Mountain Santa

There was no need to stop as we headed towards our next stop of our trip – Wild Iris – a rock climbing crag between Lander and Atlantic City, Wyoming.  We didn’t expect to see anything on the drive beyond the wide open spaces of Wyoming.

We were going through small-town Crowheart, Wyoming.  Plains.  Bluffs.  A handful of buildings.  It lies on the highway between Dubois and Lander on the Reservation.

Yet, a small bit of magic happened that day.

As we cruised in our van, riding in the opposite direction was Mountain Santa.

Try to picture this: snow-white hair, big bushy beard flowing from his face, button-down Christmas red shirt, dark jeans or Carhart’s, riding a fat-bike – a bike with seemingly over inflated bike tires  that can go through snow or rocky terrain.

Mountain Santa was leaner than North Pole Santa.  

But assuming he uses his fat-bike to get around, rather than a sleigh, it makes sense.

We only caught a second of him as we traveled in different directions.  Perhaps on vacation or maybe in charge  of the Rocky Mountain region, who can say why he’s biking Wyoming.

Whatever the reason, we caught a glimpse of Christmas magic in the middle of summer.

Third Leg of Our Trip – June 23 – July 15

It’s been a while since I’ve updated our trip log.  Rest days from climbing were typically with friends/family or we went hiking.  Not many days on the internet, so I’m going to give the quick overview

Days 16 – 19

Headed to Jackson, Wyoming and hung out in the beautiful area.  Shopped, hung out in National Forests, walked around town, caught up on civilization essentially.

Met up with friends from Memphis who just happened to be visiting at the same time.  Haven’t seen them since our wedding so it was great to see them again!

Days 20 – 38

Here’s what happened in this section in a nutshell.

Climbed awesome rocks.

Where’d we climb?

  • Wild Iris outside of Lander, Wyoming
  • Ten Sleep canyon, in Wyoming.
    • This is one of our all-time favorite places to climb during the summer
  • Crazy Woman Cliffs (surprise surprise, in Wyoming)
  • Story, Wyoming – were close to Tory’s family in Sheridan so drove up one day

What else?  Time with family and friends.

Who?

  • Friend from college and Tory’s best man – Chris – visited us in Ten Sleep for a few days
    • Climbed some climbs, attended a climbing festival, put out a brush fire, climbed some more.  All in all, a great time.
  • Sister Amy
    • She got lost and took dirt roads to Ten Sleep even though there is a perfectly good highway system in the state, so she missed the Ten Sleep 4th of July Parade
    • We climbed
    • Her car basically broke while we had no cell service and we spent two hours trying to leap frog her down the canyon to town, all with her gas light being on to top it off
    • Got her a tow truck
  • Tory’s mom, sister, brother and nephews
    • Lots of great family time in Sheridan, especially at THE parade – literally the biggest parade I have been to – the Wyo Rodeo Parade.
      • Seriously crazy.  We set up lawn chairs on the street the night before in order to save our spots for the parade.  This parade is serious business
    • Saw Kayla’s new house, played mini-golf (Kayla kicked ass), attended Buffalo, Wyoming’s ‘Longmire Days’ – based off of the Netflix show
    • Went camping and hiking with Tory’s brother, sister-in-law, nephews, and mom up in Big Horn National Forest
  • College friends!
    • Great friends who we see far too little – Jeff and Emily – met up with us in Sheridan.  Food, rodeo events, catching up with friends we wished lived closer

 

On July 16 we are heading to Montana for the final part of our summer trip.  It’s ending too soon!

Time in the Tetons

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Jagged cliffs atop a harsh vertical rise.  Rising suddenly from the smooth valley floor, the Tetons hold your attention more than anything else.  Other ‘scenic views’ don’t hold a candle to mine right now.

Millions of pictures capture the raw beauty of the Tetons, yet there’s something about seeing them in person.  A small frame diminishes their magnitude.  Being in their shadow, you can’t escape them.  They’re in your face, your peripherals, even your mind’s eye as you turn away.

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Tory and I found amazing camping across from them.  We couldn’t help but take picture after picture of the exact same view: this one captured wild flowers, the shadows shifted on the peak, the sun is hitting it just right.

There’s not much that can be said about the Tetons that they don’t say themselves.

