Thursday, September 11, 2014

New Beginnings

As many of you know, I am moving on and creating a new blog.  It is finally up and running and I'd love it if you'd stop by and check it out! You can find it here…

This is our new beginning.  Cody, Specks, and myself are living in our most isolated destination yet. Life is full of new adventures.  Join us on one! 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The End of My Alaskan Adventure

Well, I suppose this is the end.  I've kept this blog for two years and chronicled our life and adventures living in Alaska.  It was an incredible experience that I wouldn't trade for the world. To close out this blog I just wanted to show you some of my favorite parts of Alaska. Here it goes...

1.) The view from my front porch.  There was nothing more peaceful that waking up, walking outside with a coffee, listening to the eagles, and watching the sunrise.

2.) The people. We met some truly incredible friends in Alaska and they ultimately turned in to family.  These people helped us out whenever they could and kept us sane.  We love them all so much!

3.) The outdoor recreation.  I loved getting to go exploring whenever I wanted.  Juneau had thousands of trail miles to explore and I tried to make the most of it every chance I got.

With every end, there is a new beginning though. Cody, Specks, and I are heading to our new home in Michigan tomorrow.  I start teaching in two weeks (Michigan schools don't start until after Labor Day) and couldn't be more ecstatic. We will always have a little Alaska in our hearts.  Hopefully we will make it back there one day to do more exploring and adventuring.

To close out, I would like to encourage you all to stay tuned for one last post.  I will be starting a new blog that is less "location specific" and it will focus on minimalist living, teaching, vegetarian cooking, and general lifestyle topics.  I have loved writing for all of you and I encourage you to go visit the new blog.  I promise that I'll be back to post the link sometime this week :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Driving The ALCAN: The End

Temperature: 90°F-80°F
Weather: Warm, Stormy
Mileage: 2,441 miles
Lodging: Various

Our last days of driving were LONG.  We were no longer on the actual ALCAN and were having to navigate through lots of cities, towns, and even some teeny mountain villages.  If anyone is interested in our actual route, feel free to message me or leave a comment and I can post it. 

Anyway, we entered the US at the Babb, MT border site. It was incredible scenic! If you are entering in the western US this isn't a bad place to do it.  We had very short lines and great views.  Cody and I must have looked very non-suspicious too because the border patrol wasn't concerned with asking us many questions.  There were also some super scenic little towns lining the border that were worth stopping at to snap some fun pictures. 

As the trip went on we cruised through North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and then headed into Michigan's UP.  The UP (Upper Peninsula) was probably one of my favorite places that we drove through in the states.  It is incredibly beautiful up there.  The weather was great and there are views of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, both look like oceans in their own right.  Plus, the Porcupine Mountains and places like Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore are in the UP and make for some incredible views.  Unfortunately, we hit some nasty storms (tornado sirens were ringing) and we didn't get to spend as much time here as we wanted too. 

Finally, we made it to out destination! We stayed a few days at my dads house in Michigan and then went on a tour of the Midwest to visit a bunch of our other family (basically whoever lived in a 7hour radius).  It's been a great month-long adventure and I am so happy that we got to experience the US and Canada in this incredible way. 

Where is your favorite US vacation spot?
Have you ever visited the UP?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Driving The ALCAN: British Columbia and Dawson Creek, BC

Temperature: 70°F-60°F
Weather: Sunny, Warm
Mileage: 281miles
Lodging: The George Dawson Inn

The next leg of our trek took us through a chunk of British Columbia and we eventually ended our day in Dawson Creek, BC.  Dawson Creek is also known as "Mile 0" of the Alaska (ALCAN) Highway.  Somehow, this fact slipped my mind and I didn't get a picture of the famous mile-marker! Doh! 

I did manage to snap some other great pictures though! The scenery really started to change once we got farther into British Columbia.  Our day started out with HUGE mountains, those gradually changed into rolling hills and farmland though.  I wouldn't say that this part of our trip was the most scenic by any means.  It was a very easy and stress-free leg of the trip though.  Towns and amenities were much more frequent, which gave us a little bit of peace.  The terrain was also incredibly easy, as most of it was relatively flat.  

