Alaska 2014 Friday Blog 1 – Omak, WA to Jasper, AB

Texas to Alberta

We’re still trying to figure out where this trip actually started. When you’re on the road full-time, there really is no start or stop point. You could say that it started in Panther Junction, Big Bend National Park, TX, and took a detour to Guerrero Negro in Baja California, Mexico and Santa Fe, NM, which would make the trip 6100 miles so far. However, we stopped for a while in Portland, OR, and Elma, WA, to visit family and Coeur d’Alene, ID for a Monaco rally. So, we’ve decided this trip actually started in Omak, WA, our next stop after Coeur d’Alene.

Omak, WA to Jasper, AB

Omak, WA to Jasper, AB

Omak is a confused, but nice little town at the southern end of the Okanagan Valley; focused on the timber industry and is a fruit grower’s paradise. We stayed in a municipal campground situated right next to the rodeo arena. Don’t try to camp here during the second weekend in August when the rodeo is in full swing.

This is a good starting point because it’s a short distance to the Canadian border where there can be a potentially long wait. Fortunately, our wait was short and went like this:

Border guard (BG): Please shut off your engine.
R: Yes sir (shuts it off).
BG: Where are you headed?
R: We’re spending the next month in Canada on our way to Alaska.
BG: Where specifically?
R: (Wracking his brain) Well, Penticton tonight, then Revelstoke and Lake Louise. Wow, you’re really making me think…
BG: Are you planning on staying any length of time up north, like immigrating?
R: No sir (No WAY!).
BG: Are you planning on selling your car?
R: No sir (Are you kidding?)
BG: How much tobacco and alcohol do you have on board?
R: No tobacco, but here’s our list of alcohol (just couldn’t drink all of it last night!)
BG: Hmmm, that’s not much… Have a nice trip.

On to Penticton: It’s pronounced Pen – tic – ton. For some reason, folks from the US seem to butcher the name in some odd way. It’s easy, really. Penticton is a fruit and wine hub and a summer tourist spot. There’s lots of shopping making it a nice place to get some last minute stuff for the trip north (and to stock up on the alcohol we had to dispose of before crossing the border….).

It’s also nice to have a friend who can show us around. We met Sue Wright at a photography workshop back in 2005 and have maintained a long-distance friendship ever since. Sue took us to the best burger joint in town (fantastic), on a beautiful walk, to a unique winery that makes wine from fruit other than grapes, and to the best brunch spot around. Thanks Sue for a great stay!

On to Revelstoke: We camped at their municipal campground on a small lake and had our first experience with “the stare”. It’s a stare with incredulous expressions. We’re sure they are wondering what those Americans were thinking. They’ve just arrived from Europe and are traveling in their cozy 20 foot Class C motorhomes experiencing the wilds of Canada. What do they find? The Dip, our 40 foot house on wheels. It’s looking like things are pretty tame around here…

On to Lake Louise: The terrain changed dramatically as we moved north, leaving the Okanagan Valley and climbing into the mountains. We eventually intersected with Trans-Canada Highway 1 and motored on to Lake Louise Township.

At this point, the anticipation is just about killing us. We’ve been on the road (from Omak) for five whole days and are wondering when we’ll get there. There being the real Canadian wilds. Some of our thirst for the wilds is satisfied with an elk sighting near Field, BC and a little more satisfaction when we see our first bear and caribou warning signs. At this point R is thinking about cooking bacon on the barbeque just to increase the wilderness experience. Unfortunately, things are tame at the Lake Louise Campground and we endure some more of “the stare.”

A visit to Lake Louise is not complete without walking along the lake and having a libation at the Chateau. Warning, try to stay ahead of the tour bus hoards…

On to Jasper: If you’ve never driven the Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper, you have missed one of the most spectacular arm chair experiences in the world. Towering mountains, placid lakes, rushing rivers colored by turquoise glacier melt, and hundreds of glaciers are within sight from the seat of your car or tour bus. You never have to get out. While this sounds a little sarcastic, it really isn’t meant to be. Visitors can easily choose just how much isolation they want. A short walk on one of the many trails puts you right in the wilderness.

So, this is it for now. We’re spending two nights in Jasper before we head toward Dawson Creek, BC to intersect with Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway, formerly known as the AlCan. Stay tuned as we’ll try to post a blog every Friday, and maybe a few in between.

PS: Tim Hortons is becoming our Starbucks! At least for their free WiFi!!

Click here to see our photos of this leg of the trip.