As so we relax in their presence, completely content for time to stop, partially thinking about adventures to come but mostly marveling in our now.

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The Therapy of Climbing

Across the creek the three climbers huddle around the base of a route.  One, with scraggly brown hair, mid-twenties, starts to climb.  The other two, somewhere in their mid to late teens, belay: one taking charge of belaying while the other back up belays, learning the process and motions from his peer.

“Mind if we climb by you?”  Tory asks as we hike up.

“Not at all.”

As we throw down our packs and begin scouting out the routes we want to climb, we start the ‘climber small talk.’  If you’re going to be around another group for a while, might as well get to know them a little.

“Where are you all from?”

The main belayer, sixteen maybe seventeen, with the build of a high school wrestler, responds, “San Francisco.”

“Chicago,” answers the wiry, blond fifteen or sixteen year old.

The climber is from St. Louis.

Confusing.

Definitely not the variety of answers I was expecting from a group of young climbers outside of ranching, farm town Utah.

“What brought you out here?”  I ask curiously, expecting the basic ‘vacation’ answer.

These three look nothing alike, making it a stretch that they’re related.  Maybe they are old friends whose families moved across the country and they’re doing a small climbing trip to reconnect.

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The one who could be a wrestler:  “We’re in a group home.”

Wiry Blond:  “I was in a half-way home, then came here.”

Wrestler:  “That’s one of our therapists.  The one climbing.”

Ugh…

It’s safe to say I’m socially awkward.  I don’t suffer from ‘foot in mouth’ syndrome.  More the ‘brain freeze’ variety of awkward.  

Don’t get me wrong.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with being in a group home.

I was more taken aback that these two kids were completely open with two strangers they just met.  They didn’t know our names, we didn’t know theirs.  No shame.  No pride.  Just stating a fact about themselves.  

I admire that.

But I don’t know how to respond.  To ask more might seem like prying.  To not respond seems like judging.

Luckily we all have one thing in common: we like to climb shit.

“How long have you guys been climbing?”

The conversation continues.  We learn Wrestler has been climbing since August while its Wiry’s first day, but he loves rappelling, we’re from Denver, Tory, Scraggly Hair (the therapist/guide), and I snowboard, Wrestler skies, and Wiry has us ‘all beat’ because he skateboards.

It doesn’t take long to pick up on personalities:  Scraggly Hair is optimistic and soft spoken, Wrestler is confident in his abilities, Wiry expresses his uncertainty through a string of comments and incessant chatter.

We all shift back to our own routes: Tory and I getting our gear together while their group discusses who will climb next.

Wiry grabs a helmet and clips in.  He is full of self-doubt and deprecation.  Each move takes three or four reminders about how he is new to this, how he doesn’t like heights, how he only climbs so that he can rappel back down.

Scraggly Hair, the guide, fills the air with ‘you got this’, ‘just one more step’, and ‘look how far you’ve come, what’s a little higher?’

After reaching the second bolt, a little less than a quarter up the route, Wiry declares he’s done.

“Alright, lean back in your harness,” calms the guide.  “I’ve got you.”

The guide slowly lowers the climber to the ground as Wiry continues to express his inability to climb the route, emphasizing his fear, and he unties his rope.

The wrestler from San Francisco gives words of encouragement to his companion as he ties into the rope and begins his turn on the climb.

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Walls of Maple Canyon, Utah

As the next climber heads up, Wiry and his guide discuss his progress and growth from just that day.

It sounds like a rock came loose during Wiry’s first climb, spooking him.  Making it hard to not get paranoid of all the rocks popping loose while he attempted to put his weight on them as he climbed.

“It sounds like the rock kind of broke your trust, making it hard to count on the others.”

Wiry nodded.

“Does that ever happen in life?  Losing trust in something or someone?”

Wiry had the largest pause that I heard the whole time there.  His chatter ceased as he put serious thought into Scraggly Hair’s question.

“Yeah,” he whispered.  “Sometimes.”

“But you didn’t let that stop you.  You finished that route and tried this one.”

“But I was scared.”

“You didn’t stay on the ground though.”

“No…”

“Ready to lower!” came the call from the top of the route.

The therapist brought down the other climber and the three of them began the process of packing up, conversations sliding to the plan for the rest of their day and other members of the group home.

