Tag Archives: Alaska

Mudd Bay

16 Oct

We met the Zeigers, Mark, Michelle and Aly, on the side of Mudd Bay road.  We had just come from the town screening of White Fang, which was filmed in Haines, Alaska.  Earlier that day, someone from Haines Brewery told us that in a certain area of town, people parked along side the main road then cross a bay to get to their homes.  We sought out this road.  When we met the Zeiger family on the side of Mudd Bay road, they were waiting for a bear to leave the bay so they could cross it to get home.  We stopped and chatted with them for a while.  That night, Sarah and I could not stop talking about how they have to cross a bay while being mindful of the tides and then walk an hour through an unpaved forest just to get home.  I parked close by for the night so we could we explore the area the next day.  The following day, we went back to the bay and the tide was really high—uncrossable by foot.  While this added to my fascination of how people lived on the other side, I was disappointed I couldn’t walk across to learn more.

My other obsession in Haines was a wooden boat. DSC_0448

I spoke to the brother of the owner/builder.  He said it was a London sailing barge style.  After taking about a hundred pictures and measurements, I did an Internet search.  I found that the designer, David Zeiger, lives in Haines.  I emailed David trying to arrange a meeting since we were in Haines for a few more days before we took the ferry out.  The emailed response said it was Mark, David’s brother, who managed the website and email correspondence.  David was out of town but Mark was more that willing to meet up, and actually, we had met on Mudd Bay road the day before.  I told Sarah about this strange coincidence.  She asked me if I told Mark about how we were still talking about them nonstop.  I had, along with a request to visit their homestead.  Mark was up for it, as long as a tour of Skyhorse was in it for him.  In his email, Mark suggested we wear rainboots for our journey.

The next morning, we first stopped at the only store in town to buy rain boots, a worthwhile $40.  To say that the Ziegers live differently is an understatement that starts with the passage to their house.  Boots are a necessity.  After parking on the side of Mudd Bay road, we walked across the street and began to cross the bay.  If the tide is out, it’s a walk in rain boots, maybe waders.  When the tide is in, it’s a kayak ride or afternoon in town until the water reaches a crossable level.  That morning, we walked across what once was the bottom of a bay, wet and seaweed ridden.

the start of the walk across the bay

the start of the walk across the bay

boots and coats

boots and coats

Once across the bay, we treked 45-minutes through the lush forest.  If we hadn’t had Mark and Aly as guides, we surely would have gotten lost.  The path to their home was minimally marked with flags but heavily covered in mushrooms, canopy trees and moss.  And then we arrived at their ocean view homestead.  It felt like walking though Sherwood Forest to get to Robin Hood’s hidden village.

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The main cabin has a  wood burning oven in the center, along with their shower which is hooked up to the oven. The back room is the master suite and the upstairs has a cool tv room and Aly’s room.

the cabin

the cabin


There’s a healthy garden any rabbit would happily call home.

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They collect their own water, produce all their own electricity through wind and solar and have an outhouse with instructions on how to use the toilet.  They don’t have refrigeration and everything they bring out to the house must be carried on their backs.  Even though they did not build the cabin, it fits them so well.  I love their spirit—a spirit nesting in the treasure of nature.  In our contemporary world that encourages making our lives convenient and lavish, the Zeigers have ignored this and followed their hearts.  It affirms that those that follow their hearts receive rewards that are hidden in the waves of conformity.

The day passed like we were all on swings on a porch, sharing each other’s energy.  We toured the grounds.  Ali made us bumble weed pesto from plants in their garden.  Mark poured wine that he made.  After eating lunch, the tide had come in so we continued our stay.

The conversation flowed all over—our travels, their decision to move from Juneau to this remote home to live off the land, and Aly’s schooling (she’s now in college).  Dinnertime rolled around and Mark cooked us lentil chili.  Michelle came home from work just as the sun began to dip.  We figured we should begin the hour long hike back to Skyhorse through the wilderness.  The Ziegers, professionals at this walk, trotted along in the near-darkness sans lights.  We followed, though I’m certain had it just been Sarah and I, we would have turned on lights the second we stepped out of the house.


As we walked back to Skyhorse among the shadows with wood and rock under our boots, Mark spoke about his passion for the Christmas season.  He said the Haines library had a sleepover for the release of the final Harry Potter book.  At midnight, everyone walked over to the local bookstore, bought the book and returned back to the library.  Mark wanted to have a have another sleepover to during the Christmas tree lighting ceremony.  His face had an innocent mischievous glow when he talked about Christmas.  We were walking downhill single-file surrounded by dense forest.  And then we all turned on our flashlights.

