Back Home, Continuing the Enlightened Experiences, and Never Again the Same

Well, I have been back in Georgia for a week now, but have been busy unpacking, slowly, and continuing the adventure here.  I just figured I had better put the tentative punctuation on this tale.

To be honest, after covering 13,556 miles in 1,304 hours (54 days and some change), which means I covered an average of 10.4 miles per each hour of the trip, I needed time to decompress a little.  Yeah, nerdy, I know, but I am an engineer.

Upon leaving the AFB I was just destined to cover miles to get home.  No stops, just get home.  That didn’t last long.  When I saw a sign for Russell Cave National Monument.  Sold.  I had never heard of the cave, but I had to check it out.

After arriving I find out the cave is known for being a refuge for Native Americans thousands of years ago, and I see why.  It would be a pretty sweet spot to live for sure.  It was a little wet, but I’d of loved to kick it there for a while.  Unfortunately, this isn’t allowed.  Upon leaving the cave, I saw some other places for future adventures, but they were like a theme park due to the time of year, so I just made my way home.

Since it was my last free weekend before restarting work, I knew what I had to do, head to one of my all time favorite places, Skydive The Farm.  This turned out to be a great idea, and accumulated into an amazing day filled with seeing old friends, making new friends, and having easily some of my best skydives to date.  The pups also got a lot of attention about their uniqueness and devotion to me.  They’re my little champs!  They and I will definitely be spending more time at the DZ from this point forward.  Got some major goals to accomplish.

After finally hitting the bike trails again and doing my first HIIT workout session in months, I realized just how out of shape making this whole trip happen around school and ROTC made me.  I have a lot of work ahead of me.  Time to finish getting ready for the semester, continue my mental and physical progression, and keep this great energy and momentum flowing.

The amount of learning, internal and external, experienced from this endeavor couldn’t be sufficiently expressed in this blog.  You have no idea how much you can change until you do.  The ability of adaptation and endless growth are why Humans are capable of such miraculous achievements.  You must harness and cultivate your inner strengths while acknowledging and working on your weaknesses.  No one else can do this for you.  The fortitude and ability to do so is what separates the great from the mediocre.

A few things to be taken away from this experience, but definitely not an accumulation of everything learned:

1)  Don’t put off that big endeavor, or dream, because you fear the amount of risk associated.  Fear itself is merely a figment of your own imagination, and it will only limit your progression and quality of life.  Without risk, there is no chance of greatness.  The only way to ensure failure is to not try.

2)  Take life as it comes.  Over planning and controlling will greatly narrow your range of possible adventures and experiences.  Step out of your comfort zone and follow the opportunities presented to you.

3)  Trust your instincts.  If you have a desire to venture down that random road, literally and hypothetically, do it.   Without such action the rewards awaiting at the end of the road will always be unobtainable.

4)  Connect with your surroundings.  Rather it be walking barefoot through the dirt and grass or sparking a conversation with a total stranger.  These interactions with the world around you will only improve your life.

5)  Be a promoter of positive energy, not negativity.  This has been known for a while, but focus has been increased due to very recent new connections bringing me new enlightenment, and it cannot be stressed enough.  The world will send you energy resembling that which you release into it.  If you want positive happy experiences, then release positive and happy energy.  This can be achieved in many ways ranging from performing random acts of kindness for fellow living creatures, by not getting upset in day-to-day hindrances, and just minimizing negative talk and thoughts.  Only you can control, and change, the quality of your life.  I guarantee you this isn’t ranting hippy talk, it works and will impact your relationship will everything around you, everything.  Just try it.

This is definitely not the end, or even close, it was merely the beginning.  Until next time, spread the love and good vibes, and be as open and as adventurous as possible.  The miraculous experience of life awaits you.

Russell Cave entrance

Russell Cave entrance

Russell Cave.  It even has a running water source and pool!

Russell Cave. It even has a running water source and pool!

Russell Cave - Indigenous mother.

Russell Cave – Indigenous mother.

Russell Cave - Indigenous grandmother preparing food.