We all gave farewells as they hiked out and we scouted out our next routes.

Before they fully disappeared through the trees, I saw Wiry Blond look back at the route he didn’t complete.  Eyes set with determination.  A hopeful smile on his face.  Then he turned and continued to hike out.

We didn’t see the group again before he headed out a few days later.  We overheard other conversations, talked to other climbers.  Yet that conversation between Wiry and Scraggly has stuck out to me more than any other.

Climbing can have a way of teaching people about life, about themselves, about what you are capable of.  It doesn’t have to, but it’s lessons are there when you need them.

Wiry probably didn’t necessarily learn to trust completely after that outing.  

But a seed was planted.  He found a way to not give up on himself or on climbing even though he was distrustful of the wall.  He put complete faith in his guide to see him through, even when he was scared.

Will he be a climber the rest of his life?  Who can say.

Will the lessons of trust and pushing through his fear stay with him?  I hope so.  Because they’ve made an impact on me.

Getting Rattled

Paranoia makes each of my steps deliberate, making horse dancers proud of just how high my knees go on each step.

I want to make noise to alert them I am near, like you do in bear country.  Last thing I need is to accidentally surprise one and make it attack out of fear.

Unfortunately, these aren’t bears.  Bears I get.  Bears I know a basic plan of how to avoid and what hypothetically works depending on whether it’s a black bear or a grizzly.

But this?  The only hypotheticals are: A) Never corner one, and B) Don’t piss it off.

After that?  C) Pray you don’t come across one.


The morning started off like any other: wake up, walk dog, drive to trailhead, make breakfast, dishes, gear prep, then go.

After a meal of camp breakfast burritos, Tory stood at the back of the van packing up our climbing gear while I put away food and dishes in our van.  Our dog Amp lay panting on the side of the van, his least hooked onto the door frame.

We were parked at a trailhead in City of Rocks, a rock climbing area in southern Idaho.  Large granite walls lay scattered across a high desert landscape: sagebrush, desert scrub.  Lizards scurried along rocks and open roads while cicadas played their steady, shrill buzz in the summer heat.

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City of Rocks, Idaho

While new to the area, the high desert was nothing new.  Living, camping, climbing in Colorado and Wyoming meant we were in familiar territory.

Yet nothing felt familiar as I leaned forward to put the lid on the dish bin and heard that dreaded, ominous warning rattle.


Rattlesnakes are the only venomous snake in the western states.  Other snakes exit in these states, but rattlers are the ones to really watch out for.

Tan and checkered with brown diamonds, rattlesnakes camouflage into their surroundings.  Eyes peeled for movement in the shrubs can catch a rattler slithering by, but they’re easy to miss due to their evolutionary adaptations of blending in.

Each end is equipped with distinctive defense strategies.

On one side sits a rattle.  The rattle is the snake’s first line of defense when threatened.  A warning sound raised to alert anything around of its presence.

On its other end sits the snake’s second and last line of defense, its fangs.  When necessary, it will defend itself by biting and releasing venom into whatever threatens it.

The venom released destroys tissue and is designed to help immobilize prey.  Their bites are incredibly painful.  Larger animals such as humans and dogs don’t necessarily die from bites, especially when able to receive treatment.  However, it doesn’t sound like an experience you want anytime soon.  Or ever.


At the sharp sound of the rattle, piercing through the calm of our morning, I looked up to see a two foot long rattlesnake curled just outside the door, rattle shaking vigorously.

Panic.

The snake lay coiled under where the dog’s leash hooked into the door frame.  From my angle inside the van, I couldn’t see where Amp was.  But the fact was, the leash could only stretch so far.

“Tory!  Snake!  Get the dog!”

“Holy shit!” I heard from the outside of the van.

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View from inside the van.  The snake was sliding backwards towards the front wheel.  He was originally by the step of the side door, under the leash.

I would learn later that Amp was about three feet away from the rattler.  Tory called Amp towards the back of the van, un-clipped the leash from his collar, and brought him behind the vehicle.

Its threat removed, the snake slithered backwards towards the front wheel.  The whole time it felt like its eyes never left us, while ours never left him.


Educating yourself on the plants and animals in an area can make a huge impact when in the outdoors.

