A Trip of a Lifetime

Note:  Many thanks is given to Mark Boehler, editor of the Daily Corinthian newspaper, for writing and publishing the following article in Lifestyles Plus, a local magazine for mature adults.  The summer/fall 2011 write-up, Trip of a Lifetime, was written about our  three-month, 2010 North to Alaska journey.  (permission granted for posting to this blog)

Cover Story:  Trip of a lifetime

Corinth couple loves to share photos, stories from 14, 750-mile adventure

It was the trip of a lifetime — the ultimate road trip.

They spent 92 days on the road with 40 nights sleeping in a tent. After 325 hours behind the wheel of a pickup truck and 14,750 miles traveled roundtrip from Corinth to Alaska, one amazing aspect has risen above all others.

A 42-year marriage remains intact.

Don and Cheryl Meints of Turtle Creek Subdivision love to talk about their adventure, an idea Don first thought of in early 2009 when he had a desire to travel the Alaska Highway.

The avid photographers also like to share visual images from the trip. Don snapped about 3,000 photos. Cheryl, known locally as the “flower lady” for her vivid photographs of flowers, took over 10,000 images.

They planned and researched for six months. The Meints left home on July 9, 2010 and returned October 9.

“It’s a lot of good experiences and a lot of good memories,” said 60-year-old Cheryl, a professional volunteer whose photo exhibits are often seen at Corinth Public Library. “And we have the photos to prove it.”

“And,” added Don, a 65-year-old retired engineering manager from ATK in Iuka, “We are still together!”

“That’s what people ask,” said Cheryl. “How did we do that?”

Road trips and tent camping aren’t new for the Meints, natives of Beatrice, Nebraska, who share two grown children and six grandchildren ranging in ages from 10 to 27.

They have a huge U.S. map in Don’s office showing the places they have visited and camped since 1983. Before the big adventure last year, their longest trip was three weeks.

The travelers can point to several map stick pins after their long adventure as  extraordinaire,” said Cheryl.

The top three highlights of the “North to Alaska” trip, according to the adventurers, include a glacier cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska; a Prince William Sound six-hour cruise from Whittier to Valdez, Alaska; and a 12-hour bus tour through the heart of Denali National Park, Alaska, home of 20,000-foot Mount McKinley, the highest point in North America.

Also ranking high on the “must return” list was a photography hike through the Painted Hills Unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Oregon, noted the couple.

Other places they would return if given the opportunity are the rainforests of Olympic National Forest in Washington and Redwood National Forest in northern California.

Their favorite campsite was Trail River near Kenai Lake, Alaska just outside of Whittier.

Disappointments were very few on the long journey, simply because there were no set expectations, noted Cheryl.

“Our expectations were minimal since the trip was solely for photographing whatever came our way,” said Cheryl, who is still sorting through digital images nine months after the adventure. “We are explorers at heart and this was predominantly a discovery expedition. Our journey was not about wildlife viewing or wildlife photography.”

In a bit of irony, the Alaska Highway dream may have birthed the idea for the Meints, but they won’t travel it again.

“We probably wouldn’t drive on the Alaska Highway again if we are privileged enough to return to Alaska,” said Don, the trip’s driver.

Road washouts, road heaving and buckling and mud slides are some of the entries in the Meints log book, which at one point describes the highway as “250-plus miles of swaying in all directions.”

In hindsight, the only thing they would do differently, the couple now agree, is to not mix big city tourism with backcountry camping experiences.

“Also,” added Cheryl, “Plan days of deliberate rest every 10 days or so — no writing, photo sorting or touristy jaunts.”

In the “live and learn” category, the couple found out the best time to avoid crowds was to hike in the early morning hours.

And, beware of descriptive propaganda included in brochures, literature and guide books, they warned.

“It is all a matter of interpretation and exclusively in the eye of the beholder,” said Don.

The husband and wife agree they were fortunate on the long journey with no medical emergencies or major vehicle breakdowns. The only truck problem was a few repairs in Anchorage, they said.

And all the horror stories about mosquitoes never happened to the travelers. They packed all kinds and varieties of repellents, but didn’t use any of it, they said.

The adventure seekers are planning their next trip to southern Arizona and southern California in February – March next year.

“Probably not for three months, though,” said Cheryl, as Don agreed.

Northern Arizona and southern Utah remain their favorite places in the U.S. and they want to broaden their tent camping experiences.  Places on the visit list include Big Bend National Park in Texas, White Sands in New Mexico, Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Park in California.

Chances are the two will get a haircut before leaving Corinth.

Upon arrival back home after the “North to Alaska” journey, both realized there was something they didn’t do while on the road for three months.

Neither got a haircut …

By the numbers:

• 14,750 — miles traveled 
• 10,000+ — photos taken by Cheryl 
• 3,000+ — photos taken by Don 
• 425 — postcards collected 
• 325 — hours behind the wheel 
• 300+ — granola/power bars eaten 
•180+ — rice cakes eaten 
• 92 — days on the road 
• 40 — nights in a tent 
• 40 — nights in motel rooms 
• 23 — coffee cups collected 
• 20 — bookmarks collected 
• 15 — national parks/historical sites visited 
• 14 — U.S. states traveled through 
• 10 — hiking patches collected 
• 9  — state parks visited 
• 8 — day cruises/ferry rides taken 
• 6 — tailgating experiences 
• 7 — botanical gardens visited 
• 4 — rain forests visited 
• 3 — Canadian provinces visited 
• 2 — jars of peanut butter eaten 
• 1 — truck engine problem
• 0 — mosquito bites received
 

Note:  additional North to Alaska images can be found at www.corinthrose.com

Note:  The following blog posts deal with our three-month, 2010 adventure:

Standing in the Silence of Giants
Sharing, Camping, and Glacier National Park, Montana
Mushroom Beauties
Painted Hills…A Jarful of Colored Artwork
Raccoon Bandits 
 
Next blog post:  Tent Camping 101 on the Alaska Highway
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About corinthrose

Born again Christian, helpmate of 42 years, domestic engineer of two children, GRANDmother of six darlings, professional volunteer, fanatic photographer, and a wanna be writer. Occasionally, infatuated with family history, flower photography, and traveling with my hiking buddy.
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2 Responses to A Trip of a Lifetime

  1. Pingback: 1929 Western Journey, part 1 | Corinth Rose

  2. Pingback: 1929 Western Journey, part 2 | Corinth Rose

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