Indian Summer

The past several days have been perfect – mountain biking and hiking in this corner of paradise. I rode the mid-mountain trail from Deer Valley to Park City on Saturday with John and Mindy, which was terrific, and Mindy’s got game in the saddle. So good to be biking and hiking every day under brilliant blue skies, with temps in the mid 60’s.  Here are a couple of shots from our ride:

(John made me pose for this one)

By the way, it has now been eight weeks since I embarked on this little trip around the block. It has wildly exceeded my rather grand expectations in every way, from the awesome landscapes and places I’ve visited to the people I’ve met and traveled with along the way. In a sense, looking back feels a bit like entering a dream – over 9,000 road miles and 3,000 miles on the sea, merging to create one enormous and continuing smile (my face has gotten fatigued from the non-stop grinning), with thousands of vignettes and details to mull over in my mind and treasure. I have missed Matt, Julie, Mark and Scott while on the road, but am seeing all of them as I keep on trucking, so that is fantastic. All is good – really good.

Yesterday was a dream day hiking and chilling at Sundance. If you haven’t been, it’s a must visit. Amazingly picturesque and seductive, with great restaurants and ambiance all around.

A really fun day. Back to the grind tomorrow (ha ha) – weather’s changing, with a cold front moving in. I’m heading north to Jackson, my old stomping ground with Ward and Scott, to get in touch with the Tetons and Yellowstone. Lows in the teens are predicted, but with Burning Girl’s two burner propane stove and my down bag, I’ll be toasty. Very psyched.

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Park City Rocks

I arrived in Park City to reconnect and spend time with Marvin and  John and Mindy five days ago. Kind  of an R&R break after traveling over 12,000 miles by land and sea the past seven weeks. I must say that it’s been very enjoyable to kick off my sandals and sleep in a real bed for a bit (sorry, Burning Girl – no offense meant).

To say that this week has been fantastic would be a tremendous understatement. I have to confess up front that I’d never been to Park City other than in the winter to ski. Big mistake – the combination of indian summer and perfect weather (65 daytime / 35 at night), amazing road and mountain bike rides, hiking and meeting some great people has been a tremendously seductive mix. I now get why these guys are loving life in PC as much as they are. It truly rocks.

Here are a couple of shots of  what I’ve been doing around here.

Early morning view from Marvin’s house

Hiking up Armstrong Trail, looking down to PC

Aspens ablaze

I asked John Halsey to show me the local ropes mountain biking on Thursday, and boy did he ever. Our ride up PCMR’s trails, brushing the top of Jupiter Bowl, then climbing aptly named Puke Hill for the coup de grace, was epic. One of my best MB rides ever. John was a tremendous guide. Is he in killer shape? Well, he kept talking conversationally, not missing a breath or a word, while we were climbing some truly gnarly stuff – so yeah, he’s the man. Heading out with John again today – can’t wait. Here are shots of Thursday’s ride / climb:

Killer ride and day. Off to Sundance tomorrow – really looking forward to hiking and chilling there. Jackson next, then Boulder to see Mark, Julie and Scott, then New Orleans to see Matt. Then…. stay tuned.

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Sublime Beauty

Bryce Canyon National Park is a sleeper. Very different from Zion NP - at Zion, you look up at everything, whereas at Bryce, you look down onto nature's mastery. I arrived late last night and the sky was absolutely ablaze. Needed to zip my down bag all the way up, as temps dropped below freezing during the night (I was at 7,600'). Burning Girl provided the perfect habitat once again.
Morning brought another perfect weather day. Here are photos of Bryce's hoodoos and sandstone and limestone formations, formed over the past 16 million years, after the area was transformed from a vast lake to its present awesome state.

Arrived at Marvin's in Park City this afternoon. Looking forward to biking and hiking every day while I'm here. Park City rocks.
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The south rim was very cool, although not quite as impressive as the north rim. I’m not complaining, of course. Guess I’ve gotten a bit spoiled seeing nature’s grandeur day after day after day. It’s fantastic. Here are a couple of shots of the Canyon taken this morning, before heading off to Zion.

The drive from the Grand Canyon to Zion this morning was spectacular. Huge cliffs and spires everywhere, and bright blue skies to light them up. Weather has been unreal this trip, BTW, I’ve been blessed in that department. Here are a couple of roadside shots.