Dawson Creek was a nice little town to stay in for the night.  I could definitely see why people like to visit this famous city on their ALCAN trip.  While it may not have been my favorite leg of the trip, it was certainly a relaxing part of it. I recommend staying the night in Dawson Creek, getting some tasty food delivered, and relaxing/refueling for your other days of driving.  It's a great spot to fit in a day of r&r! 

Do you ever take a "rest day" on big trips? 
Have you ever visited Dawson Creek, BC? 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Driving the ALCAN: Yukon and British Columbia

Temperature: 60°F-40°F

Weather: Scattered Showers, Cool
Mileage: 590miles
Lodging: Ramada Inn Fort Nelson, BC

We began to move from the Yukon Territory into British Columbia as our trip progressed.  The transition area between these two territories was beautiful.  The days we spent in this area were my favorite in terms of scenery and wildlife viewing.  We saw grizzlies, elk, moose, bison, and caribou.  The moose was my favorite animal to see on our trip.  They are so statuesque.  We saw our first moose, an adult male, just bathing himself in a roadside pool.  We were able to pull over and watch him splash around for quite some time.

A little further down the road we saw a sign warning us of wildlife on the road.  Within minutes we were at a standstill, stuck in a traffic jam of bison! There was an entire herd of bison on the road in more than one spot.  These huge animals would do some serious damage to cars so this stretch of road had to be driven very cautiously.  Safety is key on the ALCAN!

The roads were some of the most remote that we traveled on the entire trip.  There is a stretch of the ALCAN between Whitehorse, YT and Fort Nelson, BC that is incredibly isolated.  We saw very few cars and virtually no hotels, stores, or other signs of civilization until we approached the oilfields outside of Fort Nelson. We filled our gas tank at every station we saw (and carried a spare 5 gallon gas can as a precaution). Even with these precautions though we pulled into multiple stations, marked simply by signs pointing down dirt roads, and found them long closed.

My biggest pieces of advice on this stretch of road is drive cautiously, keep your gas tank full, plan on camping, and take lots of pictures!! It was a beautiful and isolated stretch of road.  But, it was also a wonderful place to chat with locals and the roadside was littered with scenic pull-offs.  One of my favorite areas to pull into was the Muncho Lake area.  The lake was beautiful and I highly recommend checking out the camping here if you are ever in the area and looking for adventure!

This stretch of driving was extremely incredible. We did some serious wildlife viewing, enjoyed some isolated driving, met some kind travelers, and even had a kindly man pay for our gas! The area between Whitehorse and Fort Nelson could be a week long vacation on its own.  Cody and I hope to take a trip back to this area one day and really spend some time exploring.

Have you ever visited any of these locations?
Would you take a long road trip with your SO?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Driving The ALCAN: Yukon Territory

Temperature: 80°F-40°F
Weather: Sunny, Breezy 
Mileage: 244miles + mileage from ferry ride
Lodging: Wolf Creek Campground

Our first official day of driving had us traveling from Haines, AK to Whitehorse, YT.  It was beautiful!

We crossed the Canadian Border just outside of Haines.  I was worried about crossing the border, as I hadn't ever done it (at least not in the last ten years).  The border at Haines was EASY though.  It was just one officer checking passports.  We waited less than two minutes, behind the only other car on the road.  The officer was super kind to Specks, offering him a pat on the head and some kind words.

Once over the border we were cruising through the Yukon Territory, heading towards Whitehorse. The drive was great.  There were hardly any other cars on the road so we could stop whenever we saw something beautiful or scenic.  We saw a couple of grizzlies on our first day on the road, which was mighty surprising.  They were just loping across the road, unconcerned with cars. We also saw some HUGE ranches in the Canadian Rockies.  It was very neat to see horses and cows hanging by the road.

