check out our photo tour from when we zipped through western Canada:

Stewart-Cassiar Highway
Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park
Sea-to-Sky Highway
Nairn Falls Provincial Park
Brandywine Falls Provincial Park

Wrangell-St. Quietest

Theresa on the porch of a public use cabin

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is massive.  It’s the second largest park in the world.  Six Yellowstone parks could fit within its boundary.  If there was a highway around its perimeter, it would take you 10 hours to drive around the park at 60 miles an hour.

Not only is the park big, it’s remote.  There are only two gravel roads leading partway into the park.  Otherwise visitors must hike or fly in.  With such an isolated, forbidding landscape—25% of which is covered by permanent ice or glaciers—only 60,000 people visit the park each year, a fraction of the four million people that visit Yellowstone.

With so few people and so much land, Wrangell-St. Elias is quiet.  So quiet that it often felt like we had cotton stuffed in our ears.  It was one of the quietest places we’ve ever been.

Wrangell-St. Elias is the ultimate wilderness park.  Please check out our photo tour to see more of this wild wonderland.

Gift #4: Closer to Family and Friends

Earlier, I wrote about the first 3 of 5 gifts this trip has given us.  The first gift is having the luxury of time to explore and meander.  The second gift is being able to take the long way around and discover the road less traveled.  The third gift is the shared passion Timm and I have for this journey.

The fourth gift is we have become emotionally closer to our family and friends.  This was a surprise and the opposite of what one might expect because we are physically very far away from everyone we love.

The Hoctor Family

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Cricket Lane: Sold!

On August 31st, we sold Cricket Lane, our home for the last 10 years.  We really loved that house and shared many, many happy moments there with family and friends.  When we started this RV trip, we put Cricket Lane on the market so that after the trip was over, we will be free to make a new life wherever we wanted, including the option of moving to Little Wolf.

Now that the house is sold, we feel a great sense of relief.  It felt that the house was like a boat anchor we dragged along on our trip.  It was a huge source of worry and required constant attention and activity from the day we left until the day we sold it. Houses don’t do well when left vacant and uncared for and when the owners are on the other side of the country, it’s an even bigger challenge to maintain and sell it remotely.

Cricket Lane

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An American’s View of Canada

We spent over a month in Canada this summer and thoroughly enjoyed our stay.  We felt warmly welcomed and right at home.  Canada and the United States are alike in many ways.  Both countries are thriving democracies and capitalistic societies, most citizens speak English, and the two countries have shared values about right, wrong, and the rule of law.  The border between Canada and the USA is the longest undefended border in the world and a model of peace between all nations.

But we’ve also noticed some obvious and some subtle differences between Canada and the USA that make each country unique.  Note that these are not scientific facts based on research and data.  Like all broad statements, they don’t apply to all Canadians or even to a majority of Canadians.  These are just some things we’ve observed during our limited time in Canada, from our exploration in a small part of a very big country, mostly in National Parks in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon.

A quick disclaimer:  I do not wish to offend any Canadians with my comments.  Also I do not wish to offend any Americans or people from other countries when I talk about how awesome Canada is.  These observations are for entertainment, humor and conversation purposes only.
 

The stunning Wapta Falls in Yoho National Park

Beautiful Land.  Canada is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  Canada has been blessed with majestic mountains, crystal-clear turquoise lakes and rivers, endless forests, and an abundance of glaciers.  Even when we weren’t driving through the parks and just moseying along the regular countryside, the land was often green, pristine and beautiful.
 

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