Hilary, Hannah and I were out driving around a few Sunday afternoons ago just exploring the country side around the Fish Trap BLM area. This is area is dry and desert like with plenty of old volcanic lava flows poking out of the hillsides wherever one looks. As we were driving Hilary noticed Hannah was really quiet in the back seat. She asked Hannah what she was thinking about.
Hannah says, “Oh, the usual.”
Hmm, what is “the usual”?
“Hannah, what is the usual”, Hilary asked.
“Oh, I don’t want the trip to end. I want to keep on going. But I know it has to end so Daddy can get a job. But I don’t want it to end. We need to keep on going!” exclaims Hannah.
I totally agree with her sentiments. It has been so wonderful to be able to just travel and see the countryside with the freedom to sit in one place or to move on whenever the mood struck us. I realize what a significant blessing it is to be able to take the time off and have the financial resources to make a trip like this happen. Even considering the blessing it is to have the financial resources we do, it has still taken a significant amount of commitment to our original ideas to pull this off.
It is one thing to think of a big plan and yet another thing entirely to make it happen. We had our fair share of naysayers as well as those who provided whole hearted support. In the midst of day to day life it is so easy to become lethargic in just living each day to such an extent that there were days when we really wondered if we could make this trip happen and realize our dreams.
I think the key to success for us was making a decision – boy was that hard to do – and then creating a plan to make sure we could follow through. Without the plan we would have been overwhelmed with everything that needed to be done. The plan allowed us to break down a seemingly daunting amount of work into bit size chunks spread out over the course of five months. In the beginning it felt like we had forever – plenty of time to get everything done. However, as the weeks went by and key decision points arrived the reality of what we were doing became much more real. In those moments we asked ourselves if we were really sure this was such a good idea! We would take time during those moments to go back through our original thinking and evaluate again the reasons for and against what we were doing. Each time we evaluated our situation we arrived at the same conclusion – MOVE FORWARD.
Now here we are over four months later looking back at what we had been looking forward to realizing we have absolutely no regrets. Now for sure, every single moment was not bliss. Life still goes on. We still wake up occasionally on the wrong side of the bed and there are still young female teenagers in the house. Even with the realities of living life, we still had a great time on the whole and would repeat this trip again if we had it to do over.
So, what did we learn this summer?
- Each of us has a different appetite for adventure – or adventure comes in all forms
- A new clutch can be put in pretty quickly, but takes 24 man hours to accomplish
- Alaska is HUGE, no … REALLY HUGE
- There are no grizzly bears in Alaska
- Every single place we went we liked and would like to return and visit again
- British Columbia is beautiful and worth exploring as a destination all to itself
- British Columbia is expensive – food is expensive and taxes run around 17% depending upon locality
- Hilary does much better with low humidity
- It can be hard at times to be so close together 7×24 – individual personality quirks that would not normally bother someone else when living in a 1500 square foot house can become annoying in a hurry when living in less than 290 square feet
- Traveling with pets is nicer for some of the family than for others
- Total miles driven in the bus: 11, 748
- 1,445 gallons of diesel burned (not counting about 30 gallons burned to heat the bus and run the generator)
- 262 hours of driving in the bus
- 8.1 miles to the gallon average fuel economy
- 44 miles an hour average speed for those 262 hours of driving
- We drove an additional 5,000 miles in the Jeep in addition to those miles driven in the bus
- $3,906 spent on diesel
- $856 spent on gas
- 30 nights spent in a campground
- $494 spent on camping
- $2,782 spent on repairs to the bus
- $1,250 spent on repairs to the Jeep (including new tires)
- $27 spent on propane (cooking only)
- $257 spent on laundry cleaning (Laundromats)
- $73 spent on bus and car washes
- $4,123 spent on food – we have special dietary needs
- $1,563 spent on entertainment – this would include eating out three times, boat journeys, book purchases, etc.
