Walking Meditation – Tangled Dead Roots

Walking Meditation

During my morning walking meditation I came upon a fallen tree, bleached by the rain and sun. I stopped and stared for the sight reminded me of my thoughts recently.

Tangled Dead Roots

Goals seem like they are going to be a straight shot, but then life throws events, or situations into our path. Everything becomes tangled in complications. All we can do is move forward carefully, being gentle with our own and other’s feelings, as we navigate through the tangled dead roots, remembering that there is life at our feet ready to spring into new growth.

 


Travel Tips

 Travel Tips

How do you write “Travel Tips” condensing everything you’ve learned through your travels into a blog post? You don’t. It’s impossible. But I do have a few travel tips I’d like to share.

GET YOUR PASSPORT!

Once you get your passport your brain immediately starts thinking about where you can go. It’s magic.   https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en.html

RESEARCH

 RESEARCH THE COST OF:

  • Lodging = I recommend hostels, www.hostels.com
  • Transportation= Passes are cheaper than individual tickets.
  • Food= If you cook at the hostel you save tones of money.
  • Fun= Museums, pub crawls, sporting events, or other amusements.

You can find the cost of a ferry ticket from Rome to Sardinia on the internet, plus EVERYTHING else you need to know. There’s no excuse not to have a rough budget outline before you board the plane.

So, you’ve got your approximate budget, now…

OPEN TRAVEL ACCOUNT

Open a savings account specifically for travel.

  • Once you have a budget figured out; STOP BUYING STUFF you don’t need. Put that money in a travel account.
  • STOP DINING OUT! The average American spends over $200.00 a month eating out. You can stay in a dorm room at a hostel in Lisbon, Portugal for 6 nights for the same amount of money. Put that money in your travel account.
  • Check on flights to Ireland. Sometimes you can get real bargains and Ireland is a wonderful country to visit. Once you’re there you can fly really cheaply from Ireland to all over Europe.
  • Once the money is in your travel account, mentally lock that money away. It no longer belongs to you, it belongs to the trip.
  • Put up pictures of your travel destination on your bathroom mirror, refrigerator and work station. This will help you stay focused.

You can travel in Europe for 1,500.00 a month with diligence to your budget. I know some people that can do it for only $25.00 a day.

PACKING LIST

Here is a very basic packing list.

Clothes (adjust for season and climate)

  • 1 pair of walking shoes
  • 1 pair of waterproof sandals
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 3 sets of underwear
  • 1 wool sweater/fleece
  • 1 water & wind resistant jacket
  • 2 pairs of pants, belt (1 skirt or shorts optional)
  • 2 t-shirts (or short sleeve shirts)
  • 1 long-sleeve shirt
  • 1 swimsuit or running shorts
  • 1 hat, scarf, Bandanna
  • EAR PLUGS, SLEEP MASK

My philosophy on clothing is:

WEAR ONE, WASH ONE, SPARE ONE

Medicine & Toiletries
• Prescription medicines
• Toothbrush/toothpaste
• Soap/shampoo
• Towel
• Comb or brush
• Deodorant
• Basic first aid kit
• Feminine Products
• Shaving cream/razor
• Sunscreen, insect repellent
• Contact lens solution (if necessary)
• Small mirror
• Spare contact lenses
• EAR PLUGS & SLEEP MASK

Miscellaneous
• Money belt
• Combination padlock and luggage locks
• Camera and film or use cell phone
• Small flashlight/batteries
• Travel journal/small notebook
• Optional Book
• Optional Playing cards
• Sunglasses
• Water bottle
• Universal power converter, optional electronics and cords

Did I mention, EAR PLUGS & SLEEP MASK?

PASSPORT AND BUDGET

You have your passport, your research of where you want to go and how long you want to stay there, and your approximate budget. I say approximate because the master travelers have a saying, “Pack half of what you think you need, and take twice as much money as you think you need.” I can’t afford to travel by that ideology, but I do eat out more than I think I’m going to, so I’ve learned to budget with my weakness in mind.

BE THERE

Once you get there; BE THERE.

  • Focus on where you are not where you are going next or whether of not the dog sitter is feeding Bonzie.
  • Be kind to yourself. No matter how much research you do, things can and will go wrong. Traveling is the time when you can “lighten up” and “laugh it off” when you’ve made a mistake.
  • Stay long enough to meet a local and try something they recommend.
  • I store all my photos online at Google Photos. That way I don’t worry about my camera getting full.
  • If you carry your computer, back up your important stuff on a flash drive, or in the cloud. Computers can get stolen.
  • Don’t be afraid! None of us are safe 100% of the time no matter where we live. GO! Go enjoy life.

  • Activate your senses! Taste something new. Notice the different scent between a bakery and a tartan manufacturer (quite a difference!!!) I get a kick out of how the police sirens sound in London as compared to America.
  • Go see the sights, and then go eat and shop with the locals. You save money this way.

GET BACK

You’ve had a wonderful trip and now you have to get back and take up “normal” life again.

