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Alaskan Twilight

My time in Alaska is coming to an end and I thought I would sum up these last few days with some choice photos.

I’d just arrived back from kayaking and was wandering the main street of Valdez when Thomas and Roland drove up. Neither of us had any idea we were going to be there and it was fantastic to see friends again. We ended up hanging out for three days, laughing at planning new adventures the whole time.

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Bridal Viel Falls HDR

We chatted to some locals who were cleaning their Halibut down on the pier and one of them gave us a huge slab of the fish he was cleaning. He was just about to throw it out, so didn’t mind giving it to us. Thomas and I were over the moon as we cut it into enormous chunks and cooked it up with plenty of lemon juice and butter. Too add to that, my kayaking guide Jay left me a 12 pack of my favorite beer in the jeep and a note wishing me safe travels.
As Thomas pointed out, I don’t need a million dollars, just a couple of good friends and good times.

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Thomas Dan & Roland in Valdez

We went for a hike up behind Valdez and had an awesome view when the morning clouds burnt off:

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The view of Valdez when the morning cloud lifted

I’ve been trying to get photos of the wildflowers for a while now – they are everywhere:

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Alaskan wildflowers are everywhere

On our way out of Valdez we went for a hike up Worthington glacier all the way up to the dome visible above my head in this photo:

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Dan and Worthington glacier

A few weeks back I adjusted quickly to the very long days and even the endless days. Now that I’m moving south, twilight begins at about midnight and a headlamp is almost needed from 2am until about 3.30am – I’m really struggling to get used to this and I much prefer the endless sunshine simple smile

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Hiking Worthington glacier

-Dan

22 Responses

  1. Bill says:

    Dan,

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your travelogue of your adventure so far. I check your site every day or so to see what you’ve been up to, because it makes for some really entertaining reading …

    One more thing I’m not sure if I ever showed you which you might get a kick out of is the Degree Confluence Project (http://confluence.org/) – given your propensity to go bushwhacking, maybe heading to some random unexplored point would be fun.

    Drive safely, dude!

    Bill

    • Dan says:

      I’m glad you are enjoying my writing – it’s something I spend a lot of time on and am really working hard to improve. Hopefully one day people won’t even know I’m and Engineer :)
      I’ve looked into the Confluence Project and geo caching, but neither are very feasible right now as I don’t have a GPS and don’t really have need for one. Maybe one day.
      Have you got any big trips planned? I talked to a guy on a motorbike yesterday who rode the Dempster and the Dalton – he said the Dempster is about 10 times more beautiful – It’s waiting for you.

      • Bill says:

        Not yet, but I just drove the Going-to-the-Sun road in the U.S. Glacier National Park on my way back from a little bit of a U.S. road trip. It’s epic, dude, epic. Montana in general has some unbelievable roads – I was on this crazy little back highway (28) on my way to Kalispell from Seattle and I swear, dude, there’s this valley that is a good 10 km long, 1 km wide, and completely undeveloped other than the (very quiet) road. (There’s also apparently some hot springs in that area.)

        I took some pictures going over the Going-to-the-Sun Road: http://img190.imageshack.us/gal.php?g=wg4s.jpg&via=yfrog … can’t recommend this drive enough.

  2. Murray says:

    I’m really glad that my son and I met you on the Chilkoot Trail yesterday, Dan. I’ve just begun to read your blog but will be spending a lot more time here – I’m enjoying both your writing and your photography. I’ll add a link to it from my blog shortly, as I know many of my readers will want to follow your adventure.

    • Dan says:

      Hey Murray – thanks so much again for the ride down – you guys saved me a lot of thumb-time :)
      I actually wound up at your site yesterday following a link from Wikipedia – very cool stuff.
      I’ll also be crawling your site and I’ll add a link as well.
      I stopped in at Carcross to say hi to Ron, it’s so cool to see people out in the real world, showered and clean shaven.
      Take care Murray, I’m certain we’ll keep in contact.

