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Racquet, NoBigDeal and Parks go to Alaska

Retired Couple with their dash pet "Parks" head across US in a class B RV from South Carolina to California and eventually to Alaska to visit all eight National Parks in that state. First stop was Charlotte NC to help with a kitchen remodel.

Click on the points on the map to see what we did at each location.

Mar 11, 2018

Ventura Beach and Channel Islands National Park

3/9 and 3/10
Slugged our way thru Los Angeles - traffic here pretty much sucks all the time. Arriving in Ventura was a welcome site and allowed us time to resupply and settle in as rain was in the forecast. On Saturday we went to a movie (Darkest Hour - both enjoyed very much) and also stopped in the visitor center for the Channel islands.
We were booked on a 9AM tour to Santa Cruz Island, the largest island of this National Park (of course we booked before we realized that daylight savings time change was on Saturday night). A little bleary eyed we made it to the dock and eventually to the Island. On the was out we were rewarded with sightings of dolphins and birds in a feeding frenzy followed by dolphins surfing in our ships wake. We basically had about 6 hours on the Island and we took full advantage with 3 very nice hikes albeit the gound on the first hike was quite muddy (actually had mud cakes on our shoes about an inch thick). Made for some heavy feet - but still a beautiful hike up Scorpion Canyon. We also hiked Potato Harbor and Cavern Point. The day was quite breezy and partially cloudy at times but temperature was quite comfortable with a light jacket. Lots of neat flowers but only limited wildlife, birds and about 5 to 6 foxes - amazingly they were out foraging with only minimal concern about our presence.
Once back in Ventura we enjoyed a great cup of clam chowder at Brophie Brothers before heading back to camp for showers and an early bedtime to catch up on the sleep we missed the night before.

Jun 28, 2018

Bettles, Kobuk Valley & Gates to the Arctic NP’s

Up early to pack and get to the airport. Wright Air was on the north side of the airport and each small airline that services the more remote villages has its own little building. Atmosphere is quite relaxed - they never even asked to see our ID - but weight, well that was more of a priority! Flight to Bettles was non eventful and once there the pilot essentially took us right up to our hostess, Judy’s, front door. It took about an hour for the pilots to decide which plane, confirm weather, etc. before we took off in a float plant for the Kobuk and Gates of the Arctic National Parks. We peaked at about 4000 feet and skimmed over the range below. This was followed by lush green landscape and valleys pocked with small ponds and serpentine rivers providing a view against a backdrop of mountains, some still Covered with snow/glacial ice. We hit Kobuk first and after flying out over the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes we landed on a river and got out and hoped on the shoreline that had two small row boats and evidence of past campfires. Several antler racks were piled on the shore. We walked along the shore and admired the sights for 15 to 20 minutes before replaning and heading off for Gates of the Arctic. After an hour flight we landed on Waker Lake, the largest lake in the National Park. This stop was a little shorter since we had been flying through some rain and the skies were still threatening with some thunder and lightening off in the distance. We did get to walk around and admire the sites for about 10 to 15 minutes before we reboarded for the hour flight back to Bettles. Landing again just as the rain that had been chasing us was starting. Racquet and I were dropped off at our cabin and then we attempted a brief walk but only went on a short loop before the boards of mosquitoes started to literally dive bomb us so we galloped back to the cabin and quickly entered and shut the door in an attempt minimize the invasion into our humble sleeping quarters. A short while later we walked/jogged up to Bettles Lodge for social hour and a great steak dinner. We ate with Sharon and Gary, our tour mates for the day (they are actually doing all 417 NPs, - Historic, seashores, military etc. and after 10 years they have completed 393 - wow!). After dinner and a brief jog back to the cabin we enjoyed brief moment of TV and mosquitoe killing since there are only a couple of stations available) decided to retire to bed, hoping the few remaining mosquitoes would allow us to sleep. Good day all around