Russell Cave – Indigenous grandmother preparing food.

Russell Cave - Not sure what he is, but I like the energy he's portraying!

Russell Cave – Not sure what he is, but I like the energy he’s portraying!

Russell Cave - Tried to talk to this guy about moving in, but he didn't respond.  Guess I'm not cool enough.

Russell Cave – Tried to talk to this guy about moving in, but he didn’t respond. Guess I’m not cool enough.

Russell Cave

Russell Cave

Russell Cave view

Russell Cave view

Russell Cave

Russell Cave

Never been so happy to see this sign.

Never been so happy to see this sign.

Skydive phantoms heading for the last load of the day.

Skydive phantoms heading for the last load of the day.

Sunset load

Sunset load

Sunset swoop

Sunset swoop

Skydive The Farm.  I didn't take this, just a favorite.

Skydive The Farm. I didn’t take this, just a favorite.

Skydive The Farm Sunset.  I didn't take this, just a favorite.

Skydive The Farm Sunset. I didn’t take this, just a favorite.

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Back on the road!

After spending seven hours using the Air Force base shop, and $95 I am ready to ride!

It ended up being a bad wheel bearing as suspected.  There was water inside when I removed the seal.  The water had to come all the way from Fairbanks, where I did my only water crossings.

Time to knock out a few miles.

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Canada to the rescue!

Canada to the rescue!

Beautiful B.C., Blueberries, Bears, and The Badlands

I know this posting has been delayed, but I’ve been busy.

Once I left Anchorage, I was just on a mission to cover miles.  Mainly because I really wanted to stay.  So less adventures, and more driving, or so I thought.

After reentering into the glorious Canadian terrain things got exciting.  The bears were way more active, I assume due to the progression of the season, and were around my campsites quite frequently.  The dogs do a great job of alerting me when they’re near, and keep them away, which is a love / hate thing for me.

On one break to pry myself from the driver’s seat, but mostly for the pups, we came across an abandoned campsite where someone had started to build a teepee and other living amenities, which I found to  be intriguing.

At Watson Lake I was able to leave our sign in the infamous sign forest.  All thanks to Cliff’s letting me modify my sign with his power drill while in AK.  See if you can find it in the picture.  I’ll post a close up next post.  This may be harder for you that don’t know me in real life, hint hint.  Then another “I wonder where this dirt road goes” moment lead to a great discovery.

While chasing a view of the Summer sunset, a sight I hadn’t seen in weeks, an old set of dirt roads came to a dead end amongst great B.C. forest.  After deciding to make this our campsite for the night it was time to play in the woods.  The dogs and I walked past where the road ended, amongst thick foliage, towards a dark and luring spruce forest.  Almost immediately the dogs got excited.  Their hair raised and their heads lowered to the ground.  They had caught a scent of something enticing.  In a few paces I discovered why.

We walked upon where some logs had been freshly turned over, presumably in search for juicy bugs, and a trail in the low and wide.  It had to be either Cartman from South Park, or more likely a bear.  I immediately jumped upon a tree stump to look for the furry creature, nothing.  Then I started to follow the path the short distance towards the dark spruce forest.  Once I hit the forest and mobility was great reduced, and visibility even worse off, I decided no matter how bad I wanted to see a bear in the wild, it wasn’t worth risking the dogs’ safety, so we turned back.  Immediately after turning around I spotted a small blueberry patch, picked a small palm full of berries, and thought that was such great luck.  They were sure to go great in my morning cereal or muesli.

Soon after returning to our campsite, while lying in car, the bear returned to check us out.  Unfortunately I never saw it, but Apollo was very set on letting it know he knew of its presence.  My only connection with it was spotting the pile of poop it left about 15ft in front of my car.  Maybe it was trying to tell me something.

While breaking down camp, and looking for more signs of bears, I spotted a very small raspberry bush. No wonder there were bears here.  I had no idea.

