As I sit inside our little home watching the rain drizzle down the windows, I daydream of what our next adventures may be. We talk about it often, maybe travels up to Alaska, or spending months exploring more of the great North-West, or even figuring out just how warm of weather we really can tolerate down South.
But, as I think of these of wondrous ideas, I’m reminded of the first day we left last year. It’s been just over a year since we took off in Vanna and set off on an adventure of our life, an adventure that would forever change the way see life.
I just want to share a few #throwback photos from our adventures last years. Some of my favorite.
I’m back in action! Apparently tape and rubber bands aren’t a proper means for fixing broken computer chargers… We’ve been quite busy since we returned back to Idaho from our big adventures. Jeff and I left in March with Vanna, a little van we converted into our own camper, a van we would soon come to call home. We left with so many emotions in tow; fear, excitement, anxiety, etc… No one could have told us what we were about to experience, we were in for the ride of our lives. It’s hard to believe that a year ago we were selling our home, six months ago we were heading out on the road and just a couple of weeks ago we were starting the renovation on our ‘tiny home’.
We left our busy lives behind and headed into an unknown territory of exploration. Jeff and I started our adventures by traveling SE to Florida, onto California and up the west coast from there. We saw so much in the six months we were out there yet there is still so much more to be seen. Many National Parks, wild animals, birds, crashing waves of the ocean, the clearest blue waters, and some of the biggest trees in the world. However, some of the best parts of our trip though were all of the times spent with the family we don’t get to see often.
While on this first trip of ours, we learned so many things, we learned more about ourselves and each other, how to live frugally, and most importantly how to live harmoniously in a small space. So, what’s next for this crazy couple!? Well, our adventures are far from over, from how we see it they have just began. Now that we are back in Idaho, Jeff will soon be looking for work again. (Can’t travel far without a nice wad of cash in your pocket) And we are going to start the remodeling of our fifth wheel. We dream of turning it into a lovely tiny home that we will be able to take with us on any future explorations. So no more van life for us, it’s now time to take on the tiny living movement.
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.
My sweet grandma and I
Family sitting around listening to cousin’s imaginative short story
Well, we’re off this morning! We have downsized all of our things again and packed my Toyota Corolla completely to the brim. Crossing our fingers we haven’t forgotten anything. We will be spending a few days camping with my family on our annual camp out then off to finish this years adventures. And all in the car….wish us luck!!
Well, our little travelin’ home Vanna is still having some troubles. We took it into a shop while we were in Washington and after $250 worth of diagnostics, we found out it would cost us a pretty penny to get her fixed. Jeff figured we could fix the van ourselves for just a portion of the price. We did bring along some tools with us on our trip but not nearly enough to do the job. So, we decided to putter Vanna back to Idaho and fix it here.
Now, we don’t feel this portion of our adventures are quite over yet, so we are leaving the van to sit for now and taking my wee little car out on the road. Jeff and I aren’t converting the car into a living vehicle or anything, we’re just going to travel and tent camp along the way. Now, we may get stuck sleeping in the car here and there but we’re crossing our fingers this doesn’t happen. We will be leaving in just a few days to go on my families annual camping trip then heading off on the rest of our adventures for this year.
We have plans for Vanna and for our fifth wheel camper once we return from our travels this year, but until all of the little details are worked out Jeff and I are just taking it day by day.
We wanted to share a few fun places to visit in Washington. Seattle is obviously one of the most visited places in Washington and for good reason too, there is so much to do! I previously mentioned in another blog about the Space Needle. It’s an iconic image of Seattle and probably the first thing that comes to mind for most people when they think about Seattle. The Space Needle is right downtown and surrounded by numerous things to do and places to go. The EMP Museum, Chihuly Garden and Glass, The Science Center and The Childens Museum are some of the places just within walking distance from the Space Needle. And of course if you’re in Seattle, you have to visit one of the oldest continuously operated public markets, Pikes Place Market. Just be prepared for squeezing through all the people and resisting from buying everything. And before you leave the Seattle area, don’t forget to find the Freemont Troll. A giant art statue made under a downtown bridge in the 90’s and is sought out by tourist and locals alike.
Seattle isn’t the only hip place to visit in Washington though. While we were in Federal Way Jeff and I found a beautiful bonsai garden, Pacific Bonsai Museum. Some of the trees there have been tended to since at least 1950 if not longer. It’s amazing to see the dedication and hard work that goes into each tree, each one of them different and unique too. There’s also a handful of lakes, rivers and bays to take your family to, swim in and fish.