Aly earlier had anthropologically dissected Christmas.  She said it was a festival designed to give a reprieve from the darkness coldness of winter by adding colorful lights, gathering with other while drinking and eating in excess.

I remember how much I awaited Christmas morning to celebrate the gifts that I got.  Now the gifts that I value the most are experiences, not possessions.  Thank you Zeigers for a truly memorable gift.

walk back across the bay

To learn more about the Zeigers and their homestead check out their website: http://akzeigers.com and the blog post they wrote about meeting us: http://akzeigers.com/blog/?p=7737

Random thoughts/month 5

27 Sep

This month we:

+ got a new GoPro! Yes, those suckers are indestructible in water, weather, and drops but apparently not to software updates. After an hour on the phone with a tech, a new one was shipped to us in Valdez, where we had to call the FedEx driver’s cell phone and arrange to meet up on the side of the highway to get the package. Ahhh, small town living!

+ watched a family of 4 adult bears catch and eat loads of salmon from a river while 3 baby bears climbed a nearby tree. It was amazing.


+ ran the generator practically every night, which is way too much. Hani designed the truck so that during the day, we flick a switch that turns on the solar panels to heat up the water. Problem is, in Alaska we didn’t get a lot of sun. So every night we had to run the generator to get hot water. Not very environmentally friendly but neither alternative of being stinky or taking cold showers was really an option.

+ also along those lines, had the heater going every night, just to get the chill and dampness out.

+ saw a whole lot of glaciers and even walked on one. Alaska is just packed with glacial activity and we couldn’t pass up a chance to see every one we came across. They are completely magnificent!


+ loved Haines. This small town is right on the water and has the most phenomenal views of mountains and glaciers and the ocean. In the few days we spent there, we saw bears and loads of bald eagles, caught the annual screening of White Fang (filmed in Haines), met the most amazing family living extremely remotely (post on that soon), saw the most intense collection of hammers, and finally bought a growler of a delicious brew at Haines Brewing Company.

+ wore our West Marine foul weather jackets fairly regularly and bought rain boots. They are clunky and manly but nothing beats having dry toes 🙂 Now, they are stowed away, hopefully never to be used again.

+ rode the Alaska Marine Highway (ferry). We debated whether or not to take the ferry because it’s so expensive but it was definitely worth it. It was a gorgeous ride, gave Hani a break from driving, and we got to visit cities we wouldn’t have had we drove. We hopped on the ferry in Haines and spent 10 days between Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan, exiting in Prince Rupert, Canada. Each island was completely different geographically and culturally, with a huge influence from the First Nation people, spectacular totem poles, and peaceful views of the ocean.



+ replaced the starter. For a few days, it took a bit of work to get Skyhorse cranked up. We WD40-ed the crap out of that area, which helped for a while. And then, on the day we were catching the weekly ferry out of Sitka, we couldn’t start the truck at all. We were in a remote area where we barely had a phone signal and 3 hours before our ferry left. After working on the starter for almost 2 hours, Hani said to call AAA. Those must have been the magic words because Skyhorse cranked after that! By some miracle, we made it on and off the ferry to arrive in Ketchikan with enough sun (a 2 day long monsoon followed) for Hani to replace the starter. Too close of a call on that one.

+ finished up Alaska and re-entered BC Canada. Alaska was truly amazing and we visited pretty much every place we wanted to. Then we blew through Canada in less than a week. I would have liked to spend more time in Vancouver but Hani nixed that. Its a pain to maneuver Skyhorse in big cities. We did have some fab eats though (Thai, Maylasian, French pastries and Middle Eastern), always a #1 in our book!

+ are back in the US and excited for cheaper fuel, fantastic eats and brews and most importantly meeting up with friends and family! We spent a few days in Bellingham and now are in Seattle for the weekend, maybe longer. If you live in Washington, Oregon or California, let us know. We could be coming to your town next!


Stuff no one tells you: Alaska

15 Sep

We’ve spent over a month in Alaska so far and are loving it! The state is very diverse geographically–you can see everything from mountains to flat plains to oceans to small streams to dry country to damp rain forest. There are some aspects of the state that we did not anticipate though…

August and September encompass the rainy season. It’s conveniently not mentioned in any of the guidebooks. They actually say the best months to visit are June, July and August but no mention of rain. And rightfully so. Rainy days here are miserable. Windy cold rain is a horrible combination. The locals say it will rain until it starts to snow. But the sunny days (we’ve been here so long they’ve finally started to outnumber the bad days) are magnificent! Fingers crossed we have nice weather until we leave on the 20th.