If you ever want to feel small – really small – insect small, take a trip to Zion National Park. It is truly amazing (I’m running out of superlatives on these stops). Here are some shots from today’s visit. Again, perfect weather for hiking and checking things out.

This last shot is thanks  to Kim (Murphy) McCloud – I took your advice, Kim and hiked the Narrows. It was amazing – Zion Canyon’s walls narrow to 20′, while the cliffs on either side spire several thousand feet straight upwards. Great recommendation.

Off to Bryce now so that I’m up for sunrise there. I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.

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Back in the Saddle

Oh, boy. Burning Girl is running like a dream now after open heart surgery in Anaheim Thursday and Friday. The shop there was terrific – they installed a new tranny, clutch and other parts, and I have been delivered. Left Anaheim / LA yesterday after lunch and headed to Death Valley. What a cool place – so stark that it defies comprehension. Driving in from the west, you climb from sea level to 5,000 feet before descending to sea level then to 190 feet below sea level. It was quite hot – 104F, but cooled down enough to sleep comfortably in BG with the rear door and louvered windows open. No bugs at all. Nice. Here are some shots of yesterday afternoon and early this morning there.

Stopped by Hover Dam en route to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Talked to a ranger who told me that the water level is 80 feet below optimal. It’s higher than five years ago due to huge snowpacks in the Sierras and Utah, but low nonetheless. The last time it was full was after the flood of 1983.

Arrived at the south rim this afternoon. I’ve been to the north rim, which is about 1,000 feet higher in elevation and has different climate, flora and fauna. That rocked. Today was pretty amazing too.

Photos are nice, but they don’t compare to the majesty of being here. It is truly mind-blowing. Blogging from the Grand Canyon. How cool. My internet connection is faster than home here. Amazing.

Off to Zion and Bryce tomorrow, then to chill in Park City with Marvin. Really looking forward to seeing my BC, Yukon and Alaska travel buddy again, as well as John and Mindy Halsey. That’s it for today. Tomorrow should be another great day in the Burning Girl Chronicles.

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The Golden State

Trip update – arrived Friday in Bellingham and spent the day at the local VW dealer. Problems not solved after new parts installed. Then drove through WA and OR and into northern CA Friday night, awoke and headed to Napa to visit my buddy Gene from Georgetown. Great to see him, as always. Here’s a shot of Mt. Shasta in its early morning glory, heading south on I-5.

Here’ one of Lake Shasta. The water level is about 30′ below normal, despite last winter’s huge snowpack in the Sierras.

Next stop San Francisco to see my daughter Julie. We left yesterday morning in a rented car while Burning Girl rests for her trip to LA and a new transmission Friday. We’re now in Carmel, and are heading into the Big Sur today. Unfortunately I inadvertently left my camera in Burning Girl yesterday morning (and didn’t bring my back up camera), so this section will only have iPhone photos. My humble apologies.

My pride and joy (one of four, but my only daughter).

Julie is loving San Francisco and doing fantastically well. It was the best to see her. I’ll be joining her in the Bay area in the near future. Yipee.

Just arrived in LA for the new transmission, scheduled for tomorrow. Looking forward big time to this, after which Burning Girl will take me to Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion National Parks, Park City to see Marvin and John and Mindy and then to Boulder to see Mark, Scott and Julie for a long weekend. Matt passed on the reunion, explaining that Halloween in New Orleans is not to be missed. I understand. We’ll connect in Austin or NO after Boulder and other travels. That’s all for now. Pretty tired after the 425 mile drive today, and LA traffic was the icing on the cake. Now its time to chill.

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Looking back through a different perspective

Pulling into Ketchikan in an hour or so. Last stop before Bellingham, WA on Friday, so likely last service till then. I’ve selected a number of images to share in black and white. I like the starkness of B+W, especially with the grand scale of the landscape in these parts. Here they are. (If you click on a photo, it will enlarge.)

That’s all for now. Next post from the lower 48.