- $23,560 total spent since we started this journey
Helpful Things or Things We Would Recommend
- Find dump stations using sanidumps.com
- Find free places to stay the night at freecampsights.net
- Must stop at visitor centers: Watson Lake, Whitehorse, Valdez, Tok (LOTS of info here!), and Fairbanks
- To enjoy the outdoors more even when it is buggy out you could consider getting a screen tent like the one we bought: Clam Screen Tent. This tent sets up in about 60 seconds or less. It is very easy to use and has made the summer more enjoyable for us by giving us a bug free place to enjoy the outdoors from.
- MilePost guide by Kris Valencia: This is an excellent resource to find places to stay, things to do, road side pullouts and gravel pits, historical tidbits, etc. for almost all of the popular routes through Canada and throughout most of Alaska. We had the 2015 MilePost and found it to be without any consequential issues.
- Traveler’s Guide to Alaska Camping by Mike and Terri Church: This is an excellent campground guide for all of Alaska and the popular access routes through Canada. We used this in tandem with the MilePost to find places to stay the night fitting our unique criteria like the ability to handle a big rig and cost.
- Take off as much time as you can! There is soooooo much to see.
- Budget time and money for break downs
- Plan for your food budget costs to be doubled. Some of our specialty diet food needs cost almost four times as much as we were used to paying. British Columbia and Yukon are more expensive than Alaska.
- Don’t try and make your almost worn out tires last for the trip. Save yourself the hassle, inconvenience, time and expense and replace your tires in advance.
- Get a tow shield for your TOAD (we wish we had done that)
- Plan for windshield damage
- Take your time and go slow – avoids break downs and increases enjoyment for everyone
I look back on the past few months and the times that really stand out for me are those times when we were out exploring some new place and where ever we looked we were the only humans to be seen. Solitude in nature is so satisfying for me. I’d like more of that!
A little while back Hilary asked Breann and Hannah to sit down and write out the top ten things about the trip that they learned or enjoyed. With their permission I thought I would share them with you. I have only corrected their spelling errors.
Breann: “Ten – Twenty things I learned”:
- Musk Ox are short and stocky
- Alaska is mostly a desolate land with populated areas
- Traveling to an unknown place in tiny space for 4 people can be aggravating
- Going sailing is fun. Feeling the wind on your face can be exhilarating.
- Alaska has way too much light in summer and dark in winter
- Natives and non-natives can live and survive in the same area
- The ocean is a place needed to survive off of in the North on the coast
- The ocean coasts get a lot of rain
- The coasts have too high humidity
- Bears don’t like to be seen by the Diehl family
- Salmon are pretty and last about 2 weeks after coming to spawn.
Hannah: “Ten things I learned or enjoyed on this trip”:
- Going to the Eagle Foundation
- Going hiking with Ruby and Pa and Ma
- Seeing Banff, Jasper, Valdez, Fairbanks, and other places
- No school (kind of) (I did miss school)
- Not seeing bears
- Me being not me – blow-ups
- Cloudy days – not sunny days
- Being a raptor person is cool and you get to work w/raptors
- Being a park ranger has a lot of responsibilities
- I want to be a raptor person!
Some thoughts from Hilary:
- Lyme disease sucks!
- I am surprised at how quickly I adapted to being on the road 100% of the time.
- I loved the coastal areas, especially when the mountains ran to the sea (seas, water, etc.).
- Being able to hike as much as I did was more than I could have hoped for.
- I have not grown tired of having my husband by my side 24×7. He will be greatly missed when he goes back to work.
- Over the course of this trip I have grown to love seeing and being in the mountains even more – if that is even possible.
- In reflecting upon our journey and the efforts we made to pare down our belongings I now know more about just how much is enough for me. Everything I need right now fits in the bus and that is not very much!
- I love watching wildlife. From Honeybees, unusual insects, Moose, sea otters, and seals – I enjoyed them all.
- Quiet walks and hikes together are a great way to build memories together.
- Peyto Lake hike was amazing!
- Skookum Volcano hike was epic – I cried when I made the summit. What an accomplishment!
- Flat Top Mountain hike was so great we had to hike it twice!
- The water excursions really standout for me – Specifically the LuLu Belle and the Extraordinary Sailing excursions
- Mold really bothers me.
- Low humidity has made a big difference for my breathing.
