To the Arctic Circle and Back in 2015

What a year!  We travelled to the Arctic Circle and back in 2015.

cartoon529-2Be warned, this is a looooong post.  But we hope you enjoy a quick tour back through this most wonderful year with some of Hector’s favorite images.

Island Girl traveled a total of 12,345 miles.

We stayed in 88 campsites (29 of them were overnights and 61 were dry camping).

Visited 10 States, 2 Canadian Provinces and 1 Canadian Territory. And 6 veterinarians in 5 states and 1 Canadian Territory.


yuma 049We began the year in Yuma with friends Doug and Trish and Tim and Becky. And a day trip to Mexico for a root canal.

pachanga 108Then headed to Anza Borrego for the “Pachanga” in the desert.


Q 102On to Quartzite and more friends: Mike and Linda, Todd and Russ, Mike and Kelly and Vince and Spencer.

Q 053

After the desert we headed to the ocean.

February / March

San Diego 2015 23We made a second winter stop in San Diego and met more friends.

Baja (1)Took a day trip to Mexico with Michael and Gloria.

While on a follow-up visit to the veterinarian we discovered that Angel needed to have surgery. She gave us quite a scare when she had to spend nine days in the hospital due to post-surgery complications. But she made it and is doing great.

San Diego 15 032Q 010 We met friends Dennis and Jeanette in Encinitas and went to the Love Fest.

And we continued to have fun with friends in San Diego.

SD Sun and Moon 13April

dulzura 022We had an alien encounter in the desert near Dulzura. And more fun with friends at the Sweet Oasis.dulzura 056

Lone Pine 47death valley 2
Then drove up US Highway 395 to the Alabama Hills.

And took a quick day trip to Death Valley National Park. It was a bit late in the season to visit and very, very hot.

death road045Then a moving visit to the Manzanar Japanese internment camp.

mono lake058Followed by a few days by the amazing Mono Lake with Paul, Nina, Todd, and Russ.

mono lake086And a day trip to Bodie, a ghost town.

Tahoe065Then we explored beautiful Lake Tahoe from our base in Carson City, Nevada.

Tahoe057lonely004And drove across the Loneliest Highway in Nevada.  A fitting warm up for the remote roads ahead.


Great Basin038And ended the month with an all too quick visit to remote Great Basin National Park.Great Basin018


We started heading north with purpose and covered a lot of ground.

Spike031Across Utah with a stop at the Golden Spike where the transcontinental railroad was completed.

potato002Then a short but entertaining stop in Idaho.

Yellowstone Madison007Then an astounding springtime visit to Yellowstone National Park, which we planned early in the year. Spring is a great time to see wildlife in the park.Yellowstone Madison005

montana025Quickly across Montana.

calgary033To Alberta to start the long journey across Canada. First a stop in Calgary to see friends Doug and Trish and Jim and Barb and meet new friends, Fernando and Diana and their daughter Elena.

And to do a little kayaking.calgary066

alcanday2034A long drive just to get to mile zero of the Alaska Highway.  Then miles and miles of interesting stops.

alcanday2039AK Hwy Day 4028Muncho009

Muncho041Muncho052A highlight of the drive on the Alaska Highway was Muncho Lake in British Columbia where we kayaked several days and hiked a bit with Angel.Muncho064



We enjoyed soaking at the Liard Hot Springs.Liard052

Road to Watson024Road to Watson057As we entered the Yukon Territory the wildlife became more abundant.Road to Watson052Road to Watson008

Signposts031We added our homemade sign to the >70,000 others at the Signpost Forest.


Sitting in the Parks Canada red chairs. They put these all around in the national parks, sometimes in really remote surprise places.

Sitting in the Parks Canada red chairs by the SS Klondike. They put these all around in the national parks, sometimes in really remote surprise places.

And stopped in Whitehorse, Capital of the Yukon Territory.

To Haines Junction014Then another stop at Kluane National Park to enjoy its spectacular scenery.Haines Junction010To Haines Junction022

And a joyous and colorful First Nations gathering in Haines Junction.

Haines to Cottonwood003As we continued deeper into the remoteness of the Yukon and towards Alaska.Haines to Cottonwood026

Day 11033Day 11037Day 12003

1700+ interesting scenic miles after entering Canada we arrive at the 49th U.S. state.

