Another Milestone

Our 10,000th geocache, found in Sea-Tac’s Concourse B while waiting to depart for Australia and New Zealand.

It all started on a warm January day in 2012. We were volunteering for the National Park Service at Big Bend National Park in Texas, when Ken, a friend and fellow volunteer, said I should come with him while he looked for a geocache – an object or container hidden somewhere in the desert. It seemed kind of weird. There we were, wandering around following the pointer on a global positioning system receiver (GPS) until we got close enough to find the cache.

It seemed kind of silly at first. After all, why waste your time trying to find a container hidden somewhere when there is no reward for finding it. We found the first one, then a second, and by the third find it was starting to make sense. It was a challenge to get close and then use your powers of observation to identify where the container was hidden. By the way, the first one was a 35mm film canister stuck in an agave plant, the second one was a film canister under some rocks, and the third was an ammo can tucked into a gap among some boulders. Not particularly challenging caches, but fun for our first time out.  

Our 1,000th find. Near Albuquerque New Mexico, October 2012

You see, geocaching isn’t just about finding the cache. It’s also about seeing new things, about going to places that you might not visit otherwise, and about challenging yourself to be observant and to persevere when the odds are against finding it. It’s also about the people that you meet along the journey, cachers and non-cachers.

1,500th Find – Paris, France

We’ve made life-long friends while caching. Ken and Ginny taught us the game. They live in New Jersey, winter in Florida, and we stay in touch. We met our Dutch friends, Dick and Tita, in an RV park in Dawson City, Yukon and see them every couple years when they visit the US. Alan and Gayle knocked on the door of our motorhome one day after seeing our geocaching placard and we’ve been close friends ever since, frequently comparing notes about caches. Dan walked up to us at a geocache in Burns, Oregon, looking for the same cache and we had Thanksgiving with him and his wife last year. We met Billy and Roberta in Yuma last winter and had happy hour at their place every night for several weeks. And the list goes on.

Geocache in the desert near Palm Springs, CA

So, here we are, at a milestone in our geocaching lives, our 10,000th cache find. How do we keep track? Well, that is done for us at geocaching.com. We register our finds; they keep the stats. Ten-thousand may seem like a lot, but there are those who have found well over 100,000! Even so, there are still a lot to be found. As of September 9th , there were 3,198,065 caches around the world.

I guess we had better get busy…. On to Australia and New Zealand!

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Everything Okay?

“You out there? Everything okay?”

We had gone dormant and a Facebook friend was worried. The social media thing had gone all wrong, there was anger creeping into many posts, and we needed a break. So, we stopped for a while. Just looking and lurking, but not posting. It had become way too easy to be caught up in the instant gratification and ego boost of social media. How many likes did I get? How many comments? Are we keeping score?

We’re back on social media now, hopefully in a more balanced way. Posting occasionally when something beautiful or interesting comes up. However, you are here – on an old media – our blog.

We used to blog regularly, but Facebook took over and blogging went out of style. Our blog has more flexibility and allows for a wider creative release. So, we’re back. You can expect to find us here on a regular basis so click on the Sign me up! button in the right column if you want to follow along. We may also mention on Facebook and/or Instagram that we’ve made a new post, or, not….

Was our last post really four years go? A lot of miles have passed under the Dip’s* tires since July 2015 when we blogged about travel and South America. So there’s a little catching up to do. There was the trip around the US and Canada – The Cheesy Americana Perimeter Tour – that focused on visiting weird roadside attractions and national monuments. Then there was Africa with our daughter Bonnie to see the landscapes of Namibia and wildlife of Botswana. More recently, a cruise from Vancouver, BC to Japan. So, here’s a few select photos from those travels to get us caught up. Geocaching is still an important part of our travels and we’ve almost reached 10,000 finds.

So, you can expect more blogs over the next several months as we fly away on another adventure in a few days.