Jul 04, 2018

Katmai National Park

Head cold suddenly hit me - bummer! But no stopping for the weary, instead our alarm went off at 4:50 to catch a cab to the airport for our 7am flight to
King Salmon where we the switch to a float plane to Brooks Lodge in Katmai National Park. After our bear encounter orientation we set off to the viewing platforms. With the salmon running up river there are grizzlies everywhere! We had to back off the trail 2 different times to avoid bears first a mother then her two yearling cubs. One guy in our group went to the other side of the path but could not back off the trail a very far distance and I swear that cub came with ~10 feet of him and looked right at him and took a big sniff before lumbering down the trail. We spent over 3 hrs viewing bears and salmon. It was fascinating seeing the body language of all the gears and how different bears dominate the best “fishing” spots as different bears come and go from the river. They eat for a couple of hours then go off for a nap. Big bears bear the Falls with smaller bears further downstream hopping for scraps or a lucky fish catch. Each bear seemed to either have a favored fishing technique. Since Brooks Lodge was booked when we tried to book in Jan we had to take the float plane back to King Salmon for our lodging. The room was nice but the best establishment in town closed for the 4th and the only other place only served until 8 pm. We got there at 8:15 but were turned away - pack of cheese nabs for dinner then straight to bed trying to recover from the scant 4 hrs of sleep and my head cold.

Jul 12, 2018

Wrangle NP Kennecott & McCarthy

Very cool trip to Kennicott and McCarthy, two towns at the end of the McCarthy road. This NP is interesting since there are many private land owners within the Park boundary. Kennicott is the home of the Kennecott Copper Mine, when discovered around 1900 it was the purest copper load ever discovered. The mine owners extracted, in today’s dollars, $1 billion of profit! The Mine tour is really a whole town tour that includes a 14 story processing plant and many support buildings including a massive power plant. They even built a railroad to ship ore to the coast even though they had to rebuild the river bridges each year when the spring floods and ice flows took them out. Kennicott was the company town (family oriented, no drinking) while McCarthy was the party town with saloons and brothels. We took a 5 mile hike that went out to the Kennicott Glacier and were able to walk out on the ice for about a quarter mile with out crampons. We then did a self guided tour of the mill town. The views were spectacular on the glacier and the tour was fascinating. Yes, we did stop at the Golden Saloon in McCarthy for a cold one and some poutine. Our driver, John, on the shuttle, was great and made several stops along the way and educated us on the history, sights and plant life. We saw one black bear and one wolf on the drive. John lives “off the grid” on a half acre in a hand built cabin with a diesel generator. He works about 2 days a week in the summer driving the shuttle for his living.

May 10, 2019

Dragon’s Nostrils

I got a full breakfast at Hale Koa the we headed off to East Oahu. We hiked Diamond Head then visited Cave of Portlock. Then visited Halona beach where
“From here to Eternity” was filmed. We didn’t find the
Halona blow hole. On the way to our next adventure we stopped and got some water and fresh pineapple from a road side vendor. Next stop was the Ka’iwi Scenic Shoreline Park. Hike up to the top was about 650 ft elevation gain and 1.25 miles. But we didn’t do it the easy way. Instead we hiked up about half way to an info sign about whales and the took
a sketchy trail down to the “lava bench” to some tidal pools (everyone down there were young enough to be our kids! ) Got to see the coolest blow holes at the bottom.
Dragons Nostrils are two blow holes next to each other that snots and huff air/mist at you when the waves come in. The holes are about 85 to 100 feet from the shore line. I held my hand over the hole and it literally blew my hat and sunglasses off my head. Took a brief swim in the pools before heading back up the 350 foot vertical rock scramble/climb back to the path. We made our way the rest of the way up the path to the summit which had fabulous views of East Oahu’s coast and an old but still functioning light house. We ended the day with a beautiful drive on the H3 back to Waikiki. Quick showers then off to Bill’s Hawaiian Restaurant for dinner. Sat at the bar and struck up a conversation with the bar tender who recognized our vibe as locals! (20% discount) and the food was exceptional.

