Reasons to visit The Yukon this Summer

The Yukon is possibly one of the most underrated provinces to travel to during the summer, here’s why you should make it a top priority on your Canadian adventure.

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The wildlife
Bison roaming along the highway, herds of them, so many you will have to stop the car to let them past and capture a photograph. Black bears and moose can be seen along the calm roads, no need to leave the car if you don’t want to. There are fishing spots to take respite from driving and spot beavers swimming in the water, maybe even plunge in yourself to cool off in the summer humidity.

Learn about First Nations
In most provinces First Nations feel like an after thought in post-colonial Canada, the Yukon does not follow suit. Natives account for a quarter of the Yukon population, and compared that to the national population percentage of 4.3% that is a significant increase. The Yukon gives much more control and consideration to the Aboriginal population and runs a Self-Government system. Learning about the rich history of tribes and being amazed at the intricate art work can be done in one of the many museums, galleries and learning centres.  It is a chance to buy real native art and clothing, knowing that your purchase will make a difference in their community, rather than funding large corporations.

The Scenery
The Yukon’s official flower is Fireweed, as it grows in such abundance after the forest fires which occur throughout the hot summer months. Lakes are vast, surrounded by mountains and so undisturbed by people you can pull up by a river at the roadside and sleep peacefully all night.

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Dawson City
Gold rush history
Ghost towns and ruins of the gold rush era of the past are left intact in the wooden shacks that were once people’s homes; you will find tins of unopened food left on the shelves, as well as cars which have been left to rust over decades. Visit Dawson City and be met with full gold rush period costumes and buildings preserved in the style of the time.

With a population of just over 33,000 it is easy to escape the busy tourist traps and take your trip at a slow pace; while still soaking up culture, history and nature. Make sure to add the Yukon to your Canadian road trip bucket list.

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Where Should you Sleep for the Night?

thumb_DSC_0986_1024It’s amazing how quickly you adjust to finding places to park overnight and sleep peacefully. Your creativity and ideas will improve with experience, you will learn how to blend in and keep your profile low. Here are some ideas to start your imagination running wild:

Free Campgrounds
If there are any available nearby then use them. Free Campsites and Allstays Camp and Tent can help you search nearby for free campgrounds. The facilities are basic but you will usually end up with a bench, fire pit and a pit toilet at minimum; there is also normally a river or lake for washing up. Check out my posts to find some awesome free campgrounds in British Columbia, Canada and The USA.

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Walmart (or other department stores)
Use the Allstays Walmart App for advice on Walmart’s that allow overnight parking, App users input comments reviewing their experience. Other stores that may allow overnight parking are Camping World and K-Mart, but be sure to check with management wherever possible.

Casinos
Often have parking that can be used overnight, discretion is key and you should try and cook away from the parking lot in a picnic area.

Rest Areas
Usually rest areas have signage for 8-10 hour parking limits, overstaying this time will depend on how regularly the area is patrolled by security. Flying J truck stops often have a separate area for overnight parking of RVs or an area where smaller cars can park for the night.

National Forests
You may find gems of free places to stay in National Forests, often campgrounds are well established with a pit toilet; they are not always easy to access; be sure to check that the area is accessible by road.

BLM
In the USA the Bureau of Land Management is in charge of an abundance of free campgrounds and areas you can stay overnight, use Allstays Camp and Tent for ideas as well as searching BLM on Maps.me.

Churches
Usually have a large and safe parking lot that is fine to stay in, so long as you leave early in the morning; ask whenever possible.

You could also try parks, residential areas without too many houses, or bars and restaurants that will be used to seeing cars left in their parking lot overnight. Keep a look out for signage forbidding overnight parking or only allowing residents to park. Do your cooking away from the area you intend to sleep, picnic areas and parks are usually best for this, to draw little attention to your stay. If you can, do a scout out of the area and decide if it is suitable returning once it is dark.