*The Dip is the name of our Monaco Diplomat motorhome. It’s also where we live as full-time RVrs.

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Bucket Lists

Bucket lists. Some people have them, some don’t. Our travel list includes stepping foot on each continent and more specific things or places like the great migration in Africa or ferry-hopping around the Scottish islands.

South America has been on our bucket list for a long time, but no plans had been made. It was just out there until our daughter Bonnie suggested that we go along with her to Peru. She was leading a six day photography tour to Cusco and Machu Picchu, a MAJOR bucket-list destination.

It’s a long way to Peru from the Northwest – thirteen plus hours from Seattle. If you have to sit on an airplane for that long it makes sense to spend more than six days where you’re going. So, we picked another place off of the bucket list and added eight days in the Galapagos Islands to the front of the trip.

Quito Madonna - Shungoloma

Quito Madonna – Shungoloma

Quito, Ecuador – Travel to the Galapagos from the US will likely take you through Quito or Guayaquil, Ecuador. The Galapagos are part of Ecuador and the Ecuadoran authorities keep a firm hand on who goes to and from the islands. We had only one day in Quito and were very fortunate to have an excellent guide, Jorge, to show us around. Quito is a Spanish colonial city that is located just 15 miles south of the equator. Click here to see a slide show of Quito.

Galapagos Tortoise

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador – “The tourists are saving the Galapagos” said our guide Billy. “If we didn’t have tourism, the locals would revert to their old occupations of fishing and farming which harm the islands.” Click here to see a slide show of the Galapagos.

Machu Picchu

Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu, Peru – From the Pacific Ocean to the Andes, from colonial cities to ancient Inca ruins, from pastoral countryside’s to busy urban streets, this country has something for everyone. Everywhere you turn there is another Inca ruin, or a church built on top of a ruin. In the big cities, hawkers try to sell you trinkets on the streets. In the villages, the sales pitch is much more subtle. And there is the crown jewel, Machu Picchu. Click here to see a slide show of Peru.

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Lost in Alaska or Lack of Inspiration?

It’s been a long time between posts. Nearly nine months. We’ve been trying to think up some great excuse for the lack of posts and have come up with lots of good ones.

The first excuse that comes to mind is the concept of being lost in Alaska. Our bloAlaska Salmongging initiative evaporated on the Kenai Peninsula when salmon started biting our bait and filling the freezer. Fishing is a little like getting lost. When the fish are biting, there’s nothing more important than catching one. After all, who wants to sit at a computer when the fish are biting? It’s like the bumper sticker we saw the other day that said “A bad day fishing is better than a good day _____” (insert any other activity here). So, yes, we were lost in Alaska.

Burn-out is another great excuse. You know, we were soooo busy that there was absolutely no time for writing.  There were fish to catch and things to see and people to visit and business to do and, and, and games to play on the computer. Yep, totally stressed out.

Of course, there were days of driving. It’s over 6,000 miles from the Washington/Canada border to Alaska and back, and another 6,000 round-trip between there and Big Bend, TX. We can’t drive anywhere without looking for at least one geocache, sometimes many more. It took us almost nine months to get to where we are today. A journey that would have taken a normal person about 30 days to complete….

Finally, we spent four months working our tails off volunteering at Big Bend National Park. Nothing to it really. We put in about 50 hours a week and had a nice place to park The Dip for free. But really, do you want to sit down at the computer and write something after working all day? Did I mention that the 50 hours a week was between the two of us?

In reality, we just weren’t in the mood. Writing something that is worth reading by other people isn’t easy. Sure, there are times that the words spill out of our brains like water over a water fall, but the rest of the time it is akin to work. Yep, real work.

Flight to QuitoIt takes inspiration and some really great subjects to keep up a blog. So we’re going to South America in search of some inspiration which, hopefully, will entertain you along the journey.

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Destination or Journey?

There’s something to be said about going to the end of a road. We do it all the time when exploring National Parks, Forests, or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. Maybe it’s that old adage of “what’s beyond that curve, or what is up ahead”.

