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?