21 One Man’s Wilderness: Lake Clark National Park

No state in the Union has more public space than Alaska; nearly 90% of the land is owned by the state or federal government, and amongst the vast, untamed lands are eight national parks. Lake Clark National Park, about 120 miles southwest of Anchorage, is one of the most remote. It’s also where one man spent three-plus decades living as one with the wilderness in a small log cabin he built himself on the shore of a magnificent mountain lake. In this episode we talk about our experience in the park and visiting Dick Proenneke’s cabin; the man who documented his wilderness experience and became an advocate for preserving Alaska’s pristine natural places.

Some of the topics we discuss in this episode:

  • Where Lake Clark National Park is located
  • How to get to the park
  • Where we stayed when we visited the park
  • How we got to Twin Lakes, the site of Dick’s cabin
  • What it was like to see the cabin in its restored condition
  • Meeting the volunteer rangers who now care for Dick’s cabin

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20 Scenic Drives Through Public Lands

Brilliant, breathtaking, and magnificent are just some of the words we would use to describe the scenic drives we discuss in this episode. That is if we had consulted a thesaurus before recording our discussion about these spectacular drives. But spectacular they are, regardless of how many times we used the word. One of the great things about visiting our public lands is the roads to and through them make the journey worth the trip even if you don’t get out of your vehicle. Here, we talk about a few of our favorite drives that we’ve discovered during our travels and give some tips and history for each.

The drives we cover in this episode:

  • Going-to-the-Sun-Road (Glacier NP)
  • Beartooth Highway (Northeast of Yellowstone NP)
  • Lamar Valley (Yellowstone NP)
  • Needles Highway (Custer State Park)
  • Badlands Loop (Badlands NP)
  • Trail Ridge Road (Rocky Mountain NP)
  • Million Dollar Highway (between Ouray and Silverton Colorado)
  • Highway 24 through Capitol Reef NP
  • Capitol Reef Scenic Drive
  • The Burr Trail (Escalante NM, Capitol Reef NP, and Glen Canyon NRA)
  • Skyline Drive (Shenandoah NP)

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19 Adventures in Olympic National Park

Featuring a park in our home state of Washington on this episode, we discuss some of the highlights and must-sees at Olympic National Park. From the rugged coastline of the Pacific Ocean to the blue glaciers hanging off steep alpine cliffs, Olympic NP has something for everyone. Only a short day trip from the Seattle metro area, you can drive to many of the most spectacular sites within the park in a few hours. If you are a little more adventurous, backpacking through the park gives you a less-crowded perspective on the wild beauty of this “magical” place. We even give you a small peek into what it’s like traveling with us by playing an audio recording we made during one of our more challenging adventures. 

Some topics we discuss include:

  • Yes? No? Maybe? Whether or not we plan to write another book
  • Four seasons of fun up at Hurricane Ridge
  • Where to go to see what’s left from the largest dam removal project in history, where you can peer into the canyon below at the newly-freed, rushing Elwha River
  • The myriad of activities at beautiful Lake Crescent: in the water, on the beach and on the nearby trails.
  • Our three-day adventure hiking the High Divide / Seven Lakes Basin Trail which started out with some wild weather
  • The magic of the Hoh Rain Forest
  • What we found–and didn’t find—during our backpacking trip along Shi Shi Beach on the coast of the Pacific Ocean
  • And more…
  • In the mail bag segment, we discuss some of our scariest hikes while traveling to all of the national parks.

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18 Winter in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks

While visiting Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks in the winter can feel like stepping into a Christmas card photo, staying in a nearby Forest Service cabin with no electricity or indoor plumbing isn’t always so picture perfect. In this episode, we talk about many of our experiences in these two parks during the magical winter season, as well as the thrills and challenges of staying in rustic Forest Service cabins when the temperature dips well below freezing. Spoiler alert: walking through the snow to a pit toilet in the middle of the night with only a headlamp to scare away the bears is both a thrill and a challenge. 

Some topics we discuss include:

  • Matt’s latest obsession with organizing all of our travel gear
  • Our experiences snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park during the winter
  • How Karen’s desire to get into the holiday spirit created our new tradition of visiting national parks every December
  • How to find and rent a Forest Service cabin
  • What it was like staying in a Forest Service cabin near Yellowstone with no heat, electricity or indoor plumbing, in December
  • What activities are available in Glacier National Park in the winter
  • Spending a few days in a Forest Service cabin near Glacier National Park
  • Our snowshoe experiences in and around Glacier
  • Would we rent a Forest Service cabin in the winter again?
  • And in our mail bag segment, we answer a question about whether we ever practiced shooting our expired bear spray, and if so, what did we learn.

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17 Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

It was a close call for sure. Had the government not stepped in to protect the land that today makes up these magnificent parks, the Giant Sequoias may have been lost forever. These amazing trees are a natural wonder everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. And the trees in the parks are not the only natural wonder. As John Muir observed over 100 years ago, the valley of Kings Canyon, surrounded by its towering cliffs, is as equally breathtaking as Yosemite. Yet today, only a small fraction of the number of people who visit Yosemite make it to Kings. In this episode, we talk about our visits to these parks and what it’s like to spend a few days walking amongst giants.

Some topics we discuss include:

  • When our Photo of the Day Contest began and how Karen ended up becoming the sole judge of our travel photos
  • How we found out that Sequoia and Kings Canyon are managed as one unit
  • Matt’s filing system for all of our park literature
  • Hiking to the largest tree in the world in The Giant Forest in Sequoia NP
  • Other must-see sites close to The Giant Forest like Moro Rock and a tree you can drive through
  • Staying at the Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia and what Matt tried to buy in the gift shop
  • Visiting Grant Grove in Kings Canyon NP and the 2nd-largest tree in the world
  • Camping and hiking deep in Kings Canyon
  • And in our mail bag segment, we answer a question about which is better for hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park, trekking poles or one of those long, wooden poles you rent from a local outfitter.

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16 The Wave in Northern Arizona

We had all but given up on ever getting a permit to hike to one of the most sought-after sites in the American Southwest: The Wave in Northern Arizona. But in the fall of 2019, an email from a kind and generous stranger changed all of that. The adventure to this spectacular rock formation was as awe-inspiring as we’d heard it would be, and in this episode, we describe our experience at The Wave in January 2020. And if you think the excitement was over at the end of the hike, it wasn’t. The drive back to civilization on the half-frozen dirt road was an adventure all its own.

Some topics we discuss include:

  • What it’s like to participate in the walk-in lottery for permits in Kanab, UT
  • The process for applying for a permit online, and a few tips on how to increase your chances of winning
  • How to prepare for hiking to The Wave in different seasons of the year—spoiler alert: it can be dangerously warm in the summer with no shade
  • Advice on navigating the sometimes-dicey House Rock Valley Road on the 8-mile drive to the trailhead
  • What to expect if/when you finally make it to The Wave
  • And in our mail bag segment, we share some tips about how we’ve reduced the weight in our backpacks on overnight trips, including some of the gear that goes into our packs and what we leave at home.

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