Day 12027

First stop … Tok.

tok to valdez007Then down the Richardson Highway towards Valdez on the Gulf of AlaskaValdeez 4Where we had unseasonably dry weather and enjoyed the abundant marine life.  Prince William Sound056Valdez 56Prince William Sound039

Saw the amazing Columbia Glacier.Prince William Sound076

Admired our national bird, there were lots of them around.Valdez 23

And paddled in local lakes.Paddle Valdez 11

Valdeez 23After Valdez we visited the Kennecott Mine ruins in Wrangell St. Elias National Park.kennecott 104


We made an early detour to Anchorage for a new clutch on the Subaru. From there we went to the Turnagain Arm of Cooke Inlet.turn again arm 3turn again arm 7You never know who you might run into. We first met Chris and Cherie in Southern California, and here they were camping next to us by total coincidence.  turn again arm 43

Anchorage 30Our good friend Joyce joined us in Anchorage for a fun visit.Anchorage 32






seward 18We continued with Joyce to Seward, the gateway to the Kenai Fjords National Park.Kenai Fjords NP 20A boat cruise to the Kenai Fjords is an absolute must.  The wildlife and scenery were just incredible.  Kenai Fjords NP 64Kenai Fjords NP 52We were lucky to see a large group of humpback whales bubble net feeding. Kenai Fjords NP 73

We toured the beautiful area around Seward.seward 6And saw even more of nature’s show.

We went out twice more on Prince William Sound to see MORE wildlife.  Jaw dropping.NW Fjord 30NW Fjord 69NW Fjord 90NW Fjord 42

Looks like a sea monster ...

Looks like a sea monster …

Viewfinder 32Viewfinder 62Viewfinder 77Homer 94Homer 5Homer is on the other side of the Kenai Peninsula. We camped right by the ocean and were treated to bald eagles on the beach. Friends Jack and Karen camped nearby. Dan and Amanda, who were our neighbors in San Diego were working in Alaska for the summer and joined us along with their friends Lauren and Chad.

Homer 47

Homer 53

Seldovia 81A fun day cruise to Seldovia on the Rainbow Connection treated us to the perhaps once in a lifetime sight of a whale spouting a rainbow.  You can’t make this stuff up!

Seldovia 82
It was also Angel’s third time out whale watching!  In both oceans no less.  Last time was in Nova Scotia.Seldovia 35Seldovia 95


We headed inland towards Denali National Park.

Stopped in Funky Talkeetna, where the mayor is an old cat named Stubbs. Definitely a worthwhile side trip just south of Denali.

to denali 13Then on to an almost overwhelming twelve nights in Denali National Park, seven of which we enjoyed the privilege of a pro photographer’s special access pass.  MAGIC.Denali the high one 1Denali 86Denali day three & four 22Denali the high one 62Denali the high one 71to denali 12Denali the high one 27Denali Day Seven 28Denali day three & four 2Denali the high one 23Denali Day Seven 36Denali day three & four 52Denali day three & four 12Denali 67Denali the high one 58

puffy 2Denali Day Seven 87Denali left us pretty pooped … but many miles were ahead. We blew thru Fairbanks and Tok and headed east toward the Yukon.  For the return we decided to take the northern route back up the scary Taylor Highway to the Top of the World Highway.To the yukon 23

To the yukon 27Dawson City 8Island Girl rode a little ferry boat across the mighty Yukon River to reach Dawson City, site of the Klondike Gold Rush.

Dawson City 68Dawson City 47Dawson City 57

The signs are a little scary

The signs are a little scary

tombstone 6Before heading south we made an unplanned turn to the north along the Dempster Highway to visit Yukon’s Tombstone Territorial Park.  We heard it was beautiful and being late August we hoped the tundra would be turning autumn colors.  tombstone 27tombstone 30tombstone 37tombstone 28tombstone 21tombstone 47Our most magical sunrise of the entire year happened on the day we struck out early to explore the Dempster Highway up to the Arctic Circle.  Watercolor pastels over Two Moose Lake (alas … no moose).Arctic 10Arctic 3Arctic 12Followed by a looooong drive across the most remote wilderness to the Arctic Circle. Stunning and desolate terrain.  Arctic 29Arctic 45We spotted three Peregrine Falcons on the road with a fresh kill. They weren’t amused when we interrupted their meal.Arctic 50

Just a little mud was involved in our awesome little side trip up the Dempster.Arctic 56With autumn getting underway it was time to head south in earnest.

