September 9, 2019

Van Life: The Pacific Northwest

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Van Life: The Pacific Northwest

Adventure Elopement Photographer Van Life Journal

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…last time I checked in with you all about life on the road full time I was coming back from living in a van for a week in Iceland. We had just traveled from Arizona, to Colorado, to North Carolina and then flew overseas. Since then we drove across the country all the way to Washington from North Carolina to spend almost two months exploring the Pacific Northwest. We hit the road in our recently remodeled van and made it across the country in four days!

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To say I was excited to spend a whole two months in the Pacific Northwest would be an understatement. My love for the outdoors really set on fire my first trip to Olympic National Park three years ago. As an avid hike, outdoors lady and elopement photographer I was beyond stoked to be surrounded by the pines, ferns, water and mountains that this region has to offer. We officially hit 10,000 miles on the van since buying it during this trip, broke down, had to be towed, encountered lots of changes and met so many rad folks. Learned a lot of things about living in a van full time, maintaining the van and dealing with acceptance.

The Itinerary Breakdown

(Links will take you to sessions from the locations mentioned. Scroll down to skip the boring timeline and get to the juicy bits)

If you recall I started this journey with two cats, we had to leave one cat behind with my parents in North Carolina. I had Sophie for over nine years and it was not an easy choice to make, but she for sure let me know that she did not want to go and has been super happy since being re-homed with my parents. Indy, has been really enjoying the trails and having the van to himself. Indy and I started our journey in Washington with a few nights in the Manchester State Park which was a lovely camp site to get re-settled in the van before heading into the National park. The trails along the water were very enjoyable and a nice change of pace from driving day and night across the country.

I always spend my birthday enjoying some along time, reflecting on my life for the last year. This year I celebrated a little early since I had some extra special plans for the day of my birthday. I spent the day camping in Olympic National Park at Mora Campground, which is right by one of my favorite places on Earth, Rialto Beach. During the day I rode my bike around the area and had the best burger and shake you can get in the area of Forks at Three Rivers Resort. In the evening I hiked to the beach, read a book, wrote in my journal and then enjoyed a bottle of champagne as the sun went down before hiking back to camp. The rest of the trip there was spent exploring new trails I had not yet been on in the park. There are so many beautiful waterfalls, lakes, lush areas in Olympic National Park, I do not think I will ever get tired of visiting there.

Next up on the agenda was Mount Rainier, a place I have dreamed of going to since the first time I went to Washington when I was just twelve years old. Man, I fell in love, hard. This place from the first moment I set foot on a trial I was hooked. During the whole trip I went back to Rainier as much as I could, any free minute was spent there. I hiked over 40 miles in the park during this little two month period. A couple of my favorites were tolmie lookout, glacier basin and the several trails I linked together to get from cougar rock campground to upper skyline trail and back. I have always believed that people connect with different places intensely and this is for sure one of my places. The deep connection I feel to this park is sure to continue bringing me back over and over again.

Then I headed to San Juan Islands which had never even been on my radar until recently. This is where I ended up spending my actual birthday. After being in “no service land” for a few weeks and hiking almost every day it was nice to park the van and hangout in a house for some time. The small town of Friday Harbor is so quaint and the coffee shops were to die for when editing and catching up on emails. Following the San Juan Islands was a little tent camping trip to Mt Baker. I tent camped at Baker Lake in the most epic camping spot along the lake that was right on the water, super private and so beautiful!!! We then did a day trip to the North Cascades. It was back to Anacortes for a day to regroup before heading to Oregon. Unfortunately, the van had other plans. The van broke down while trying to find a camp spot for the night. She had to be towed in and worked on for a couple of days, thank goodness for my tent right??? Getting the van worked on as it was smoking and spewing out coolant was so scary. It is your home that you are leaving behind and your ride. I am thankful for the shop in Anacortes that got her going again and dealt with my panic.

Once everything was good to go it was off to Portland for a little normality. I rented an Airbnb to do some work and explore the city. Then we were off to the coast for a couple of sessions in Cannon beach and Hug Point (which I can not wait to share with you!). I stayed at the hostel in Seaside, which I become very fond of. I have been a lover of the hostel life for many years and used to work at one while in college. I really enjoyed connecting with fellow travelers, spending some time reading and reflecting on the beach and eating fresh pastries as I worked at local coffee shops. I took a week away from the beach to head out to Smith Rock State park for a session and some hiking. I have always been fond of the area of Bend, Sun River and Smith Rock since the first time I went back in my PGA working days. I had been super stoked about going to Crater Lake National Park since buying the van and the time had come!! It was a little bit of a bummer because I couldn’t hike with Indy (NP rules) and it was a super hot day. So our time in the park was much more of sight seeing than exploring, but be assured the views did not disappoint. I detoured for a very exciting hike that lead to a hot spring! The only hot springs I had been to so far were in Iceland and this one left me wanting to find even more in the states to sit in and just be. As we made our back to the coast we stopped to hike two days and for another session at Silver Falls State Park. If you are in Oregon there is so much to see and explore, but this park should be on your list….so many water falls!!!

Then it was back to the coast for a wedding and to kill some time planning out the next weeks at the hostel. The Oregon coast is so diverse and stunning I could have really spent the two full months there. I had my first not so smart hiking experience this trip around the at the coast. I hiked from the hostel to ecola state park thinking I could complete it and be back before dinner. Once I realized I was not going to be able to do the full thing it was too late to turn around. I did a quick Google search to make sure I could get an Uber back to the hostel and reroute the right trails to get me into town to be able to do so. Unfortunately, one of the trails was closed so I had to take the road which was steep and many more miles. I ended up getting a ride from a nice local fella, but it turns out Google was wrong and Uber does not exist in Cannon beach. The nice fella offered me a ride back to the hostel. I felt lucky to have been offered a safe ride by this stranger back to the home base. Due to some schedule changes caused by hot weather and an earlier flight out to NC I ended up doing a whole full circle of the places I had already been to in Washington, crazy right?? So it was back to Olympic National Park then Mt Rainier then off to the San Juan Islands and lastly to Seattle for a flight. All within about one week of time. The route to the North Carolina from the island was a little crazy. I packed my back, my camera gear and the cat to catch a morning ferry back to the mainland. We rented a car, headed to the mountains for some hiking. Then drove into Seattle for dinner and a sunset session. Got to our hotel super late stayed the night, got up early to get to the airport and flew home, with a cat lol.

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The Deep Stuff

Living on the road full time gives me the ability to travel constantly. I am able to get to locations whenever I would like, scout elopement locations in person and capture your elopement day with less travel hassle. I can not imagine doing anything else with my life, I am extremely passionate about the places and my couples love stories. If you would like to work with me for your elopement day feel free to reach out!

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Purchase Landscape Prints here 🙂

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Some shots from the cellular device.

If you have questions about Van Life or our adventures from the Pacific Northwest drop them in the comments below! <3

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Special thanks to all the photographers that went on hikes with me and that I got to work with in the last two months. Even more praise to the ladies who traded head shots with me on the trails 😉 Thank you to all the lovely couples I got to work with and get to know in the area. I have to say special thanks to Daniel as well (man photographed to your left)! He is a cross country bicyclist that I hope to cross paths with again this winter in Arizona. Thank you for sharing your stories from living on the road, life philosophies, inspiring me, dinner and campfire conversations. If you want to follow along with his journey click here.

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17 comments on “Van Life: The Pacific Northwest”

  1. WOW! You're so lucky to have the chance to roam and live life to it's fullest! Traveling around the Pacific Northwest is a dream of mine, but I don't think it'll ever happen because of my many responsibilities. But who knows, maybe one day when I'm retired I'll turn into an old lady wanderer, lol! Anyway, your photos of all these places- Olympic National Park, Mt. Rainier, the Oregon coast, etc- are INCREDIBLE! Plus, you have the coolest cat ever. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much!!! I feel very lucky. The pacific northwest can be somewhat overwhelming how much epic-ness there is to explore! Everywhere I went I found out about more places, trails or places to camp that I wanted to explore. I could have spent six months there and still had more to do lol. There is always next year!! And yes, Indy is the most rad road companion <3

  2. Wow these are all stunning! Love seeing your cat pop in, my dog is the same way she got so attached she now is getting more protective. Hope to see more of your beautiful adventures

    1. Thank you so much!! Indy is def the star of the show in most cases lol. I will def be posting more from the next chapters of this journey.

  3. Wow, it looks like you had a whirlwind of awesome experiences van living in the PNW! I LOVE your hiking cat! It must have been hard to leave your other one, but I'm sure he/she is loving their new home!

    1. It was awesome and just made me want to spend more time there! He is pretty awesome and yes hard to leave her but she is for sure happier.

  4. GIRL< YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION!!! For years, I have wanted to live on the road, but something always held me, my kitty being one of those things- and here you are fricken DOING IT! Look at you thriving, I love it! Your images continue to blow me away! Hope we cross paths again someday!

    1. Awh girl thank you SO much!! I looked into van life for a year before just jumping in. It is so scary leading up to it but once you're doing it things just come together even with a cat. I am sure they will!!!

  5. what a fun read! me and my husband are moving into our van soon and hitting the road and your story is so inspiring! i know there will be ups and downs, but we are seeking the freedom and ability to hit the trail more. thanks for sharing, fellow adventurer!

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