the best of becominganomad

As 2013 comes to a close, and snow drifts down in lazy clumps outside my windows, it seemed like the perfect day to look back. I have been blogging here for just over 2.5 years, which seems crazy and unreal and wonderful. So today I thought I would re-post some of my favorite memories (oldest to newest with links to the blog post).

Thanks for sharing in our journeys and we look forward to new adventures in 2014!

P1010923Denali National Park, Alaska

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Glaciers and Bears in Seward, Alaska

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To the Arctic Circle and Beyond!

Snowshoeing and Mushing 027Mushing School: A Dog Sledding Adventure

P1030872Back in Alaska: Moose!

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Lights, Lights, Lights!

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Opening Day: Denali National Park

P1040388On the Road: Fairbanks to Valdez, Alaska

P1050008The Southeast Continues: Juneau, AK

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Wonder Lake, Denali National Park

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The First Leg: Yukon, Canada

P1050896Jasper National Park, Canada

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The Icefields Parkway, Canada

P1050991Lake Louise, Canada

P1060038Glacier National Park (Part 1) (Part 2)

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The East Coast Trail: Newfoundland, Canada (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3)

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The 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg

Happy New Year!


Tractor Square Dance

Fall is starting to crackle in our neck of the woods… finally. Last week I wore long sleeves, stared out my front window through thick drips of condensation, and crunched over leaves on my walk across town. I am still waiting for the leaves to melt into the deepest oranges and reds and sunset yellows, but they are coming. A few bright trees pop out from the green like balloons of color dotting the hills and the streets. I’m ready. Bring on fall.

I have been waiting for cool weather and pumpkin everything and the magic of a season shifting into something new. Part of it is because last year at this time we were in Alaska and fall had already faded into the onset of winter by October. It was thick frost, bursts of snow, and cold temperatures. Last week in Fairbanks, AK it was 15 degrees. In Carlisle it was in the 50s.

But I have to say I am happy that fall stretches out so long here. I am looking forward to enjoying every minute of crisp air and colorful tree. So when we realized that Lucas’ parents visit would coincide with The National Apple Harvest Festival in Arendtsville, PA, it seemed like an appropriate fall activity to attend.

The festival is in fact more like a fair, long rows of vendors pedaling fried food and crafts, a 4H barn, a classic car show, and a variety of musical performances and family friendly activities. It was a beautiful day, sunny and cool, and the place was packed.

But the thing I most loved: the Tractor Square Dance.

Yep. Put on by the Middle Creek Tractor Swingers this amazing show is just want the title portrays. Tractors square dancing. There are “male” tractors, a little bit larger, and “female” tractors, a little bit smaller. To start they lined up on the outside edges of the fenced off “dance floor” with their partner and the caller proceeded to progress them through a series of square dances.

My favorite tractor was Rosie,  a little pink two-seater, driven by the only woman in the show. The other “female” tractors were driven by men dressed up as women. Rosie, made tight, clean turns, and anchored many of the difficult dance “steps.” One of the most impressive moves was when Rosie and another female tractor moved to the center and pivoted on one wheel in a circle as other tractors joined in a  long line swinging around the floor like the hands of a clock pointed at 12 and 6. Seeing tractors glide across the dirt is what I imagine it would be like to watch football players dance ballet, strange yet surprisingly entertaining. A wonderful fall weekend!


Badlands National Park, SD

The Road Trip Continues… Alaska to Pennsylvania

The last big, outdoor stop on our road trip was Badlands National Park. We spent the morning admiring the Mars-like qualities of this ever-changing, harsh landscape. It was too hot to hike, so we drove to each point of interest, and ate lunch under one of the few trees in the park offering at least a little bit of shade.

What I loved about this park was how drastically different it was. Our trip started out in mountains and woods and snow, and ended in wide-open, sand-blown, spires of gritty, colored rock. Beautiful.

I feel so lucky that we got to spend almost a month immersed in nature.

For the last few days of our road trip, we visited with family and friends, packed up a truck, and made the final push to our new home, Carlisle, PA. The end to a wonderful trip!

 


Black Hills and Badlands on Dwellable

Custer State Park, SD

The Road Trip Continues… Alaska to Pennsylvania

By the time we entered the Black Hills of South Dakota we had been on the road for 15 days, only one of which we spent in a hotel. We could put up and take down our tent with our eyes closed. We were road trip experts. But there were two things we weren’t prepared for: people and heat.

After spending so much time in the north, where we were still sleeping in a snow hat and gloves at night (in July), the heat of 90 degree days felt like being smothered. And it had been a long time since we had seen such thick swarms of people. It felt a little like wandering out of the woods into an amusement park. But, the scenery of Custard State Park made up for it!

Our destination was the home of Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and the scenic Needles Highway. While in the park we also spent time at Sylvan Lake and hiked to Harney Peak. For us, Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse felt too busy, so we looked at them from the road and moved along. Neat, but I’m glad we had more time for the Needles Highway and our hike.

The Needles Highway is awesome. The road, particularly the middle portion, switchbacks up and through granite tors that burst from the hills like candle sticks. The rock seems to have an artistic mind of its own. Each outcropping, stretches and bends and buckles in Play-doh-turned-rock kind of ways.

My favorite spot on the highway was the Cathedral Spires. A row of granite towers linked in a chain across the sky. It seemed like I should hear the trumpeted bellow of an organ at any minute. Another neat spots was a rock tunnel, that turned so sharply around a corner it looked like it was going to swallow the car trying to navigate its narrow channel.