Back to Haines 26

We headed to Haines, Alaska along the incredibly scenic Haines Highway (another slight detour).Back to Haines 37Back to Haines 30Back to Haines 35Back to Haines 25We enjoyed quirky Haines with its interesting characters and dramatic waterfront location.  Haines 32

Haines 7And made a quick day trip via ferry to Juneau.  Not a very nice weather day but we saw some cool stuff nonetheless.Juneau 15Juneau 10Juneau 42Juneau 9Juneau 19Juneau 48

A very special treat while in Haines was our first ever sighting of the Aurora Borealis. Nature’s bounty in overdrive.
haines Aurora 17haines Aurora 10haines Aurora 14Chilkoot 41The Chilkoot River nearby was home to many bald eagles and coastal grizzlies.  A momma bear and her two cubs provided hours of entertainment over the multiple times we spotted them.Chilkoot 26

Chilkoot 67

Fishing lessons were hilarious.Chilkoot 75Chilkoot 18Kluane Aurora 13


We started this month with the urge to see more Northern Lights.  And doubled back a bit to Kluane Lake to see them for a second time.  One of the most beautiful campsites of the year was a bonus.Kluane Aurora 18Kluane Aurora 47Kluane Aurora 24Kluane Aurora 36Kluane Aurora 33Squanga Aurora 5We had one more chance of viewing the Aurora lights at Squanga Lake.

Squanga Aurora 22This last light show was the best of all.Squanga Aurora 37Squanga Aurora 34

Squanga Aurora 11

Then we turned south again, this time along the Cassiar Highway.Cassiar 13Cassiar 52Cassiar 53Cassiar 28Where we once again entered Alaska at the tiny village of Hyder.  Hyder 17Hyder is known for great bear viewing but we missed the bears.  And had to settle for some incredible scenery and a wonderful glacier.Hyder 12Hyder 49Hyder 41Hyder 54After the Cassiar we joined the Yellowhead Highway where the roads were once again fairly improved.IMG_4826_HDR2015-09-12 at 11-28-31When we reached Telkwa we saw a routine traffic light.  Yet it seemed so foreign.  Later we checked and it had been 1518 miles since the last traffic light in Whitehorse!

We made one more attempt to see the aurora but we had travelled too far south so we saw them faintly on the northern horizon. As if the far north was waving a goodbye.2015-09-16 at 00-18-19We sampled some wines and scenery in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia.Okanagan 50Okanagan 34Okanagan 28

And of course … poutine!!!

After 70 days in Alaska and 54 days in Canada, we reentered the good ol US of A into Washington State.  A total of 7284 miles since entering Canada back in May. The ultimate North America road trip.  We were POOPED.Washington 10October

Now we slowed down a bit. We stayed in a remote forest site for a few days of rest where we saw the red moon and brilliant stars.Washington 12

Washington-84Then we visited friends Veronica and Carl and Denise (and her friends) in glistening Seattle.Washington-89Washington-52Washington-71Washington-91Washington-80

Drove over to picturesque Port Townsend on the Olympic PeninsulaPort Townsend-34Port Townsend-40Port Townsend-31Then headed to Portland where we would spend almost a month exploring this great city and meeting friends Tim and Becky, Dan and Kay and Nanci.

portland-112portland-111portland-158portland-105portland-153portland-115portland-141portand-100-3While in Portland we made a quick visit to Miami to visit friends and family.  Time is always too short there but lots of love and fun ensued.Miami Oct 15-102


After spending the early part of the month in Portland, we headed to wonderful Astoria, Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia River and where the Lewis and Clark Expedition finally reached the Pacific Ocean.Astoria-56Astoria-37Astoria-57


Then we started straight south down the length of the gorgeous Oregon Coast. First near Cannon Beach.Nehalem-33Nehalem-15Nehalem-50

