Kayaking Glacier Bay and/or Inside Passage

OK – call me crazy. We just got back from three years on our bikes and now our dreams are running amok yet again…

We’re hoping to make a kayak trip in Alaska a reality for next summer – but aren’t sure where to turn for info and help planning. If you have any contacts who could maybe help us make this happen, please send their contact information my way!

At this point, we are toying with Glacier Bay and/or the Inside Passage. Our first thought was spending the whole summer in Glacier Bay, but I’m hearing it’s pretty small for eight weeks. Someone suggested maybe the Inside Passage.

We are still in the very, very beginning stages of exploring this one, but would welcome any ideas/thoughts/contact info you may have! Thanks!

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Hidden Gems

Travel bloggers around the world are uniting to create one big ol’ list jam-packed with information about the world’s best hidden secrets. I am honored to add these three gems of my own.

The Arctic tundra

I’ve tried to put my finger on exactly what I liked so much about the tundra, but that’s hard to do. Was it the herds of caribou grazing in the swampy fields filled with arctic grasses swaying in the wind? Or the mile upon mile of unbroken tundra stretching as far as the eye can see? Or the sun shining relentlessly upon our tent at 2:00 in the morning? Or the musk ox wandering slowly? Or the spectacular Brooks Range rising dramatically before us?

Caribou in the tundra

arctic flowers

I think what impressed me so much about the Arctic tundra was the very fact that it challenged so many facts I’ve always revolved my life around. Every single day of my life I knew the sun would come up in the morning – and set at night. But in the arctic, that’s not necessarily true. In the summer (when we were there) the sun never leaves the sky. In the winter, the sun never rises. That’s a whole new set of facts thrown at me – and one that left my brain all topsy-turvy and spun around.

Camp by frozen lake

In the tundra trees never grow. The four of us have grown so accustomed to camping hidden amongst a grove of trees that the tundra took us by surprise. There was not a one – seriously! Not even one tree! When we were tired and ready to set up our tent, we simply pulled off the side of the road and camped. We made no effort to hide – we couldn’t have even if we had wanted to.

cycling the tundra

in the tundra

And then of course there were the caribou. Or reindeer as I preferred to call them. This is Santa’s playground, and I kept an eye out for Rudolf. Unfortunately, I never saw him. I think Santa may have had him hidden away.

On top Atigun Pass in Brooks Range

The Sonora River Valley in Mexico

“Why don’t you ride through the Sonora River valley?” a cyclist we met on the side of the road in Mexico asked. “I just came through there and it was great!”

The Sonora River valley? Where is that?

The tiny road snaking alongside the Sonora River between Douglas, Arizona and Hermosillo, Mexico in the Mexican state of Sonora wasn’t even on our map. In Google Maps online, you have to zoom in nearly full-on before you even see the towns – but the road still doesn’t show up. Even so, it was a delight to cycle like we had never found before.

Sonora River

Sonora River Valley

All along the valley, we cycled through small, historic towns every 15 or 20 kilometers. The people had smiles ready and beers in their hands. They invited us to lunch and to spend an afternoon in a hot spring. We were welcomed by hundreds of cattle ranchers at their annual meeting, party, and rodeo. We spent a night with one of those backcountry Mexican hicks like you see in the movies – but this one was real. In the morning, he caught a raccoon for his lunch.

Ernesto

Small town life

With exotic names like Aconchi, Banamichi, and Bacoachi, the towns were nothing but a sheer delight. Each pueblo revolved around a central plaza with an old church dating back to the 1500′s. The villages were clean and cheery places filled with friendly people just waiting for a family of cyclists to come passing through.

Sonora River Valley

Sonora River Valley

Tolu, Colombia

It was one of those days. Hot. Sticky, The humidity level was about as high as the space shuttle. We were traveling through the northern plains of Colombia dreaming of the Andes – beautiful mountain views, cooler temperatures, and interesting scenery. Not this drab, boring, grassy plain by the ocean.