  • My technique to avoid Jet-lag is getting right back into my normal routine. It’s brutal but it works for me.
  • No one really wants to hear about your grand adventure. “It sounds like bragging.” I’ve been told. Connect with some other travelers so you can swap travel stories and refresh memories.
  • Continue your grand adventure by being a tourist in your own city or state. You’d be surprised how much you can discover about “your own back yard.”
  • It can feel surreal when getting back into everyday life. You start asking yourself, “Did I really hike along castle walls built by the Moors in the 9th Century?” This is a good time to go and look at pictures of your trip.

 


Tree Bark With Moss

Tree Bark With Moss

Over the years we try to develop thick skin so minor injuries don’t wound our core.

But some events can tear our protective covering away.

If it takes too much time to heal, longings for the past can appear.

It’s best to leave these feelings on the surface, or deep core healing will never occur.


Vallecito Creek Trail Hike

Vallecito Creek Trail

The Vallecito Creek Trail sign is very clear. Since I don’t have pedals are wheels, I am allowed to hike. The beginning of the  trail follows the outskirts of the Vallecito Creek Campground.

Tall Pines shade the trail and small rocky cliffs dare you to climb. I don’t rock climb anymore, but if you are interested you can hike out into the wilderness and experience several terrific climbs.

https://www.fs.usda.gov/activity/sanjuan/recreation/climbing

Aspen Tree

With so many trees with dark trunks lining the trail, it was a joy to hike past a group of Aspens. The Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) can cover hundreds of acres of land. This Aspen grove was small, so I’m not sure if it was the Quaking Aspen or some other variety.

 

The white trunks of the Aspen tree really pop out against the backdrop of Pine and Cedar trees. It was lovely.

 

 

 

 

 

Protecting our environment is very important to me, and every other person who loves to spend time in nature. We keep our eyes on current government policies that will protect our treasured places where we hike, bird watch, camp, climb, or enjoy Nature Walking Meditations.

 

The Aspen Trees are watching us. Be warned! They have their eyes on you!

 

Vallecito Creek Campground

At the end of the Vallecito Creek Campground two creeks converge into one. It was a great place to shoot a few photos and take a moment to hydrate. With so much water around, it’s hard to remember that the air is very dry. It’s advised to drink lots of water while your hiking. Take your own. Don’t drink the creek water!

 

 

As much as I love the photos my phone takes, it doesn’t do a great job when I’m shooting toward the sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shooting downstream gives a better idea of how clear the water is and how many rocks populate the creek bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the  Vallecito forest fire in 2012 many trees fell. As you hike, you will notice several trees have been removed from the trail to sit a few feet from where hiking boots tread. Others lay higgledy-piggledy throughout the forest. I think it makes for a great photo.

 

 

 

In this photo the fallen trees have made natural bridges across the stream. I walked across many of these in my youth, but at my age, I will take the safety and security of man made wooden bridges as pictured below.

 

 

Foot Bridge

When you come to the footbridge, there is a kiosk with information about the Weminuche Wilderness area.

I was only taking a small hike, but some people hike for days at a time. There is a sign-in book that helps the emergency rescue staff locate any missing persons. I didn’t take a photo of the kiosk, but I thought this sign was cool.

Whenever I go across a foot bridge, I always try to get a shot from below the structure. Some times I’ve taken shoes and socks off to get the shot, but this one turned out fine without getting wet.

Weminuche Wilderness

 

Even though I was only hiking for a few miles, I appreciate the grandeur of the Weminuche wilderness.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service,  “The Weminuche Wilderness is the largest Wilderness area in Colorado at 499,771 acres.” Read more about the area here:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/sanjuan/recarea/?recid=81032

 

 


Walking Meditation, ADHD Brain

Walking Meditation, ADHD Brain

Walking meditation works well for me. Having ADHD has challenged my efforts at meditation. It’s hard for me to sit still and even harder to still my thoughts. But, if I walk quickly, putting my body on automatic pilot, my mind “zones out” of daily troubles and my scattered jumpy-ADHD-brain settles down to a place where mindfulness can slip in. I take joy in smells, sights and birdsong. I can be mindful of all around me.

Walking Colorado

Getting up to Colorado and out of Texas for the summer is a dream come true. Walking in Colorado in the cool morning temperatures brings meditation into a firm gratitude zone. Not far from where my little RV is parked is Vallecito Lake.

Walking Vallecito Dam

Walking alongside the Vallecito Dam offers lovely scenery. The San Juan Forest borders one side of the road, but doesn’t start for several yards. Those yards are filled with wild grasses that sway with the wind. 

Wild Grasses, Wild Winds

There are many different types of wild grasses, each one beautiful in its own way, much like people. I ponder about how our lives are spent.

 

 

 

Some times we must learn to “go with the flow” swaying with gentle winds breezing through our lives.

 

 

 

Some times the wild grass has spiked out when the seed is ready to take flight. I’ve had spiky times when wild winds have roared through my life, plucking away everything that feels safe and throwing it out to the ground. It’s taken me years to realize that those painful life lessons took root, grew into empathy for others, and I am a better person for it.

When there is so much beauty around me, it’s easier to meditate on all the flowing and spiky bits of life.

Lake Vallecito

Walking across the dam of Vallecito Lake reveals the full scope of the cold water lake.