Washington is also home to a few national parks. Jeff and I visited two of them while we were there, the first being Olympic National Park. We spent the entire day driving all around the park’s perimeter, getting out to snap photos and to take a couple strolls. Olympic NP is located on the Olympic peninsula and has four different regions and within those regions are three different ecosystems. The park was absolutely incredible, so much green everywhere. Jeff and I took a nice little walk through the parks rain forest intrigued with the idea of a rain forest. As we walked along the path, we took photos of giant mushrooms growing on tree trunks, trees covered in moss and then a Barred Owl silently sitting on a tree limb. Everything almost seemed pictured perfect.
Mt. Rainier is the other national park we embarked upon for an afternoon. Mt. Rainier is an active volcano and the tallest mountain within the state of Washington. The mountain can be seen from Seattle and is visible about 90 days a year. The locals often refer to the mountain as ‘the floating mountain‘ as it appears to be floating in the clouds and above the sea. The drive up there was incredible and the views when we arrived were even better. Mt. Rainier was definitely one of the most magnificent mountains we have seen.
Federal Way, WA is where Jeff and I have found ourselves the last couple weeks. We have been here visiting with Jeff’s sister Rachel and her family. On our arrival they were ready to show us around and were gracious hosts from the get go. We rolled into town with the van still not working very well and Scott, (the bro in law) immediately offered their car to us so we could get around and explore the city. We were told to make ourselves at home and before we knew it Manko was even sleeping on the back of the couch with their dog like it was her own house.
Rachel took us to Pikes Place Market our first Saturday here. The market was exactly as I had imagined but ten times the people. Jeff’s sister warned us the weekends were busy but the amount of people shopping and wandering the market was astounding. We read more than 9 million people visit the market each year that’s close to 25,000 visitors a day! We only stayed a short time so we weren’t able to see all of the multi-levels, therefore Jeff and I returned another time weaving in and out of the levels and people.
Jeff, Scott and their oldest Max went fishing a couple of times while I spent time with the girls. It sounded like they had a pretty good time and I really enjoyed hanging out Rachel and the two younger girls. All three of the kiddos are always on the move and constantly learning new things. Max is learning to read and comes up with the best questions, Louisa has the best imagination and can play for hours, and little Lydia is in the mimicking stage and it amazing to see her little mind working.
Scott and Rachel made sure we tried some of their favorite meals and places to eat. One night they made a seafood feast with tortellini and homemade alfredo sauce, everything was so tasty. Rachel even surprised me with a birthday cake one night! Jeff showed off his skills in the kitchen a couple of times too. And on another night we all played ‘picnic’ eating our dinner on blankets in the living room completed with plastic cups and straws.
Staying with Scott and Rachel has been so much fun. We shared some great laughs, had wonderful conversations, tickle wars with the kids and giggles about unicorns or silly jokes. I also loved reading with the kiddos and playing games too. For a couple of days the adults put together a 1000 piece puzzle, with Max’s assistance of course. It was his first ‘big’ puzzle, so it was really quite impressive to see how he figured things out and how long he stuck at it before getting bored.
Rachel and her family had plans to travel to Idaho for a visit about a week after we arrived here. So, they graciously offered their home to us so we could continue our adventures in the Seattle area. We are truly blessed to have such wonderful family.
It was nice getting back on the road again after the long pause in GP. The first day out gave us the same butterflies and gitters that we had the very first time we left back in March. It took us a minute to get back into the groove of the van life but soon found ourselves parking at Walmart, eating cheese and crackers for dinner and exploring new places.
After we left Grants Pass we headed over to Crater Lake. We’ve always wanted to stop there during our trips out to visit his grandparents, however we’ve never had enough time or the road to the lake would be snowed in. Crater Lake is one of the deepest lakes in the country and is probably one of the most pristine too. People travel from all over to gaze at it’s beautiful blue color. The lake was absolutely breathtaking and as we drove around it we almost forgot to snap photos.
Jeff and I spent the next few days driving along the Oregon coast. Our route took us through Eugene first and eventually we got to Newport. Newport was one of my favorite places when I was younger so I really wanted to show Jeff. The weather had been real gloomy all day during our drive but thankfully by the time we arrived the skies cleared up. The town was much bigger than I had remembered but the smell of the ocean, the people shopping the streets of the bay-front and the sounds of the sea lions were still the same.