Long story short, I ended up finding a very large quantity of blueberries, and couldn’t resist picking some of Nature‘s candies.  The dogs worked as alerts for bears, which I felt was imminent after finding this treasure, and got paid in berries.  Then Apollo realized he could pick them himself.  Apollo Bear really is such a fitting nickname for him.

After this we busted miles out and returned to America.  Where we really started busting out miles, but we took a break to check out the Little Big Horn site, Mt Rushmore, and The Badlands.  Since I like Nature the most, the Badlands was easily my favorite of the three.  Definitely a sight to see. Reminds me of the dark forests in the Lion King, but not as dark, less hyenas, and actually rather nice.  So I guess just the transition from prairie to the badlands is as abrupt as the Lion King setting.

From there it was get home mode.  Driving briskly, for long hours, isn’t enjoyable, but after cover over 13,000 miles in 52 days, I’m ready to stop driving so much.  With only 1,000 miles to go this morning, I thought this was home stretch, but life had other plans.  At the edge of Missouri I stopped for gas, and as I slowed to take the exit I noticed an odd noise.  I thought I had blown an exhaust gasket from bottoming out and water crossings.  Nope.  After doing some quick diagnosing after my fill up, I realized the noise was speed based, not RPM or load based.  This eliminates anything with the engine.  At the next exit I stopped for further diagnosing.  Assuming a bad tire, I did some tire swapping and test drives that eliminated that hypothesis.  After spending two hours in +95* heat I decided it was time to try driving on.  Made it 100 miles without issues, other than the noise, and stumbled upon an Air Force base.  They have a shop where I can really figure out this noise problem, and more importantly, if I can make the 500 mile drive home.

Since they were closed, I decided to hang around base and snag a needed shower. As soon as I finished the shower I had a run in with Security Forces, because people were scared of the two vicious dogs.  This resulted in a long casual chat with a cool SF Sgt.

I guess I better crash now, and I’ll figure out what it’s going to take to get home tomorrow.  Enjoy the pictures!

This bear was way too interested in my car.  Hopefully people haven't fed it.  I rolled down the window and the pups barking sent it bolting for the woods.

This bear was way too interested in my car. Hopefully people haven’t fed it. I rolled down the window and the pups barking sent it bolting for the woods.

Apollo found a loophole to get loving.

Apollo found a loophole to get loving.

 

Lies, or this is the most epic Honda Odyssey ever.

Lies, or this is the most epic Honda Odyssey ever.

Front yard build in Whitehorse, YK

Front yard build in Whitehorse, YK

My new Amsterdam biking from AK to the tip of South America in 1.5 years.  Jealous?  Yeah, me too.

My new Amsterdam biking from AK to the tip of South America in 1.5 years. Jealous? Yeah, me too.

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Find my sign and you win!  Nothing!

Find my sign and you win! Nothing!

Karma is ready to stop driving too.

Karma is ready to stop driving too.

Sold.  I'm driving down it.

Sold. I’m driving down it.

Bears searching for bugs?

Bears searching for bugs?

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Any idea what these are?

Any idea what these are?

Any idea what these are too?

Any idea what these are too?

Berry picking with the pups.

Berry picking with the pups.

Apollo decides to pick his own berries.

Apollo decides to pick his own berries.

That's a lot of blueberries!

That’s a lot of blueberries!

Had to get creative with berry storage.

Had to get creative with berry storage.

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Saw this in Washington.  Yes, it's a bus with the van-roof package.  Pretty awesome.

Saw this in Washington. Yes, it’s a bus with the van-roof package. Pretty awesome.

GPS decided to go crazy on me.

GPS decided to go crazy on me.

Mt Rushmore

Mt Rushmore

The Badlands

The Badlands

The Badlands

The Badlands

The Badlands

The Badlands

The Badlands.  Reminds me of a big sand castle.

The Badlands. Reminds me of a big sand castle.

The Badlands

The Badlands

The Badlands.  There's color in them there hills!

The Badlands. There’s color in them there hills!

Parking lot workshop

Parking lot workshop

So Many Activities in Anchorage and Kenai!