Things are more expensive here. Not just because of the cost to freight stuff up here, but because most of the cities are at the end of the road. The small towns greatly outweigh the large ones so there’s not as many people to cater to. And with only a thousand or so residents, a town can get by with one grocery store that has high prices and no competition.

You will probably not see Mt McKinley. The clouds in Denali are really low and even on a “clear” day, best case you’ll see the middle of the mountain. Its crazy because you’d think the highest point on the continent would always be visible. So odd. We were lucky enough to be part of the 30% that see a portion of Mt McKinley.

Wildlife here is spectacular!! We have seen everything from bears and moose to hordes of bald eagles to amazing sea life: whales, seals and puffins. Granted, we did go to the Sealife Center in Seward to see the aquatic animals up close but we did see them in the wild as well.



The cities in Alaska are extremely remote. Aside from Anchorage and Fairbanks, everything else is a small town. There are only roads to like 30% of the state. Otherwise you ferry or fly. And there are lots of cities that are populated and even tourist destinations but you can’t drive TO them. Nome, Kodiak, Sitka, Ketchikan, Juneau all have no roads to them. You. Can’t. Drive. To. The. Capital. You have to ferry or fly there. Actually, I don’t think you can ferry to Nome or Kodiak anymore, just fly. It’s a pretty penny too.

The roads aren’t THAT bad. We heard horror stories about highways with potholes the size of a small child and truck drivers who nearly side swipe you while they douse your car in dirt and rocks. We heard that it is a miracle to make it out of Alaska with your windshield in one piece. We even met one traveling group who marked each crack in their windshield with the date and location. Thankfully we did not experience ANY of this!

There are some delicious breweries in this state. Homer Brewing Co and Haines Brewery were particularly impressive as were the Moose’s Tooth brews and the ever popular Alaskan beers which thankfully can be found at most stores here.

Sunlight until midnight is amazing!!! And with a handful of hours of twilight, we were so much more productive. But losing 6 minutes every day is draining. When we first got to Alaska, the sun would set around 11:30pm. Now, it gets dark at 7pm. The shorter days mean the weather is going to turn soon. And that’s an indication for us to go! Alaska has been phenomenal but its just about time to get back to the lower 48 and some beach weather!






1 Sep

Time definitely escapes us and rarely do we realize it’s a holiday. It’s only when we are having something shipped to us and “overnight” becomes a week that we realize its a 3 day weekend. Our whole life now is a 3 day weekend. So to everyone that has a real holiday weekend, enjoy it! And ‘Lshana Tova and a happy and healthy.

Also, for some holiday viewing, check out our picture in the Homer news!

We spent the weekend in Anchorage and Palmer. On Friday, met up with Hani’s friend Tawny and had the best time on an Anchorage bar stroll lead by Lorali. Saturday we did nothing besides obsessively watch episodes of Breaking Bad. On Sunday, Lorali invited us to her house to chill out. She made us some delicious meals, the pups had a blast running around her yard, and we just had an all around wonderful time getting to know her and meeting her sweet parents.

Today we are on our way to Valdez, a coastal city on the Prince William Sound. We pit stopped to walk ON this glacier which was amazing.


We’ll spend a few days there and hopefully our new GoPro will arrive. Fingers crossed!


A wedding gift

29 Aug

Even though we got married 7 months ago, Peter (probably feeling bad that he invaded our romantic year-long honeymoon) finally got around to giving us a wedding gift–a 6 hour boat ride out of Seward to view the wildlife of the Kenai Fjord National Park and glaciers. And of course, Peter joined us, which was a gift in and of itself. We bundled up in every article of clothing we brought with us, including our fab West Marine jackets, and headed out for a chilly day on the water.

It was cold and drizzly but not foggy so we were able to see a ton of animals. We saw harbor seals, stellar sea lions, humpback whales, a huge pod of orcas, puffins, and a bald eagle.

sea otter

sea otter


bald eagle in the distance

bald eagle in the distance

pod of orcas

pod of orcas


The views from the water were also spectacular! We saw a few glaciers from a distance and got really close to one that was cracking while we were there. There were chunks of ice in the water!! Just an unbelievable sight!


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It was an amazing day and we are so thankful to Peter for making this happen. It was also a great way to send Peter off.

So Peter, is this a good enough thank you card, or do we need to snail mail you something??

Random thoughts/month 4

26 Aug

We spent the good majority of this month in Alaska. It’s gorgeous here! People had been saying this was the warmest summer but I guess warm is all relative!