We continued up the coast stopping just outside of Depoe Bay. This area is well known for whale watching, even after most have migrated through a few resident whales hang around. We stopped along a cliff just to make lunch and let Manko out for a stretch and I happened to over hear a couple standing near us say, ‘Hey did you see that?!’ and ‘Oh my goodness there it is again!’ So of course I had to gazed into the ocean and sure enough, water shooting up from a blow hole!! A whale was swimming about just down from the cliff we were standing on. We never got to see the whole whale, just a fin or two and the water blowing up from it’s blow hole but it sure was exciting.
Jeff and I also took a detour into Tillamook and wandered through the cheese factory. We watched the workers make cheese and although it didn’t work, I tried really hard to convince Jeff it was ok to have ice-cream at 9:30 in the morning. We stopped in Astoria for lunch as Jeff’s brother in law recommend a small food truck to try that serves the best fish and chips (The Bowpicker). Apparently everyone else knew how good the food was there because the line was almost at the end of the sidewalk! Starving and inpatient, Jeff didn’t want to wait so we found a food truck more suited to my diet, The Good Bowl. It served only vegetarian food and was extremely delicious.
Before we finally reached our ending destination in Washington, we stopped along the way in Long Beach, Wa to check out Marsh’s Free Museum (another recommendation from the brother in law). Its a unique place filled with vintage rarities, odd items, freaky sculptures and of course a gift shop to match. We spent quite a bit of time in there, everywhere you looked there was something new to find. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to go check out ‘Jake the Alligator Man’. The shops along the boardwalk were just as unique too. We finally made it to Federal Way, where we are currently visiting with Jeff’s sister Rachel and her adorable little family.
We haven’t disappeared or anything, we just haven’t had much internet access so it’s been hard for me to post. We left Grants Pass last week after staying with Jeff’s Grammy for about a month. Jeff’s grown up going to Grants Pass for visits since his grandparents live there, but I’ve only visited a handful of times. I got to learn the city pretty well while we were there and have to say we kinda fell in love with the area. It has a lot of charm for a smaller town with a little bit of a big city touch. We felt the area had great community involvement too, which is wonderful. Jeff and I really want to get more involved with the community and our neighborhood wherever we may land. This place is definitely on our radar of potential places to move in the future.
I also found a wonderful volunteer opportunity in Grants Pass that kept me busy while Jeff worked. Down the street from his Grammy’s house is the Josephine County Food Bank and Raptor Creek Farm. A beautiful garden takes up just over 2 acres of the property with a giant warehouse to hold all of the fresh organic veggies and donated food before it is sent off to feed those in need of a full a belly. The garden supplies an array of veggies and herbs from basil to kale and tomatoes to watermelon. The organization is ran by a handful of amazing people and of course the many generous volunteers who offer their time daily. Everyone I met was extremely friendly and made the experience there so enjoyable. I was able to help with a variety of chores around the garden during my time volunteered. I helped harvest veggies, wash and bag the veggies, pruning and thinning, transplanting of young plants, weeding and I also helped on the building of a cob oven on the property. I so enjoyed my time there and I hope to visit again.
If you’d like any additional information about the Josephine County Food Bank or Raptor Creek Farms, you can find their information HERE
Jeff and I have spent the last 2 weeks camping in California and exploring couple national parks. The mountain lands of California are absolutely beautiful with ferns growing everywhere, the giant trees towering above and wild flowers blooming on the hills. We first found ourselves camping in the Sequoia National Forest right in the middle of Sequoia NP and King’s Canyon. The spot we found was what seemed to be an area for cross-country skiing in the winter, however it had a big turn around and fire pit so we made it home for a few days. We hiked around on the ski trails several times, we even found a few patches of snow still melting from winter. Our camping spot also offered great privacy so we were able to use our solar shower and get cleaned up after hiking.