  3. brian12566 says:

    Get a new headlight yet?

    • Dan says:

      yep – and man I forgot how cheap things in the US are (even Alaska) $8.99 for a headlight and similar for an oil filter and air filter.

  4. Liz says:

    Hey Dan,
    I’m loving everyhing about this trip except…that i can’t read all about it in one go. It’s like the books I stay up until 5am reading but I have to keep waiting and that is frustrating!!
    Hanging out until the next post.
    Love Liz

  5. Hi Dan. I found your blog through Murray’s web site. I’ve really enjoyed reading your adventures and seeing your photos. I’ve lived in the Yukon since 1984 and haven’t yet been to some of the places you have! I guess it’s true what they say about taking what’s in your own back yard for granted. I was particularly intrigued by the Magic Bus, not having heard the story of Chris McCandless. If you find yourself coming back through Whitehorse and would like a free meal, shower, place to wash your clothes, etc. please look me up. I can be reached through my blog.

    • Dan says:

      Thank you so much Janet – I know what you mean about your own backyard, many people have seen more of Australia than I have.
      The Magic Bus was a hugely inspiring place and I couldn’t recommend it more highly.

  6. Mike says:

    Wow!

    I really have to get up to Alaska – so many amazing vistas and it seems like endless wildlife sightings!! It must have been really intense to see Grizzly’s up close – i’m so jealous!! Was it a good experience or a little too much?

    Bon Voyage as the Quebecois would say :)
    Mike.

  7. Mandy says:

    That is quite the beard growing going on Dan!
    It looks like you are having an amazing time, I love the pictures of the glaciers. Its really just awe-inspiring and makes me wonder why I’m not up there myself. Keep safe :)

    Mandy

    • Dan says:

      Hey Mandy – great to hear from you!
      I really didn’t see the point in shaving yet so I haven’t 😛
      I hope you two have a fantastic time in Victoria and then the world.

  8. Helen Millar says:

    I found your website having just watched Into The Wild, and Google-searching McCandless. What struck me most about this thread on your blog, is the story of other travellers you met having caught a fish, about to throw (one presumes excess) meat away. The irony strikes me of how McCandless considered it a tragedy when he failed to correctly preserve the moose meat, and therefore wasted it. According to the film at least (I have not read the book), he felt so terrible he wished he had not killed the moose at all.

    Having the ability, both physical and financial, to travel, is a huge privilege. To act in such an overindulgent and flippant manner about the fish meat, only seems to illustrate the greed and ignorance of those of us lucky to be raised without want in the Western world.

    I am curious also if you have considered a way to pay back the cost your fossil-fuel powered vehicle inflicts on the environment that you are so hasty to photograph and proclaim beautiful? Do you think if every person in North America were to 4-wheel drive their way to the Magic Bus, that the trail would remain anywhere close to the condition in which you found it?

    I have been a traveller myself, and I certainly do not begrudge anyone the opportunity to see the world. What disappoints me is how many of us fail to see the bigger picture, outside our own lives and limited viewpoint. How many of the folks you meet on your trip are even remotely aware of the impact their travelling has on the precious places they visit? Growing up in New Zealand I’ve read many stories of farmers attempting to seal off public hiking trails that run across their land, because they are frustrated and insulted by the amount of rubbish left behind by travellers. For me, using a jeep to drive one person the length of two continents falls into the same category, along with throwing away perfectly good fish meat. Considering the reach and readership of your blog, I would hope you are doing something to encourage responsible behaviour on behalf of all those fortunate enough to travel.

    “Take only photos, leave only footprints.”

    Helen Millar

    • Dan says:

      Hi Helen,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, I like that you are calling me to task. Let me address a couple of points:
      With regard to the fish meat, I think my storytelling needs some clarifications. In the towns of Seward and Valdez I saw many locals cleaning their catch of the day throwing away huge slabs of fish that I thought were perfecrtly good. When I asked them about it, they said they didn’t have time to bother with that part of the fish and that it was not that good anyway. They always throw it away. Every single day.
      My travelling friends and I asked if we could have what they were throwing away, and ate that for dinner.
      To be clear, we did not throw away ant fish meat. In fact, we ate what others had thrown away. I quite literally pulled the discarded fish from the trash chute and cut it up for dinner.
      We had quite the discussion about waste and over-consumption that night.

