We kicked off the “real” beginning of our trip with a visit to North Cascades National Park. While we left Portland a few days ago, our first two stops (Seaview and Seattle) felt more like typical weekend trips. We recharged for a couple of days at our neighbor’s condo in Seaview and visited several friends and family in Seattle. We left Seattle Saturday evening and, as we think will become typical on this trip, started to make things up as we went. Soon after making our first dump station stop (thanks Washington for the free rest stop amenities!), the Tulalip Casino provided a mostly-quiet place to spend the night. We were entertained by a nearly two hour fireworks show that we figured must be practice for the 4th of July.
We got an early start to the North Cascades, eager to get into the wilderness after several weeks focused on van prep and packing. We made an impromptu decision to backpack after stopping at a Ranger Station and learning a much coveted permit was available for Sahale Glacier. While potential thunderstorms were in the forecast, the sun was shining and our hopes were high. The hike to Sahale, starting with the Cascade Pass hike, immediately wowed us with the grand peaks and vibrant green foliage. Unfortunately, after a few hours of hiking, the sunny day gave way to impending storms that chased us back to the car, a little wet but glad for a warm van and shower. We choose to view this setback as an opportunity to do a longer hike the next day and explore a different part of the North Cascades. The next morning we continued east farther into the park and decided to hike Sourdough Mountain, after a few recommendations from other hikers. The 5,000 feet of elevation gain were well worth the blisters and sore legs, as we were blown away by the views at the top of the hike. We tried to decide if the hike was better than our previous top spot (Goat Rocks), but couldn’t come to a conclusion. David started making many plans to return to the North Cascades with friends and family, as he loves to do.
Next stop is a quick night in Okanagan before heading to Kelowna, BC. More from Canada!
Best Parts of Van Life So Far
- iOverlander, AllTrails, and MAPS.ME. It is amazing how much we rely on these apps that really let us plan as we go. So far we’ve tried to stay one night ahead on accommodations and plan enough to do awesome things without spending half our day planning. A quick google search reveals dump stations, camping locations, top hikes, tasty restaurants, and more. The internet is really an amazing thing.
- Quickly made plans that work out. It is a great feeling when you whip together an agenda for the day or randomly pick a spot to stay and all goes smoothly. Sunday night we got the LAST spot in a 93-spot first-come-first-serve campground. Even though the sign said full, we tried our luck and snagged a great spot that allowed us to have a campfire and quiet night.
- Meeting people and making connections. One of the things we’ve worried about for the trip is feeling lonely or a lack of socialization. We’ve already been surprised by how easy it is to strike up a conversation with people we meet and actually feel a connection after a 10 minute conversation. Favorite meetings so far are a fellow vanner we chatted with on the top of Sourdough Mountain who will likely stay in our driveway when passing through Portland, and a motorcyclist at a viewpoint who gave us some great map recommendations.
- Positive van interactions. Neither of us knew how we and the van would be perceived while traveling. We realize we are extremely fortunate to be able to take time off from work and step away from our daily lives for a whole fifteen months. While I’m sure we’ll end up with a mixed bag of reactions, so far we’ve had so many thumbs up from other drivers, “cool van” yells, and huge smiles.
- Van homeyness. The van already feels like home and provides a sense of comfort and familiarity. It is incredible to be able to keep routines from home (daily smoothies, bedtime chocolate milk, lunch salads, crafts, violin) regardless of whether we are deep in the forest at a trailhead or on the streets of Seattle. We hope the van will stave off too much homesickness and grow even more comfortable as we continue to customize it.
- Lack of things to do. One of the biggest struggles in daily life is how many things there are to do, especially with a house and yard. The to-do list can be controlling and it is hard to relax when there is always something you should be doing. It takes about 7 minutes to clean the van and, especially when we don’t have cell service, there aren’t many things that need doing. We are hoping this helps us (especially Kelly) get better at focusing on the present and relaxing.