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Help is on the Way

Whoa. Time to catch my breath. 820 miles from Anchorage to here – Skagway – now behind me. Skagway is a spectacular place. Reminds me of Flam and Voss in the Norwegian fjords – glacial valleys all around, snow on the peaks and deep and narrow water in front of us. It’s the last stop on the Alaska Marine Ferry system heading north.

The drive down from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory was absolutely amazing. Totally different from the Haines drive north up to Haines Junction then westward towards AK. Enormous green lakes abounded, one cascading into the next on the way from appr. 3,000′ elevation to sea level. Old – no ancient – bedrock low down, a sub alpine region, all that remains, with small trees, from the last ice age 10,000 years ago. Just magnificent. Back in sandals for the first time in two weeks – Halelujah. It’s comfortable outside here – probably 50 F, which feels like Miami compared to interior AK and YT.

New parts (again) ordered to deal with Burning Girl’s temper tantrums. They’ll be waiting for me in Bellingham, WA when we arrive Friday. The best news of the week is that I got a cabin on the ferry – only for tonight (so far), but I’m wait listed for the other three nights. May have to toss someone overboard to free a berth. I’d consider it after the past three days of driving with no heat, no power and 7 mpg. Chilling now with a beer, ready to shove off. Very psyched. The past three weeks in AK and Yukon have been amazing. Both places are larger than life in terms of landscape and scale. Awesome people as well.

Here are some shots of the drive from Whitehorse down to Skagway this morning.

That’s it for now. Next stop, Haines.

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Yukon Territory Revisited

To say that the past three driving days have been trying would be a gross understatement. I left Burning Girl for a week in an Anchorage shop that supposedly specialized in old VW buses. Unfortunately, they did nothing to fix my two big problems, and created a third. Driving the 800 miles from Anchorage to Skagway has therefore been an almost intolerable experience – leaking tranny fluid, huge engine power loss and mileage bordering on the absurd – 7-8 mpg. That has caused serious problems, since gas stations are often more than 100 miles apart in AK and YT. I limped in to refuel on fumes at least three times. Not fun. In addition, the bus has no heat, and it’s below freezing in the morning and after the sun sets. Ah, the adventure of travel… Anyway, enough ranting. Just arrived in Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon, which is roughly 100 miles north of Skagway. I’ll finish the push in the morning and have time to check out the town before shoving off late afternoon for Bellingham, WA. Unfortunately, Slatts doesn’t live in Skagway anymore. I spoke with him last week, and he told me that he left Skagway three years ago. He’s now working in an Eskimo village north of the Arctic Circle. I think it was named Kilmeades.

Here are some landscape shots from the past two days in Alaska and Yukon Territory. They show pretty clearly that while late fall is lingering in the valleys, winter has arrived higher up. Weather was really nice, as were all of the people I met.

I don’t expect to have internet service on the ferry the next four days, so my next post will likely be from Washington state around Friday. The trip has really settled into a cool pace and flow the past five weeks. Kind of amazing that that time is now behind me, with seven weeks out front. Lots to look back on with great memories, and no doubt there’s much to look forward to as I keep on truckin’.

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Rollin’ Along

A brief post before I’m incommunicado for a while. Shoving off for Skagway tomorrow to catch a ferry after John leaves early in the morning. There’s no internet on Alaska Ferries, a real bummer, but the upside is that I’ll be able to work on my novel without interruption for three days. I’ve had an absolutely great time with John – he’s always up for anything and is a great travel companion, as well as younger brother. We’ve seen some amazing sights together the past week, and I’ll remember this trip with him for a long time.

After Wrangell-St. Elias, we visited Valdez, which is the most beautiful coastal town I’ve seen in Alaska. 7,000′ snow and glacier capped peaks completely surround it, and its harbor and fishing boats add a real charm.

Early morning Valdez

After Valdez, we headed back to Anchorage, where we picked up Burning Girl. New front brakes and shocks make her drive considerably better. The shifting problem could not be fixed – looks like I’m in for a new transmission when I get her back to the lower 48.

Photos on the road between Valdez and Anchorage

You never know who or what you’re going to see when you pull in for gas on the road. This is Mrs. Congeniality Thailand and her Dad, owners of a Tesoro station in Anchorage. Truly delightful people, and totally in love with the States.

So long for now. Next post will likely be from Washington state in a week, give or take.

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