We pulled in to Tolu looking for a bed and a shower. A bit of food would be nice too. We didn’t expect the full blown Colombian beach resort or sloths in the trees or delicious street food or bicycles built for 15. We quickly fell in love with the town and stayed five days.

Our first stop in town was the central park. John and the boys stayed with the bikes while I went out in search of a hotel. When I returned a few minutes later, I found them all standing under a massive tree in the middle of the park, craning their necks gazing into the tree. “A sloth, Mom!” Daryl cried. “Come look!”

Looking for sloths

sloth

In Costa Rica we had wanted to see sloths – I had never seen one in the wild before – so we paid a visit to the much touristed Manuel Antonio National Park where sloths abound. We saw them – way up high in the trees looking like a dark lump. And now, here they were – four of them – just above our heads. I decided I liked Tolu.

We spent five days in the resort – just couldn’t seem to pull ourselves away. Every night we tried different varieties of street food and watched all the bicycles ply the streets. Bicycles built for one, two, three, six, and twelve. Huge caravans of bikes of every size and variety parading around town each night – riders laughing and shouting and having the time of their lives.

street food

bicycle built for 6

During the day, we hung out in the water, relaxing and talking with Colombians who had come for the weekend. We ate ice cream. And we sat under the tree and watched sloths. Tolu was nothing more than heaven on earth.

tolu, colombia

 
Many thanks to both TravellingTwo and TravelMamas for nominating me for the project!

In order to continue the chain of discovering wonderful, hidden gems, I get to nominate others to participate. Here they are!

The Path Less Pedaled – A couple who sold all their belongings and took off on their bikes to discover the world

Al Humphreys – Al spent four years biking around the world with very little money, but he had great adventures!

The McFerrin Family – This family of five is now out cycling Latin America

The Miller Family – A family with four kids who aren’t afraid to jump on their bikes and take off to Europe or Africa or…

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

A summary of our journey

I’ve been working on getting all my old newsletters online along with slide shows for each one – it’s been a massive task!  I am now almost completely done – only the very most recent one is left.  So – for those of you who haven’t been with us from the beginning, I hope this can give you an idea of what we’ve been up to these past 17 months!

Ready for takeoff:  June 6, 2008

Dalton Highway in Alaska: June 28, 2008

Alaska Highway: August 3, 2008

Crossing into mainland USA: September 10, 2008

In Montana, Wyoming, and Utah: October 17, 2008

Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico: November 19, 2008

Texas:  December 24, 2008

Northern Mexico: January 25, 2009

Mexico: February 21, 2009

Yucatan Peninsula: March 14, 2009

Belize, Guatemala, & Honduras: April 15, 2009

Honduras: May 13, 2009

Nicaragua & Costa Rica: June 25, 2009

Costa Rica & Panama: July 21, 2009

Made it to South America: August 16, 2009

In the Colombian Andes: September 18, 2009

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Newsletter – Cycling the Alaska Highway

August 3, 2008

Cycling past bison

There were huge herds of bison on the side of the road in British Columbia. We were amazed!

Oh gosh – what a trip! I mean, WHAT A TRIP! This last segment of cycling the Alaska Highway from Watson Lake to Fort Nelson has been, bar none, the most incredible bike tour imaginable. 330 miles of nothing but forest, mountains, bears, bison, sheep, and caribou… Wow!

Cycling the Alaska Highway has been a wonderful experience for us. We’ve seen more wildlife then we ever dreamed and have thoroughly enjoyed the area.

The Alaska Highway was built back in 1942 after the attack on Pearl Harbor. At that time we had no land connection to Alaska; it was almost completely indefensible from Japanese attack. In eight frantic months, a 1,422-mile crude supply road was built connecting Dawson Creek, British Columbia with Fairbanks, Alaska.

For years, the highway was little more than a dirt track cut into the mountains, but it’s been upgraded considerably since then. We’ve enjoyed a relatively smooth, paved surface the whole way, and yet we’ve still found plenty of adventure in these hills!

Stone sheep

Davy with a Stone sheep. They like to come to the road to lick the salt.

