All posts by John Froelich

Off to Anchorage, Alaska

First of all, Sarah Palin, you are a liar. I never got to see Russia from where we were staying, which was quite the disappointment as I’ve heard Putin’s winter coat should just be coming in. But, the scenery more than makes up for it in Alaska.

Alaska train

Driving between the major cities, Anchorage and Fairbanks, takes about six or seven hours. Being battle-hardened road trippers, Mandy and I had no problems here, and the mid-point between the two cities is Denali National Park, which is just pants-on-head, stupid beautiful. If we had any hard feelings about leaving Fairbanks, it was only because the farm we were staying at was so nice. The rest of the trip was pretty okay, but I didn’t feel like we were really mourning our leaving of the city as much as our dwelling.

If you’ve spent time anywhere else in Alaska, your first impression of Anchorage is that it’s much more of a city than most other places.

In fact, Anchorage is the most populated city in Alaska, at ~292,000 people. The second biggest is Fairbanks, at ~31,535. The difference in population of the most populated to second most populated is around 257,000 people. As you can expect, there is a lot more to do in Anchorage. We tried to hit as much as we could in our week there. I think we did alright.

On our first day in Anchorage, we did some sightseeing in downtown where Mandy managed to make it to almost all (two out of three, ain’t bad) of the yarn shops and we took a humbling, interactive hike that detailed the sort of destruction a 9.0+ earthquake wrought upon the city in ’64.  I also slipped down a muddy hill, thoroughly ruining everything I was wearing for the day. All in all, 10/10, would embarrass myself in front of locals again.

Mushroom
An authentic Alaskan mushroom, found near the trail

Our second day was spent on an eleven hour boat tour of Kenai Fjords in Seward, Alaska. Much like the Denali trip, we’ll give this section its own post, but glaciers, whales, puffins, and sealife abound.

Kenai Fjord Tour
A glimpse of the changing views seen during the Kenai Fjord Tour

The rest of our trip consisted of a lot of hiking, sightseeing, and coffee drinking. Anchorage actually has more espresso stands, per capita, than anywhere else in the US.

Flattop Mountain Trail (Information)

Panorama view from Flattop Mountain

We hiked Flattop Mountain, which had advertised itself as an easy hike.

This is false advertising.

John during the Flattop Trail hike
Uh oh…

The hike was an extreme uphill stair climb against gravity, and when you got past the steps, you were rock climbing the west of the way to the top. Combined with mossy, loose rocks and slippery mud, it made for a harrowing climb. But in the end, as always, we conquered the mountain and were in for a hell of a view at the top. You could see most of Anchorage and the Seward peninsula leading out into the ocean, as well as a fantastic backdrop of mountains. The climb down was actually a lot easier, as you could crab-walk most of the way.

Mandy and John on Flattop Mountain
Mandy and John on Flattop Mountain

Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (Information)

This was an easy, paved trail with nice views and perfect for biking as well.

Mountain views in Anchorage
From the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

Eagle River Nature Center (Information)

About 40 minutes out of Anchorage, this trail system felt a lot more removed from the city than the other trails. There are salmon and beaver viewing decks, along with meandering, shady trails. The Rodak Nature Loop is nice and easy, probably taking no more than 30 minutes to go around if you stop for a bit at the viewing decks. The Dew Mound trail comes off of the Rodak Nature Loop, it’s an easy but not boring hike. We swear we heard a wolf howling a few times while we hiked!

Taking a break from nature, we walked the Anchorage Museum and saw tons of native Alaskan art and tools. We watched a talked-up movie about the aurora that was of horrendous quality, with seats out of a medieval torture manual – seriously, don’t pay for this unless you can get in the viewing room first.

By the end of the trip, we had put 2000 miles on our rental car, but there is still so much more out there waiting to be seen. A monumental state with monumental qualities, Alaska is not a state to be experienced in a matter of weeks. Regardless of the time you have, anybody that considers themselves a fan of nature should pack a bag and head off to Alaska.

 

Crater Lake and the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

So, if you can’t tell from our last posts, Oregon is super pretty.

Mountain view
View off of Highway 230 (Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway)

Like, super-duper pretty.

View point off of Highway 230 (Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway)
View point off of Highway 230 (Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway)

The last time that Mandy and I were on the Pacific Coast, we had really wanted to check out Crater Lake but because of the season, most of the roads were closed down and covered in snow. We decided to hang a little closer to where we were staying, which at that point was San Fransisco, and do some sight-seeing there.

Continue reading Crater Lake and the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

Day 1 in Portland : 21,622 steps.

Mandy and I are suckers for mountain cities. Portland delivers in a spectacular way. We spent the early morning grabbing some local coffee at Black Rock Coffee and watching the sunrise at the top of Rocky Butte Park.

IMG_2387

Rocky Butte is an extinct volcanic cinder cone and a fantastic place in Portland to watch the sunrise. The view of Mt. Hood from the top is absolutely extraordinary and seeing the city unfold below you is an awesome experience.