Making sound, talking or wearing bells, alerts most animals of your presence and give them time to go in a different direction.  Yelling and waving your arms can scare lots of animals, causing them to leave you alone (Note: this works for many animals, but can cause others to attack!  Know your animals.  Educate yourself!)

Snakes however, can’t hear.  They sense their prey through ground vibrations, smell and sensing heat.

Yelling won’t warn the snake you’re around the bend.  Walking towards it, vibrations growing stronger, that will alert the snake you’re near.


Tory kept one eye of the snake in front of him, one on the dog at his feet.  I scrambled to gather the last items needed to spend a day climbing so we could quickly head out.

All of us, dog and snake included, were safe for the moment.  But all of us were on edge.

To make matters worse, the snake was no longer content at the front of our van and was once again on the move towards the brush at the back of the van.

I locked up the van and crawled through the back while Tory stomped on the ground to let the snake know where he was, muttering obscenities under his breath.

Throwing on our packs, we set off in one direction as the snake went his way into the brush.


Neither Tory nor I shake things off right away.  Walking with tall grass on either side of the trail made us skittish.  Our steps became overly cautious.  We jumped at the sudden chatter of cicadas in the brush.

As far as we can tell, the snake followed a lizard out of the grass onto the parking lot gravel.  It didn’t notice we were there.  Tory was standing behind the van, Amp was laying on the ground, I sat inside.  Very little motion from any of us.

Thinking back on it, we were graced by a string of good luck.

Luck #1 → The snake gave a warning rattle after it noticed Amp

Luck #2 → We have a timid dog who was instantly concerned by the strange animal making strange noises.  Thank god he didn’t get curious enough to stick his nose closer to investigate.

Luck #3 → Tory was in a good spot to get Amp away from the snake

Luck #4 → Amp went towards Tory when called.  Not something that always happens right away

Luck #5 → We have a long leash that meant the dog could get closer to Tory and Tory didn’t have to get close to the snake

For us, this was a reminder to always be aware of your surroundings even when there doesn’t seem like a need to be concerned.

Even in highly trafficked areas, like a parking lot, when in the outdoors you are in nature.  On the animal’s turf.  Their domain.  You have to know how to both protect yourself while also preserving the space for them.

Do yourself a favor and educate yourself on how to coexist with animals.  Ideally you won’t need to do much beyond the “Leave No Trace” practices, but if the need arises you’ll have the knowledge and confidence to be able to spring into action.

Second Leg of Our Trip – June 18 – June 23

Days 11-12

On June 18, we drove to our second climbing destination City of Rocks in southern Idaho.  It has granite cliffs in the middle of nowhere, with farmland on one side, mountains on the other.

Being the cheapskates we are, we searched for free camping on BLM land.  Luckily, most of the national preserve was surrounded by BLM.  The initial problem was finding an area that had a pull out or space to park.  At first we only drove through areas with a road, nowhere to park, or we would have had a herd of cattle as our neighbor.

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City of Rocks, Idaho

Luckily, after more searching, we found an ill-maintained rocky road that drove up into an area with dispersed camping (camping that doesn’t have bathrooms, water pumps, or other things you’d find at a pay campsite).

The next day we set out to climb.

An eventful morning saw a rattlesnake come within feet of our dog, Amp, we hiked with some friendly climbers from Montana, and climbed on granite for the first time since last summer.

Days 13-16

The summer heat at City of Rocks had a searching for another climbing area in Idaho.  Research on Mountain Project, a free rock climbing website complete with routes, led us outside of Twin Falls, Idaho to climb at Dierkes Lake.

Dierkes Lake is located right next to Shoshone Falls, where Evil Knievel jumped the Snake River canyon in the 70’s.

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Shoshone Falls, Idaho

Unfortunately, it was even hotter in Twin Falls, hitting above 90 degrees.  Amp ended up with heat exhaustion from walking on the hot concrete and to scope out climbing.  As often as we walked right next to grass or dirt, he kept walking on the blacktop or sidewalks.  Luckily after finding a cool park to hang out in, he recuperated and was back to normal by the next day.

The next few days were a combination of climbing, slacklining at the park, and working on grad school papers on coffee shop patios.  Tory and I are both are completing the final paper for our Master’s in Education this summer, so decided to take advantage of town being so close to climbing.