After walking back toward the direction I started (except across the top of the dam), I discovered a trail alongside the body of water.

This trail offers opportunities to go down to the water level. Swimming is allowed but the water is around 60 degrees Fahrenheit on the surface. If any of your limbs go below the surface of the water they will freeze and fall off.

Kind-of a gruesome thing to be meditating on, but it does keep me from jumping in the beautiful clear waters of Vallecito Lake.

There are benches placed along the trail if you want to rest a bit, or you can just perch on a large rock to “sit a spell” and take the obligatory selfie.

 


Feisty Fleetwood RV, Vallecito Resort, Colorado

Feisty Fleetwood RV

Calling my Fleetwood RV feisty is my way of retaining some of that wonderful adjective for myself whilst knowing that I am NOT FEISTY learning how to pull a trailer up and over the mountains of Colorado. Terrified would be a better descriptor for yours truly on my first long distance RV camping trip. I have yet to be able to back the thing up with any kind of acceptable skill. I did, however, manage NOT to take six inches off the side of my adorable trailer when I forgot to swing WAY OUT before pulling alongside a gasoline pump. I remain delightfully mystified on how I managed to get out of that tight spot.

New Mexico Scenery

Stunning New Mexico scenery did not get photographed because I was too afraid to pull over on the shoulder that appeared to be four inches wide. This spot where the shoulder did not appear to be life threatening offered a nice view but not spectacular like the ones I didn’t photograph.

Aren’t you glad I shared that information with you? Don’t be too disappointed, here is the link to the New Mexico tourist bureau where you can see incredible photos that will inspire you to go and visit.

https://www.newmexico.org/

Smaller Mountains, Bigger Engine

Even though the Bayfield area has smaller mountains than the Denver area, I still feel like I needed a bigger engine to pull my feisty trailer up the highway. The salesman that sold me my Dodge Durango (with a 5.7 Liter Hemi engine) told me it was plenty big enough to pull a small trailer. This is true most of the time. I put on cruise control and let the truck slide in and out of whatever gear it needed to complete the task. No problems, except on one hill where I had to slow down to 45 mph so the RPM’s didn’t rev up over sounds-like-engine-is-about-to-blow-up speed. There was a slight burny smell coming from the engine which was not pleasant. There was a long line of vehicles waiting to pass me. They were not happy until I got to a slower-traffic-to-the-right lane. I pulled over and let the line zip around me. A mammoth red truck with a 747 Boeing jet engine passed me while leaning on his horn as if the mere sound would transfer some of his power to my Durango. I shall call him Horn Devil.

Sliding Brake Gadget

One has to have special brake connections installed in their vehicle when towing an RV. There is a control box next to your right knee. It has a small knob that will adjust the trailers brakes to perfectly align with the vehicle’s brakes and a magic sliding brake gadget for emergencies. My son, Shane, who has been towing an RV for years, conferred with his brother, Jason, on how to set mom’s breaks so she doesn’t run over a teenager who walks right out in front of her while she is creeping through the main drag  of Pagosa Springs. Thankfully I had been practicing with the magic sliding brake gadget or else I would be writing this from prison.

Horn Devil

I passed Mr. Horn Devil while he was at a gas station. He had a very distinctive truck and trailer so I recognized him. As luck would have it he ended up behind me AGAIN on a two lane black-top curvy road going toward the resort. When I put on my blinker to turn he zoomed around me almost clipping my front fender. “Why the hell don’t you get a bigger truck you stupid driver,” I imagined him screaming at me as he swerved his mammoth I’ve-got-more-money-than-you-rig over into my lane.

My Dodge Durango is doing just fine! I thought trying to catch my breath. It’s hard enough learning how to drive a trailer without mean drivers on the road. I was a nervous wreck for the two days it took me to drive to where I am now at Vallecito Resort. I’m contemplating just leaving the RV here so I won’t have to drive it back home.

Vallecito Resort, Bayfield, Colorado

Vallecito (Vi-ya-see-tow) Resort is in Bayfield, Colorado. http://vallecitoresort.com/   Nestled in the San Juan National Forest( east of Durango and west of Pagosa Springs) it is a stunningly beautiful area. Vallecito means “Little Valley.” The Pine River and the Vallecito Creek join in this basin making it a perfect spot to build the Pine River Dam. Managing the water resources helped the ranchers and farmers. The collateral benefit of creating Vallecito Lake brought droves of tourist to the area for the fishing, hiking and cool summer temperatures. Colorado welcomes the whole population of Texas as the citizens escape the severe heat in their home state.

Located within walking distance of Vallecito Lake, the RV parking spots are arranged around “150 Tall Pines” which making wonderful afternoon shade when the sun can reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit for a few hours in the afternoons.

That’s the back of my Dodge Durango with my little trailer to the left of it. And NO I did not back into my spot. One of the old time RVers backed my car in for me. I still suck at backing up.

 

There is an outdoor pavilion for cookouts, entertainment, etc. Behind the covered structure is a playground, basketball court, horse-shoe-toss, etc.

 

 Many people own trailers here and pay a seasonal fee. They come up every year for the five months the resort is open (May through September) and they landscape around their trailers. I could post dozens of these pretty little gardens.