Keeping up with mph vs. kmh was probably one of my biggest challenges that first day. Gas conversions had me a little baffled too.  Canadian gas, particularly in the Yukon, was nearly $6/gallon.  We didn't notice the gas prices until we got the final bill for our first fill-up though because of the conversion system.  We were mighty surprised at the price! After a couple of days though I got the hang of the conversions and it all seemed a little easier.

As we approached the city of Whitehorse we began calling hotels.  We assumed that finding Canadian hotels would be similar to finding US hotels…we were VERY wrong.  There was a serious lack of pet-friendly hotels and rooms were sold out weeks in advance.  We decided that camping would be our best bet after calling around a bit and we ended up staying at a neat little campground outside the city.

Wolf Creek Campground was a beautiful little spot in the woods, right along a rushing creek.  We were the only people there in a tent (at least that we could see) but the sites were clean and nice.  I assume the wildlife was a big deterrent for tent campers, we didn't have any wildlife problems though.  Tent camping in bear country requires certain precautions, we just made sure to take them.

The first day of driving was truly beautiful and adventurous. My main tips for traveling in the Yukon Territory are: get familiar with speed and gas conversions, fill up your gas tank often, plan your lodging far in advance, drive carefully to avoid wildlife, and take the time to enjoy the incredible scenery.  The Yukon was probably the most beautiful place I'd ever visited.  Something about it was just magical.  I was so happy that we chose to travel only a short distance that first day.  Taking our time and enjoying the beauty was well worth it in the end.

Have you ever visited the Yukon Territory?
Would you go camping in serious bear country? 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Driving The ALCAN: Ferrying A Car

Hey, folks! I am checking in from a little over halfway into our trip.  I am currently planted in Montana for a day of much needed rest.  I want to recap each part of our trip through pictures, stories, and tips.  Driving the ALCAN isn't something that most people do in their lifetime.  However, it is something very typical of people moving to/from Alaska.  So, here a little bit of our story from Day One

The first day of our trip started off with a 3:30am wakeup call.  Cody and I had to be at the ferry terminal by 5:00am in order to load our car onto the car deck of the boat.  The ferry was an important part of our trip because it is the only way to transport a car in/out of Juneau.  We had decided to ferry ourselves to Haines, AK.  Haines is a small community north of Juneau that is connected to the road system via the Haines Highway.  

Since the trip was only a few hours we parked our car and Specks (pets are required to stay in your car) below deck and headed up to the solarium that each boat provides.  The ferries each have solarium decks with big outdoor lounge chairs and heater vents (even though you are still outside).  The solarium is also an ideal place to pitch a tent for those traveling farther because you can camp just outside the awning and still be near the heaters. 

The sun came out as soon as we got about an hour away from Juneau, which was no surprise.  We then spent the morning sipping coffee and relaxing on the deck of the boat.  Part way through the journey we opted for food, I recommend just using the cafeteria, as the ferry restaurant seemed overpriced and only has mediocre food (in my experience). After some breakfast and relaxation the boat was pulling into port in Haines.  The ferry terminal in Haines is outside of town, thankfully the roads are very well marked leaving the terminal so we were able to get on our way quickly.  

The ferry trip lasts roughly 4hours and costs $150 for two people, one car, and one pet. There are tons of ferry ports in SE Alaska, Canada, and Washington.  I suggest checking out the Alaska Marine Highway website for more information. 

The Alaska Marine Highway ferries are a super fun way to travel and I highly recommend trying it out sometime.  Lower 48er's can jump on the boat in Bellingham, WA and spend a week or two combing the coasts of Alaska.  The prices are cheap and you have the option of purchasing a room.  However, people choosing not purchase a room are welcome to pitch tents, sleep in the movie theatre, or catch some rest in one of the "quiet lounges." Seriously, check out the AMHS sometime! 