We also loved our hike to Harney Peak. At 7,242 feet, it is the highest peak east of the Rockies and offers a wonderful 360 degree view from a historic stone fire tower perched amid larger boulders. The wind was blustery, whipping across the exposed peak, as we looked out across the Black Hills. Lovely.


Glacier National Park, Part 2

The Road Trip Continues… Alaska to Pennsylvania

If you haven’t guessed, I love to hike. And Glacier is one of those parks you can really go crazy hiking. So I hope you don’t mind hearing me gush about two more trails.

First, Gunsight Lake Trail. Although this trail comes with a caution, the first four miles are, well, not great. We even thought about turning around. Lots of over grown vegetation on the trail, but totally worth it in the end. The trail is about 13 miles round trip, and after you finally get past the first four miles, you cross along a ridge with outstanding views and continue up to the lake, which is beautiful.

The ridge offers views deep into the valley, with a huge waterfall on the other side, and red-toned mountains that are banded in scars from ancient glacial movement. The lake is clear, turtle-green, and cold. It is ringed by a bowl of mountains and 20 plus waterfalls funneling into the lake. We spent an hour snacking, skipping rocks, cooling our feet, and soaking in the views that have come to define this park for me.

On the trail back, we also took a short side trail to a huge waterfall. We guessed the falls were at least 100 yards long and spread out in a watery-fan near the bottom. The spray was so heavy my camera lens was covered in spots, and we were totally wet after looking at the view for ten minutes. I think that might be the sign of a good waterfall 🙂

Our last hike in the park was Scenic Point Trail, in the southern Two Medicine area. The landscape here was really different. On the hike we rose up onto a mountainside covered in sun-bleached tree trunks, low alpine flowers, and a snaking, rocky trail. We had great views of Two Medicine Lake and enjoyed a constant breeze on this exposed trail. I particularly liked the ghost-white trees. Other worldly.

An amazing national park.


Glacier National Park, Part 1

The Road Trip Continues… Alaska to Pennsylvania

I had planned to do one blog for Glacier National Park, but this morning as I sat down to write I realized there is just too much for one post. We spent four days in this fabulous park, and I wish we had more time. In order to maximize our time, we hit a different section of the park each day, sleeping in a new campground each night.

Our first night we stayed at Many Glaciers campground, in the northern part of the park, and woke up early (hoping to beat some of the heat) to hike Iceberg Lake Trail. This gradual ten mile hike is beautiful. It moves up along a ridge and in and out of the woods as it curls higher towards the lake.

Along the way, little creeks rushed across the trail turning the stone crimson red and wildflowers speckled the hill like multicolored freckles. On the open ridge line you could see out into the valley and above to the rugged mountains. The mountains here are so different than in Canada. They are darker and older looking, at the peaks they look broken and fragile, like the unfinished edge of a jigsaw puzzle.

Near the end of the trail we crossed into several snow fields, slick and icy under the afternoon sun. The snow packed trail ended at a half-moon of mountains surrounding the frozen Iceberg Lake, where we stopped for lunch. I loved the water falls formed by snow melt cascading down every crack on the mountain faces and the cotton-like puffs of clouds overhead. Beautiful. One of my favorite hikes in the park.

Another highlight from the park: the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Beyond the sheer craziness of creating the road, which is cut into the side of a mountain, and is constantly fight erosion and water, the views and stops along this make it a place I don’t mind being stuck in a car rather than out on a trail. The road twists and bends, and at one point, we drove directly under a waterfall. So cool.

More on Glacier National Park soon.


Lake Louise, Canada

The Road Trip Continues… Alaska to Pennsylvania

When we arrived in the town of Lake Louise we went straight to the campground, which is right “downtown” (including a stop sign, a little corner of stores, and two restaurants). While we were waiting in line, a ranger came up to the car and told us there were still a few spots left in the tent camping area (which is separated from the RV section). Then in a nonchalant tone she tells us there is an electric fence surrounding the tent camping area. Electric! She explains that this is to keep the bears out. Yep. And then continues to tell us, in the same tone, that today in the RV park a grizzly charged several people. Hmm.

We had been living smack in the middle of grizzly country for 10 months and never had to sleep behind an electric fence. Crazy. But honestly, it was kinda cool. Our first and only night being fenced in 🙂

After throwing up the tent, we decided to check out the famous Lake Louise. It wasn’t exactly what I expected.  It is pretty, yes, but after all the beauty we had seen and would continue to see, it wasn’t our most impressive stop. It is touristy. A giant hotel fills one whole side and people poured out around the lake like ants on a good crumb.

There were even women wearing heels. Heels! And there I was in pants I had worn for at least the last four days.  So maybe it just wasn’t my kind of outdoor experience.

But, the good news, just outside of Lake Louise is the Valley of Ten Peaks, which surround Moraine Lake, and holy cow this place is pretty. Lucas and I arrived in early evening just as the sun was about to dip behind the mountains and most people had already left for dinner. We sat up on “the rock pile” a literal pile of rocks facing the lake, and enjoyed the quiet beauty of the mountains.

And then…. we saw an avalanche. It was high up on the face of a mountain. It echoed like thunder, and then snow rushed down the face like a waterfall. It lasted long enough for Lucas to get out his camera, zoom in, and take a picture. So cool.

A wonderful way to end our time in Canada.

Next stop: Glacier National Park!