May 19, 2019

Waimea Canyon

Up early to head out to Waimea Canyon, we wanted to hit the trail early since it has a reputation for being a hot hike. We settled on the Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls. We did a little over 4 miles round trip. The reward is spectacular views of the Canyon and a perch right on top of the Waipo’o Falls. At the Falls there are two smaller feeder Falls that you see and some small pools for swimming. Unfortunately, you cannot see the totality of the Waipo’o Falls and their 800 ft drop since you are literally on the top edge. We did get some great shots of the Falls from a roadside lookout later in the day. After the Canyon Trail we drove to the end of the road and viewed the Pu’u o Kila lookout. This was really cool since it had great views of the Canyon and of the Ocean. The Ocean views were framed with clouds moving in from the West, the contrast was beautiful. After buying some fresh pineapple and homemade banana bread for lunch we started back down the Koke’e Rd and decided to check out the Kalalau Lookout just 1 mile west and as expected it was completely fogged in. Last Canyon stop was the Waimea Canyon Lookout - lots of breathtaking views. And a bonus the day was actually quite cool versus the expected hot day predicted. We stopped at the “Russian Fort” remains at the mouth of the Waimea River. At this inlet there were interesting contrasts of colors as the Waimea has a deep red tint, the Ocean with its blue water and the green tinted sands from the olivine mineral that are deposited there. Next stop was the Spouting Horn Beach Park, a cool spot overlooking the ocean and a lava shelf with lots of interesting blowholes and sea turtles. We then tried the Koloa Rum tasting room but it was closed on Sunday so we settled for a giant piece of Hula Pie at Dukes restaurant on the beach at the Mariot Resort in Lihue. Dinner was bar food and Mai Tai’s back at the Hilton while we did laundry (not a bad way to do laundry).

May 20, 2019

Maui - West Island Adventure

Flight to Maui! No problem with the flight but the car we got was a piece of s... We drove around the block and discovered one more problem so we took it back and got another one. The 2nd car was only marginally better but the key fob did at least unlock the doors! We drove the loop road around West Maui with a stop in
Lahaina. We had a beer at Capt Jacks and walked through Banyon Park, a park that is nearly on acre but has a single Banyon tree that covers the whole thing with at least 10 to 15 different trunk routings all connected to a central main trunk. I couldn’t even figure out how to photograph the thing since it is so enormous. While in Lahaina we signed up for the Calypso boat Snorkeling trip. We then did a small hike down to out to Dragon tooth trail and the Nakalele Blowhole. Next stop on the road was at the Olivine Pools. Beautiful but dangerous for those that go too close to the pools where Rogue was can wash you away as was heartbreakingly described in a plaque at the site. A little further down the road we picked up some of Julia’s Banana Bread - very good stuff, then ended the day driving along the North Shore one lane road of death. This road was scary, with many one lane sections on a winding mountain road often right along the ocean ridge. Uphill drivers have the right of way so twice we had to back up the hill to allow someone to pass. Protocol worked good until you run into a local in a truck and then you just did your best to survive as they literally scare you to death missing you by inches and flying by at speeds you never dreamed of even when you where the only one on the road. We finally arrived at the Grand Wailea Hilton. around 8, a fabulous Hotel. We ate at the bar, $50 for a quesadilla and 2 drinks, welcome to Maui.

May 22, 2019

Maui - Road to Hana

Another early start, this morning had Racquet in tears - not enough sleep but the road to Hana gets crowded and it’s imperative to clear city before 8. On the road to Hana we hit a
Waterfall and rope swing at Waikampoi Stream, unfortunately we were a little early for a swim but I was tempted! (Next time this is a definite stop). We hit the
Garden of Eden, a fabulous botanical garden. Everything was labeled and well cared for. We thoroughly enjoyed the walk around the grounds. The road to Hana is similar to the road around West Maui - one lane in spots but still spectacular so the views are breathtaking. Of course it’s hard to drive and view, fortunately for me Racquet was driving while I navigated the days stops. Down the road from the garden we stoped at another waterfall, ?? This waterfall required a walk back down the road from the parking area, a couple o tenths of a mile. A little unnerving but traffic was light. It was a cliff hanging scramble at the bridge to get down to the trail to the Falls but we managed. 3 nice flows into one pool created a magical spot for swimming. I couldn’t resist. The YMCA has a camp just down the road that we stopped at to walk the grounds and admire the view. What a piece of real estate! We stopped in Hana for lunch at a roadside food bazaar. The rest of the drive was beautiful but nerve racking. We rewarded ourselves with store bought beer and dip and chips before some time in the Hot Tub back at the resort.