This month, we:

+ toured into the Yukon Territory. We stayed a few days in Whitehorse and Dawson City. And then left. Alaska was calling our name. Loudly.

+ took a shot with a toe in it. An actual human toe. In Dawson City, Yukon, this hotel bar is known for its “sourtoe” shot. You pick the alcohol (over 80 proof) and a creepy man in the back of the bar puts a frostbitten toe in your glass. It’s preserved in kosher salt and to count, the toe must touch your lips. Once you’ve completed this task, you are issued a certificate and your name goes into the master book. Hani and I were numbers 51,000something so we aren’t the only fools doing this!


+ brought Olivia to the vet. Unnecessarily. I thought she had ring worm. Turns out, she was bitten by a fly. $60 and 10 minutes later, we were told they heal on their own. Hani is still waiting for Olivia to pay him back.

+ arrived at mainland Alaska, thankfully away from high Canadian prices. We had been to Hyder and Skagway Alaska but to enter both of those cities, you take the one road in from Canada and have to go back out on the same road. We had the most pleasant border crossing just south of Eagle, Alaska, with the agent actually smiling and asking us questions about Skyhorse. We took the windy dirt road to Eagle, Alaska (town of 130) and then to Chicken (town of 8). Eagle was odd, as there was no city center. They had a massive glacial flood a few years earlier and then again last year that wiped out their restaurant/laundry/store. So now, there’s really no gathering place, aside from outside the library, the only place in town you can get free wifi. Chicken has 3 businesses, and RV park, and a bar. The bar is absolutely hilarious and the characters there made me miss Key West’s wackos. 🙂

downtown Chicken, Alaska

downtown Chicken, Alaska

+ seen veggies the size of my leg. No joke, the zucchini and squash here are so massive, they can be used as weapons.

+ hosted our first guest. On August 16, our south florida friend Peter joined us on our travels for 2 weeks around Alaska. It’s been really great showing him what we’ve been doing the past few months and exploring the state with him.

Peter and his ladies

Peter and his ladies

+ made some great new friends. In Skagway, we were flagged down by Jan and Gary in their old school car and invited to join them for dinner and drinks at the hostel they own. In Fairbanks, we meet our old coworker Bill and his wife Jan’s daughter Kelly. We spent a few days with her as she graciously cooked us dinner, let us do laundry and hosted a great time. Also in Fairbanks, we meet up with fellow travelers Erica and Sam in the visitor center parking lot. Hani was admiring their rig and Erica and I were messaging via Facebook, not realizing we were right next to each other. Typical. Hopefully well see more of them as they are traveling the same path as us.

+ toured the replica of the Into the Wild bus. The 49th State Brewery in Healy, right outside of Denali National Park, put the replica there (complete with Chris’ photojournal) after several people died trying to get to the real bus. The real bus is along the Stampede Trail and still really remote and in a very dangerous location. The replica bus was just as good for me, as was the beer inside the brewery 🙂


Chris McCandless' final note

Chris McCandless’ final note

+ had an awesome time at Denali National Park. We got to our campsite inside the park around 1am so we didn’t see anything, besides the gigantic moose right as we entered the park which Hani thought was fake. The next day was pretty miserable. We sat on a bus all day (that’s the only way to get around once inside the park). It was cold, rainy, and super cloudy outside so we couldn’t see any mountains or landscape. The second day totally made up for the first. We hopped on the first bus that approached us in much better weather to find Hani’s childhood friend Chris there. We knew he was going to be in the park around the time we were but didn’t know where he was staying or what his plans were. And with no cell service, there was no way to coordinate anything. It was absolutely hilarious and random that we happened on HIS bus and ended up having a fabulous time as a result! We went with his group on a hike that was probably the most intense hiking we’ve done so far. The best part (aside from making it to the top before Hani did) was running downhill in tall wet grass the last half mile to catch the bus back to our camp. We stopped the bus in the middle of the road and got the funniest looks as we boarded sweaty and out of breath.



with Peter and Chris at the top of the mountain we climbed

with Peter and Chris at the top of the mountain we climbed

+ went to the fair! I haven’t been to a fair since I was little and Hani humored me by seeing all my favorites: the farm animals and bunnies!!

Rat Race gambling game at the fair

Rat Race gambling game at the fair

mini goats!

mini goats!


+ passed through Anchorage for a delicious brunch with Hani’s high school friend Erin, who is vacationing here. It was great to hear about her Alaskan experiences camping around the state.

+ traveled from the southernmost point in the US (Key West) to the northernmost road in the US (Eagle, Alaska) to the westernmost road in the US (Homer, Alaska).