Notch it up a few degrees and the end of the road is above the Arctic Circle and as far north as you can drive in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, or Alaska. It’s as far north as you can drive in North America.

Signpost on a mountain top near Keno, Yukon

Signpost on a mountain top near Keno, Yukon

We started out easy, getting into the practice of leaving The Dip behind by driving to Keno City in the Yukon. It’s the end of the Silver Trail, ending at 6000+ elevation looking out over the mountains and forests, as far as you can see.

The second foray took us up the Dempster Highway from Dawson City, Yukon, above the Arctic Circle, to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories (68 degrees N.). The term “Highway” is use loosely here. Over 900 miles round trip, this rock, gravel, potholed and sometimes muddy road is famous for being showcased on the Ice Road Truckers reality show. It’s on the bucket list for motorcyclists and bicyclists. Inuvik is at the end of the road, a government town with really nothing going for it, except the services it provides to First Nation people and outlying villages. To go any further north, you have to wait for the river to freeze solid, building an ice road to the village of Tuktoyaktuk.

The Dempster Hwy to Inuvik, Northwest Territories

The Dempster Hwy to Inuvik, Northwest Territories

The third journey took us even further north. Leaving from Fairbanks, AK, the Dalton doesn’t start until you’ve traveled 80 miles up the Steese and Elliot Highways. The Dalton used to be called the “Haul Road” because it was built to haul the supplies and materials to build the trans-Alaska pipeline. Even today, the road is used to transport everything imaginable to and from Deadhorse Camp/Prudhoe Bay oil fields.

Reaching Prudhoe is anti-climactic. There’s nothing there except for the commerce and industry required to operate the oil fields. No one lives there; there are no homes, only industrial hotels called “Camps”. Everyone is transient, staying for a set number of days. You either work in Prudhoe or you are a visitor. You may stay a few days or a season, or you rotate in and out, two weeks on, two weeks off, for your company.

There’s really no reason to visit Prudhoe or Inuvik, unless you enjoy the challenge of getting to the end of the road. For some, the bucket list includes the Arctic Circle or the Arctic Ocean. For others, it’s the wildlife like bears, birds, caribou, or muskoxen.

Stopped at the Arctic Circle, Yukon

Stopped at the Arctic Circle, Yukon

We’ve crossed the Arctic Circle twice – well, really four times if you count going north and coming back south again. We joined the Arctic Circle Club, having crossed over 66° 33’ on the only two roads in Canada and the U.S. that go this far north. Another thing checked off of our bucket list.

It really is all about the road and journey, not the destination. The wilderness extends for 100s of miles in all directions. There are mountains, boreal forests, and tundra. The wild flowers are just beginning to bloom. Arctic lupines, fireweed, cottongrass, arnicas, and bear-root line the road, tundra, and marshes. There isn’t anywhere else on the continent where you can get in a car and drive this far north, passing through this much change in terrain and vegetation..

For us there was wildlife, a herd of caribou, 500 or more, a small herd of muskox, a moose, a black bear with cubs, and red foxes. There were short-eared and boreal owls, jaegers, geese, tundra swans, loons, eagles, and other bird life.

500 or more caribou graze near the Trans-Alaska pipeline.

500 or more caribou graze near the Trans-Alaska pipeline.

Yep, it’s about the  journey, not the destination.

Click here to see a slideshow of our images from the Dempster, Dalton, Dawson City, Chicken, AK, and Denali National Park.

A quick thank you…. Our travels to the end of the road were generously supported by the following:

Falken Tires – Sponsorship of six Wildpeak AT tires that kept us rolling on those rough, muddy roads. They’re still fantastic!

Bonanza Gold Motel & RV Park, Dawson City, YT – Bonanza Gold comped part of our stay in Dawson and they took care of The Dip while we trekked up the Dempster.