We camped there for a couple of days before we had decided to go explore Sequoia NP, however one evening we did drive down to Crescent Meadows to search for bears. We had met up with some Rangers to get our fire permit and asked where we may find bears. Cresent Meadows in Sequoia NP is a frequented spot for brown bears he said. So, we headed down there around dinner time and set out for a walk around the meadow. Within 5 minutes of our walk on this paved trail, we came up to a group of people stopped, whispering and snapping photos. To our left in the meadow was a cinnamon colored black bear eating her dinner of grass roots and flowers. Upon seeing Jeff’s giant camera, people were shoving him toward the front of the crowd so he could get better shots. As we were standing there watching her and taking photos, one of the ladies around us say, ‘Oh, there are two cubs over there on the trail’. She said it so casually as if the idea of a mama bear with cubs was no big deal. We were both worried about being so close to her, but she didn’t seem to notice us, at least not for a while. The cubs kept barreling out from around the corner, wrestling with each other and then one of them notices all of us staring at them and he comes towards us. I just wanted to yell at the little thing to go away but there was nothing I could do as mama realizes he’s just several feet from us and she makes a few leaps forward onto the path. The people around us unaware of how to react, start running… Jeff and I stay at the tail end of the group and go behind a tree and then continue walking on the path as mama bear went back to eating. After calming down from the excitement, we walked to the other side of the meadow to set ourselves at a safe distance from the three bears and continued to watch them until the sun went behind the mountains.
The next morning we left our camping spot and headed to the park. We spent some time lurking around the visitors center, chatting with Rangers, and enjoyed a nice nature trail around the visitors center surrounded by giant Sequoia trees. We walked the steep trail to view ‘Sherman Tree’, one of the largest Sequoia trees in the world. Jeff helped a sweet lady needing gas to make to the nearest gas station 30 miles away. We carry an extra gas can with us and still had a few gallons on board. She insisted on paying us for the gas, so we used the extra cash to buy us lunch when we reached King’s Canyon later that day.
At King’s Canyon we drove down to Hume Lake and watched families fish and swim about. We also found ‘General Grant’, another one of the largest Sequoias. The forests within these two parks were so lovely, the giant trees with moss covered branches were just like a painting. Ladybugs filled the air too, everywhere you looked these little beetles were flying or landing on your shirt.
We weren’t able to do many of the hikes at Sequoia or King’s Canyon as my back just wasn’t cooperating. I feel bad on days like these when my pain is too much to overcome and I can’t do anything. I know Jeff wants to go out and hike but I know he also wants to stay with me. So, we ended our day early and headed back to the spot we had camped at before, crossing our fingers no one had claimed it for themselves. We were just in luck and had that great spot yet again.
After going down into the valley to refuel, do laundry and get groceries, we headed toward Yosemite NP. We made into the forest surrounding the South entrance by evening and found a spot for camping. The spot we found we were certain no one had driven on the road in months except maybe one car or atv. It was strangely quiet there but it would do for over night. The forest had gotten even greener than before and if this was a glimpse of Yosemite, we were excited.
Jeff and I got up the next morning, made breakfast and coffee eager for what the day would bring. As we drove into Yosemite, then into the Valley we couldn’t believe our eyes. People were passing us on the two lane highway as we drove slowly with our eyes in the sky and our mouths open wide. We hadn’t even made quite to the beginning of the Valley before we stopped to start taking photos.
Yosemite Valley is a small village with the visitors center, an art gallery, market, museum and so so much more. We meandered around a bit in the village before taking the free shuttle around the valley. Mirror Lake is where we first stopped that day, an easy hike and such a rewarding one too. (less than 3 miles roundtrip).The lake was very stunning and appeared to be a great spot for a little dip, however we didn’t leap in. Our second day in the Valley we took Manko on a walk to Lower Yosemite Falls. The trail was built up over the creek and runoffs making for quite a tranquil walk. We also spent some time exploring a nature trail and at a nature center.
After another night of camping we drove up to Tioga Rd / Toulumne Meadows area where at some of the highest peaks it can reach elevations of 10,000 feet. Snow still covered much of the mountain tops although in the afternoon the temperatures reached well over the 70’s causing runoffs in every direction you looked. The Olmstead Point was remarkable lookout, allowing you to look for miles and miles. We sat at Tenaya Lake, a serene lake on Tioga Rd surrounded with beautiful landscape. There are many hikes both day and over night to take along this road, however this first day we just drove up and down taking photos as we couldn’t believe our eyes. Everywhere we looked it just seemed to get even more beautiful.
Our last day in Yosemite we returned to Toulumne Meadows for one last day hike to Soda Springs, a naturally occuring mineral springs coming up from the ground. It was a pleasant little morning walk to end our stay there with pocket gophers and ground squirrels popping up to greet us as we walked through the meadow. Yosemite NP has to be the prettiest place we have visited thus far and encourage you to add it your bucket list.