The Boy Who Cried Lion

A steady breeze rustles the trees, creating a soft percussion as we hike up the hill.  We press on, calves burning, to explore the area we will call home for the next few days.

At the bend in the trail we stop and discuss whether we keep hiking around or turn back and make dinner at camp.

I’m mid-sentence when Tory urgently whispers, “Stop and listen for a sec.”

I look up at Tory.  His eyes are darting frantically between the trees behind me.  Body motionless.  Face serious as he concentrates.

Following his directions, I turn around and listen.

Bugs are clicking.  Trees still rustle in the wind.  A bird chirps in the distance.

What did Tory hear?

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Our campsite at Maple Canyon, Utah (summer 2017)


Tory would not usually be described as serious.  He’s much more light-hearted, finding a way to slip in a pun or a joke into serious conversations.

If we get separated in a story and I try to find him, nine times out of ten he is lurking down an aisle, trying to sneak up and surprise me.

So I wasn’t sure what to think when Tory stared intently into the woods, listening.


Did Tory actually hear something?  Or is he trying to mess with me, waiting until I’m focused on the sounds of the forest before he tries to scare me?

“Ha ha.  Come on Tory,” I say timidly as I jokingly hit his arm.

Is he serious?  Is he joking around?

“No, listen.  Did you hear that?”

His face remains serious.  His concern could be real.  Or is he acting?

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One of the trails in Maple Canyon.  Lots of dense foliage on either side.


Even though we’ve been together almost eight years, Tory still laughs at the same jokes.

It’s not in an obnoxious way.  More an infectious way.  He truly still finds some old jokes funny, telling them and laughing at them with such joy that you can’t help but laugh with him again and again.

His jokes can build up to punchlines or just be one liners.  They can be retellings of funny memories or just small ways to mess with you.  They can be pretend put downs to get a reaction or clever ways to say something sweet.  Whatever it may be, he doesn’t tire of them.

I know and love this about my husband, but that just makes it harder to know when he’s being serious or just setting you up.


“Hear what?”

“I heard something,” he says, still squinting through the trees behind me.  “It sounded like a growl.”

Crap.

My heart starts beating faster as I spin around.

I strain my ears, trying to hear if we’re in danger.

Adrenaline makes me paranoid of every sound.  My eyes start darting around while my ears attempt to decipher between sounds of friend or foe.

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Sign outside of the campground restrooms of Maple Canyon

Yet, despite it all one part of my brain allows a suspicious thought to float up: with my back turned away and with how focused I am, this would be the perfect time for Tory to jump and scare me.

I glance back at Tory.  “I don’t hear anything.”

“You sure?  It sounded like maybe a mountain lion.”

If he’s lying for some big joke I’m going to be pissed.

“Are you serious?” I ask, not fully successful at keeping the slight panic out of my voice.

“Yes.”

His concern and uncertainty is more pronounced.

“You sure it wasn’t the sound of a car engine starting in the distance?”

“I don’t know.  But I’d rather not find out.”

As he turns to head back down the hill, I finally know for certain.  He’d been serious.

We trek back down towards camp, careful to keep a calm pace – we don’t want to run and appear like prey to a mountain lion.

Bantering down the hill, looking over our shoulders from time to time, I tell Tory why I didn’t fully believe him before.

Tory smiles mischievously to himself.

“You know, I was serious about hearing a growl,” he chuckles.  “But, I did think about scaring you right before we turned back.  It was the perfect opportunity.”

And this is why I have trust issues.

First Leg of Our Trip – June 8 – June 18

Days 1-4

We started our trip on June 8, by packing up the van and driving to Vail, Colorado.  Most ski towns, at least in Colorado, are strict about parking on their streets or parking overnight in parking lots, which meant we could sleep in town.

Luckily we found National Forest land about fifteen or twenty minutes away, meaning free camping.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning we spent exploring the GoPro Mountain Games.  It’s a giant outdoor sports festival where you can compete in amateur competitions and watch professionals compete in national or even international competition circuits.

Some of what we watched: highlining, tricklining, rafting, kayaking, climbing, fly fishing, one-wheeling, mountain biking, dock dogs, and enjoyed free concerts.

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Highliner and kayakers at the GoPro Mountain Games (summer 2017)

While there, we were able to meet up with Kayla and Dillon, Tory’s sister and her husband.  who drove all the way from Sheridan, Wyoming.