Along the Alaska Highway we’ve found small towns spaced every 250 miles or so. Back when they were building the highway, the Army established camps to house the workers – and those camps have now become permanent settlements.

For us, those settlements represent food sources, and they are the only places we find grocery stores. As we pull out of each town, my trailer is laden with food, and I’m riding slow and heavy. By the time we arrive in the next town, however, my trailer is next to empty and I’m flying over the road!

Although I can whole-heartedly recommend you travel the entire Alaska Highway, if you can only do a small portion, the segment passing through the northern Rockies from Watson Lake to Fort Nelson is the THE segment to choose. It seemed like we encountered yet another beast or incredible view with each twist in the road for the entire 330 miles. By the time we arrived in Fort Nelson, my mind was most definitely on stimulation overload!

Alaska Highway

The Alaska Highway is nothing more than a ribbon of road cut through the forests.

We saw a couple herds of wild buffalo lounging beside the highway, Stone sheep in the middle of the road, caribou grazing, deer heading for the forest, beavers swimming in lakes, and more than enough bears to last us quite a while. I have to say it’s an interesting experience being out there in the wild as just another animal in the mix.

All four of us are holding up well, although we would really like to slow down a bit. We’ve been putting in longer-than-usual days in our push to get south by winter. We’ve also been driven by the long distances on the Alaska Highway, but that issue will be resolved after one more stretch. After another 250 miles, we will be able to say we’ve cycled the entire Alaska Highway – but more importantly is the fact that towns will finally be closer together.

Thank you all so much for your prayers and support! It really does help knowing we have a big community of people out there!

John, Nancy, Davy, and Daryl

To read all our newsletters from the journey, please click here

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Rainy Day (Northway Junction, Alaska)

Plop, plunk, plink…  We weren’t listening to the pitter-patter of rain this morning, we were listening to an outright onslaught – and it shows no sign of letting up.

 

Fortunately, we stumbled upon a campground with a convenience store last night, so we’re set – we’ve got food, water, and an outhouse.  If we need to hole up for three days, we can.  It’s nice to know we aren’t out in the forest somewhere watching our food and water dwindle away.

 

The bad news is the road will be even worse tomorrow.  We’ll all be covered head to toe with grime tomorrow night.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Interesting Rain Shelter (Northway Junction, Alaska)

Oh gads – how do I find the words for this one?

 

So – we found a great little spot in the forest for lunch (smoked salmon, swiss cheese, and tomato sandwiches on whole wheat bread – mmmmm, yum!).  Just as we were packing up we felt the first raindrop.

 

Working feverishly, John and I stacked the bikes together and spread the tarp over them.  As we tied the corners in place, the heavens opened up.

 

All four of us scrambled under the tarp in any cranny we could find between three bikes and a messload of panniers.  Voices resonated with our shelter.

 

“I gotta pee!”

“Dare ya’ to head out.”

“No way!  Where’s the water bottle?”

“Anybody got any food?”

“I’ve got some broccoli over here!”

 

For forty five minutes the four of us huddled together with our bikes as rain poured down,

 

In time, John managed to get positioned on Daryl’s saddle (which just happens to an Anatomical Relief Saddle (ARS) or, in our nomenclature – ARSE.

 

“I’ve got my arse on your ARSE, Daryl” John called out.

 

Davy, who’s head nestled on John’s bum, replied, “My head’s on your arse!”

 

“And mine’s on Davy’s,” Daryl added.

 

In all my days spent touring by bike, this one was a first for me.  I’ve taken shelter from the rain in many places, including many unique locations, but never huddled under my panniers. Now we just need to figure out how to stack the bikes more efficiently so we have space for us.

 

After all the rain, the road was a mess.  The Alaska Highway is under construction in many places, which means many, many stretches of dirt road.  Now our bikes are totally covered with sand and grime from all those patches.  Even on the Dalton we never picked up this much grime.

