Ryan's Journal

"My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?" — David Mitchell

50 miles up the Dempster Highway, Yukon Territory

Posted at 9:05 pm, August 13th, 2002

For a dirt road the Dempster Highway seems to be in excellent shape, so there’s no reason why the Subaru shouldn’t make it to the Arctic Circle and probably a fair bit beyond. It’s gotten a lot colder — there were actually a few flakes of snow a couple hours ago — but it’s no longer raining and the forecast is for sun, so I’m hopeful. Given good light the photos from up here should be memorable.

No big animals at all today, including moose. I’m utterly baffled. Also of note is that Progresso soup tastes just fine when not cooked, which is a very lucky thing since Dawson City didn’t sell the right size butane cannisters for my portable stove, leaving me with just enough butane to cook maybe one more meal, two if I’m lucky.

Dawson City, Yukon Territory

Posted at 3:00 pm, August 13th, 2002

The person who invented the shower should be sainted, or knighted, or something. God bless them.

It rained all morning, but the sun came out about an hour ago, so I’m hoping to finish up the laundry and start up the Dempster in the next few hours. I may be up there for anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, so if there aren’t any updates to this journal please hold off on calling out the mounties after me.

Dawson City is a fun little town, although expensive — gas is about $2.70 / gallon vs. $1.60 / gallon just across the border. With the sun out it’s rather pretty here, and the townsfolk definitely seem to tend toward the “colorful” side of the personality spectrum, making for some interesting people watching.

60 miles north of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory

Posted at 9:25 pm, August 12th, 2002

The Yukon Territory definitely gets the seal of approval. It’s full of trees, mountains, lakes, rivers, and not much else. In addition to the countryside, today I discovered the Braeburn Lodge cinnamon bun — it’s about a foot in diameter and three or four inches thick. A beautiful creation like this cinnamon bun is what happens when men are left alone in the North, and I support it wholeheartedly.

After leaving the Cassier Highway and then following the Alaska Highway for about 250 miles I stopped in Whitehorse to wash all of the mud off of the Subaru (there was a lot of mud), then traveled another sixty miles up the Klondike Highway. The plan is to make a stop in Dawson City tomorrow and then start up the Dempster Highway — hopefully the car will hold up well enough to make it at least to the Arctic Circle and allow me to do a bit of hiking. Dawson City supposedly has a laundromat with showers, so if all goes well I’ll be clean in all possible ways before embarking into the tundra.

The lack of moose is beginning to become disturbing.

Morchuea Lake, British Columbia

Posted at 8:50 pm, August 11th, 2002

I don’t have the words to describe the country I’ve been passing through today, so for anyone reading this, please consider driving the Cassier Highway (highway 37) in British Columbia at some point in your life. There is a lodge perhaps every fifty miles or so, but otherwise it’s just wilderness up here, and it’s the kind of rugged wilderness that makes a person feel spiritual again. I won’t even try to describe it further as I’m sure I’d fail to do the country justice.

Most of the day has been cloudy, although the mountains along the Alaska panhandle and their many glaciers have occasionally peeked out to the west. The second black bear of the trip made his appearance this morning, munching on wildflowers just off of the road for a few minutes before making his way back into the woods. Dozens of big, bright red sockeye salmon were powering their way through shallow rapids in a creek I stopped at, and loons, geese, and ducks have also made occasional appearances. The moose remain surprisingly elusive, but there must be legions of them out there somewhere.

The camp spot tonight is in a primitive “campground” on the shores of a big mountain lake that the forest service apparently left here for anyone who stumbles upon it. My attempts to clear out the local horde of mosquitoes by building a smokey campfire failed, so I’m forced to write this from the shelter of the Subaru. Tomorrow I’ll most likely finish the last 150 miles along the Cassier Highway before it ends at the Alaska Highway and crosses into the Yukon Territory.

30 miles west of Smithers, British Columbia

Posted at 9:25 pm, August 10th, 2002

Mostly just driving today — since leaving Green Lake I’ve covered almost 550 miles. Nice country — lots of small farms, lakes, streams, and horses. Not counting Prince George, I’ve only passed through nine or ten big towns, and to give some idea of “big”, Smithers was one of the bigger towns and is supposedly population 6,000. My present camping spot is located down a random dirt road that was marked “Danger! Unmaintained!” After about a mile the road entered a meadow at the base of a mountain, and I’m now typing from that meadow while watching the stars beginning to poke out.

The trip’s first bear made his appearance earlier today — the biggest black bear I’ve ever seen crossed the road at a trot perhaps 200 meters away. Early in the morning there were ospreys and a few eagles out, but they seem to have disappeared. Still no moose, but they’re out there, probably eating pond scum somewhere.

While cooking Chunky soup for dinner tonight the portable stove burned the bottom quarter of an inch of the can and didn’t cook at all above that. I ate the soup raw (tasted damn good, too — hunger does funny things to the taste buds) but I’ll either have to figure out another way to cook canned goods or else I’ll have to be sure to be hungry enough every night that cold soup tastes good :-P.

Green Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia

Posted at 9:15 pm, August 9th, 2002

Today was the day to buy supplies. I decided on canned goods, partly because they’ll keep for a while, but mostly because they don’t have any smell so I can keep them in the car without attracting bears. The final tally (I’m hoping this lasts at least a month):

+ (21) 18 oz. cans Progresso soup
+ (12) 15 oz. cans assorted Chef Boyardee
+ (2) 40 oz. cans assorted Chef Boyardee
+ (16) 6 oz. cans tuna
+ (6) 40 oz. cans Ditty Moore beef stew
+ (8) 15 oz. cans Hormel turkey chili
+ (4) 20 oz. cans chunked pineapple
+ (1) windshield repair kit
+ (1) “spare-tire-in-a-can”®

Real food is going to taste damn good after getting back from this trip.