Riverview RV Park and QuickStop, North Pole, AK – Riverview discounted our stay in North Pole/Fairbanks and took care of The Dip while we trekked up the Dalton.

Coldfoot Camp & Deadhorse Camp – Comped part of our stay in Coldfoot and Deadhorse/Prudhoe.

CRAWL Magazine – Technical advice, encouragement, and sponsorship support.

WaveJourney.com and OutdoorX4 – Support, encouragement, and travel writing assignments.

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A Labor of Love – Keno City, Yukon

“Welcome to Keno City!” Those words greeted us as we walked up to the old Keno City Hotel. Our welcome came from the heart of a man who enjoys sharing his town, his hotel, his dream….

DSC_0239Meet Leo Martel, a former miner, now turned entrepreneur who is rebuilding his dream, a relic of the days when Keno City was the center of Yukon’s silver mining industry – the Keno City Hotel. Since the 1980s, Leo has lived in Keno City and for the past several years has been saving his labor of love from falling down. Let’s just say that building codes weren’t enforced in the 1920s!

Leo has restored enough of the building to open a bar and restaurant and rooms upstairs. It is eclectic. Every room is different and every bed has a different bedspread. The bar is dark and moody and one wall is adorned with a quilt sewn by Leo himself.

Two ghosts are said to haunt the bar; one living upstairs in Room #12, the other sitting at the bar. Now, Leo will tell you he doesn’t believe in ghosts and to please not talk about them if there are First Nation people in the building. “It scares them, you know! I had one of my builders here the other day and told him we were going to build my casket. He took off running. He did come back a few hours later to tell me his was sorry for running off, but that I couldn’t talk about death or building a casket with him again. My casket still isn’t built.”

You have to love this man; we did just after a short period of time with him.

 

 

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Dawson Creek, BC to Whitehorse, Yukon

We had so much fun on this part of the journey, we thought we’d recap a few of our favorite places!

 

Many of you know, we love to geocache and to get away from the hustle and bustle. We parked The Dip for a night in the Buckinghorse River Lodge parking lot (freebie) and drove the car back south for 15 miles to check out Sikanni Chief Falls. DSC_9640

Yes, there is a cache there that hadn’t been visited in over two years and we’d been told the falls were spectacular. Turned out the falls were spectacular, and yes, we found the cache. If you are reading our North to Alaska blogs you’ve already seen this story.

 

Over the next week, we’d visit Fort Nelson, Liard River Hot Springs, Watson Lake, and Teslin before arriving in Whitehorse. Fort Nelson was just a good overnight stop. The hot springs were awesome as were the wildlife sightings in the area. The wood bison herd in this area is rebuilding at a good pace; lots of young calves this year. The Watson Lake signpost forest is amazing; signs from all over the world – many are handmade, but several cities are missing their metal name signs! Watson Lake is also home to the Northern Lights Centre where we enjoyed an interesting video on Black Holes and another on the aurora borealis.

 

Teslin was our favorite stop that week! We’ve gotten into setting up The Dip into whatever campground or RV park we’re spending the night in, and touring later in the afternoon and evening. So, leaving The Dip in the Teslin Lake campground, we wandered in for a late lunch at the only restaurant in town (which is also where the only RV park in town is as well). Next to the restaurant is a small shop featuring local artists, the normal touristy stuff, and an awesome wildlife gallery. The taxidermy quality was excellent and each display has a story on how the animals had perished – most victims of nature. We truly enjoyed the photography on display in the George Johnston Museum. Johnston, a Tlingit Indian captured the soul and story of this tribe with his camera in the 1920-30s.

DSC_0101

Walking through the Tlingit cemetery along the shores of Nisutlin Bay was a history lesson in the making. The tribe builds fences to surround each individual grave site and we were pleased to see that many of the wood signs were still readable.

 

Click here for our article “A Day in Whitehorse” at http://www.wavejourney.com. 

 

 

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