 

The Resort also has an honor system library, indoor dining/entertainment center, restrooms, showers, and laundry facilities. There is a small store in the office. I do not get phone service AT ALL. There is WiFi but there isn’t a reliable tower nearby so the service is sketchy.

When I was walking to the Vallecito Lake, I noticed a perfect spot for a Cell/WiFi tower. There’s already poles bringing us lovely electricity, why shouldn’t there be a tower? They could paint it green like a Pine tree.

“Dear Colorado, please build a Wifi tower on this hill. Sincerely, 77.7 Million Tourist ”

(Who spent $19.1 BILLION, generating $1.13 BILLION in tax revenue in 2015. The Denver Post www.denverpost.com

At 5:30 am there is enough of a signal, if I hook my phone up to the WiFi, I can read my Facebook page and send text messages. If I want reliable service I drive to Bayfield where there’s a lovely library with free internet and friendly librarians.

Carving Project

Vallecito Resort is home to the beautiful carving, “Fireman with Shovel” one of the many in the “Carving Project.” These carvings are spread throughout the valley honoring over 4,000 firefighters, one of which lost his life battling the devastating fire of 2002.

 There were 70,000 acres of forest lost in that fire. Vallecito was hard hit losing almost half of the total 58 homes destroyed by the fire and many vehicles, boats, trailers and antique cars.

The carvings are mounted on concrete pedestals, weighing up to 2,600 lbs. and some standing 18 ft. high. The resort staff gave me the brochure “Tour of Carvings” which I found most useful.

The nicest part of the Vallecito Resort is the wonderful friendly people. Cooler temperatures and beautiful countryside promotes happy people! Maybe there’s even hope for Mr. Horn Devil.


Feisty Old Woman, Ketchikan, Totem Poles

Feisty Old Woman, Ketchikan, Totem Poles

This Feisty Old Woman dreamed for many years to see real totem poles. Ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of these carved beauties. Totem poles were not worshiped as some early missionaries once thought. Totems tell a story about a particular person, clan, myth, or legend. In a world where we struggle to find meaning, the totem guides us through various symbols to know what the carver wants us to know, yet leaves some things open for personal interpretation. The meaning is clear but we can apply the interpretation to best aid us in our own lives.

Totem Bight State Historic Site

Totem Bight State Historic Site is located 10 miles from Ketchikan on the N. Tongass Hwy. It’s worth the drive.  The Tlingit and Haida Native peoples both have totem poles representing their stories at Totem Bight State Historic Site. The information in quotes and the photo of the symbolic characters are from the tourist brochure I received upon entry into the Site. You can find more information on the website: dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/totembgh.htm

View from Totem Bight State Historical Park

Totem Pole Restoration

Totem pole restoration began due to the early migration in the 1900’s of many of the First Nation people. They moved to the European settler’s communities so they could find work. Many villages and totems were deserted and the totem poles eroded over the years.

“In 1938, the U.S. Forest Service began a program aimed at salvaging and reconstructing these large cedar monuments. By using Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) funds to hire skilled carvers from among the older Natives, two things took place: young artisans learned the art of carving totem poles and totems which had been left in the woods to go back into the earth were either repaired or duplicated.”

The artist were meticulous in duplicating the totems, even the tools were hand made to give each carving the authenticity of the original works of art.

Totem Pole Symbols

Totem pole symbols help us to “read” what the carver wants tell us. Here is a photo of inside the brochure:

I carried the brochure with me as I walked the trail trying to recognize what each totem was trying to tell me. I admit to not always being able to tell if the beak was long and straight like a Raven, or curved like an Eagle. Of course there are many more symbols than listed in the brochure, but it was still very helpful. Here’s another helpful photo for information:

Totem Bight Clan House

The Totem Bight Clan House was built to represent the type of clan house built in the early 1900’s. I was lucky enough to be sitting inside the structure when a tour guide came in and told us all the story of the community house. It would have housed 30 to 50 people. (Even with us solo visitors and the tour group, the house felt spacious.) With body heat and a large central fireplace, it kept everyone warm when the cold winds blew and snow built up outside the walls. The smooth planked platform, built along the edges, were where people slept at night. The planks were removable to store objects underneath.

Raven Carving

The raven totem being carved was on display along with the tools used to craft the piece. There is no particular time limit to carving a totem pole. One feature may be added months after the last one, and some are never completely finished. Each artist also has their own time and style in carving their work of art. Some modern artist use electric devices to help speed the work, some adhere to the ancient tools of their ancestors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She Did It!

“She did it,” said this totem to his mother, trying to blame his misdeed on his sister. I have no idea what this totem means but it made me think of my brother when we were growing up.

 

 

 

Saxman Clan House

Saxman Clan House is located at the First Nation Park of the same name. I was able to visit with a First Nation man who was born and raised in Saxman. As we talked an Eagle watched us from a nearby tree, as Ravens flew overhead. I had never seen a Raven in person before. Coming from Texas, I had seen many crows and thought them a large bird, but Ravens can be up to 4.4 lbs! It doesn’t sound like much but birds are all hollow bones and feathers which weigh practically nothing, so a bird at that weight is the size of an infant. They flew over the clan house as if to protect it.