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  •  Ch8assis lubed – check
  • Tires checked – check
  • Fuel tanks full – check
  • Water tank full – check
  • Water filters – check
  • Guide books and maps – check
  • Reservations made – check
  • Off-line computer guides – check
  • GPS files – check
  • Telephoto lenses – check
  • Four seasons of clothing – check
  • Mosquito repellent – check
  • Passports in order – check
  • Fruit and vegetables eaten or thrown away – check
  • Alcohol reduced for border crossing J – check
  • Checklist of checklists checked – check

How do you prepare for an adventure? We use checklists. Some are found online, some from books, some from experience, and some we just make up. Maybe we’re a little too anal. Then again, maybe we’re just careful.

Our trip through Canada and Alaska will cover nearly 8,000 miles of road, some of which is described as wilderness with a road through it. There are areas with no services for over 200 miles.

The majority of the road is supposed to be paved. However, we already know that the pavement can be rough enough to break things. We also know that at least 2,000 miles will be on gravel, some of which has been featured on the Ice Road Truckers reality television series. Fortunately, its summer and our river crossings will be by ferry.

So, the bottom line is the Boy and Girl Scout Motto: Be Prepared.

North to Alaska!

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The Earliest Graffiti? Petroglyphs and Pictographs…

Where ever we travel, we enjoy finding and photographing Native American rock art. We’d have to say, our recent trip through Nine Mile Canyon outside of Price, Utah was one of our most amazing experiences.

The Canyon has a spectacular display of Archaic, Fremont, and Ute rock art that can easily be seen by short hikes and from the car. Mile after mile, our heads were on a swivel, constantly spotting another image or panel.

For the record: researchers have catalogued over 1,000 sites and 10,000 images in the canyon; and more are being discovered as they make their way through the various side canyons. Locals call it their outside museum; the world’s longest art gallery! This 70+ mile, scenic byway was named by one of John Wesley Powell’s cartographers who mapped the area using a nine-mile transect.

The rain held off until the end of the day, which allowed us to end our journey with The Great Hunt Panel (at Mile 46). There appears to be some questions on who or why this panel may have been restored – or cleaned – it is one of the most recognizable examples of rock art having been published in National Geographic Magazine and used by many scholars as a prime example of Fremont rock art.

Click here for more images.  Enjoy!!


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Where has the time gone… and how does one “catch” up?

We have traveled far and wide since the last post showing us in Scotland. But, just how does one catch up on their travels for the past year! Yes – can you believe it? We were in Scotland the second week of May and still had at least 6 weeks of travel left on our UK/Europe adventure. We will have to share images from Wales, the _DSC1859Cotswolds’, London, and oh my, yes, Portugal! So R’s going to be busy filling up the Zenfolio website with pictures galore.

Let’s see….

July found us back in the states, crossing the country to have a family reunion in Reno – not everyone was able to attend, but we had a grand time. August and September found us in the NW, October making our way south, November, December, January back in Big Bend National Park, TX.

In early February, we enjoyed the tours at McDonald Observatory in Ft. Davis, TX. This is a must stop for anyone visiting this part of Texas.

Later in the month, we made our way west towards California to partake in a caravan tour with 15 other RVs through Baja California. Whale watching, sandy beaches, rough roads, and making some new friends made for a great two weeks. DSC_7715

March found us heading back east to Today – April 1 – Santa Fe, NM to meet up with Bonnie.

Does that do it? We’re “kind of” up-to-date…..  Until next time, Safe Travels!

Click here for our images from the UK to California.



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Scotland – Like going home…

_DSC1006Sometimes harsh and forbidding, sometimes soft and inviting, Scotland delivers more to the senses than expected. Mountains, rough seas, windy roads, cruel weather, and unintelligible English are all offset by beautiful scenery, brilliant sun breaks, and wonderful cultural warmth.

Scotland starts in the Lowlands, an area 100 miles north of Hadrian’s Wall, where the Romans tried to keep the Scots bottled up by _DSC0768building a wall across the island. It is a landscape of green pastures covered with sheep and dotted with small villages. The Lowlands give way to the Highlands where barren hills are covered with heather, and beautiful meadows – covered with sheep – abound; you can experience all four seasons in one day. While there are _DSC0567many differences in Scotland, two things are consistent throughout the land: There are sheep – thousands of them, and there is whisky – hundreds of them.

K’s family immigrated to the US from Montrose, a town on the North Sea. The Mitchell name is a little too common here and a search for the family name in cemeteries found hundreds of Mitchells. Let’s just say it was a great walk through DSCN0473a maze of history lessons!