Well, it has been absolutely awesome in Anchorage and Kenai.  Being not so fond of cities, I didn’t have high hopes for A-town, but I was pleasantly surprised.  The city is so dispersed you can’t really tell how big it is, there’s Nature everywhere, and all the people I have encountered have been great.

After arriving I was invited to tag along for some local trout fishing by a fellow EXPO member, the coolest cat in A-town, up and coming T.V. star, and the King of the Hipsters.  All of which are the same person, a jack of all trades to say the least, and will be referred to as Khip from this point forward, to protect his identity from you crazy fans.  We also had another cool local, who is also a T.V. “star”, on the endeavor.  He will be referred to as Gandalf.

Anyhow, this fishing trip was an experience for sure.  It was the first time I ever voluntarily killed a living creature.  Well, minus the chipmunk I accidently killed with a sling shot as a kid, then proceeded to build it a casket filled with acorns and a grave site with a fence and cross, it was very traumatic.  Since Khip and Gandalf were farther down the bank, when I caught my first fish, and the initial excitement subsided, I realized I had to “man up” and do the inevitable.  This wasn’t easy for me, it still kind of bothers me, but I feel it should be mandatory for anyone who wants to eat meat.  The process is easy to forget when you buy your meat from the grocery store, but what it actually takes to produce the meat, the ending of another creature’s life, should be respected and not taken lightly.  This is why I absolutely hate the meat industry.  Well, anything that uses animals as a commodity really, but definitely the meat industry.

Off of that soap box.  The following Anchorage adventures ranged from hiking a local trail the the guys, exploring the city, and hanging out with Khip.  Once the two GA travelers, and four dogs, started going South we found all kinds of adventure.

Seward was a cool place.  Definitely a fishing town as expected.  Which the constant smell of such industry wouldn’t allow me to stay there long term.  Not saying the town reeks of odor.  I just catch the scents and the hippy inside dies a little.  That’s just me.  At the visitor’s center the Ranger gave me advice on trails and one that was a guarantee to see bears, Russian Lakes.  Needless to say, I was sold on the bear trail instantly.  We found a sweet campsite near Exit glacier, and then headed towards the bear trail the next day.

Once arriving at the trail, and dealing with the extremely lazy kid working the gate, we finally hit the trail around 5PM.  The locals at the trailhead were packing heat, and some joked at me choosing bear spray instead, but their desire for protection made me confident I’d finally see a bear in the wild.  With no set destination, almost endless hours of sunlight, and an adrenaline surge for adventure, we were off!

At the start we saw salmon jumping at the waterfalls.  Being the time of day and setting, the mosquitos were in full force.  Me not being a fan of drenching myself in DEET, I filled lots of mosquitos up that night.  Around 9 PM I passed a sweet creekside campsite, but my body and mind just wanted to keep on moving, but your pack gets real heavy real fast when packing for yourself and two dogs and your adrenaline starts to wear off.  Around a mile after the campsite, with that being one of 2-3 campable spots we saw along the whole trail, we headed back.

We made it back and set up camp.  The dogs were absolutely over the mosquito infestation and couldn’t get into the tents fast enough.  We were all doing everything we could to avoid the little vampires, so I started to build a fire.  It was actually rather dark in the thick forest, so the fire could shed some light, but most importantly help with mosquitoes.  While crouched down tending the fire, Cliff loudly comments from his tent, “What’s that?” as all the dogs start barking.  Startled, I turn expected to see a bear, since that’s what this trail is known for, but instead see a porcupine scurrying up a tree.   We hiked out the next day, with no bear sightings, which I wanted, but a good amount of sightseeing and definitely good exercise.

I headed to Homer the next day. Moose were everywhere, kind of like deer in GA, and I even saw a mom and two calves just walking up a driveway within meters of people’s front door.  Homer was cool.  It had potential, but being so sore and beat up from hiking I just quickly checked it out and started heading towards Anchorage.

Returned to Anchorage to hangout with Khip, his wifey, their neighbors, and all the above’s little furry pups.  Great company, conversation, and amazing new friendships.  A great way to end my Anchorage experience.

