We embarked out on our last leg of our adventures a couple of weeks ago. A journey full of excitement yet also bitter sweet, the van we had come to love and call home the past few months had died and we knew the road would be ending soon. With Vanna now out of commission, tent camping was our only option if we wanted to continue exploring, so we packed up all of our things into my tiny car Bessie and left the van behind.
Tent camping had me worried, sleeping on the hard ground with my back and chronic pain but I couldn’t let that stop me from having a good time, it already stops me from a lot of other things. We ensured I had plenty of padding for my side of the bed though so I was feeling a little more encouraged. Our first stop was my families annual camp out up at Silver Creek Plunge here in Idaho. We’ve been going up there for years, some years we have everyone up there and others it’s just a small group. This year we had a smaller group and celebrated my cousin’s 40th birthday as well. In the late summers as the forests get drier here, we generally get a few big forest fires which end up to campers not being able to have campfires in dispersed sites. So, this year we ended up not being able to have fires while we were up at Silver Creek since we don’t camp at the actual campground. It’s not a huge deal for us but I know some of the kiddos were a little bummed. My cousin is pretty resourceful though and figured out ways every night to make our nightly desserts! We also ended up having a camp visitor every night, a sly little skunk. The first night he was noticed, our Grandma saw him first as she saw the garbage sack being dragged away ever so slowly. Then we started looking for him every time the sun started to go down and sure enough, that sly skunk was there trying steal garbage or someones dropped hot dog.
We left camp after four fun days spent with my family and headed north. We knew we couldn’t make all the way to Northern Idaho all in one day, nor did we want to, so we stopped in the McCall area. Jeff and I have camped in the area many times, he and his dad also come up to the area often for hiking. We ended up camping near Hazard Lake and stayed for a couple of nights. Our spot was secluded enough for showering yet we still saw a car or two pass every few hours. We set out on a hike one afternoon thinking we were heading to one set of lakes only to realize we were on the wrong trail and the lake we were headed to was twice as far. That day my back and hips were in no condition to continue on so we turned around disappointed we never made it to the lake. Our day however was ended quite well with an elk and her companion coming into the near-by meadow as we were headed to bed. She called to her friend several times before they were completely out of sight. And in the middle of the night as we slept, deer came sniffing our tent and running around our camp. That’s one neat thing about tent camping is being so close to nature.
Jeff and I had every intention of being on the road for a handful of weeks, getting up to Glacier National Park and then down to Yellowstone as well. But, after a good conversation about our finances and the mileage we’d be putting on the car (it’s on lease), we decided it would be smarter for us to hold off on going to the parks. This traveling thing isn’t going to end after this summer, this is only the beginning of a new way of life for us, so Glacier and Yellowstone will just have to be visited on another time. However, we did decide that going all the way to Northern Idaho was a must. Living in Idaho all of our lives, we’ve never traveled north, we had to see what all the hubbub was about.
We drove clear into the panhandle of Idaho and spent the next few days exploring through Couer d’Alene, Sandpoint and then into Bonners Ferry. We camped near the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge, which was really nice. Lots of birds have found sanctuary in the area, especially wild turkeys. We also came across two cow moose, one of them was with her calf too! Our camping spot was next to a creek, Trout Creek I believe, we didn’t hike around much but we did walk up and down the dirt road several times trying to work off our dinner. We enjoyed Northern Idaho, the farther north we got we definitely saw why everyone raves about how beautiful it is.
We drove into Missoula, MT after our Northern Idaho exploration. After about 40 minutes of driving down a dirt road, we finally found a camping spot along a beautiful river. They had a few particular rules for dispersed camp sites given the amount of bears seen in the area. One of the rules that I found a little different from something we’re use to was that they require you to set up your tent / sleep 50 feet or less from the fire ring. Montana was very pretty, ‘rugged’ would be a great way how to describe it. The river we camped next to was so pretty, Jeff was desperate to fish it but didn’t have a Montana license, so he settled for chasing minnows instead. The day we left we ran into a herd of big horned sheep crossing the highway. A young one, just barely old enough to trot, wobbled across the road with his family and up onto the hillside. Jeff and I still have yet to see a ram but hope to someday.
On on our way home, we traveled through the Eastern Idaho on our way back to Marsing. The drive back could have been again made in one long day, but when you’re squeezed in a tiny car and not comfortable in the van, we made it into a couple of days. Our first stop was overnight at Birch Creek Campground, a free dispersed site a few miles long just right off the freeway. It’s more of a sagebrush and deciduous tree kind of campground and definitely not the kind we’re use to, but it really wasn’t too bad at all. We planned on staying two nights there, however as the sun set we noticed smoke rolling in from a nearby fire and when we awoke the smoke had come in even more we could barely see the sky or breathe, so we packed up and left. Jeff and I stopped at the Camas National Wildlife Refuge to do a little more birding and hopefully find another moose. I think we came a little too late in the year for this refuge as most of the ponds besides one main one were all dried up and so were most of the fields. We did see a ton of water fowl though. We ended up staying our last night on the road at 1000 Springs Resort in Hagerman. Jeff and I have seen the place before and I have wanted to stay but we usually don’t pay for camping, however we decided to splurge this once since it was our last night on the road. Besides us, there was only one other couple tent camping, it was really peaceful. The resort is right on the Snake River and Thousand Springs is across the river and visible from the several docks. We had a great time, sunset was beautiful, their pool was nice and it was just a great way to spend our last night.
Life on the road with Bessie definitely wasn’t as easy as living in Vanna, not that van life was easy either but car life is quite different. No easy stops at Walmart for the night because we drove too long to look for camping. In a car, you have to drive to find camping or you’re stuck sleeping upright in the front seats of your car. The cooler isn’t as easily accessible as before, so more stops for snacks. Even Manko was cramped in the car, she had to lay on the floor board at my feet on passenger side since the car was so packed, before she had the whole back of the van to herself. We made it though and we enjoyed our last couple weeks out on the road.