It's All Good!

That's my mantra and it's particulary relevant during travel. Like life, travel has its ups and downs but it's best to focus on the positive. I'm in Anchorage contemplating the first 8000 km of my journey from Ontario to Alaska and BC. I'm in a hotel room and it's the first time I haven't stayed in a tent in two weeks. There are the obvious big things that bring me joy like having a roof and knowing that my family and friends are healthy and safe but this post describes smaller things that made me smile.

Stumbling Onto a Perfect Campsite

I knew the Lakeview Campground at Alaska's Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge existed but I didn't know it was going to be perfect! Not only is it free, it has sites right by a small calm lake with lots of wildlife and there's a great place to launch a kayak. Plus, it wasn't even busy!

Lakeview Campground, Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

Lakeview Campground, Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

Powerwashing Manitoba Mud in BC

Heavy rain plus Manitoba backroads equalled one muddy car. I hoped that rains would clean it off before Dawson Creek, BC but that didn't happen. I learned my lesson last year about vehicle height with a kayak on the roof so rather than a car wash, it was the old-fashioned do-it-yourself powerwashing. So clean!

First Warm Shower

I'll spare you the details of exactly how infrequently I shower while camping. Regardless, the first warm one in a while is so refreshing!

Finding Baby Animals

It's a tight battle for the cutest baby animal. I really liked spruce grouse chicks in Alaska's Wrangell Mountains but these adorable baby moose near Anchorage were the best!

Baby Moose, Potter Marsh, Anchorage, Alaska

Baby Moose, Potter Marsh, Anchorage, Alaska

Turning Off the Windshield Wipers

The first week of my trip had lots of rain. It's a great feeling when you can turn off the wipers after they've been on continuously for hours (or days!).

Alaska Highway Mentioned on a Sign

I got a big smile west of Edmonton when I saw it mentioned for the first time: "For Alaska Highway, follow Highway 43 North". Yes!

Long Distances

I like it when the GPS has no instructions for more than 400 km as it does west of Edmonton. It's also cool when four digits are required on a distance sign as in Fort St. John when drivers are told that Whitehorse is in a mere 1342 km.

Identifying New Birds by Their Song

Identifying birds by their song is hard. I've been learning to do so for a few years and it's a good feeling when that work pays off. I had two examples on a mountain road near Anchorage. Is that high-pitched trill an orange-crowned warbler? Affirmitive! Is that plaintive call a golden-crowned sparrow? Confirmed!

Orange-crowned Warbler, Anchorage, Alaska

Orange-crowned Warbler, Anchorage, Alaska

Golden-crowned Sparrow, Anchorage, Alaska

Golden-crowned Sparrow, Anchorage, Alaska

Not Getting Gas

After filling up at least once every day for two weeks, what a great feeling today not visiting a gas station!

Time Zone Changes

I always seem to forget that you gain an hour as you travel west. Nice!

Sound Ice Makes On a Frozen Lake

Last week I paddled the edges of Summit Lake at Stone Mountain Provincial Park in northern BC. It's the highest point on the Alaska Highway and the lake was still mostly ice-covered. The ice chunks made such an appealing tinkling sound when they moved!

What makes you happy when you travel?

Worth the Wait!

It finally happened! The dark sky danced as I sat awestruck in my lakeside campsite at Quetico Provincial Park in northern Ontario. The Northern Lights were on full display and I was mesmerized. Undulating green waves pulsed overhead. Subtler, but equally beautiful, movement occurred all across the sky at eye level.

Northern Lights, Quetico Provincial Park, Ontario (8s exposure; f/2.8; ISO 1600)

Northern Lights, Quetico Provincial Park, Ontario (8s exposure; f/2.8; ISO 1600)

It's hard to believe given my recent proclivity for the north that I haven't seen the Northern Lights this well since childhood. Believe me... it was worth the wait!

I already had the proper lens on my camera for night images - the Samyang 24mm f/1.4. It's manual focus and manual aperture. So old school... I love it! The irony was not lost on me as I googled "how to photograph the Northern Lights" while I was far removed from any city. (There was strangely good cell coverage in the campground.) The tips were simple - use f/2.8 and experiment with exposures between 5 and 25 seconds. So experiment I did! I moved my tripod around and used my headlamp to illuminate nearby trees and help position them in the image. I used live view on the camera to focus and construct a composition that might work. Which one is your favourite?

Northern Lights, Quetico Provincial Park, Ontario (25s exposure; f/2.8; ISO 1600)

Northern Lights, Quetico Provincial Park, Ontario (25s exposure; f/2.8; ISO 1600)

Northern Lights, Quetico Provincial Park, Ontario (10s exposure; f/2.8; ISO 1600)

Northern Lights, Quetico Provincial Park, Ontario (10s exposure; f/2.8; ISO 1600)

Northern Lights, Quetico Provincial Park, Ontario (10s exposure; f/2.8; ISO 1600)

Northern Lights, Quetico Provincial Park, Ontario (10s exposure; f/2.8; ISO 1600)

It was hard to go to sleep and potentially miss more of nature's greatest show but clouds eventually rolled in and cut the lights. It was after midnight but that didn't stop me from getting up at 6:15 the next morning for a quiet paddle on pristine Pickerel Creek. In only one night, Quetico quickly rose to one of my favourite places!

Let a Whim Blaze Your Trail!

I've been bitten by the travel bug. Hard. I'm lucky to have three adventures to look forward to this year. In June, I'm camping from Ontario to BC & Alaska and exploring the Bering Sea coast in Nome (you know what they say... there's no place like Nome!). In July, I'm returning for a fifth year as a faculy member at SHAD UBC. In August, I'm a staff member on Students on Ice's Arctic Expedition. I can't wait to explore North America's vast and magnificent wilderness and meet the talented students and inspiring colleagues at SHAD and Students on Ice.

Travel is an intensely personal experience. Some like an all-expenses paid trip to a Caribbean getaway or a luxury vacation with a detailed itinerary. Those aren't my style. My favourite type of travel is a camping trip backed up with a lot of research but no reservations. If a place is so busy that it requires reservations, I opt for an alternative. For example, I know that I'll drive entirely through Canada to get to Alaska, but I have no idea exactly where I'll stay. In Ontario, I'm interested in camping and kayaking in Lake Superior & Quetico Provincial Parks and looking for birds near Rainy River (gotta see those Ontario pelicans!). However, weather and other considerations may put me elsewhere. It's great to know that when I see an inviting calm lake to paddle on, I can just pull over and do it! Research ensures that I know my options but it's often a whim that blazes my trail.

Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada. Where will I kayak this year?

Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada. Where will I kayak this year?

One of my goals is to write more so I will update this blog at least once a week during my adventures. See you soon!

Just about ready to load the car!

Just about ready to load the car!