Needless to say, Alaska has won me over.  The abundance of Nature, how majestic the lands are, the great people everywhere, and the all around vibe are unlike anything else I’ve seen.  I definitely don’t want to leave, and if it weren’t for school and ROTC, I’d be planning my move up. It will come in due time, but it’s definitely inevitable.

Hiking up Wolverine on Cliff's Bday.

Hiking up Wolverine on Cliff’s Bday.

My souvenir

My souvenir

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Seward artwork

Seward artwork

The last line cracked me up.

The last line cracked me up.

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Firewood!

Firewood!

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There were salmon everywhere at the falls.

There were salmon everywhere at the falls.

Swim? I'd rather fly!

Swim? I’d rather fly!

Loons.  They're beautiful.

Loons. They’re beautiful.

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Khip pictured me picturing him and Gandalf

Khip pictured me picturing him and Gandalf

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Dinner!

Dinner!

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Gandalf and a pre-hike beer.

Gandalf and a pre-hike beer.

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King of the Hipsters, Khip (pronounced Kip)

King of the Hipsters, Khip (pronounced Kip)

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Finally some Alaskan wilderness!

After escaping the city of Fairbanks I was able to finally get some true Alaskan experiences in.

First off, my fellow Georgia travelling friend, Cliff, and I wanted to make the hike to the infamous bus of Christopher McCandless‘ adventures.  I got to the end of the road / start of the trail first and set up camp.  Initially, I was all alone, but being the weekend some locals showed up later for their own wilderness adventures, mostly hunting.  Before Cliff arrived, when it was just me and a fellow Airman parked ~20 ft from me, we had a crazy experience.

Rustling in the bush turned out to be a moose storming in between our cars.  Not storming out of anger, but fear.  As its’ hinder leg was torn and bleeding.  It looked around for a minute, as if looking and asking for help, and then disappeared into the dense foliage around the campsites, leaving behind a trail of blood.  Almost immediately the moose disappeared a black wolf emerged searching for its scent.  It was in the Airman’s campsite, within 10 feet of him, and totally unaltered by the human presence.  After catching the scent it was off.  No one knows the fate of the moose, but that’s Nature, raw and true.  Afterwards, around midnight, the Airman disappeared down the trail on his ATV, dressed in camo and strapped with a rifle.

The following morning, while discussing the previous night’s events, I discovered the gentle had disappeared into the “night” to hunt grizzlies, being  the last day of bait season.  Lets just get this out of the way, I think baiting is cheating, cowardly, lacks the true fortitude of hunting, and I can’t believe it’s legal.  That being said, the hunter didn’t make a kill that night, but shot only footage with his cell phone.  The footage revealed two large grizzlies plundering in his bait containers, two 55 gallon drums filled with food, and even gnawing on his ATV.  One of these bears had to be 800 lbs+.  I didn’t tell the Airman, but I much more enjoyed seeing the footage of the live bears than a prized carcass strapped to his ATV.

After talking to the hunter about the current conditions of the rivers we would have to cross, and as hard as it was to do, I called off the hike to the bus I had ventured so far to see.  Each year travelers die, and many more need airlifts, due to the river crossings to the bus.  That being said, between Cliff and I, all of our supplies, experience, and drive, I very strongly believe we could have made it.  I was willing to risk my safety, but not that of my dogs,  which certainly wouldn’t be able to cross. Cliff felt the same about his two pups.  Leaving them behind meant spend over 24 hours in our cars, or tethered at the first river crossing for hours.  Neither of us were willing to offer ours dogs to the neighbor bears or wolves, so we found an alternative solution.

Just down the road there is a restaurant, 49th State Brewing, that has the bus used in the filming of “Into the Wild.”  Locals who have been to both say the bus at the restaurant is a better experience, which after seeing it I don’t doubt, it’s not the same as making the treacherous hike out to the bus.  That’ll have to be saved for another day though.