+ are currently traveling through the Kenai Peninsula. It was a gorgeous drive down from Anchorage. We hung out with our Key West friends Velia, Kevin and Eric in Soldotna, went to Homer, the end of the road, and are now in Seward. All had great breweries:). Peter leaves Thursday so we are trying to make the most of our time and see as much as possible before bringing him back to Anchorage. And from there, we’ll make our way out of Alaska. It’s beautiful here but getting colder and colder. We’ve had a few days of dreary rain and a few days of sunshine but from talking to the locals, the rainy days are going to outnumber the sunny ones soon.

Homer, Alaska

Laying low

31 Jul

After the incident with the motorcycle, we continued west to Prince George, BC, the last major city we would come across for a while. This was around the time when the royal baby was born. There was a frenzy of talk on the radio that since the royal baby was named George, tourism in Prince George would surely be up. I’m not exactly sure why anyone would purposely vacation in Prince George.

The town was one big American box store after another, incidentally just what we needed to refuel and stock up. We ended up shamelessly parking in a Walmart/Home Depot/Canadian Tire parking lot for 2 days, shopping, blogging and taking overall inventory of the truck.

The day we were going to drive off, Hani got the brilliant idea to clean the transfer case (used to shift into 4-wheel drive) and noticed it was leaking. We had to call around to figure out how to diagnosis and fix the problem. And then, since we didn’t understand the proper type of oil to refill it with, we ended up driving to Hani’s home away from home, Napa (I swear we visit one in every city). Turns out, the Canadian Tire we were parked in front of for 2 days carried the proper oil, we just didn’t know it. Duh.

An early-morning-all-day drive ended up being a pretty short one. We got a late start with all this transfer case business. Our next planned destination was Stewart, BC/ Hyder, Alaska. The towns of 1,000 and 100 respectively are cute lil towns that everyone said not to miss. So we took the more rural drive along highways 16 and 37. As we continued northwest about to start looking for a spot to park for the night, our high temperature alarm went off and under the hood was smoking. We were forced to pull to the side of the road to fix the problem. Our coolant hose busted completely in half. And of course, we didn’t realize that was the problem until AFTER Hani refilled the coolant with all that we had. Fluorescent green all over the street. Luckily, because he’s just as much of a pack rat as I am, we had the proper sized hose to replace the bad one. Which we did. On the side of the road. We ended up parking in some guy’s backyard that night not wanting to drive after all that had happened. Thank you sir!

I guess we have bad luck sometimes. Or maybe its just part of the adventure. Whatever the case, the next morning, Hani went to check the hose he had fixed the night before. He refilled our coolant with water because that’s all we had. And as fate would have it, a clamp broke off the power steering line. Red goo all over the place. Obviously, we had 100 other clamps and fixed it but we weren’t having any more incidents! Over the next 3 towns we went to, we hit up every auto parts store and stocked up on hoses and coolant and fluid and belts and god know what else and spent like $200+ on extra, potential emergency parts. We finally made it to Stewart, BC after blowing our $100-a-day budget by spending almost $500 on extra parts and fuel (got a discount because Hani was chatting with a local) and having a fitful night fighting mosquitos that came through some mysterious crack in the truck. We needed to sit and lay low. Stewart and Hyder were just the places.

We’ve spent the past few days bouncing back and forth across the border in these 2 towns. I use the term “border” very loosely here. When you cross here, there is no one on the US side. Not even a building set up. You just drive right in. But they stop you at the Canadian side, no clue why. There’s really nowhere to go.


Hyder is known as the “friendliest ghost town.” There are like 3 stores here. And a post office in a trailer. After you pass the town, there’s a national forest where you can see salmon swimming in Salmon River (and if you are patient enough, you’ll see bear feasting on them—we weren’t) and Salmon Glacier. And then the road ends and you have to turn back around and go through BC Canada to get to the rest of Alaska. The glaciers here are amazing and you are literally surrounded by mountains and glaciers once you drive about 20 miles outside of Hyder. It’s gorgeous!

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Stewart has a bit more going on with some grocery stores, restaurants and an awesome park and boardwalk preserve.


And yeah, that’s about it. If we aren’t looking at glaciers and acting as appetizers for mosquitos, we are cleaning and reorganizing and just sitting back but heading out tomorrow. There’s only so much “nothing” I can take before I lose it. We have a long rural 1,000 mile drive ahead through BC and the Yukon before we get to Dawson City, or wherever we cross into Alaska. And we will have whatever part we could possibly need, should another incident come our way.

a sign of better things to come?

double rainbow! a sign of better things to come?