Entry Totem

This entry totem would normally be placed in front of a clan house. You would enter through the opening that I am standing in front of.

 

 

 

 

Rock Oysterman Pole

The Rock Oysterman Pole is a memorial pole that tells the story of a young man who lost his life. He was fishing for octopus when his hand was enclosed by a giant oyster and he could not free himself. The incoming tide sealed his fate. This was the only totem I saw where the human was represented independently of the actual totem pole.

My Favorite Totem

My interpretation of my favorite totem is that there are three friends who, joined together, can face any trial or tribulation life throws their way. Detail in artistry abounds in both parks I went to.

 

 

 

Creepy Cruise Ship

Viewing totem poles helped balance the creepiness of the giant cruise ship that towered above the town.

Walking Tour, Creek Street

I took a walking tour that took me to Creek Street where brothels were built one right after another. For over fifty years, from 1900 to 1953, these establishments lined both sides of the Ketchikan creek.

Dolly’s House is a museum now. I didn’t pay to go inside, but I found this sign humorous.

 

 

 

Since I camped outside the city limits, finding a parking space could be tricky. I found that getting to town before all the stores opened was a surefire way of finding a parking spot. There’s plenty to see before “opening hours’ when your wallet starts jumping around in excitement to get out and spread some money around. 

Walking Tour, Salmon Run

Walking along the tour brings you to a very old salmon run that is now bordered by city buildings. People still catch fish here and a salmon gate has been built.

 

Walking tours or hikes will take you to beautiful places in Ketchikan.

 

 

 

 

Signal Creek Campground

By the end of the day my Subaru found its way back to Signal Creek Campground. It was only $5.00 a night because it was so primitive. The toilets were little more than rustic outhouses, and you have to pump your own water. Nestled within the Tongass National Forest the scenery was stunning.

 

It felt a bit magical walking from the campground to Ward Lake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t notice the visually impairment of the shadow in this shot but there is a lovely wooden bridge over Ward Creek in the distance. You can see it better if you click on it.

If you do make it to Ketchikan and camp in any of the campgrounds, I would highly recommend getting there during the daylight hours. Navigating at night is CREEPY! It’s the darkest place I’ve ever been to!

From Ketchikan, I caught the ferry to Prince Rupert, BC, Canada. I left a piece of my heart in Alaska, but I know the Ravens will take good care of it.

Thus ends my “Feisty Old Woman Goes North To Alaska” adventure.

Here’s the cost breakdown I promised at the beginning of this series;

Gasoline $ 932.62
Food (I like to eat out.)    954.20
Lodging, Campsite, RV Parking 1,205.64
Souvenirs    402.12
Cash    600.00
Park Fees    110.00
 Total   $4,205.58

 


Feisty Old Woman, Inside Passage Route

Inside Passage Route, Alaska Marine Highway

The Inside Passage Route, (known as the Alaska Marine Highway) was the third route I used for my “Feisty Old Woman goes North to Alaska from Texas” adventure  This is what most people think of when traveling to Alaska is mentioned. When I expressed my desire to drive to Alaska someone remarked, “You can’t drive to Alaska!” Please do not tell the Canadians. http://www.northtoalaska.com/Maps-and-Routes/Inside-Passage-Route.aspx

Hello, Highway Here I Come

Getting back on the Highway and driving to Haines, Alaska made more sense to my budget than taking a ferry from Homer. Hello, Highway here I come for another ten-hour drive back to Tok where I picked up ANOTHER rock in my windshield. I slept in my car and drove to Haines the next day. If you don’t like collecting rocks and want to take the ferry:  http://dot.alaska.gov/amhs/

Haines

Haines, Alaska is not as large a city as Homer, but the views are stunning. Haines is very close to the Glacier Bay National Park and is located on North American’s longest Fjord, the Lynn Canal (not a man-made structure but a natural inlet.) I had a full day to explore the area and made full use of my time there. At 4 o’clock my Subaru found its way to the ferry landing without much help from a very sleepy, not-at-all-feisty, but rather grumpy old woman. I was looking forward to NOT driving.

This is a photo I took from my table at a local restaurant. Because the locals view this every single day, I consider them to be pretty lucky folk.

 

Ferry

I got my windshield “tag” and parked my car in line.  Managing to snag a cup of coffee from the ferry terminal, the morning began to unfold before me. Alaska has a delightful habit of topping the last most-beautiful-thing-you’ve-ever-seen with something even more stunning. I’d never seen a Fjord before. The Alaska Marine Highway ferry system takes you through an enchanted land filled with wonder and magic.

If you have a set schedule then it is recommended that you make a reservation on a ferry. I had no reservations for anything too far in advance. I do have a good phone service and could get online to book hotel rooms, Airbnb, or campsites, but ferry service was not a worrisome problem to me.

Marine Highway Time

Time was my friend. If that ferry sliding south through the icy waters of the Alaska Marine Highway was full, I could stay an extra day and take the next one. What? You say the next ferry doesn’t leave for another three days. No worries. I will just sleep in my car, hike around and experience the “beingness” of a Fjord.