While the Lowlands are pretty, there is a lot to like in the Highlands with steep mountains, National Parks, mysterious islands, deep Lochs, castles, and warm and welcoming people. The Highlands are the home of the Highland cow, an adorable shaggy creature that is hearty enough for the harsh environment. They are also home to famous whisky distillers such as Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie, The Glenlivet, and hundreds of others. A 750ml bottle of whisky can cost anywhere between $20 and $5,000 and up.DSCN0529

A series of Lochs and a canal transect Scotland. An intrepid sailor can cross Scotland through the Caledonian Canal and sail the oceans to return to the start. Along the Caledonian Canal, nestled in a deep canyon near Inverness is Loch Ness, famed for the Loch Ness Monster. Like many before us, we searched for the monster to no avail. One kind resident told us that we didn’t offer enough chocolate in order to see it.

The Highlands is also home to the first Special Forces military training camp, which was f_DSC0943ormed during the early days of World War II. When Brittan was facing its darkest hour, Winston Churchill directed the military to form a commando force to take the war to the Continent and Africa. They trained in this harsh environment and became experts at infiltration and espionage.

_DSC0374While in Edinburgh we spent a day with our Scottish friend Emma, who we had met when we were all volunteering at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre in northern Canada. We had a great day of exploring the Royal Mile, seeing Scottish bands “Beat Retreat”, and showing her how to geocache (yes, we’re doing that here too). How we enjoyed those bagpipes! Thank you Emma for a wonderful day.

Scotland calls to us. We will return…

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Europe 2013 – Paris

The only thing that remains the same is change….

When did Paris change? Or is it us? It would be naive to think a place like this wouldn’t change. After all, Paris has been inhabited for over 2,000 years. Architects and bureaucrats have been changing this city for centuries. However, there have been some distinct changes since the last time we were here, just 12 years ago.DSCN0206

Paris has one of the highest population densities on earth. It’s the 7th most densely populated city in the world when compared to cities of over one million. There are over 58,000 people packed into every square mile. One would think this would make people a little irritable, and in some ways it does.

Some things are the same. Full Metro trains are quiet and people stoically walk down the street never making eye contact or saying hello. _DSC9863But walk into a restaurant and say in French that you don’t speak French and ask the server if they speak English and you will almost always get a smile and hear “a little”.

We stayed in a lovely work-a-day neighborhood in the southern end of the Latin Quarter (5th Arrondissement) near the rue Moffetard. Every morning, fresh food markets and restaurants unfolded along the avenue. There was even a Starbucks around the corner from our hotel. The Metro (subway) was a five minute walk; fifteen minutes later we’re in the center of the city.

We are familiar with Paris, and have visited most of the _DSC0343major sites and a few of the lesser-known ones. We got to see the sites for the first time again through the eyes of our friends Ron and Jane. They joined us for several days and we did the Paris whirlwind tour: Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Rodin, and Musée de l’Armée museums, Napoleon’s Tomb, Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, and others. It was exhausting and wonderful at the same time.

Friendly people, a lovely neighborhood, great access to the City and friends to share it with. What more could you ask for…

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Separation Anxiety…

As you probably already know, we are full-time RVrs. In other words, our home is a motorhome that we have affectionately named “The Dip”. It is our home now; we sold our house in Gresham, OR in early 2013. The Dip is home, but we also rent a room in Montesano, WA at Karen’s brother’s house, providing us with an official (for tax purposes) domicile. Mail goes to a post office box in Reno, NV where Karen’s niece collects it and sends it on its way – when we slow down long enough for it to catch up! So that gives you a little bit of background…

We live in a 400 square foot space that is divided into three living areas: living/kitchen, _HRC4936 _HRC4921 _HRC4923bathroom/laundry, and bedroom. We also have a basement that consists of storage compartments beneath the living spaces. We’ve done some remodeling here and there to make The Dip more comfortable and efficient for our needs.

A motorhome is a complex piece of machinery. You have a chassis system and a coach (house) system. Both have their own structural, electrical, and plumbing systems, and all of it has to withstand the rigors of travel on our decaying highways. Riley’s new hobby is RV maintenance, and lots of it…US-Map-of-states

The Dip has been on the road for 1-1/2 years and during that time she/we have visited 25 states. Our goal is to tour the remaining states and Canadian provinces. Too bad there are no RV parks in Hawaii!!

All of this brings us to a little separation anxiety… The Dip has her batteries turned off, slides pulled in, water system sanitized, and is parked on Dianne and Paul’s farm in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. We’re leaving her there for the next two months while we travel and visit friends in Europe.

It was hard to drive away from our home.

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