Denali National Park

On the way north the summit of Mount McKinley (or Mt. Denali) popped out of the clouds for a rare appearance. By the time I got pulled over to take a picture it was covered with clouds again. Enjoying the views, I didn’t pay attention to what time it was. Got to the visitor center at 6:30pm and it was closed. But lucky me, as I walked back to the van I saw a sign for a playing of a historic film in the theater at 7pm. It was the first film footage, and second ascent of the summit in 1932. I quickly went back to the van to let Pup out and get him
situated so I can go to the viewing.

In the theatre I sat next to an older lady, Annabel. She’s from New York City but lives in Alaska half the time and in New York the other half. We talked for a while before the movie started. In her 20s she was working in a small town where there was nothing to do and nowhere to spend her money. So after five years she “retired” for four years and traveled! Loved listening to her stories!

The video was of the Lindley-Liek expedition which was the second successful summit of North Americas highest peak. The speaker for the night was a retired historian for the National Park. She had a wealth of information about the parks history. During her research she found a lecture giving by one of the mountaineers and dubbed it with the film. Such an interesting video.

After the film I drove the 15 miles into the park that was accessible by car. The road ends at Savage River trailhead. At roughly 10 PM and the midnight sun still up I decided to run the river loop trail. The loop followed along the river and some beautiful rock croppings. After my run I let Pup roam for a little bit in the parking lot before heading to find a spot for the night. The nights are extremely bright but the “sunset” last night was amazing. Orange yellow, pink, red and blue filled the sky!

Drove outside of the park to find a free spot to boondock for the night. Then the next morning for some reason I drove south. I was trying to see if I could get a clear shot of Mount McKinley. No such luck because it got dark and rainy. So I turned around and headed back to the National Park. Got to back to Denali 45 minutes before the sled dog demonstration. The clouds and breeze was perfect timing to keep the van cool for Pup while I was at the demonstration. I walked around and petting all the sled dogs that were out before the demonstration. During the summers the dogs train with a go cart looking sled on wheels. The Park Ranger gives a spiel on the history of the dogs and the Park. He calls out to get the dogs ready, the kennel area fires up with barks of excitement! They all want to be part of the fun!

After the demo I took Pup for a walk on the only dog friendly trail inside of the Park. For dinner I drove back to Savage River Trail and sat in the van at a view point. I made up my sandwich with turkey, cheese and some horse radish sauce I got at a fast food place. As I was just getting ready to eat a guy with his family pulled up to the view point. He walked up to my side door and asked if he could get a picture with me and Pup. After a picture I put Pup back in the van so the kids could get out their van (Pup is 50/50 with kids.). We talked about my vanlife travels to trail run in all 50 states. Turns out he’s on a similar quest, he wants to run a marathon in every state. He is currently at 23 states. He was running a marathon the coming weekend in Anchorage to check off Alaska as state 24. When I got back in the van Pup was being really weird and adorable. Took me a second to figure out the little shit ate my sandwich! Dude is going to shit his pants tomorrow! Hahaa!

I was going back-and-forth trying to figure out what to do. Makes it hard in the National Park when you can’t have a private vehicle go any farther then Savage River. The bus ride was to time consuming to try and coordinate. Trying to find a dog sitter outside of the Park was turning into a hassle too. So I called it quits…time to roll north. On the way to the park entrance there was a mama moose and her baby on the side of the road. They walked right by my driver side window and I got some really great shots! Great ending to Denali National Park.

Skagway, Alaska and Soapy Smith

First official Alaska sign!

No thanks Soapy, I mean Jefferson, I don’t want to send a telegram back home to my family!

Visited my first National Park in Alaska, hiked to Dewey Lakes with Pup, Ran to AB Mountain, boondocked in an amazing spot in Dyea and took the van on its first Ferry ride out of Skagway!

I took a Ranger led walk through Klondike Gold Rush National Historical builds of downtown Skagway. The Jefferson “Soapy” Smith story was probably my favorite. Jefferson was a con man of his day. He grew up in a well to do home in Georgia but some how he became one of the greatest criminal bosses of his time. This guy got his nickname Soapy for his scheme of selling bars soap. He would supposedly wrapped a select few bars with money ranging from $1 to $100 and sell each for an insane amount of money for the late 1870s. Of course people would actually buy a bar of soap with cash wrapped around it but it was his buddies. Another scandal Soapy ran was the telegrams. He’d charge the stampeders to send telegrams but the only thing was the “line” only went to the bay and no farther. The Park Rangers tell the stories better then I can write it but I’ll leave a link if you want check it out (https://www.nps.gov/klgo/learn/historyculture/jeffsmithsparlor.htm).

Crazy to think that all those people were coming through Skagway for good that was another 800+ miles away in the Yukon. They had to hike supplies up Chilkoot Pass, over glaciers and snow fields. If I were coming for the Klondike Gold Rush I would have stayed right in Skagway and enjoyed the views…and that’s exactly what I did!

Terry Badlands Wilderness Area – Montana

What you don’t see when you’re driving along Interstate 94 in Southeastern Montana is the beauty! Natural Bridges, Chimney Rock and most of all solitude.

Of course to see it all there is only one way there, across a sketchy old train bridge. The old train tracks that once traveled through the area is what gives this trails its name, the Calypso Trail. Let’s say you brave the sketchy bridge you’re next obstacle is the gumbo mud back roads if it’s previously rained. Google search Terry Badlands Wilderness and you won’t find much. Especially on how to get to the actual trailhead location.Lucky me (not) it rained the day I got to Terry Badlands. I then opted to park in the grass off the maintained gravel road for the night so I could run early morning. The couple pages I did manage to find on the area gave only a vague descriptions on the trail length to the natural bridges. I don’t run with a gps watch so I normally go off mileages from maps and my phone. With no map to help I base the run off my phone data. I ended up with 19 miles round trip from where I parked. *Remember I am not near the trailhead due to bad roads. It’s not a difficult trail what so ever. Basically an old road that wanders through the designated wilderness area.If you’re ever in Eastern Montana and looking to hike or run let me know, I’ll gladly point you in the right direction of this cool hidden gem.

Full Rainbow and Sunset in Bighorn Canyon National Park – Montana 

If I were to write an opening act script about my life traveling the country. I would definitely start it with the views I had while I camped and hiked on the south side of Bighorn Canyon!Even with the chance thunderstorms the picture perfect cloudy skies, literally picture perfect, were amazing! If you have ever been to the Horshoe Bend near Page, AZ I got a view better for you with less people, by less a mean no one around. With a little trail blazing at the Devil’s Canyon overlook in Bighorn Canyon National Rec Area you can get a sweet view of this hidden gem in Montana.Then to top off the amazing views at the canyon I had the most incredible view where I park for the night! After getting to the spot I relaxed in the van while it rained, enjoying every drop on the tin roof. Out of the corner of my eye I see the sunset peek in between the horizon and clouds. As I get out of the van to watch the beautiful sunset there’s a full-blown rainbow to the east. My heart started pounding. I couldn’t wrap my head around what was happening…a sunset like that and a full rainbow!? Then my mind snapped back in to place, oh shit get a picture! I jumped in the van to grab my phone and capture the beauty in a panoramic shot.The view didn’t last long, maybe a few minutes before it started to rain again, but my heart stuttered for close to an hour afterwards.