      I’m very glad you bring up the topic of my fossil-fuel powered, single occupant trip across great distance. It’s something I’ve been thinking long and hard about lately, but have not come to any conclusions.
      I agree that it is quite a self-indulgent thing to do and is certainly not doing the environment any favours.
      Although I do wonder how my carbon footprint for the year would stack-up with others…

      I think a lot about what I’m doing with my life, if this is a good choice and what I could/should be doing otherwise. Again, no conclusions.
      It’s interesting that you were a traveller yourself and say you don’t begrudge the opportunity for people to see the world.
      Would you feel better about what I am doing if I were on a bicycle? or walking? or maybe in a solar car?

      I’d love to hear your thoughts as it really is something I think about very often.

      Thanks again,
      -Dan

  9. Helen Millar says:

    Hi Dan,

    I’m somewhat glad to hear your clarification on the fish story, but also appalled that this is common practice – for anyone, anywhere. It’s the “Tragedy of the Commons” scenario rearing its ugly head, as it so often seems to particularly when it comes to the oceans. I worked on a charter yacht one summer and was shocked to see how poorly sailors treat the very sea that sustained them! All forms of garbage, raw sewage, chemicals… everything went straight over the side. Even when proper dumping facilities were provided, people just didn’t care.

    One thing that always gets me, is how people with children behave this way. What sort of world are they expecting to create for their future family? I suspect they are assuming their kids will be able to buy their way out, to afford to live somewhere clean looking and avoid dealing with the reality of the mess that has been made. Humans are notorious for not wanting to think too far ahead, for fear they may have to change their ways.

    I did some basic maths, and worked out roughly that the fuel you will burn on your trip (one way) equals four one way trips for me from where I live in Toronto, Canada, to my home of New Zealand. I make that return trip about once a year. The way I tend to think about it, is always looking for the best way possible, but without completely limiting your life. On the one hand, life is short and we only get it once so let’s make the most of it. On the other hand, let’s do it the best way we know how. I don’t have a lot of fuel efficient options for visiting home. I try to trade off in other ways – for example I don’t own a car and never have. In your situation, maybe there are better options? Maybe there are some places you want to visit that are only accessible by car, but do you need a relatively inefficient 4WD? Can you compensate by car sharing with other travellers, hitchhiking, using public transport when available, or cycling if you are in good health?

    For me, the answer is to keep asking. Most middle class Westerners whom I’ve met, take so much for granted. In Toronto people use clothes dryers consistently year round (and then plug in humidifiers when it’s too dry!). In Auckland, we always used the washing line or hung clothes indoors if it was raining out. Now, my balance is still to hang clothes up, but I’ll use the dryer in an emergency.

    I’m really glad to hear that you are thinking about these things, that means the travelling is working! You are coming out of your box! This is one of the most important reasons I wish everyone could travel somehow, somewhere; to have their minds opened to all different ways of thinking, and to appreciate the world in a new way.

    Keep trying to find your balance. And use this blog to brainwash all the desktop travellers who are reading from their office desks to use the recycling bin at work, or take the bus, or a bike, or see a part of their city or town they’ve never seen before. You are already achieving one thing spectacularly it seems; inspiring people, waking them up. Now, what will they do with that energy?