After Rocky Butte, we naturally decided to check out downtown Portland and see everything that we could while we had the time.

IMG_2491
Cherry blossoms everywhere!

Continue reading Day 1 in Portland : 21,622 steps.

Next Stop : Portland, OR

For the past few years, I’ve been hearing a familiar adage about Portland, OR. Specifically, the idea that it’s where young people go to retire.

Call me a millennial, but I love the sound of that.aplaca

Mandy and I fell in love with the West Coast of the US during our trip to Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. We had made plenty of trips up the East, through Savannah, Myrtle Beach, The Outer Banks, Pittsburgh, but we had never gone west. It was on a whim that we decided that it would be fun to going to go camping at the Grand Canyon, so we did. We filled up the trusty Yaris with supplies and set off on a 36 car trip through the US. Like any trip to a new place, it was mesmerizing. After living on the East for almost our entire lives, we began realizing there was a whole lot of the country that we had never seen before. Roads to be driven, sights to be seen, little diners to eat at. It was incredible. Without any real pre-planning, the trip went off without a hitch. Since then, like a couple of addicts, we’ve been reaching for a road trip to hit that same sort of spot. We honeymooned in California, even went back a second time for some sight-seeing, but seeing as California takes up most of the Western coast of the States, we’ve been trying to think of other fun places to visit or potentially move to.

After taking some online surveys (I know, don’t judge), Eugene, OR kept coming up as a place that fit us politically, put-a-bird-on-it-bluefinancially, etc. Before that, we had always heard that same adage above, that it’s a college-y town with a hippie vibe and a cultural renaissance, so we thought to ourselves, why not take a trip? So we did.

Well, are going to. We’ve never been to Oregon, except for like, an hour on a road trip through California, but our next trip is going to take us through Oregon, with a side trip into Seattle, and then back to Oregon again. We’re gonna’ be sort of winging it, with a minimal amount of pre-planning and kind of throwing ourselves to the wind with the rest.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll end up retiring there.

How to keep occupied during a road trip

When Mandy and I go on our trips, we usually spend several hours taking apart our house to look for things to keep our attention when we’re not driving. You should keep in mind that on a twenty-hour road trip, chances are that the things you’ve brought to stave off boredom may just as well start boring you again when you’re doing it for ten hours straight.

Much like raising kids (or from what I’ve seen of them being raised), keeping occupied during a road trip is mostly about the art of distraction. Especially during that boring stretch of I-10.

Just kidding.

That’s all of I-10.  All of I-10 is boring. There, I said it.

Anyways, the art of distraction plays an important role in any road trip. You’ll want to bring enough supplies to split your attention between them for a while, but not enough to where your trip is going to be overly-cumbersome.

Continue reading How to keep occupied during a road trip

Off to Steinhatchee, FL!

Steinhatchee, Florida. A three hour trip north of Orlando, just south of Gainesville and right on the Gulf Coast. According to Wikipedia, the 2010 population was taken at 1,047 people.

I can’t imagine it’s changed too much since then.

Apparently known for its local seafood, specifically the scallops, Steinhatchee seems like one of those small towns that’s built up around a rental market. During the spring, summer, and fall, I imagine it’s a booming place with people from all around the U.S, coming in to roost for a week near the coast. If you’re patient, however, and can wait until the winter, that’s  when the real deals roll around.

Because the winter in Florida is typically in the seventies, Mandy and I decided to take a small road trip out to Steinhatchee Landing Resorts to take advantage of some  of the off-season deals they have. We knew right when we talked into our cabin that we had made the right decision.

Our cabin in Steinhatchee

A photo posted by Mandy Bee (@mandybee) on

Mandy and I are both suckers for fireplaces, and this cabin had one of the nicest I’ve seen. The fireplace actually extended from the main room into the bathroom so it sat above the bathtub. You could sit in a gigantic hot tub with a fire going in front of you. Awesome. It had a full functioning kitchen with a stove, so in lieu of going out every night (there weren’t a whole lot of restaurants to choose from), we cooked in, played board games, and read a bunch.

Fancy fireplace at Steinhatchee Landing Resort

A photo posted by Mandy Bee (@mandybee) on

Totally nerding out with some pre-packaged DnD A photo posted by Mandy Bee (@mandybee) on

Delicious curry on black rice with swai fish made by john in a small kitchen A photo posted by Mandy Bee (@mandybee) on

In the mornings, weather permitting, we would walk around outside and take in the sights and sounds of the resort area and Steinhatchee proper.

This place is adorable A photo posted by Mandy Bee (@mandybee) on

A photo posted by Mandy Bee (@mandybee) on

A photo posted by Mandy Bee (@mandybee) on

A photo posted by Mandy Bee (@mandybee) on

It’s a small town, but one you could easily get lost in if you didn’t know where you were going. We didn’t see any real grocery stores or chain restaurants with the exception of one dockside Hungry Howies (wat), but the coast always holds its own mystique that pays for itself by just being near it. Birds every morning, the smell of the ocean everywhere, and just being a little bit far from home, even just three hours, is a nice vacation.