Make Denali National Park the next stop on your Roadtrip

Every National Park his its own merits and misgivings, Denali National Park wins outright for freedom, escaping the crowds and that feeling of untouched wilderness. These are only achievable if you get off the shuttle bus through the park and hike, there are no routes, you can walk anywhere you like.
Here are the reasons to make Denali a must see on your next road trip:

d2There are no Backcountry Trails
Contrary to how this sounds, there is backcountry available, the novelty being there are no set routes. You choose an area (or areas) with permits available and make your own way around using a topographical map, or gut instinct. You will encounter many natural barriers, rivers, ledges, scrub; you must learn how to cross them and how to camp leaving no trace.

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You won’t see anyone for days
Hiking out in the park is an incredible experience and one that is extremely solitary, likely the only living beings you will see for the entirety of your hike are the caribou, moose and maybe a bear, if you are lucky. Other National Parks, especially in the USA, have a ‘theme park’ feel due to their popularity and accessibility to all.

Backcountry permits are FREE
That’s right, whereas most other National Parks will charge you left, right and center for all types of permit, Denali gives them out for nothing; so long as there is space you can get a permit for the area that appeals to you most. Before you are given the permit you have to watch a film to ensure you know how to be ‘bear aware’ and how to safely cross rivers as Denali has no bridges.

Have the ‘real’ wilderness experience
Following a set route with a well marked path is great fun and how National Parks will usually set up their backcountry, oftentimes you don’t have to do a whole lot of navigating or even consider where you should be camping. Denali allows you the freedom to decide for yourself and sometimes it is inconceivably difficult to know whether you have made the right decision, but ultimately the experience is so rewarding.

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There’s an abundance of wildlife
If you stay on the bus you will likely just see caribou for the entirety of the ride, head out into the wilderness and there are so many creatures from wolves to eagles. Imagine waking up in the morning, opening your tent and seeing moose running past; it is an extraordinary sight to behold.

Endless sunlight
…In the summer that is. Lost? No worries, it will be light until 2 a.m. anyway, so keep on walking. This also messes with your body clock, waking you up in the middle of the night and thinking it is morning; checking the time and realizing you still have hours of sleeping ahead of you.

Are you persuaded yet to make Denali National Park the next stop on your roadtrip? Great! Start planning your route along the Alaska Highway and enjoy the adventure.

 

Backcountry Rookie

DSC_0591Love staying away from the crowd? Eating noodles? Seeing wildlife? Good. Hiking the back country is for you! Multi day hikes enable you to have an authentic camping experience and see parts of the wilderness most tourists would miss. Before you embark on a backpacking adventure it is advisable to have polished your hiking skills by day hiking; getting used to bear country and the physical exertion. The first back country hike I undertook was a solid 4-day trip in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, it was a huge learning curve and an incredible few days. You will meet experienced hikers with all the labels and excellent gear, but you don’t have to feel pressured into buying anything costly, the basics will do. Yes, your backpack will be heavier, but you should give back country a try before you commit to buying better equipment. Here are the corners I cut for so many back-country hikes last year…

The tent was from Canadian Tire, it cost $75 CAD on sale; it wasn’t great and was heavy, but it survived the entire trip. Look on classifieds for bargains or see if any fellow road trippers are looking to sell their gear post trip.

The backpack I hiked with I already used to store clothes in the car, I would take out the clothes and store them in a garbage bag when I needed the backpack for back country.

Hiking Poles are the saviours of your knees while you are out walking, you don’t need to purchase any as you can find a suitable stick on your hike and leave it after for someone else to use.

A sleeping pad at this stage won’t necessarily be for comfort, it is more for a barrier between you and the cold floor. I used an old yoga mat that I had lying around and it did the job.

Sleeping bags do not seem to pack down to small sizes in North America, unless you have a lot of money to spend. My sleeping bag was an MEC branded bag which cost $10 CAD from Value Village, it didn’t come with a bag so I would hike with it wrapped in a garbage bag. There are plenty of second hand sleeping bags out there, make sure you run any purchases through a dryer for 20 minutes to prevent bed bugs.