In the photo on the right you can see Haines nestled in the palm of mountains, glaciers and a Fjord.

The Ferry To Juneau

The four-hour ferry ride to Juneau, the capital city of Alaska, was incredible. Porpoises raced alongside us and distant whales sprayed plumes of water high into the air. The views of Alaska’s many glaciers were brought closer with the binoculars I carried with me, but my phone just didn’t have the zoom power it needed for great shots. Once we landed in Juneau-Auke Bay Ferry port I immediately went inside the terminal building and got my ticket to Ketchikan Ferry Terminal-Ketchikan and Prince Rupert Ferry Terminal-Prince Rupert British Columbia. I had three full days to spend in Juneau.

Alaska Hotel & Bar

Treating my feisty self to a room at the historic Alaska Hotel & Bar was money well spent. Sleeping in my car for most of the trip helped my budget stretch for an occasional hotel stay.  Here is a blurb straight from their website:

“The Alaskan Hotel is the best-preserved and oldest operating hotel in Southeast Alaska. The Alaskan Hotel was built in 1913 by four men in six months time. The hotel was built in the late Victorian “Queen Anne” style, as can be seen by the transom windows and string course out front. The Alaskan is by far the most economical and centrally-located hotel in Juneau. Our historic turn-of-the-century bar is a local center of activity all year round. The Alaskan Hotel is the winner of the local paper’s reader’s choice award for “Best Live Music”. ” http://www.thealaskanhotel.com/

If you stand in the lobby of the Alaskan Hotel, or in a quiet hallway, you can hear ghostly echoes of men’s spurs as they jingle their way to their rooms. After a long day of mining, or fishing, a soft bed with clean sheets captured their weary bones for much- needed rest.

The Red Dog Saloon

Once you park your car 47 miles up the mountain, walk back to the hotel, check-in, and freshen-up, you are ready to hit the town. The Red Dog Saloon is a “must see” in Juneau, Alaska and I readily agree with that recommendation. Here is a blurb directly from their website:

“Originating during the heyday of Juneau’s glorious mining era, this world famous saloon has provided hospitality and fellowship to weary travelers and local patrons alike. Early day proprietors, Earl and Thelma (Pederson) Forsythe provided dancing and long time entertainer “Ragtime Hattie” played the piano in her white gloves and silver dollar halter top. During territorial days, during his tenure of over twenty years as owner, Gordie Kanouse would meet tour boats with his mule that wore a sign saying ‘follow my ass to the Red Dog Saloon’.” http://test.reddogsaloon.com/about-us/

The best thing is not the live music, which is great, or the fun decorations hanging from every square inch of space, but the food is REALLY good.

First Nation, Native People

The Canadians call the indigenous peoples that lived there before ships arrived from England, “First Nation People”. I like this term. It recognizes that they were here “first”. We don’t use that wordage here in the USA. I am terribly guilty of still using the term from my childhood, “Native America Indians” which causes one of my son’s eyes to start twitching due to my lack of political correctness. I do try not to offend anyone, but breaking old habits is hard.

I learned a lot visiting the “Sealaska Heritage” museum which uses the expression “Native People” on their website, so I guess either term is acceptable. The exhibit at the time showed how much the First Nation Tlingit people suffered after the US Military shelled Angoon on Oct. 26, 1882, and destroyed their livelihood. Many people starved to death. When the video ended there were tears in my eyes and I wondered, once again, if the world would ever know peace.

There’s no guarantee that they will still have the same exhibit when you go, but the Sealaska Heritage is a great place to visit no matter what’s on exhibit. http://www.sealaskaheritage.org/

Tourist Destinations

Taking one of the walking tours I learned much about the city and enjoyed learning about the early Russian connections.

There weren’t Russians living in Juneau at the time this church was built, however, there were many local Tlingit people who had relatives in nearby Sitka. Those relations had been baptized during the Russian period (1741-1867) and were allowed to worship in their own language. United States government restrictions advised other churches to avoid preaching in any other language besides English. So the Tlingit people of Juneau were drawn to the Russian Orthodox faith and built their own church.

I have yet to find a church where I feel completely “at home” but I do enjoy learning and visiting churches. If you would like to know more about this faith community here ya go: https://stnicholasjuneau.org/

Auke Bay

The ferry left for Ketchikan at 4 am but you could board soon after midnight. Instead of paying for another night at the hotel, I drove to Auke Bay and spent some time walking around visiting very old trees that remembered when the Paleoindian people walked from Beringia into what is now Alaska, and on toward more southern points in the Americas.

Auke Bay makes for a lovely walk.

Auke Bay Village

I drove back into Auke Bay Village and hung out in a little bar that had great food, free internet, and men almost as old as trees. They remembered the time when the ferry system was just a few men with old boats. The history of the Alaska Marine Highway can be read here: http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/history.shtml

Juneau has many wonderful tourist destinations, and you will surely find something to add to your “must see” list when visiting Juneau.


