I woke up this morning and took a hot shower, which is something I have not been able to say much in the past twenty-two days. Other than company, a long, hot shower is what I miss the most. Our van was supposed to have hot water, but we couldn't get it hooked up in time, so I was left to make do with what I had for this trip: a hot kettle of water and a tiny sink, that I somehow turn into a tub, which makes me a feel a little like a magician. #Vanlife has definitely made me appreciate simple things like shaved legs and hot water and fresh laundry. Whenever I bathe in my tiny tub/sink, I am half laughing and half miserable, somehow trying to convince myself that this is “character building,” as Bette licks up water that spills to the floor.
Today, I’m staying in the most wonderful RV park, which is another sentence I never thought I’d say. Really, I never in my Taylor-Swift-wildest-dreams thought I’d end up in an RV park, and that it'd be wonderful. But alas, here I am, looking out at the vast ocean in Haines, Alaska, surrounded by enormous, macho RV’s that are filled with big screen TVs and microwaves and play stations. I don’t care one bit that I am in an RV park. After spending five nights in the remote wilderness of the Yukon and Kluane National Park, I will take any company I can get. The Yukon is 90% wilderness, but I did not realize how truly wild and people-less it was until I after I left it and arrived in Haines. Haines is a remote fishing village - there’s a few pubs, a couple of restaurants, a “second avenue”, a hammer museum and a lot of boats. When I pulled in, my eyes lit up at the endless possibilities. People! Pubs! Wifi! Cell service! An AVENUE! Wow! I practically felt like I was standing in the middle of Times Square on a Saturday night!
I stumbled upon this lovely, little RV park at the edge of the ocean. It was walking distance from a coffee shop called the Rusty Compass and a pub called Pilot Light. It had a clean, hot (six-minute timer operated) shower, a laundry machine and a nice lady named Barb running the show. Sign me up! I thought. I am staying here for two nights! Yup, Bette, Rhonda, and Lauren are all taking a much needed BREAK from the road! I was just so happy to be around people and things, even if it was RV people and even if it was only a few things.
So, what else could I tell you about #vanlife? Kluane (pronounced Kloo-on-ay) National Park is the most wild and remote place I have ever been. The Yukon is 90% wilderness, so you cannot miss the nature even if you try. Oh, and I did try. Espresso? Organic bakery? Craft Beer? Fish and chips? I searched on my iPhone with my one teensy, tiny occasional bar of service. But, no results. There was nothing. Well, nothing but amazing hikes and endless views and rivers and mountains and leaves turning bright red and yellow with the fall. I did one of the most popular hikes in the park called the King's Throne, and it was one the hardest hike I’ve ever accomplished by myself. The best thing about hiking in Kluane is that dogs are allowed on the trails. I think they actually encourage humans to bring their dogs to scare bears away. Although I was pretty certain Bette was the type of socially challenged creature that would somehow end up getting us attacked by a bear, I decided to bring her anyway. So we strapped on our bear bells, filled up our water, brought a bunch of snacks and off we set to climb up the mountain to the king's throne. There was one point when I wanted to turn around from exhaustion, looking around at the already perfect view thinking, “Okay, how much better can a view actually get? This seems pretty great from here.” But I carried on anyway, and when we finally made it to the top I felt like a total bad ass! Like a king! And the view was INCREDIBLE.
“Bette, we did it!” I cheered, as we pawed each other proudly. “ We made it to the King's throne! And King's throne?! Please! More like the Lauren and Bette throne!” I was full of confidence and pride when all of a sudden I noticed Bette letting out a low, snarly growl. Uh – oh. What does she see? A black bear? A brown bear? A murderer? I was almost too scared to look, but when I squinted I noticed them. We were sharing our peak with not a bear or a killer or a cougar, but four tiny, sweater-wearing Chihuahuas.
The Chihuahuas paraded towards us in their colorful fleece outfits, as their mom explained that she and her little dogs had not only just climbed this peak, but were actually on their way back down from “that other peak.” The much higher, much steeper, MUCH more jagged and challenging CLIFF of another peak. Their mom was a Latino woman with long nails and an amazing accent. “They hike the whole way on their own! That’s Mojito, that’s Margarita, that’s Fritzy and that's Fifi!" She beamed, pointing proudly at each of her tiny dogs as I stood in total shock.
"Oh, do they?" I asked, pulling Bette away before she grew too uncomfortable around these hiking Yukon Chihuahua prodigies.
“Well, there must be a gondola or something.” I whispered to Bette, as we wished Mojito and her mom the best and made our way back down the throne.
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