Then to Newport and the Yaquina Outstanding Natural Area.Newport-307Newport-208Newport-203Newport-207


The month got off to a roaring start with a week of storms at Winchester Bay with its stunning lighthouse guarding the treacherous entrance at the mouth of the Umpqua River.Winchester Bay-39Winchester Bay-37Winchester Bay-22Winchester Bay-16Winchester Bay-58

Winchester Bay-30

When the storms died down we left Oregon and blasted the length of California to LA. Met a friend, Suzanne and her husband Frank, in Fresno. Island Girl issues caused us to spend several nights at a couple of Freightliner shops.  One more blog post to come about that part… but here are a couple of

But we landed at last in beautiful San Diego. One of our favorite cities anywhere. We had come full circle. Our Christmas Eve dinner at Michael and Gloria’s was

As was the Christmas Day gathering with fellow

angel-1-2New Year’s Eve was a small gathering with friends in Island Girl but alas no photos, we were focused on each other and drinking (much) champagne 🙂

2015 was a whirlwind as anyone who has read this far in this huge blog post can see.  We are so fortunate and thankful for this spectacular year full of experiences and friendship.

Wishing you all the best in the New Year.

~ Brenda, Hector & Angel

24 thoughts on “To the Arctic Circle and Back in 2015

  1. What a wonderful summary of your travels And the photographs are stunning. Thank you very much for sharing.

    Best wishes for more fascinating travels in 2016. I look forward to following along! — Anne

    • Thank you so much, Lisa! So glad you enjoy the blog, we enjoy sharing the journey. Looking forward to seeing you soon, when will you be at Mission Bay? We are thinking of going to the concert on Friday also.
      Happy New Year to you and Hans!

  2. I have really enjoyed following your blog and was amazed at how much you have done this past year, but reading your year end recap really shows the miles you have travelled and the incredibly sites you have seen! Hector’s photography is so beautiful and Brenda your write-ups really do it justice! All the best for 2016 and Safe Travels 😊

    • Thank you so much! This has been by far the year we traveled the furthest and it was totally worth it. Best to you too and safe travels in 2016!

  3. What a trip and what a post!!!! You guys did so much this year I feel like I stood still. I love all your pics and I love that Angel was a part of all of it. An amazing collection!!

  4. Looooooong .. yes. Interesting? … absolutely. Well done … as always. Still very envious of the great Northern Lights shots ( amongst many others ). Here’s hoping our paths cross again!

  5. No complaint about the length of this impressive post!
    Spectacular! and Im in awe with your mileage reading this year. I don’t have a favorite photo of your collection, they are all outstanding!
    And yes an ebook should be in order.
    Here’s to another year of adventures and hope we got to meet this year somewhere.

  6. We would call this an Epic voyage … not just in the miles you drove, but also all the amazing experiences, sights, adventures. Brenda your narrative goes so well with Hector’s breathtaking photos. They are ALL fantastic! We so enjoy going on these magical journeys with you and will certainly look back on many of your Alaska posts as we make our plans to go there in 2017. But in the meantime, lots of “local” exploring in these magical Western states of ours.

  7. Oh my gosh! This was outstanding! What an amazing year. I enjoyed your recap so much. So happy that you all got to experience such an awesome trip. The photos are absolutely stunning! Sending hugs from colorful Colorado.

  8. Very nice photography and blog. My wife Linda and I met you briefly today while out on our walk in Borrego Springs.

    There’s a photo in this post of an old gas station. I’ve seen other photos of it in the past and I’ve been trying to track it down without success. Do you mind sharing exactly where it is?

    • Thanks Steven! So nice to meet you out in one of our favorite places. The old gas station in question is in Quartzsite, Az on the main drag parallel to and north of the freeway. Safe travels!

  9. Hector, your photos were fantastic. I can’t believe how much wildlife you guys saw. And getting the permit for Denali, how lucky were you! Great shots of the Aurora lights, I know how much time goes into getting them and the lack of sleep! Great post Brenda, it was better seeing it in one length.

    • Thanks Jane, we almost can’t believe it really happened. 2015 was filled with amazing sights for sure, it is going to be tough to top that one 🙂

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