Sunday, August 22, 2010

On the Road – Seward to Haines – rainy day blues

Wed Aug 18- We spent last night just at the edge of the Wrangell-St, Elias NP and Preserve at the quaint little Heart D Lodge. It was noted in the Milepost book ad as “a unique touch of elegance” . I was just looking for a clean room with an attached bath for a night.

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It was “elegance” as only could be imagined by a sweet little old lady with a bee hive hair-do. Mary Frances DeHart told us that she had lived on this property for 50 years. She and her husband had run an outfitters and guiding business in the early years, and she had been the 5th woman Alaskan Registered Guide.

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She currently breeds these funny little dogs and does beautiful bronze sculptures, in addition to single handedly running this lodge and the post office.Unfortunately, we did not have much chance to visit with this fascinating woman. We slept well, and enjoyed a break from the campground life.

This morning, we headed on down the road – in rain, wind, and more rain with the temperature in the mid 40’s. The locals say that this has been the wettest Summer that they have had in years. It has broken the record at 30 plus days of rain in a row. Today is a day for just driving. We are, once again, driving the stretch of the Alaskan Hwy just east of the Alaskan border –about 80 miles of the worst section of road. Not dangerous, just bumpy as we are driving only 45 mile/hr over most of it. I am ready for a little sunshine. The steady, cold drizzle dampens our moods and makes it difficult to muster up any enthusiasm for hiking or sightseeing or even getting out and stretching our legs. So I am taking this time to reflect on “life on the road”.

This is our 21st day on the road. Significant, in that this is the length of our longest trip – the longest time away from home – to date. I had wondered how we would feel at 3 weeks, and how it will be different at 3 months (the approximate planned length of this trip). So….I do an assessment…….

We are traveling comfortably in the car, with everything we need right at hand. I help with navigation (in addition to “Lucille” our GPS guide). Fred has been getting quite good at spotting photo ops and pulling off at any good over look. We have planned to only drive 300 miles or so most travel days. some days less, depending on what we find to do along the way. This has been about right, and allows us to get into a campground by 4-5 pm without feeling too road weary. I do wish, however, that I had planned more “down” days – or days with nothing planned to do - in the schedule. I am feeling a bit rushed and “over scheduled” at present.

We have found campgrounds  usually available if you get there late afternoon, filling up by evening – especially on weekends and holidays. The campgrounds, themselves, have been  variable on this section of the trip – RV parks look like parking lots, with little personal space, but they do tend to have showers, flush toilets, and even laundry and Wi-Fi. These private campgrounds are also more expensive.. State Parks and National Wildlife areas have nicer, more natural settings, but have not had the extras (baths, running water, electricity, etc.) the National Parks have been nice, but usually do not have electricity (the generator has been great), but they usually have a shower facility (pay) and running water.

Fred and I are both pretty adaptable and “low maintenance”. We do not require much to get by. We have tent camped and back packed and car camped in campgrounds for many years. That being said, I find that I miss the little things you take for granted, like hot water to wash my face in the morning, and a bit of privacy and space. I wonder if long term campground life changes a person. I find that after these few weeks, I cling to each and every bit of “civilization” that we run across –  lunch in the ’artsy’ cafe (and their really nice, tiled bathrooms). I realize that I have not had a mirror to look in for days. Have I stopped caring? Or have my standards  sunk that low…..

I also miss the ease with which I navigated around my house - doing chores, cooking, cleaning – and I wonder if, after 3 months, will I have found that ease and rhythm of life in the camper…..

I realized as I wrote this, that these are the concerns of life on the road. Weather – because we live in it and shelter. There is a low level, almost background, stress that surrounds finding a place to sleep each night. It really only becomes apparent in its absence- when you finally get the camper set up and get all settled into a site, and breath  a sigh…..home……at least for tonight, or for the next few nights, until it is time to move on again.

Tonight, we opted for the ease of the familiar. We have been backtracking this section of road on our way to Haines, and decided to stay at Cottonwood Campground on Kluane Lake – a place that we had stayed, and loved, on our way north on the Alaskan Hwy. So…we curl up in our “den”…. as the wind howls around us and the rains fall……… warm and cozy for the night.

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