Baja Bound

We left the north with dog in tow, heading south for the first time all summer with visions of beaches, palm trees and tropical waters in our heads.  Partly as an excuse to travel to one of our favorite places, and partly because it was a place to park the Delica and swap our dog-sitter for a new one (thank you parents, you’re awesome!), we made Castillo de Arena our destination and jumping point for our soon-to-be travels overseas.

Because we had done this drive twice, we wanted to take a new route and stop and see some family along the way.  Leaving Calgary and Canada after a great time home with family, we headed south through Waterton National Park and the adjacent Glacier National Park across the US border where clear skies afforded us spectacular views of this stunning cross-border park system.  On good family and friend advice we made way for the ‘Highway to the Sun’, a spectacular 85km (53 mile) road that traverses the entirety of Glacier National Park from east to west, allowing visitors to experience the spectacular mountain vistas and wildlife without even leaving their vehicle. (This seems to be a theme in American National Parks.  I can only hope this fosters a greater appreciation for parks nation-wide.)  We were blown away by the scenery, and while not as plentiful as Denali, we had some great wildlife viewing moments that showcased the wilderness that resides in the parks, and why it is so important that we protect them across all borders.

After a couple of cool morning in Montana we looked for a place on the map that would take us off the beaten track; so enter Burgdorf Hot Springs. Tucked up in the hills of Idaho, we were hopeful that the warm waters would pacify the cooler air surrounding us that evening at 7000 feet.  Unfortunately, fires burning in the area delayed us from climbing the northern pass to the springs that evening, and by the time we made our way up into the hills they were closed and we had to make due with a warm dinner instead.  As we soon would discover, dry hot conditions would become the theme of the trip down the eastern California, where fires plagued the hillsides and water levels have been dropping for several years. Docks that once graced lakeshores now sit meters above the water, mocking the boats who only now can dream of docking on their planks.

After leaving Glacier, we made our way south along the mountains as far as we could until turning inland to cross over Idaho for Bend, Oregon, where one of Byron’s cousin’s has recently relocated and we were excited to visit.  Bend (or Bend’Or, as the locals call it) did not disappoint. This is a town where most locals pride themselves in the number of outdoor activities they participate in, and the number of breweries that have sprung up to support their drinking habits after said activities have been accomplished.  Sean, our host (you rock Sean, thanks again for your amazing hospitality!), showed us the best of all sides of Bend.  Not only did we get a chance to check out the local dirt in both their biking and hiking trails, but we spent many nights checking out the local bevvies and entertainment the town has to offer as well.  Byron and I both said it; if there was one place in America we could move to immediately, it would be Bend(‘Or).

Finally though after stealing Sean away from his work commitments for several days, it was time for us to continue our journey south.  From Bend we made our way down through Crater Lake National Park (nothing has ever looked so blue), heading for the towering granite peaks of Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite is a behemoth and mecca for climbers and hikers alike.  As one of the United States’ oldest national parks (established in 1890), its towering granite faces have held climbers and hikers in a trance for decades, beckoning them to ascend its lofty peaks.  Byron and I spent two nights and one day in the park, climbing to the top of the Park’s namesake falls, which, unfortunately, were running dry by this time so late in the season (this surprisingly isn’t a drought factor, the falls usually dry up in the fall due to the limit of the lake which feeds it the majority of the year).  Although the hike offered none of the treasons the climbers experience when ascending its peaks,  the view from the top was spectacular, betraying dizzying heights as you stood leaning over the fence perched on the edge of the peak, wondering just how grounded the support cables were strung into the ground.

From the towering heights we continued to make our way south into the forests of Sequoia National Forest, where equally immense trees awaited our arrival.  Byron and I were both left mesmerized by these trees; what started out as a three hour trek one afternoon ended after 500 meters and too many photos to count; we laughed in the mutual understanding that neither of us was going to make it very far down any trail that day, or any to come; the trees were just too magnificent and overwhelming to allow us to pass with only a short glance.  Each one deserved at least several minutes of awe and admiration for the years it has withstood history, and the conquest of humanity itself.  The oldest tree in the world stands in this park, and it outdates the birth of Christ himself. When one starts to think of everything these trees have withstood, and stood by, you can’t help but stand by and be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of it all.  A timespan like that holds no relevance in the human mind.

Once we managed to pull ourselves away from the timber giants, we quickly made tracks for the Mexicali border crossing, eager to feel the sand beneath our toes and hot Baja sun on our faces.  Since we have done the drive a few times and there are a finite number of roads to traverse, we made haste for Dad and Mom’s place, only spending a few nights to enjoying the solitude of Baja southern California before arriving in the casa we so dearly call one of our homes.  Travelling south in the Delica was a treat though; not only were we able to sleep with the back hatch open to let in the warm salty air at night, we could keep our sandy dog outside long into the evening hours to ensure she had ridden herself free of as much sand as possible before joining us in the cab.  The drive down is always warm, fun and exciting in the senses that one feels at home when returning to a place well known.  The Baja holds a magic where it is always the same and yet the subtle negotiations with the land and people are forever changing, challenging, and fun. Nothing is as it was before.  It is a land of love.  And with an open heart and mind, you can always make it out for the better.

And so here we sit, on the last day before our departure, ready for the next phase of our adventure.  With our bellies and our hearts filled, we are ready for the long trek that will take us overseas to Bangkok, and then on to lands unknown.  Unfortunately our original plans to head to Kathmandu were thwarted by political instability and jet fuel shortage, so working with the benefit of time and agenda flexibility we will head where the winds will take us.  First stop is South East Asia, and then possibly India after that.  But who knows!  Here’s to luck, love, and a little bit of adventure.  We’ll see you overseas!

Xo Alison and Byron

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Glacier National Park; elk bugling in the morning and spectacular mountain vistas all day!

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Beautiful morning mist on the lake

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The wooden bridge that would lead us to beautiful Idaho mountain scenery! We were definitely a little nervous crossing it…

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Winter enjoying the sights of ‘dog town USA’ (aka Bend’or)

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We equally enjoyed the sights (and dirt!) or Bend!

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Hiking with our awesome host Sean in the mountains behind Bend.

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Crater Lake National Park (the blue-est of all blues)

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From the top; the Yosemite Valley at its finest.

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That’s a mighty long ways down.

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Just for perspective. See him? Remember, the guy’s 6″5″.

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Winter also seemed to enjoy the bounties of the forest…

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Southern California, USA

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We made it! After months of pants in the north, I could finally bust out the shorts.

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All that sand. She never seems to get rid of it until she’s back in the van……       DSC_0480 

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And then the green appeared! After a few months of summer rain the countryside resembled Hawaii more than Baja…

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