To be continued...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Vegetarian Camping Meals

Our upcoming trip has required lots of planning.  One of the major planning aspects to a road trip, especially one lasting two weeks, is the meal planning.  Cody and I used lots of websites, personal experiences, and information passed on from other travelers to plan our meals.  This took some extra planning on my part due to my vegetarian lifestyle.  Many "easy" camp meals include meat.  We used these three links to help do a lot of our planning (link 1 link 2 link 3).  Check them out! You can also check out my list below.  Anything in italics is something that is NOT vegetarian and specifically packed for Cody. Feel free to throw in any "no-cook" suggestions! We still have one day before we depart on our ALCAN Highway adventure!

Breakfast Meals
·      Cereal
·      Almond Milk
·      Poptarts/Breakfast Bars
·      Granola
Lunch Meals
·      Bread
·      Cheese Slices
·      Salad Mix
·      Peanut Butter
·      Jelly
Dinner Meals
·      MRE’s
·      Turkey/Salmon Jerky
·      Instant Soup Mix
·      Crackers/ Pita and Hummus
·      Oranges
·      Apples
·      Mixed Nuts
·      Fruit Cups
·      Pro Bar’s
·      Sweet Potato Chips
·      V8 Juice
·      Green Tea
·      Instant Coffee
·      Non-Dairy Creamer
·      Water Jug

Do you have any other meal suggestions?
What is your favorite camping meal?

Moving & Shipping To Alaska

Shipping in Alaska, particularly when moving, can be daunting.  If you are one the lucky Alaskans who lives off of the road system you will find yourself with limited options.  Personally, I've pursued two of these crazy moving options and thought that I would share my opinions on each.

1.) SELL EVERYTHING! The first time that Cody and I moved from Illinois to Alaska we sold (basically) all of our belongings. If it didn't fit in our car, we got rid of it.  This ended up being a great option for a couple of recent college grads.  We didn't have any "nice" or expensive stuff to begin with so selling all of our crummy college furniture was great.  It also made us some good moving money to put towards buying new stuff when we reached our destination.  In the short-term this was probably the cheaper option.  We did have sink quite a bit of money into household items down the road though. We also had to ship our car (via ferry) and that cost over $1,000 so the costs add up quickly either way.

Packing up our car for the move to Juneau. 
2.)SHIP, SHIP, SHIP! This time around we are shipping anything that can fit in 18gallon totes.  It costs around $2.00/lb to ship stuff in the totes but it is worth it for some of our valuable items (or sentimental stuff).  We are mainly shipping clothes, books, movies, small kitchen appliances, home decor items, and a few other miscellaneous things.  It will end up taking us about 10 totes and 10 pre-paid priority mail boxes to ship everything we want.  Frankly, it's a bit expensive but it saves us having to sink a ton of money into new things when we get to our new house.

Three out of the ten totes that we shipped to the lower 48. 
Both are great options when considering a move to (or from) Alaska.  Moving to Alaska is never going to be "easy" by moving standards.  That doesn't mean that it has to be completely daunting though! Planning and research are your best friends when it comes to shipping.  I found that my local post office (shout out to the Douglas, AK office) was extremely helpful.  For example, I had NEVER heard of Media Mail before talking over options with a local postal worker.  Media Mail is a great option for shipping books, movies, or music and it only costs .50/lb! It saved me over $100 in shipping costs.  Definitely rely on others who have done the move before and do lots of research.  It'll be a life and money saver in the long run :)

What other questions do you have about Alaskan shipping?
Are there any "moving to Alaska" type posts that you'd like to read?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Illinoisans in Alaska

The last month has been filled with exciting visitors! Cody's parents visited us earlier in the month and my mom just left our house a few days ago.  It has been a busy and family-filled time here in Juneau.

Cody's parents and his little brother visited Alaska for the very first time!  They had a blast going to visit Mendenhall Glacier, hiking around town, zip-lining, and checking out the local cuisine. Cody's brother and I even climbed a mountain together one day!  Unfortunately, the weather was terrible the entire time they were in town.  Rainy and cold every day.  They were troopers though and ended up having a really fun time. It was so much fun to show them our home.