Below are some pictures and comments on them sharing some of our standout memories:
First break down in Arizona – the clutch throwout bearing failed and required removing the engine to replace the entire clutch assembly. I’m smiling because the Lord worked things out so perfectly for us. It couldn’t have happened at a better place!
Our first true resting point since we had left at the end of April. This was May 26th and the rest was overdue. We recharged amidst the peace and quiet for a few days before heading on.
Another break down – this time a fitting failed on the cooling system. Yet, we had a perfect place for me to work safe and away from the traffic. I also had all the spare parts necessary to fix the issue. A few hours later the cooling system was refilled and we were on our way like nothing had ever happened.
Around mile 380 of the Alaska Highway – a perfect pullout and a great place to explore the area from. We just loved the beautiful snow capped mountains all around us. The weather was perfect. Life doesn’t get much better than this!
Baba canyon had this trail we hiked up where the ice covering the stream had not yet melted. We found this great ice cave along the trail. This cave was big enough for someone to crawl into (we didn’t).
Yes – we really did put the bus on that ferry to cross the Yukon River. Hilary was on pins and needles the entire way and I must admit there was a little pucker factor for me associated with the crossing!
The summit of the Skookum volcano trail. This was a tremendous uphill hike. A half year earlier there was no way I could have imagined Hilary would have been able to do this. Yet, here she was with the rest of us. This was a very emotional accomplishment for her and I.
On board the LuLu Belle on our wildlife and Columbia Glacier boat tour. It was a picture perfect day. It was truly spectacular and perfect. Captain Fred called Hannah his official whale sighter as she kept see whales before anyone else did.
A beautiful example of a Sea Anemone in the touch and feel tank of the Seward Sea Life Center. This center was built with monies from Exxon after the Valdez oil tanker accident in Prince Rupert Sound. It was so cool to be able to touch them. It almost felt like you weren’t touching anything at all.
This is the best picture we got of Denali. This was taken by Hilary through the front windshield of the bus as we were driving up to the road that would lead us to Hatcher’s Pass. We did get a better view of the mountain a day later, but didn’t get a picture.
You may have read where we called our Alaska trip a “Moose Trip” due to the lack of Grizzly bear sightings. This mother and her calf were an exceptional example of our “Moose Trip”. They came out to eat along the edge of the pond we stayed at for a few days while visiting the Chena Hot Springs.
The Dalton Highway was one of those “must drive” destinations for me during our trip to Alaska. We had lots of rain the entire time we drove the highway. Even with the copious quantities of mud we still enjoyed the Article Circle and the Brooks Range.
A great example of my always ready to help me helper. Here she is helping me to fill the water tank from an artisan well spring faucet at the Yukon River crossing BLM free dump station. This was some very good water!
Yep – it was muddy! We are only a mile from completing our round trip drive up and back down the Dalton Highway. Perfect time to capture the new color our bus and Jeep were sporting. We ended up paying a fortune at a pressure washing car wash to clean all this mud off.
The girls swimming in Kluane Lake. It was COLD, but they both really enjoyed themselves. They were not able to talk me into coming in with them. In fact, I told them: “Don’t you dare make me come in and rescue you!”
High atop Mount Hayes looking out towards the Pacific Ocean. This view is just minutes outside of Prince Ruppert, BC. Enjoying some down time over the Labor Day Weekend alongside Pillar Lake just east and south of Kamloops, BC. This was one of only a few campfires we had all summer.
Breann and Hannah also took a bunch of pictures this summer and wanted to share some.
Extraordinary – I had a great time learning about the workings of a sailboat. I really see how fun it is to sail. You feel the wind in your face. You feel free like the wind.
Barnacles – This is the first time I’ve ever seen the barnacle “feathers”.
Quilt – My friendship quilt finished – productive times
This polar bear is big and dangerous. This bear was at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage. I enjoyed going there and seeing this animal.
This swan duckling was singing at the Alaska Zoo. The mother and father were talking also and had about 8 babies.
We were sailing in Seward and the clouds did this. Isn’t this beautiful? God is an awesome Maker! Praise the Lord!
So – this is it. This grand adventure is now officially behind us. We need to start dreaming and planning for a new grand adventure. Hmm, maybe a trip up the north eastern Atlantic seaboard????