We then ventured into Denali park, which was “eh”, actually rather lame,  but then again I didn’t pay for a bus ride.  Mainly because they’re expensive, don’t allow dogs, and I know I can find a better experience myself, and I was right.

After the park Cliff headed to Anchorage and I headed down the Denal Hwy, a dirt road that most “typical ” tourists don’t drive, but a guaranteed way to venture into the wilderness.  Perfect, exactly what I am looking for.

The highway proved to  be amazing.  Great hiking, camping, sights, and experience all around.  After spending a few days on it, and being absolutely blown away by the sights on the Glenn Hwy heading to Anchorage (no pics due to rain, just drive up and see it yourself anyways), I am now in Anchorage.  Will probably hang around here for the 4th, I don’t know why, but will give me a chance to do housekeeping  before I head South to the Kenai Peninsula.

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Where the venture to the Magic Bus begins.

Where the venture to the Magic Bus begins.

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Cliff checking out the Christopher McCandless signs.

Cliff checking out the Christopher McCandless signs.

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Cliche, but I had to do it.

Cliche, but I had to do it.

Cliff posed in front of the Denali sign.

Cliff posed in front of the Denali sign.

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These two ran through Cliff and my campsite after Denali.

These two ran through Cliff and my campsite after Denali.

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Poor Apollo, mosquitoes love him.

Poor Apollo, mosquitoes love him.

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Tides Turn and Heading to Find A Magic Bus

Well, it seems as though AK heard my plea for relief.  We went back to a river campsite off the Air Force / Army base to pick up some dog toys we had left the day before.  After finding the toys I realized I was completely exhaust from lack of sleep.  Since the mosquitoes weren’t bad there and there was a very nice constant breeze, we made camp and crashed early.  There wasn’t any of the little vampires trying to barge in when we hit the bed, even though some showed up late in the night / early morning, so I was able to catch up on some much needed sleep.

Now I am rested, restocked, going to refuel and head to Stampede trail.  Maybe I will be able to cross the notorious Teklanika River and make it to the Magic Bus.

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That's one huge moose!

That’s one huge moose!

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First week in Ak, hanging around Fairbanks, meeting fellow GA travelers, and dying from mosquitos and heat

I had to hang around Fairbanks for the Eielson AFB hobby shop to open Wednesday so I could change the oil and transmission fluid in the Rav4.  This lead to lots of exploring of the city and local area, most in attempts to find nice water sources for the dogs to cool off in, since it’s been over 90* everyday, which hasn’t been pleasant or made sleeping easy.

Although water sources are abundant, not all are something I’d let the pups go into.  Luckily, thanks to exploring and leads from locals I found local swimming spots and a nice river on the Army base.  These provided much needed relief for the pups.

While restock on water at a local recreation area, which has become my base of operations, I met a fellow Georgia traveler, who lived close to me in GA, but now lives a life of traveling and adventures.  He is also traveling with two dogs, weimaraners, in a Jeep Wrangler.  What are the odds?! We hung out one night and talked about his past travels, which only more so makes me want to rethink my future plans and goals.

Wednesday I was finally able to get the Rav4 squared away so I could start my AK travels.  Since we are already North we were going to head up the Dalton Hwy to the Arctic Circle.  After driving a good ways I stopped to set the Rav4 bed up around 11PM.  After being immediately swarmed by AK mosquitos.  Long story short, after five hours of trying many attempts and multiple tactical maneuvers, even failed ones in a sweet cabin I found(which I thought was going to be lead to a change of pace), I finally got to sleep just after 4AM.  No words can being to really explain how bad the mosquitos are here.  It’s rather unbearable at times, and is kind of ruining the experience.  

Well, I try to be as optimistic as possible, doing otherwise isn’t very constructive but either the experience here changes soon so I can actually get out and explore the lands, or we will be leaving AK way earlier than planned.

The locals tell me this isn’t a normal AK Summer.  It just sucks it had to be this way after I invested so much in this endeavor.  

Going to head South soon in attempts to finally be able to enjoy AK.  Hopefully things will turn around.

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