Sea·son /ˈsēzən/ noun
- That half (or third, or fourth) of the year where you find yourself employed, staying in one location for more than a week at a time, and earning benefits of some kind.
I was first introduced to the term “seasonal” in 2015 during my internship in the Great Smoky Mountains. I met many seasonal park rangers stepping in during the busy summer season. Then in 2016, in Denali, where fellow employees would ask me, “How many seasons have you been in Alaska?” instead of using the words “summer” or “year”.
This seasonal way of living was something I hadn’t heard of. While it’s often the best (or only) way to work your way into a permanent federal job, government employees aren’t the only people who move and start a new job every six months. Outdoor guides, hospitality workers, bus drivers, international employees… the list goes on.
It’s a unique style of living that is both at once romanticized and criticized, and for good reason.
There’s moving. Moving is always overwhelming. The packing, the planning, the cleaning, the unloading, reloading, rearranging–only to have that last pile on my desk, or the sheets still on my bed, or my toiletries reminding me there’s still more to do, always. It makes me want to abandon every environmentally sustainable promise I’ve ever made myself just so I can toss everything in the dumpster this one time. But I resist. On the other hand, living on the road for almost three weeks has taught me just how many clothes I need to live with (hint: it’s not many–I’ve barely touched half of my one suitcase).
Every day there are new plans to make. Where will you be sleeping? Which way will you be driving? Any stops along the way? How long will it all take? This can be stressful, or at the very least, tiring. And that is the part that many people don’t expect or predict. You’ve got no job! No work! How can traveling be overwhelming, tiring even?
It’s refreshing when someone tells us, “You guys are really living the dream! I know it’s probably so stressful at times, but think of all the amazing things you are doing! You are living a life I wish I could.”
I feel understood, like someone knows that this journey has not just been a walk in the park. I know that adventures aren’t meant to be easy. But it also serves as a great reminder that John and I are fortunate to have so much time to explore the country. We think about it every day.
With the seasonal lifestyle comes a true sense of hard-earned adventure. I have become better at finding a variety of places to camp or stay overnight–planning these things doesn’t intimidate me anymore. I get a thrill from pulling up a map and finding interesting places to explore along our route. It’s like a puzzle that we design and put together ourselves. I can drive long distances, and I’ve learned how to drive a manual car along the way (with John’s endless patience). We determine exactly how we want the day to be. Though every destination is different, we fall into a routine of driving and setting up camp. We listen to podcasts, music, or each other. We collect new stories at every place we go. And, oh, the places you’ll go.
We’ve collected so many stories in such a short time, it’s hard to even keep track of it all when we call home. So for anyone interested, here’s an on-the-road, journal-style update of our travels.
Sept. 26: Departed Denali. Yes, it was a full eight hours later than we wanted to leave, but hey—at least we left on the right day. Dinner in Fairbanks (Drunken Noodles, anyone?). We decided to pull over and sleep in the car instead of set up our tent at 11pm, so we pulled up our sleeping bags in the front seats of the car and watched the Northern Lights dance through the windshield.
Sept. 27: Canada! Drove to Whitehorse, the capitol of the Yukon. Stayed in a hostel called “Beez Kneez Bakpakers Inn”. Awesome place, highly recommend. Set personal goals on how many cartoon or painted bees I could find inside the house. Witnessed the most amazing Aurora Borealis of my life, without my camera. If your camera isn’t on you, it just isn’t worth getting. The lights can disappear that fast.
Sept. 28: Stopped by Watson Lake on our way to the next campsite. Visited the Signpost Forest, a historical landmark of more than 80,000 signs posted by visitors that point to homes across the world. Began the Stewart-Cassiar highway, a 543 mile road with bare traces of civilization along it. The first half of the road had no painted lines, and we crossed paths with another car once every ten to twenty minutes.
Sept. 29: Camped at a lodge near no towns, 2/3 of the way down the Cassiar.
Sept. 30: Camped overnight in Prince George. Became heavily invested in the first season of the podcast Serial.
Oct. 1: Made it to Jasper, Alberta! We met my parents for pizza before reaching our rented house outside of Mt. Robson Provincial Park.
Oct. 2: Hiked a trail, played games, baked cookies, and cooked delicious meals.
Oct. 3: Took a boat tour on Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park to see Spirit Island.
Oct. 4: Drove the Icefields Parkway to Yoho National Park. This has to be one of the most beautiful drives in the world. Mountains tower over the highway and there are multiple opportunities for hikes, waterfalls, and overlooks, including the Athabasca glacier of the enormous Columbia Icefield.
Oct. 5: Completed my favorite hike for the second time—the Plain of Six Glaciers teahouse in Banff National Park. The teahouse sits three miles up in the mountains near Lake Louise, and supplies for the tea, vegetable soup, and chocolate cake on the menu are either hiked in, carried in on horses, or brought by helicopter once a season.
What made it even better? Taking an extra trail to the Lake Agnes teahouse, too.
Oct. 6: Departed for Kalispell, MT. Drove over my first mountain pass (in a manual car) in Kootenay National Park (Canada).
Oct. 7-8: Family, friends, food, games, and drinks. Relaxing on Flathead Lake (thank you, Greg, Laurie, and Amy!)
Oct. 9: Mom and dad began the journey back to Minnesota. Departed for Missoula, MT to pick up a Thule car-top carrier on our way to Bozeman. We could finally see out the back and side windows! Encountered a snowstorm on a 6,000 foot pass near Butte.
Oct. 8-10: Airbnb in Bozeman. Phone interviews.
Oct. 9: Drove to Yellowstone National Park, Madison Junction Campground. We found ourselves at over 7,000 feet in elevation. Temperatures dropped into the 20s as we make dinner. Frost had covered our tent by the time we’d woken up.
Oct. 10: Explored Yellowstone! Yellowstone contains more geysers, hot springs, and other geologic features than the rest of the world combined. Continued on to Grand Tetons National Park, where we stayed overnight.
Oct. 11: On to Idaho and Craters of the Moon National Monument, where we explored lava tube caves and volcanic rocks less than 10,000 years old, and some as young as 2,000.
Oct. 12: Crossed the border into Oregon!
Oct. 13-14: Visited the Pendleton Woolen Mills, the site where Pendleton blankets are made! We also stopped by a BLM Oregon Trail interpretive center, where we learned about the 2,000 mile journey around 400,000 emigrants made to find better land. I found a violin that was made in 1790 and owned by one of the travelers, and we were even able to stand on the original ruts of the trail that can still be found some 300 miles along the journey. Talk about chills.
Visited Portland, where we spent the weekend exploring the city, reconnecting with friends, and finding delicious restaurants.
Oct. 15: Arrived at the cranberry farm to meet our WWOOFing host. Started helping with the cranberry harvest—what a learning process!
And so it continues! John and I will be spending our winter in Aspen, Colorado, working for a snowmobile touring company’s tour sales and reservations office in the White River National Forest. Answering phones may not sound glamorous, but I’m looking forward to being the first interaction that many of the visitors to Aspen have with the company. It’s a family-owned ranch that’s had a place in the community for generations, this is their 50th year of snowmobile tours. I can’t wait to see what winter adventures await us in Colorado!
Thanks for reading,