My mom and her boyfriend Mark were in town for a fun visit a few weeks after Cody's family.  It was so much fun! We did a super cool hike up into the alpine meadows of a local mountain, ate fresh crab, relaxed on the beach, and celebrated the 4th of July with a big group of friends. It was such a cool week.  We got to take them on some really unique adventures and I was super sad to see them leave!

Now that our visits are over for the summer we are really focusing on the big move.  We are down into the single digit days before we officially leave Juneau. So, I am writing this post while I shove countless pairs of pants, shoes, and home decor items into shipping totes.  Stay tuned for more information about the big move! :)

Has your family ever visited you in a unique place?
Where is your favorite vacation spot?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Beaver Island, MI

Cody and I have officially decided on a location for next year…we're moving to Beaver Island!

Photo courtesy of
I am guessing that some most of you are wondering where in the world Beaver Island is located. It's a fair question.  I spent a significant portion of my life in Michigan and I've never been there.  But, when a job opening for a primary school teacher popped up in my search, I applied.  Then, I interviewed and was offered the job only a couple of hours later. Cody and I had to decide relatively quickly, in the end it seemed to be the best fit for both of our lifestyles and our relationship. Oh, wait, you were wondering where Beaver Island was…

Photo courtesy of
Yup, it's in the middle of Lake Michigan…not even close to being on the road system.  I realize that this probably seems a little bit kooky to some people.  I mean, we're moving from one isolated community to another one. But, we are super excited about Beaver Island.  Here are some fun facts…

1.) The island boasts about 650 year round residents.
2.) There are SEVEN inland lakes on this tiny island.
3.) Access to the island is possible through ferries and airplanes.
4.) This island was once a Mormon kingdom (don't worry, that was a long time ago).
5.) There is a large Irish population on the island and there's always a huge St. Patty's celebration.
6.) There are also a ton of festivals dedicated to biking, water sports, music, and food.
7.) It is an outdoorsy place.  There's hiking, biking, fishing, boating, and a bunch of winter sports too!

Photo courtesy of
I am super excited about the next year of our lives.  We are going to get to have another amazing adventure, all while being only a few hours from our families.  Hopefully, Beaver Island will be a neat fit for Cody and I and we will have an amazing adventure.  Here's to hoping! :)

Have you ever heard of Beaver Island?
Would you consider living on an island? 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

We're Moving To…Michigan!

The cat is out of the bag!! It's official folks. Our ferry tickets are purchased, our trip planning has begun, and the wait is finally over.  Now to pack up our house...

Honestly, I received some seriously incredible job offers from schools here in Alaska, but I just couldn't bring myself to take any of them.  I love Alaska and everything about it.  However, Alaska was always MY adventure.  When I first met Cody he was in the process of moving to Florida.  He changed his plans and decided to stay local to be with me, fast forward eight months and I had accepted a job in Alaska.  While he has loved Alaska, it has put many aspects of his life on hold. He had to give up music (he was a touring musician when we met) and college.  Both of these he will be immersing himself in as soon as we get to Michigan.  So, we will be moving so that he can get back on track and we can be closer to our family. I think it is going to be the best thing for both of us.

We will be living in the Saugatuck-area of Michigan.  It is truly one of my most favorite places in the world.  It is an artists haven on the western shore of the state.  As a child, I vacationed in this area every summer. Then, last year my dad retired to the area to live year-round.  We are planning on staying with him until we find a place that suits our needs (i.e. pet friendly and enough room for Cody's drum kit). I couldn't be more excited at the prospect of living in my childhood vacation haven!

It's been an incredible journey and I couldn't ask for anything more from Alaska.  Stay tuned to the blog for updates! Cody and I will be taking 15 days to camp our way through Canada in July and we will have a few more adventures in the mean time.  I plan to document every aspect of our journey :)

Have you ever visited western Michigan?
What is your favorite road trip to take?