Drove from Everett to Green Lake Provincial park (350 miles?). Highway one in Canada is highly recommended, as are the backroads of Washington. Highway one was especially nice — it travels through a huge canyon for perhaps seventy miles, and the scenery is like Yosemite but with many more pine trees. Once the canyon ends it’s wide open, rolling hills, followed by a typical northern scene with aspens and beaver ponds. Once I stopped driving I went for a run along Green Lake on a horse trail through the birches and past fields full of flowers and golden grasses. The turnaround point for the run was a huge pasture filled with probably fifty horses — this was far and away the best run I’ve had in ages. Yet another good day.

Everett, Washington

Posted at 8:00 pm, August 8th, 2002

Ma and Pa Holliday have taken it upon themselves to feed me and make sure I shower tonight, so I’m currently living it up in the Everett Best Western. Joined the folks for dinner (they’re on their way to Vancouver) and will soon be enjoying a much-needed shower. I haven’t yet noticed that people were keeping their distance from me, but after running every day and then sleeping in the car I doubt that my sink baths have been adequate.

Spent a short time at Mt. St. Helen’s today — great place — and then made my way up to Mt. Rainier. I very nearly managed to escape without doing any hiking, but pulled a U-turn at Sunrise and did a quick hike up to a ridge overlooking the mountain. I’ll have to write more later as Ma and Pa require attention.

Mt. St. Helen’s National Monument, Washington

Posted at 10:00 pm, August 7th, 2002

While the redwoods this morning were great, once I got onto I-5 and into Oregon things got a bit less exciting — any state where pumping your own gas is illegal is suspect to begin with, and several hundred miles on the interstate didn’t make for any lasting moments. The afternoon’s highlight came when I began filling the tank at the Shell station only to find a rather scary looking man standing behind me saying “You’re in the wrong state for that. Did you know last year over 800 people lit themselves on fire while pumping gas? Better give me the pump.” There was a tale that followed about a guy hauling a barrel of diesel and a spark of static electricity, but fun stories like that one really need to be told in person.

After arriving in Washington I tried to take the direct route up to Seattle, but Mt. St. Helen’s was calling to me, and despite my best efforts to stay the course I’m now camped out in the national forest adjoining the mountain. The plan for tomorrow is to get up early and make brief visits to Mt. St. Helen’s and Mt. Ranier before getting back on the road to Alaska and hopefully making the most of the remaining good weather up there. Whether or not I can actually visit Mt. Ranier without getting out and hiking ten miles remains to be seen.

Stout Grove, Redwood National Park, California

Posted at 11:30 am, August 7th, 2002

The trip began yesterday with a head-shaving. The initial cast of characters was myself, my brother, and Chi, although before all was said and done two more had joined the fray. It began with my brother announcing “I want to shave the dome”, was followed by the unlikely response of “Go for it” from me, and immediately proceeded with Chi’s “Dude, you’re letting him shave your dome?!?” Three(!) pairs of clippers, and what seemed like about ten pounds of hair later and the once-proud Holliday locks have been reduced to something that could probably best be described as “fuzzy”. Definite thanks to Adam for coming in to give me a nice fade and clean up the horrible mockery of a haircut that my brother had given me.

After saying goodbye to Aaron, Chi, Adam and friends the last errand I had to run was to renew my driver’s license, and after an ungodly long time at the DMV I finally got onto the road. Nadia will be pleased to learn that “Where the Streets Have No Name” was indeed the song that kicked the trip off, followed soon after by the entire Graceland album. Drove up 101, through Napa and into the mountains, and spent the night sleeping comfortably in the back of the car about twenty miles south of Redwood National Park.

Today I’ve just been kind of moseying along, and after talking to Zac about Stout grove I had to at least make a brief visit. I went for a short run after arriving, and have just been roaming around since. It may sound a bit corny, but when it’s quiet in the grove and no else is around it’s almost possible to feel the trees — not in any sort of physical sense, but more as just an overwhelming peacefulness. Not a bad way to start a trip.

Palo Alto, California

Posted at 11:30 pm, July 30th, 2002

I woke up late this morning, ran a few errands, then ate a huge sub in my living room while watching the History Channel at lunch time. Retired life is rough. Anyhow, the departure date for Alaska feels like it’s going to be next Tuesday. By that point the car should be in good shape, the stuff I’ve ordered should all be here, and I ought to be antsy enough that another day in Palo Alto will just about drive me crazy — California is a great place, but Alaska in the Fall, well, that would be a tough one to beat.

I was reading through the Milepost (the guide to roads in British Columbia / Yukon Territories / Alaska) tonight looking for routes, but instead of figuring out what roads I’ll take I spent most of the time flipping through the pages looking at photos of the mountains, the bears, the caribou — how have I gone this long without doing a trip like this?!? The decision to quit definitely doesn’t seem like such a bad idea today.

Palo Alto, California

Posted at 12:00 am, July 24th, 2002

So the plan is to keep a log of the goings on for the next couple of months. I’ve got no clue who might be interested in such a thing, but for those that are, thanks for taking the time to share in my little adventure.

At this point the enormity (or lack thereof) of what I’m doing is still hitting me. The economy sucks, my job was actually a pretty good one, but instead of maintaining the status quo I’m hopping in the Subaru and taking off into the wild unknown. Whether I’m stupid, brilliant, daring, or idiotic I don’t know, but hope to find out…