After Copenhagen, we split up.  Matt and Chris headed up the Swedish west coast to the small city of Gothenburg.  The rest of us boarded a short flight and landed in Stockholm, which sprawls over 14 islands along an archipelago on the Swedish east coast.

We didn’t have much time to see the city, so we immediately set off toward the Gamla stan (or Old Town) district of Stockholm.  This district has been around since the 13th century and is sort of the cultural hub of the city.  On our way to the Swedish Royal Palace we happened upon a marching band.

Marching band outside the Swedish Royal Palace
Marching band outside the Swedish Royal Palace

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Why are we going to Scandinavia?

We didn’t mean to visit Scandinavia – it was sort of by accident.  Originally, Katie and I planned on attending Oktoberfest in Munich and sightseeing around Germany.  I guess we enjoyed the country so much last summer, we couldn’t wait to go back.

One thing lead to another; Matt and Lyle decided to accompany us and then flight prices ballooned across mainland Europe.  We already planned on taking the vacation days and as September was approaching we started to get desperate for an alternate destination.  Matt jokingly checked the flights to Copenhagen and they were reasonable.  So in the words of Hunter S Thompson, we decided to just “buy the ticket, take the ride”.  Because of that, this trip might get a little weird.  We didn’t do a ton of planning and our expectations are a little vague.  All we knew was that Vikings used to roam in that area, but they haven’t been around for hundreds of years so it shouldn’t be a problem.

On top of that, we have a new addition to our group.  Matt’s friend Chris decided to go globetrotting with us.  He helps run an amusement park in Kentucky and had been wanting to visit some of the parks in Denmark and Sweden.  It seemed perfect so he had to come.

Chris is coming with us
Chris is coming with us

Maroon Bells-Snowmass

Ever since Katie and I moved to Utah, we’ve been slowly losing touch with friends and family back home.  Although we visit a few brief weekends every year, it’s hard to see everyone we’d like to.  In August, a couple old friends from high school wanted to get out of town for a weekend and I quickly recommended the Maroon Bells-Snowmass area in western Colorado.  Firstly, this pristine wilderness outside of Aspen is lightly traveled and would be perfect for a three night backpacking trek for us.  Secondly, western Colorado is directly between SLC and Lincoln so I could easily meet them there.

Right out of the gate our plans had to change: an increase in bear activity caused the park service to require bear canisters instead of bear bags for all backcountry trips.  We called every outfitter in a 100 mile radius and they were all sold out so we settled on some local tent camping with a few light dayhikes in the area.

Brian and Ben on our first hike into Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area
Brian and Ben on our first hike into Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area

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Glacier National Park

From Banff, we hopped on the highway and immediately missed an exit or two and got lost in Calgary.  Eventually we made it out and after a long stop, courtesy of the US Border Patrol, we arrived at our rental house on the edge of Glacier National Park.  We were pretty tired from driving and spent the rest of the day lounging, before heading into the park the following morning.

East side of Glacier National Park
East side of Glacier National Park

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Banff National Park

Banff is Canada’s oldest national park and sits on the western side of Alberta, about a 4 hour drive from the border.  It has glaciers, mountains, lakes, and rivers that make up some of the best views you can find in North America.  And the park is completely dog-friendly.

Katie and I have been meaning to go for ages.  We got our chance over 4th of July weekend, when we took a quick roadtrip up there with Sherlock.  Joining us on this excursion are Katie’s parents, her sister Julie (I swear she follows us everywhere), and her new fiance Chris.

After 14 hours of driving, we arrived in Banff on July 5th and set out on our first hike up to a waterfall.

Katie and Justin overlooking a waterfall on our first hike
Katie and Justin overlooking a waterfall on our first hike. Sherlock was afraid of the walkway, so he didn’t join us.

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Fraser Island

After journeying to Sydney and canyoning in the Blue Mountains, Katie, Julie, Lyle, and I ventured up the west coast to a small town called Hervey Bay.  We only had a few days left in Australia at this point, and our plan was to visit Fraser Island nearby.  Fraser Island is the largest island on the east coast of Australia and a popular tourist destination for locals.  It has over 100 miles of beach and it is best explored by 4wd, so we rented our Land Rover in Hervey Bay and took an afternoon ferry to the island.

Lyle admiring the wreckage of the S.S. Maheno
Lyle admiring the wreckage of the S.S. Maheno

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Blue Mountains

From Sydney, we hopped on the train and traveled west for about an hour to the small town of Katoomba.  Here we met up with a tour guide that took us into the Blue Mountains for some cliffside traversals and rappels.  The day was broken into a morning and afternoon session.  We spent all morning learning the basics of ropework and did two rappels along a cliff.

Julie preparing for a free rappel
Julie preparing for a free rappel

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