Kayla and her dog Benelli were competing in a couple of Dock Dogs competitions.  Benelli ended up jumping over twenty feet.

Sunday, June 11, we left after catching Benelli’s first jumps of the day and headed out to Utah.

Seven hours of plains, wind, hills later brought us to our first climbing destinations of the trip, Maple Canyon.

Day 5 – 9

Maple Canyon is about an hour south of Salt Lake City.  It is made up of conglomerate cliffs, which look like river rocks held together by concrete.

It’s a little unnerving to climb on conglomerate at first because it looks like the whole mountain could come tumbling down at any second.  And at times, parts of the cliff do.

 

Never before have I been more eager to wear my helmet as pebbles and stones bounce down, having come loose from a foot or hand movement or the shifting of the rope.

We’ve removed some larger rocks so later climbers don’t accidentally knock them down on people below.  On one route, Tory took down two separate rocks, each about the size of serving platters.

On June 16 we left Maple Canyon and drove to Salt Lake City.

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Conglomerate cliffs in Box Canyon, another canyon within Maple Canyon.

Day 9 – 11

In Salt Lake, my little sister Rory is completing a finance internship for the summer.  She made time in her busy schedule to hang out with us, and let us take showers and do laundry (thanks Rory!)

We hung out at her place and went to a Saturday morning farmer’s market – consequently that is where Tory and I both got the worst sunburn of our trip so far.

Saturday afternoon we headed out and went to Coalville, Utah to visit Tory’s aunt and uncle, Tammy and Randy.  It turned out we came on the day of Coalville’s summer BBQ, a big festival in the park.

We spent a great night with his cousins, their kids, and his aunt and uncle.

Sunday afternoon we will head out to Idaho for the second leg of our trip.

Small Space, Large Living

Space inside a van is limited, which can cause some complications.

Most of the space in our van is used for storage: a cupboard for our dry food and “kitchen” and a bed with space underneath for clothes, dog food, climbing gear and other odds and ends.

Other than that, there’s not much space.  Especially when you start pulling everything out, space to move around is extremely limited.

The van is really used for travel and sleep.  More than that and you can start to go a little stir crazy.

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Hanging out in the van after a day of rain in Mount Rushmore (summer 2016)

Last summer, we experienced this first hand.  It rained nearly everyday of our week stay at Mount Rushmore.  We would get part up a route before the skies would open and we’d run to the van for shelter from the downpour.

 

Seven days with most of your time spent in roughly 48 square feet can be challenging.

Days like that saw a lot of reading, working on grad school, or watching movies we had downloaded on our computer.

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Tory taking advantage of a break in the rain while I continued to work on grad school (Rushmore, summer 2016)

But living in the van really isn’t the point to living in a van.  It’s more that you live out of the van.

When living in the van you have to expand your living space; take advantage of your ‘backyard’ or your ‘patio’.

Living out of the van means you have a home base for your adventures of hiking, climbing, backpacking, and so on.  You have a space for food, sleep, and storage that can go almost anywhere you’d like.  When around the van, you improvise to find more room than the space provided.

Whenever possible, Tory and I live outside of the van.  Best way to expand your living space is to hang out, cook, read, workout etc outside.  For us, food is prepared and cooked on picnic tables, logs, flat rocks or our food bins.  We only cook in the van when weather is bad or there’s absolutely no other option.

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The van opens up so many possibilities and adventures, that even with the small space we are confined to, we are able to explore so much more.

Making the Dream a Reality

Water for Amp? – Check.  Doors locked? – Check.  Air vent on and open for the dog? – Check.

Tory and I climb out of the van and head in to the coffee shop in Deadwood, South Dakota.  Everything about us stands out in a small town: hair unwashed, dirt on our clothes, Tory’s face and my legs could use some maintenance, both entirely in athletic wear and flip flops.  

As we pass a family eating lunch on the patio we overhear their son exclaim, “Whoa!  They have a bed in the back of their van.  That’s awesome!”

His mom skeptically responds, “Uhhh, nope.”


This small exchange captures the two types of reactions family and friends have had when we told them about our dreams of building a campervan and again once we told them we made those dreams a reality.