 

Miles today: 53

Miles to date:  820

 

Waiting out the Rain

 

Daryl writes in his journal

 

 

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Daryl’s Journal July 6

Today we left Tok.  We made a big fight.  Daddy knocked out a deer fly.  We took a wing off him.  Then we put him on an anthill.  The deer fly was struggling, but the ants were crawling all over him.  He was slowly being pulled into the anthill.  After all his efforts, he was gone. 

 

When we stopped for lunch, there was a downpour.  I took shelter under a bench.  Then it got so cramped that I moved to the tarp.  It was much better, but it worked.  Finally, after a long time of rain, we camped.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Davy’s Journal July 6

It was a wrestling math to the death as the ants tackled the deer fly.  The ants pushed and pulled the deer fly into the tunnel where they devoured him.  It was awesome.  We had hurt a deer fly and then put it on an ant hill.

 

We stopped for lunch and to oil the chains.  After that it rained.  It was very cold!!

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Tok, Again

I take that back.

 

For the first time ever we turned around and went back – it just wasn’t worth it.

 

Late in the afternoon, just as we were doing our final packing, a wind picked up.  I don’t mean a breeze – I mean a rip-rouring, awning-busting wind.  We packed up and left anyway.

 

Three miles later we made it to the main highway, took one look at the flags flapping wildly, and turned around.  There was no sense in fighting that headwind.

 

The way we figured it, we would have made it ten miles or so, but that’s about it.  Given how remote this area is, and the lack of availability of food, it seemed pointless to waste a whole night’s food for a mere ten miles.

 

We are now back at Kevin and Shannon’s house, and will head out again in the morning.

 

Daryl and Megan playing

 

Miles today:  6

Miles to date:  751

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Daryl’s Journal July 5

Today we got a delicious waffle breakfast.  I beat all the kids in that game – I don’t want to go over the description again.  All the kids watched Transformers.  Me and Megan didn’t watch the whole thing.  Me and Davy got to ride on an ATV.  It was awesome!

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Plans for Near Future

A soft bed to sleep in… A waffle breakfast to wake up to…  Life just doesn’t get any better than this.  The kids have a couple of playmates to hang out with.  John and I have wonderful people to talk to.  Laundry is clean and food bags are stuffed to the gills.  This has been a wonderful stop.We’ll be pushing on in a couple hours – off toward Canada.  We had been planning since Fairbanks to take a big detour up through Dawson City, but decided last night to stick to the Alaska Highway – we’re not sure we’re up for another massively hilly road so soon after the Dalton.This next section of road is very remote and I’m not sure if we’ll able to get on internet until Whitehorse – about 400 miles from here.  If we can, we’ll post an update, otherwise it’ll be 8 – 10 days before we can get something up in Whitehorse. 

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Happy 4th of July! (Tok, Alaska)

“Hey, Davy!” I whispered in his ear early this morning. “We’ve got a treat for you.  A pancake breakfast!”

 

Davy woke up quickly.  “Where?”

 

After such a late night last night, we felt terribly guilty waking the kids up early this morning, but we hoped to get into Tok in time for the 4th of July celebrations – which meant getting up early and pushing hard.  (We had discussed it as a family, and the kids decided they wanted to go for it)

 

Craig and Lani, a couple of missionaries to the native villages in the area, had offered a pancake breakfast before we hit the road – an offer we couldn’t refuse.

 

With bellies full of pancakes and bacon, we hit the road – 47 miles from Tok.  Normally, that 47 miles would take us all day, but the kids were motivated to get to Tok, so we pushed hard (very hard!) and made it here by 2:30.

 

Although we missed most of the celebrations, we arrived in plenty of time for a salmon feed and music.  Larry’s dad (from North Pole) was playing fiddle in the band, so it was fun to hang out and listen to the music for the evening.

 

We are now staying with some friends of Larry and Lisa, Kevin and Shannon – it’s nice to have a place to call home for a few hours!

 

Alaska Highway

 

Alaska Highway

 

Alaska Highway

 

Alaska Highway

 

Mark and Davy

 

 

 

Miles today:  50

Miles to date:  745

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel