van camping in the shasta/trinity marble mountain beauty

There are some places that are filled with beauty everywhere you look. Despite recent fires in the area, Shasta-Trinity area is one of these places. Alpine lakes, cold streams, single track trails, and secret swimming holes. In July we chose to load up the van and take a 5 day trip to explore the area that for me is filled with familiar and still unfamiliar places. We made our way along dirt and gravel roads in the old Toyota. It held up just fine and it was nice knowing that we can stop anywhere, sleep, make lunch and have everything one would need.

A view from Sawyer’s Bar Road.

We made our way around up I-5 through Redding and past Whiskeytown Lake which was burned recently. I’ve never stopped at this lake before but it’s nice view driving by. I believe I’ve seen some sailboats in this lake too which would be a lot of fun. Sometime after Whiskeytown Lake you take a right and meander over and around Trinity Lake and the KOA campground. Somewhere after the KOA campground, we took a left and drove down a paved road that eventually turned to gravel and has many trailheads for overnight backpacking trips. You’ll pass waterfalls even in the middle of summer. It was late at night and the new LED headlights lit up the road well. I knew where the waterfall is alongside the road and made a special stop. We could hear the sound of the waterfall and with a quick flip of the switch, the side spotlight lit up this beautiful waterfall. The best use of the side spotlight so far. We eventually made it into camp and were grateful that it wasn’t occupied.

An advantage of the van is that no bed needs to be made. We popped open the back of the van, made some tea, danced and watched the stars late into the night. We then decided it was time to go to bed but not before admiring the Milky Way and watching the bats dance above our heads. There’s nothing like falling asleep to the sound of a rushing creek except for the sound of waking up to rushing creek.

Along a dirt road in Shasta-Trinity National Forest area.

I set up my tenkara rod and tossed a few dry flies into the nearby creek, pulling out a couple small rainbows before deciding to take a cold dip. We stripped our clothes and took a dip into the icy cold water. We made breakfast, then made our way to a close trailhead where we packed our bags for a short hike. Not but one mile in we came across the small bear who also thought it was good idea to be on the trail today. What a magical animal to come across. Humans (including me at times) tend to walk around with fear of certain animals like sharks and bears but often they want nothing to do with us. This bear was no exception when it quickly ran off. We bathed again along the creek and green vegetation before heading back to the van.

Creekside.

The next day we head North through the town of Etna for a hike at Taylor Lake. We didn’t drive through Etna without stopping as the heat required an ice cream stop at the local cafe. We got back on the road and got to the trailhead where we met with a fire crew that just got done fighting a lighting fire. There was some smoke in the air but if you live on the West Coast, it was nothing like what we’ve faced in recent weeks. A friendly crew that was quite lively, dirty, and grateful for the ability to work outside. We thanked them for the work they do before we answered a few questions about the van and headed towards Taylor Lake. Smith Lake requires you to reach hike to Taylor Lake (1 mile) then head straight up a slope which is quite intense, especially in the sun. We made it to the top where it meets the PCT and tried to find a route down to Smith Lake but it was pretty gnarly so we decided to head back to Taylor Lake. If we spent more time route finding we could have made our way down but at that point we were low on water and wanted to take a swim which Taylor Lake was the perfect place for that. Taylor Lake is pretty popular so heading down to Smith Lake will get you away from the crowds.

A beautiful garden in the cute town of Etna.

At this point, it was time to find a place to sleep for the night and get prepared for our next hike which was going to be to Statue Lake. Halfway up the road to Statue Lake, we found a spot to pull over next to a creek and it was nice place to lay our heads, do some bird watching and cook dinner.

A rock where we enjoyed a morning meditation together.

The next day we woke up slowly, watched the birds, deer came to visit and they were curious about what we were doing. We made our way to the trailhead and began our hike. A lot of the area up to the top is burned but there were some nice wildflowers blooming along the trail. Statue Lake had visitors when we arrived but we were glad we made the stop. Jumping off the rock on the far side of the Lake, laying in the sun and enjoying being far away from cell service.

A beautiful woman and a beautiful lake (Statue Lake).

The last night was spent along the N. Fork of Salmon Creek where we found a spot all to ourselves. The fishing wasn’t great but the creek was ride and Mallory found a spot to take a cold plunge. We danced until the stars came out and the full moon showed itself. We were feeling the fullness of the moon and the trip as we counted down our last hours.

dry car camping along highway ca-89

A sweet lil’ tune on the banjo.

(This trip occurred in Spring 2019)

One way to get to the East Sierras from the Bay Area is through Highway 89. Most people’s destination lie past this highway and along highway 395 somewhere but I argue to take a stop along this highway to enjoy the beauty this area has to offer. CA-89 goes through a goo size portion of California and for this post I’ll be talking about the part of the highway south of highway 50. Along this section of the highway you’ll make your way along the West Fork of the Carson River which I’ve never fished but have heard of good fly fishing and often see many lining this section of River.

Section of CA-89 we travelled.

Where 89 meets CA-88, if you turn right and head East on 88, you’ll see pull outs for a couple miles that offer access to fishing the West Fork of Carson River. This adventure had us turning left and continuing on 89 through the cute town of Markleeville. Right after the turn about a 1/4 mile up and on your right is a bakery/cafe worth stopping at (Hope Valley Cafe).

West Fork Carson River past the Hope Valley Cafe.

As you travel further down the road, you’ll drive right through the town of Markleeville. Markleeville is a quaint town and is the start of the Death Ride, a bicycle ride that transverses the passes. Those who finish this ride will have travelled 125 miles and climbed 25,000 feet in elevation. I’ll save my legs this time around but I do plan to do this ride some day! You can stop in town at the deli cafe for a breakfast burrito or sandwich or take a peak inside the information center to learn more about the town. There’s also a small post office and general store. The river follows the highway until 89 turns off and heads East. Along this stretch of the highway, it’s worth stopping for a break and a nice walk around Heenan Lake. Heenan Lake is full of heritage trout, if you wait long enough around the shores of this lake, you’ll see schools of very large trout, quite the scene. If you happen to visit in spring, you’ll also be given a nice wildflower show that coats the hillside.

A view from the hillside at Heenan Lake (June).

Between Heenan Lake and 395 is where we pulled off and tested the off road capabilities of my 85 Toyota Van. We were lucky to find a spot that was private, although not close to water, it was located around some beautiful woods with great bird watching and day hikes. It’s amazing what you see when you pull off the highway, park your car and take hikes over tops of mountains. Valleys filled with quiet except for the birds that scatter amongst the brush and blooming scrub.

A view we were treated with on a day hike from camp.
The colors of wildflowers were beautiful. The camera never captures the full beauty.

We spent a beautiful 3 days here, waking up, watching birds, playing the banjo, and taking day hikes to see what others can’t see while driving on the highway. We ate simply and enjoyed the slowness of it all. Cool mornings, morning coffee and allowing ourselves to sit in one spot til the birds became comfortable with our presence is something that was so refreshing and energizing. It was lovely time of relaxation and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

A view of our campsite along CA-89.
Buster doing his morning yoga.

road trip to the russian wilderness

for the last five days, my partner and i spent our time in northern california in the russian wilderness. it’s a picturesque and not very crowded part of california. the company was great, the views were spectacular, the food was delicious and the air was intoxicating. we could have spent a month out there (and i plan to in the future) but we had to come back two days short of a week. we saw some beautiful wildflowers, skinny dipped in lakes at 8000′, and hiked along some of the rugged pacific crest trail.

i’ve spent the last six plus years working for different plant nurseries and just recently took a break. i find it ironic that during our busiest time of the year, the wildflowers were always in full bloom. we weren’t allowed to take vacation during this season. i always had some resentment about that. i would remember how much fun i would have taking native plant trips with my professor stew winchester. we would explore the corners of california and study every plant we came across. i felt so much joy getting connected with plants outside of the plastic containers at the nursery. sure, i’ve been creating my own gardens and landscaping yards but it’s not the same as getting out into the wild and creating an intimate relationship with them on their terms, being free from customers and having no containers to water. this trip was nothing short of incredible and it mind sound cliche, but it refreshed my whole mind, body and spirit. these are the trips i will remember for a lifetime and it’s part of why i’m enjoying living as a gypsy.

life is good…

here are some pictures from the trip…

coffee shops, a gypsy’s best friend

espresso coffee shops amongst other things are a great place to sit down, relax, catch up on emails and complete work while on the road. of course, there are places like starbucks but i prefer the hole in the wall shops. the places that have only one location where the owner isn’t far from the espresso machine. think about it, wifi nowadays can cost you around $80 a month. let’s not include a cell phone plan but you could use google voice and cut out your cell phone bill as well. so,  let’s say you were to get coffee every day and your drink cost $3 (i’m not one for fancy drinks, i’m usually getting espresso or coffee with the occasional latte). you go every day for a month. 30×3=$90. only ten bucks more and you’ve got coffee and high speed interenet. and you probably won’t be buying coffee everyday either. sometimes i’ll  go to a location and get the wifi password and then the next time park, make my own coffee in the camper and use the interenet. so here’s to all those coffee shops around the world provided caffeine for the masses along with a chill workplace and an awesome place to people watch and see the locals.

optimism, anxiety, and living on the road

IMG_0530 put it out to the universe and you shall receive. maybe not exactly the way you planned, but it will happen. it’s been a while since i last posted and things have changed quite a bit in my life. i’m no longer living in the camper shell, i have a new camper. i have a partner that i’m very excited about and i’m no longer being held down by a stationary job. i’ll be the first to say that happy people used to annoy me, i couldn’t understand how someone could be happy all the time (or it seemed like it). i set out to examine habits in my life and how they affected my happiness. i quit habits that were not life serving and gave more energy to the habits that were life serving. life serving for me, means that it provides happiness or contributes to happiness in some form (i.e. a job that provides the money for you to travel). as mentioned in my blog posts earlier such as ‘not buying anything for a month‘ and ‘reducing my possessions‘ were ways i could tackle some of the habits that weren’t life serving. i found out what gave me the most anxiety and tackled those problems, that was alcohol, weed, and tobacco. i examined my communication habits not only with others but also the self-talk. i incorporated non violent communication into my life and i can highly recommend marshall rosenberg’s non violent communication book. this may be something i cover in a later post because there is a lot to talk about. so, ever since this mentality shift, good things have happened. some right away and some have taken time. i’m still adjusting to my new lifestyle and i do have the occasional anxiety breakdown but i’m in a much better place to make decisions and tackle obstacles that arise.

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about the camper and how it fell into my hands…

the camper is a cabover that sits on top of my 2004 dodge dakota. i called on memorial day about a camper that was for sale on craigslist. after speaking with the gentlemen for a few minutes, he be became upset with how many questions i was asking and started to use foul language. i explained that i was driving a long way and wanted to make sure it would be a good fit (there was a lack of pictures, only one of the outside). i said thank you for your time and hung up the phone. i received a text shortly after from his wife stating that her husband loses patience and he’s not out to make a profit. i responded by saying ‘i understand, i’ll be living in it and wanted to make sure it would be the right fit, good luck with selling the trailer”. a couple minutes later i received another text saying he would let me have it for free. so, i jumped in my truck and traveled three plus hours to the central valley in 100 degree heat to pick it up. the guy ended up being friendly and helped me maneuver the camper into the back of my truck. it all worked out and i’m very grateful for his kindness!

 

IMG_0327let the work begin….

my mom and i spent two days refinishing and sprucing it up before i had to spend my first night in it. cleaning was a big chore, it required a lot of elbow grease, goof off, and soft scrub (which cleaned the grease, smoke stained wall paper to new). i also had to set up my solar system, replace levers, refinish wood, remove a lot of rust from the stove, replace screws on the inside and outside, and i’m continuing to complete work like replacing lights, painting, and installing a new bed. to me, having a nice sleeping area is key to having success on the road. so, i splurged and bought a custom mattress that’s being shipped as i write this post.

IMG_0457living, finding parking spots, ramblings..
i’ve been living part time out of the camper for a couple weeks now.  i’ve camped out at a few places such as friend’s houses, schools i’ve attended, and the occasional state/regional park. one thing that i’ve realized and has upset me is the outlawing of sleeping in your car, to me, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. isn’t it better than sleeping under a bridge? does the government expect people to all live in a house and pay ridiculous bills? i’m hoping to create a community where we can share car sleeping friendly cities, parking lots, and camp sites. i see a lot of people living on the road but no overarching community that helps each other thrive on the road.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetspace issues…what’s next?
i’m being very cautious with the extra space. just because i have the space doesn’t mean i need to fill it. i also have to keep in mind that my partner will be joining me at some point. i want to keep it to basic essentials. i think naturally, most people living on the road are minimalists out of necessity. otherwise, you won’t find anything, everything will be constantly cluttered and you will become frustrated. with that said, i’m constantly making lists of what will improve my living arrangements. i find this very helpful because at times, i think i will remember my thought but i usually forget in a few hours. stay tuned, i will be continuing to post on my travels. tell me what you would like to see more of! pictures? recipes? instructions? products? tips?

converting my truck into the ultimate camper (cont.)

This post is a continuation of converting my truck into the ultimate camper.

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To not adjust your original plan when building a camper or in life is foolish. Life takes unexpected turns for better or for worse. The only constant is change and if you’re not adjusting, well, you may be falling behind or not living to your full potential. The same can be said when building a liveaboard space. It takes fine-tuning to make the most efficient camper for your lifestyle. It’s not just a one time build, it requires modifications to best suit your current needs. Over the past two months since the start of converting the back of my truck into the ultimate camper, I’ve added and made modifications to the original design.  I will go over what modifications I have done to the original design, give you reasons as to why I made those decisions and explain some of the trouble shooting I went through for each step.

 

Additions and modifications to the original design:

  • Solar panel
  • Deep cycle battery storage
  • 300W Inverter
  • 12v Led light
  • Rubber maid containers for under the lower section
  • Three tiered container on the side of the bed
  • Made the bed wider
  • Cut the bottom rail off from the lower section (as shown in picture below)

 

Solar Panel

  • Take pressure off the car battery.
  • Use less gas to run the engine while charging items.
  • Power when there is no access to electricity.
  • Being off the grid is bad ass.

I attached this by drilling into the aluminum frame and using u-bolts that directly attached to the roof rack.  It’s pretty secure and I used rubber washers to allow for some flex. I drilled holes directly into the cab just big enough to allow the wires to slide through. I plan to silicone the holes but it’s dry season here and I see no immediate need.

Deep cycle battery storage (100AH)

  • To store the electricity from the solar panel for later use.

In between the solar panel and the battery is a charge controller that makes sure the battery is not overcharge. The battery is positioned near the front of the bed. My reasoning being that I didn’t need constant access and anything that heavy, I try to position towards the front for better driving control.

300W Inverter

  • To run AC items that isn’t on DC current.
  • This inverter is enough to power small appliances like laptop, camera, cell phone charger and juicer.

The 300w inverter I wired directly to the battery.

 

12v Led light

  • Uses very little electricity. It’s installed at the end of the bed to light up the tailgate for cooking duties and other miscellaneous activities.

This was installed using 12g size wire directly to the battery. It’s positioned towards the back. It’s 12v so it can be directly wired to the battery.

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Rubber maid containers for under the lower section

  •  Mainly for food storage (nuts, dried fruit, coffee)

Food is going to be difficult, it gets hot in the back so having it in a place that stays cool is key.

Three tiered container on the side of the bed

  • Items that I use frequently (Some clothes, bathroom stuff, some electronics)

This is great because it allows me easy access to clothes I use frequently and it also doubles as a nightstand.

 

Made the bed wider

  • Now can sleep two.

I added an extension to the original bed that can be taken out with two screws.

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Cut the bottom rail off from the lower section

  • Didn’t sacrifice structure and allowed for bigger containers and items to slide in.

converting my truck into the ultimate camper

Behind my macbook, late at nights, I’ve viewed countless photos of cars, trucks, and vans converted into homes on wheels. I may be abnormal but I think in everyone of us, there is an urge to be free and have the ability to travel. I enjoy being a homebody with the rest of them but I’ve been wanting to travel more. I never had that year of backpacking in Europe after college or high school. I’m at a time in my life where I’m looking for inspiration on the road. Places and experiences to write about and tell my grandkids someday. So, what’s the best of both worlds? A traveling home!

http://instagram.com/p/l7z2UJICPh/

Some campers are just weekend homes while others live full-time in their traveling abodes.  I’ve made efforts in the past couple years to reduce possessions and be less tied down to my belongings.  There is something special about being able to get up and travel whenever you feel the urge. Historically, most humans were hunter and gatherers, they had to relocate to where the food was. Now, food has come to us but that urge to travel has not subsided in me. My brother and I are taking steps to convert my truck into the ultimate camper. We’ve both researched different blueprints and styles with functionality and weight in mind. Here are a few pictures from day one. Please comment or ask me any questions about the process.

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Materials: (I will be updating this section soon with specifics)

  • 2X3 (~10)
  • 2×2 (4)
  • four hinges
  • 3″ screws (2lb)
  • 1 7/8″ screws (1lb)
  • 1/2″ plywood (two sheets)

Cost: ~$135 Thoughts on materials:

  • we were debating on 3/4 inch but with extensive framing,we found the 1/2 had no bend and was substantially lighter.

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Converting my truck in the ultimate camper (cont.)

I spent this morning carpeting the camper. It didn’t take very long. I used some carpet I had from a previous room so the cost was nothing. I’m thinking in the future I will want to install marine or outdoor carpet because it is mold and mildew resistant and can be washed out. The regular carpet is way more comfy than the marine style but sleeping pads or egg crate foam will be used no matter what. Tip: When cutting carpet, I’ve found that wood glue will hold the stitching together and fray less.

Next up is solar panel installation, mini desk and back rest… stay tuned…