In one corner we have the young twelve year old son’s reaction: eyes wide with wonder and opportunity.  Seeing the romanticism behind living in a van, people with reactions like this see the adventurous possibilities, the exploration that can happen in a world fully discovered, the ‘last frontier’, the 21st century’s embodiment of our ‘Manifest Destiny’.  In a world fully discovered, the van dream represents the new experiences that can still be had.

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Our first van trip!  Weekend trip up to Vedauwoo in Wyoming. (2016)

People in this corner are the ones who supported our van dreams without hesitation or thoughts of practicality.  These were the people who held similar, far-fetched dreams or enjoyed the poetic images of a campervan on the open road.

Tory’s mom was definitely someone with this type of reaction.  Before we had even bought a van, Jocie was behind us.  For Christmas 2015, she gave us a rug made out of climbing rope “for your van.”

Even when Tory and I were all talk, the closest we were to making it a reality was watching van videos online and saying “someday”, Jocie believed in us and our crazy van dream.  Her simple act of giving us a rug for our van seemed to push us from ‘dreamers’ to ‘doers’ as we ended up buying a van the next month.

In the other corner of van reactions sits those who reacted either with doubt or distaste similar the mother on the patio whose hopes for her son were bigger than him living in a vehicle.

Reactions from this corner were more subtle.

Questions came up about our construction know-how (non-existent), how it worked into our career plans (‘professional nomad’ is a career path right?), was it worth it financially, (to them probably not, to us hell yeah!), could we really handle living so close to one another for so long (free marriage counseling anyone)?

People in corner two weren’t trying to put down our dreams.  It was more them looking out for us, our safety, and our security.  They just based it off of their own comfort zones.

Van Frame

Building out a cabinet for storage. (2017)

This corner still loved us and supported our dreams, but wanted to make sure we had actually thought it all through, instead of buying a large metal box that would sit in our driveway.  (Again, we had ZERO construction skills going in to this so you really can’t blame them).

Now, based off of the fact that we didn’t listen to the second corner’s reactions, you’d think we would resent their ‘nay-saying’ and disbelief.  But it’s more complicated than that.

That mom on the patio didn’t necessarily disagree with her son because she doesn’t want him to dream of adventure.  I’m guessing she just didn’t understand that line of dreaming.  What parent hopes their child grows up to live in their car?

My mom had a similar reaction.

When we first talked about our van idea my mom was supportive, but couldn’t quite suppress the worry and doubt behind her eyes.

When I called to tell her we had actually bought a van she said, “I know you are excited to travel around in the van, but isn’t it a little too soon?”

The unwritten subtext being: Did you just throw away money on something you won’t use?  Can you really do construction on a van, when you don’t own any tools besides a hammer and screwdriver?  Is my daughter really going to live in a van??  Shouldn’t you focus on your other undertakings, such as your new job, new house, and finishing grad school?

Yes, my mom’s reaction brought down my excitement level, especially after my dad’s “I knew you two would actually do it!”

But before you start thinking otherwise, my mom’s reaction was completely founded.  Honestly, I think more people were honestly reacting like my mom but kept those reactions away from our giddy excitement.

As the van started to come together, I think my mom started to better understand just want our dream was.  Soon, when she would talk or ask about the van, she began to talk with this sense of pride in what we were doing.  Her daughter and son-in-law took on this crazy dream, this absurd challenge, and were actually making it a reality.

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Final touches.  Tory prepping the ceiling for the fan/vent. (2016)

For myself, I don’t think we could have made this van happen without our friends and families reacting in such diverse ways.

Without unquestioning excitement and enthusiasm, we would have found the task too daunting and out of reach.  Those of you reacting with blind faith in our van dream made the dream more tantalizing and worth while.

Yet, without the doubts and hesitations from the second group, we would have had our heads lost in the clouds without much reality bringing us down.  The questions and skepticism made us do our research more thoroughly, had us questioning aspects we hadn’t thought of before, and made sure we had our feet on the grounds of reality, making us dot all of our I’s and cross every T.

To all of you.  Thank you.

Thinking about that family on the patio on South Dakota, I can’t help but smile.  Without reactions like their’s I’m not sure Tory and I would be spending our summers traveling and living out of a vehicle.

Without those very same reactions of anticipation and uncertainty, we wouldn’t be able to worry other mothers or excite and inspire their sons to dream crazy dreams themselves.