Feisty Old Woman, Homer, Alaska

Old Body, Feisty Attitude

I may be a feisty old woman, but I get to choose which of those adjectives applies to any given life situation. Mornings are when the “old” shows up, and makes its voice heard loud and clear, so leaving Denali was a slow careful process.  A 64 year old body with osteoarthritis needs encouragement just to get up and moving. Once my feisty attitude overcomes my chronological age, the daily adventure can begin. Driving South on Alaska Highway-1 the scenery did not disappoint.

Airbnb, Hostels, Servas

Myra’s bed and breakfast (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/6661014) was not expecting me until the next afternoon, so I had plenty of time enjoying the 458 miles of scenery between Denali National Park and Homer. If you like to engage with locals and get inside tips on places to go and things to see, then staying at Airbnb’s, hostels, or with Servas host is a good way to travel. You can usually book online the day before. Usually just searching for hostels in where-ever-you-are-going-to-be will get results. Here’s the Airbnb website: https://www.airbnb.com/ and here’s the Servas website: https://www.servas.org/ which I was a member of for years.

RV Parks in Alaska

As mentioned in the first three installments of this series, RV Parks are very easy to find. Alaska was no exception. I stopped in Sterling at an RV Park located right off the highway. It had a wonderful private shower with very hot water. Laundry facilities were located in the same building. People have been traveling since the dawn of time. There will always be someplace that offers a room, a meal, a drink, and, if you’re lucky, a travelers story to laugh at, or learn something from.

Homer Alaska

Arriving in Homer before check-in time gave me the opportunity to drive around a bit. This city, located on the southern end of the Kenai Peninsula is easy to navigate. Homer has had its ups-and-downs since the 1890’s when coal was discovered, but it holds steady now at a little over 5,000 people. Homer Pennock, a gold-mining promoter, tried to make gold mining profitable. The town took his name, but never did profit from gold mining.

Homer Tourist Center

The Homer Tourist Center is well staffed with friendly and knowledgeable folks. I picked up a guide and got directions to St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church. You can download the guide here…www.visithomer.org.

Travelers can find a plethora of information at the Tourist Center on restaurants, bars, shopping, art museums and plenty of outdoor activities. Here’s a photo of a definite eye catching shop in the central part of town:

St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church

The service focused on loving and respecting the LGBT community, which is something I wholeheartedly agree with. There are approximately 16 different churches to provide spiritual sustenance for many different denominations, or you could just walk outside and worship Mother Nature.

 

 

The People in Homer, whether or not they are sitting in church, have a wonderful view of five different glaciers, numerous bays, coves and Lagoons. I really enjoyed walking along Kachemak Bay and looking at drift wood.

Large rocks have been left on the beach by Wizards that once roamed the land. Yes, it’s true. Alaska is filled with magic.

 Whales

Twice I paid for a “Whale Watching” trip. Once when I was in Friday Harbor, Washington and once when I was visiting my son when he lived in Los Angeles. I did not see whales. When I was in Homer, Alaska not only did I see whales, but I went Salmon fishing, saw Puffins sporting their bright orange feet and beak, giggled at Otters frolicking in the ice cold water, and was lucky enough to be there for a local parade. Here’s my video of finally getting to see a whale…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4baz3f5qLU&feature=youtu.be

If you are planning on a trip to Alaska, I would strongly suggest a visit to Homer. If you’ve downloaded the Visitors guide, you will have several pages listing resources for your convenience.

GO!… BE FEISTY!…HAVE FUN!


Feisty Old Woman, Denali National Park, Alaska

Driving to Denali National Park

Driving from Whitehorse to Denali National Park via Fairbanks is over 12 hours. That’s longer than this Feisty Gramma wants to drive in one day. From Whitehorse to the U.S Customs and Border Protection-Alcan Port of Entry it’s a little over 5 hours. Stopping at Destruction Bay, and several other breathtaking views, it’s rewarding to experience the “beingness” of nature, or swat gnats, whichever floats your boat.

Trying to keep my eyelids  open long enough to reach Tok was impossible even though it was only 25 more miles.  As a result Northway Junction  was where I camped.  Intending to get a new windshield in Fairbanks the highway saw my car before the sun did, but we both know how that turned out.

I made it to Denali National Park before the Visitor Center closed.

If you know exactly when you are going to be at the park, I would recommend making reservations. However, if you want to meander around Canada like I did, and have NO IDEA when you are going to be anywhere, then you will have to camp at one of the other campsites near to the park. Had my budget been larger, I would have stayed at one of the wonderful hotels that cost around $200.00 a night. Having a limited budget, my trusty Zuzu-baru found its way to the “Grizzly Bear” RV Campground.

This campground also had a hotel, but I was perfectly happy sleeping in my car. My site was a short walking distance from the store/bathroom/laundry/showers and I was in bad need of a shower!

Getting Coin Clean

Putting my clean clothes and toiletries in a small bag, I went to the showers, undressed and realized the shower was coin operated. I put my dirty clothes back on my smelly body and went back to the car.

No American coins.

“Well, sheeeyut,” as they say in East Texas.

I walked to the store and got some coins and then made my way back to the shower hoping one would still be available.  I felt very foolish to be so underprepared. In my defense, I must say, that I hadn’t had to pay for a shower in a long time. From that point on I kept coins with me at all times.