Rain coats can be found in thrift stores, along with waterproof trousers if you wanted to protect your legs.

Follow my back-country food guide for ideas of lightweight meals on the go.

A water filter or purification tablets are essential for safety, choose whichever method works best for you.

A small gas cooker shouldn’t set you back more than $20 including the gas, plates, bowls and small enough pans can be found at the dollar store.

The priority when you are packing should be safety and survival so always carry a first aid kit, various means of starting a fire (in a waterproof bag), spare batteries for your torch, a map, knife and sunscreen. Keep warm clothing in a garbage bag to prevent it from getting wet in a survival situation. Extra Clif bars or energy gels will be wholly appreciated in emergency situations along with a space blanket. Remember to keep these essentials in your bag for day hikes, as well as an emergency shelter and water purifier.

 

5 FREE Campgrounds in Western USA

Car camping for free becomes trickier the closer to the coast and large cities you get, but there is still an abundance of free campsites scattered across the Western states. Using them comes down to whether they fit in with your route and if they’re car accessible, be sure to download Allstays Camp and Tent to help you find them, in conjunction with Maps.me. Finding a free campground is such a reward, you can relax, cook dinner and ask fellow travelers for advice. These campgrounds were memorable for all the right reasons

 DSC_0818Lowry Bridge GPS 47.51332, -112.00801 Montana

Pit toilet, river, bench, grill, grizzly bear

The scenery is otherworldly as you drive through Montana, the straight roads cut through the rolling hills of the landscape. Lowry Bridge offers you a resting spot to sit back and appreciate the landscape in peace. There is bear scat around and there have been sightings of a grizzly around the site, Montana is one of the only lower states in which they thrive, you should be extra vigilant with packing away food and cool boxes.

 DSC_0228Mill Canyon Road GPS 38.71268, -109.73934  Utah

Pit toilet, dinosaur footprints

This is a dispersed campground so it feels more a barren area to park up overnight, it can make a good stop on the way to Arches National Park, or Monument Valley heading through Moab. Don’t drive too far along the track, it becomes sandy and you will struggle to escape with a two-wheel drive. You feel the solitude of the desert and can witness a beautiful sunset, before finishing your beer and settling in for the evening. Mill Canyon Road has the added surprise of preserved dinosaur tracks, so don’t leave without seeing these, they are a sight to behold.

Sawtooth Canyon GPS 34.670375, -116.98407 California

Pit toilet, grill, bench, dinosaur sculpture

This worked as a stop en route to Southern California, winds can arise in the area so pick a pitch that has some coverage if possible. Benches and grills are built to be sturdy in concrete, so the facilities feel a little less basic. There is a dinosaur sculpture-come-play area, which is an apt touch, considering the fossils and prints found in surrounding areas. Be sure to look up at the surrounding rocks at dusk, you may just spot some wildlife.

 DSC_0986Tuttle Creek GPS 36.564857, -118.12591 California

$5, Pit toilet, bench, grill, drinking water

Located in Lone Pine, California, right behind the 48 lower state’s tallest peak Mount Whitney and Death Valley to the East, it is an excellent gateway to some of the USA’s best National Parks. Admittedly, the site is not free (it’s $5 per night) but the price is a steal, the campground is surrounded by an extraordinary panorama. You can hike in the area or simply rest before heading elsewhere, whatever your purpose drive slowly through Lone Pine, viewing the saloons against the mountainous backdrop.

DSC_0326 (1)BLM Lands East Zion 37.249128, -112.778939 Utah

There are no facilities at this campground, it is dispersed and not wholly obvious that you are able to overnight park there in the first place. The lack of facilities is remedied by the excellent location close by to Zion National Park, heading from Bryce Canyon. Views across the vermilion sandstone landscape are dazzling at sunset. This site as found using Free Campsites another excellent resource for overnight camping, the website isn’t the most user friendly, but it is full of great information.