September 2015 – Iceland

Three weeks touring Iceland in Autumn! I’ll probably miss most of the summer birds unless they, like us, are having an incredibly warm and long summer, but I should have some opportunities to see the Aurora Borealis, something I’ve seen only rarely in Alaska. Of course I’ll be doing some hiking, all of it with hopes of finding a nice geothermal spring to relax in at the end of the trail.


August 2013 – Brooks Range Backpacking

I successfully convinced both Shari and Erin to participate in a week-long backpacking trip in the Brooks Range in Alaska. We settled on an area about 40 miles north of Arctic Village, in the Cane Creek and Red Sheep Creek drainages of the Chandalar River, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We’ll be dropped off in one valley and will spend the next few days making our way up Cane Creek, across a small pass and down Red Sheep  Creek to a pick-up spot close to the creek’s confluence with the Chandalar River. I haven’t done anything like this in years; Shari has never done anything like this and Erin’s total number of nights backpacking can be counted on one finger. Should be an interesting jaunt for all of us!

We’ve spent hours and hours reviewing maps, discussing routes with our pilot (Kirk Sweetsir, Yukon Air), calculating fuel and food amounts, adding and deleting from our collective inventory… We’re coming in somewhere between minimalist (this is Alaska in the Arctic in the mountains in the fall, anything can happen and we ought to be prepared for most of it) and luxury (yeah, those clean clothes and a camp chair to sit on are nice, but who’s going to carry them?) in terms of our overall gear load. My guess is that we’ll start at about 45 pounds/person, maybe a bit less.


Sept/Oct 2011 – Walk across Wales

Not “Walk across Whales,” as someone whose name shall remain unmentioned thought I meant.  It’s no wonder she had such a look of confusion on her face as I waxed poetic about my upcoming trip!  No, Shari and I are going to hike across Wales, from the southeast to the northwest, a trip of about 220 miles.  Not quite as extravagant a long-distance trek as, say, the Pacific Crest Trail, but certainly it’s not a bad little jaunt.  I’ve had a long-time interest in Welsh history and in the last couple of years resumed hiking and backpacking around Unalaska.  So when about a year ago I read a short article about one of the national trails that runs through Wales I thought, “Now that would be a neat thing to do!”  A bit more research convinced me that a long hike in Wales was just the thing for a late summer vacation.  Shari, lured by my vague promises of nights spent on beds in guesthouses with pub dinners of Welsh lamb and fresh beer, has decided to accompany me.  She didn’t back out even when I later told her that we should pack sleeping bags, a tarp and a small stove because there might not really be lodging every night.  I imagine my not telling her this until after we bought the plane tickets helped insure her continued participation!

The route has morphed several times and since we’ve made no reservations other than our first night in the UK, it could easily change yet again if we find our timetable isn’t working out for us.  Right now the plan is to travel from Sedbury Cliffs to Knighton via Offa’s Dyke, to Machynlleth via Glyndwyr’s Way and then to Llanfairfechen through the mountains of Snowdon.  If we have time we’ll see about continuing to Angelesy Island – it’s supposed to be a lovely island, with beautiful beaches and many protected natural areas.  Shari’s particularly excited about all the birding possibilities there…

We were most disappointed to find that Will and Kate elected to make Wales their home, since it will probably now be overrun with royals-watchers peeping out from behind every tree and tussock. I’m hoping that the famous Welsh weather – remarkably similar to ours here in the Aleutians – will keep them at bay!

Oct/Nov 2010 – South Pacific Dive Extravaganza

Almost two years ago now, Brandon and I began planning  our “Ultimate Dive Trip.”  Our initial quest took us around the globe, as we explored locales in the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and islands of the eastern Pacific before we settled on the still rather large area of the South Pacific.  From there we honed in on the Coral Triangle, and selected Papua New Guinea as our destination of choice.  Our first discussions had us thinking about a trip of two weeks (not counting travel time to/from Dutch), which suddenly didn’t seem quite long enough.   The Coral Triangle is huge – there’s a lot to see there, and we wanted to see it all.  We wanted a land-based operation to dive Milne Bay and a liveaboard to see other parts of the Coral Sea.  Two weeks became three.  Air routes would require us to  pass through Cairns, gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.  It would be a shame to be all the way down there and not visit the Great Barrier Reef.  Three weeks became four.   A liveaboard can take you to places on the GBR that you just can’t reach in a day trip or two out of Cairns.  One liveaboard became two, and of course a visit to PNG wouldn’t be complete without at least a short trek in the Western Highlands and so…  Four weeks became five.  Megan, Brandon’s wife, blessed the trip in its entirety.  Work granted us both extensive vacations.  Deposits were made, air tickets reserved, the countdown began…

A recent hiccup in our reservations surfaced – the PNG boat on which we reserved space is being sold and all dive trips on the boat canceled.  So now, instead of diving from a second liveaboard in the Coral Sea, we’ll stay at the resort for an additional nine days, soaking up all that Milne Bay has to offer in terms of both diving and terrestrial activities. I’m actually quite excited about this, since our opportunity to see the land and its people would have been much more limited were we out at sea.  I’ll be able to take in some hiking and birding when we’re not in the water, and we’ll get to go to the Alotau Canoe Festival, which is in only its third or so year and should be a fascinating exploration of PNG culture.  In Australia we’re planning to visit the Daintree rainforest and some inland areas around Cooktown showcasing Aboriginal rock art.

These are some of the places we’ll be going:

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