    Helen

  10. Matt says:

    ***Warning, Rant Ahead*****

    Wow, Helen,

    Lets just take one minute here and step off our pretentious high horse. I love how you can set a perfectly arbitrary (albeit acceptable in your books) point on the pollution spectrum, that makes allowances for multiple yearly trips halfway around the world and the associated frivolous pollution. Then at the same time demand explanations and berate someone else, while you yourself are impervious to any such second guessing due to the fact that you make compromises such as not owning a car in Toronto, a city that has better public transit that most cities in North America. Wow. Congrats. No car? You’re in the same boat as 75% of the rest of Toronto, only they’re not gallivanting off to NZ. Move to Churchhill Manitoba sans car and I might acknowledge a sacrifice.

    Sure you *could* do it in an environmentally friendly way, you could bike to BC then sail to NZ. A bit on the extreme end perhaps, but essentially when someone calls you on it you’re saying “C’monnnn! You really expect me to do that? It’s not *that* much pollution given what I’m getting and the alternatives. Quit wasting my time and fuel up the jet” No no, you could but you don’t. If I lived in Toronto I likely wouldn’t own a car either. Purely for cost/hassle when there’s great alternatives. Or you could just not go to NZ. Or just not own a drier. That simplifies the decision to hang your clothes out or not. Unless you’re naked and all your clothes are covered is sewage, there isn’t a true washer emergency. I’ve travelled in clothes that haven’t been washed/dried in weeks. It doesn’t kill you. But, true sacrifice for the benefit of the environment only works when other people do it, right?. And that’s the #1 problem with this whole global warming crap. That thing everyone cared about until they lost their jobs. “Hey I changed to those new lightbulbs… I’m doing my part. Now fuel up the jet!”

    Better options? Start shooting them out. How bout he ships the car on rails, flies to Argentina in that pedal powered plane that guy used to cross the English channel a few years back, then meets the Jeep there. Wow. What a trip and sense of accomplishment from driving and PanAm highway that would be. You seem to be missing the whole point of the trip. A 4WD, 4 Cyl vehicle is probably about the least you’d want to be taking over a lot of these parts, and he already said it’s gutless on those 12% grades. Hate to break it to you but I honestly don’t think the Prius would make it over a lot of those places where roads don’t exist. Although parts would probably be prevalent in Bolivian back country maybe?

    I don’t know why you’re giving him such a hassle anyways, like he said in his post I’d put him against your average Canadian and I’m sure he’d come out shining. I can tell that’s the case just by his writings. “Congrats the travelling is *working*?” Lets cut the condescending crap. Most people don’t ‘become’ considerate and conscientious, they were likely born and raised that way, and just as an aside they also appreciate the benefits travel and intermingling can offer. Your beef isn’t with him, if you want to help the environment and broaden some horizons start going after those soccer moms who drive their kids 6 blocks to school in vehicles twice the size and three times the power as his because they have an irrational fear that anything and everything outside their house is just waiting in the bushes to (kill/rape/stab/rob/stuff) them and their kids, and that the only a vehicle capable of positioning a large jetliner will keep them safe. At least he’s using his vehicle for what it was made for.

    ————————————————————————————————

    Dan, on a slight aside, awesome trip. I’m super envious. Its been on my todo list for some time, I was tossing about the idea of doing it in an old baha bettle converted for offroading. Met a guy in LA at a hostel once driving around the world in one which hardened my resolve (redbuggy.com). Love your writing style and reading about the adventure. Just found it today and I spent a couple solid hours on it tonight, will finish it up soon and be using it for inspiration no doubt. Cheers, -Matt

    • Dan says:

      Hey Matt,
      Thanks for the thoughts. It’s something I still think about almost every day and I feel like my next adventure will make use of some kind of green machine, whatever that may be. I don’t have the answers to fixing the environment, but I’m going to keep looking.
      It’s cool to hear you’re inspired by my writing – thanks for the kind words.
      A baja buggy would be an awesome way to get around, you really should go for it.

  11. Liz says:

    My turn!
    Helen, Dan’s not travelling by himself. He’s got me with him and countless other blog readers who are living this dream through him.
    On top of that I’ve been living in London for the past 6 years with only one trip back to Australia in that time…Dan can have a bit of my carbon footprint if it means that he keeps living his dreams.

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