All clean and smelling good, I walked across the street, sat in the lobby of the expensive hotel and used their internet. Ah, the tricks of the road.

Bear Warning!

The next day I went back to Denali National Park. Buying my ticket at the Denali Park Store for the shuttle bus out to Eielson Visitor Center, I noticed a posted BEAR WARNING! Apparently, two hikers did the very thing all of us are warned NOT to do. They ran when they saw a bear. The bear chased after them. One of the hikers threw his daypack at the bear, which promptly stopped and ate the contents.

After researching online about bears, hiking, safety and how not to be stupid, my backpack was fitted with bells. I had two stick flair pom-poms sticking out of the pack visible enough to stop traffic on LBJ Freeway in Dallas. I would either scare the shit out of a bear or irritate him enough to chase me with murderous intent. After reading the bear warning, I decided, for safety sake, to just hike along the roads.

Right.

The bears use the roads too.

This photo was downloaded from the Denali National Park website (listed below.)

 

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”

In Alaska the saying goes like this, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, except a bear, a bear will kill you.”

The truth is, the whole time I was in Denali I only saw a bear once. She had her cubs with her and, YES, they were walking through heavy foliage growing alongside a ROAD. We all pulled our cars over and stopped with cameras ready. I never did get a good photo, but I did see the mom and both her cubs. It was incredible.

No matter how feisty this old woman is, I am not brave enough to hike solo for long distances with Snickers-craving-hungry bears roaming around. My hiking was limited to popular trails where other hikers were present.

Denali National Park Shuttle Bus

The shuttle bus out to Eielson Visitor Center gave plenty opportunities for that. It was only $34.00 and the ride was truly breathtaking.

Here is the non-narrated Shuttle Bus schedule from the website.

Destination/Service Adult (16 and older) Children (15 and under)
Toklat River (Mile 53) $26.50 free
Eielson Visitor Center (Mile 66) $34.00 free
Wonder Lake (Mile 85) $46.75 free
Kantishna (Mile 92) $51.00 free
Camper Bus (Variable) $34.00 free

 

If you want more information about the different tours, here’s the Denali website that’s chocked full of helpful information. Denali National Park…https://www.nps.gov/dena/index.htm

The Shuttle Bus driver stops at the most stunning vistas and gives all the riders a chance to get out, take pictures and stretch their legs. Below is a picture I took of the road in the distance. You can see it cutting across the hill on the right side of the photo. The road is very narrow. There are some parts that are quite scary fun.

Eielson Visitor Center

On the trip to the Eielson Visitor Center, we saw bears in the distance, Dall’s sheep close enough to actually see the horns, red squirrels, and a herd of Caribou.  The landscape was stunning. Below is a picture of one of the Braided glacier rivers.

View of Denali Mountain Peak-NOT

There is one stop the bus driver makes where all your hopes are stoked. “This is a great place to see the top of Denali,” the driver tells you.

We sprung out of the vehicle and glared into the distance only to learn that a mere 10% of visitors are lucky enough to see the top of the mountain. The rest of us poor suckers have to make do with imagining what the elusive peak looks like. At the visitors center, when you stand in front of the large “viewing window” you notice two lines painted on the glass. These lines show where the mountain peak would be if you weren’t one of the 90%. Of course, you can always hire a plane to fly you through the clouds. If you can afford that I will gladly let you pay for my next trip and blog it all down for you! I’m very generous like that.

Great.

Why did I not found out this little tidbit of information before I drove 4,000 miles?

Honestly, I would have made the drive anyway. The scenery was magnificent.

The photo below of could be Mount Foraker. Yours truly forgot to note the name after taking the picture.

Lots of HIKING!

Once you’ve accepted that you’re in the common can’t-see-the-mountain-peak tribe of people, you can go for a hike originating right there at the visitor center. There were so many people there, that I felt safe from any bear attack.

Don’t worry about hiking so long you miss your bus because any passenger on the shuttle buses can get off at any point.  From the Denali website:

“If you get off your initial bus, you can flag down any other non-narrated bus going in your desired direction – i.e., farther into the park, or back towards the entrance. Re-boarding is on a seat-available basis, so you may wait anywhere from five minutes to an hour or more for a bus with ample seating. You’ll recognize them at a distance, as non-narrated buses are green, whereas narrated tour buses are tan.”    

At first I was still a little bit disappointed that Denali had hidden its face behind the clouds, but there was so much to enjoy in the park that my displeasure was quickly erased.

Denali National Park Sled Dogs and Museum

The next day I went to visit the Sled Dogs. Animals are as curative as nature, in my humble opinion.

I visited all the dogs and the sled museum. Watching the Rangers attach the dogs to a sled was fascinating. They took a quick circle around the area culminating in front of bleachers where really tall people got in the way of my picture taking efforts! This is when all good bloggers take advantage of Wikipedia. It’s such a wonderful site. I always contribute whenever they have their yearly drive.

Here’s the info about the photo; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ACorrie_Mile_9_Landscape_-_Jacob_W._Frank_(8636566476).jpg

Here’s another one of my own photos taken from one of the many stops the bus takes.

 

 

I enjoyed every minute of my stay at Denali National Park.