Ashley here, coming at you from Ecklectia Cafe in Moab, Utah.

This past week we have done a lot of adventuring + traveling.

Sedona- Bell Rock Climb


Last Monday we were in Wickenburg, Arizona where we were able to tent camp for 12 glorious days. Before we left, we were determined to finish hiking Trail A (read the saga here), come hell or no water. During our hike, we ran into a group of volunteers working to maintain the trail, we got to talking to one of the women, and she gave us a few secret spots to check out. But halfway through our hike, we realized that we were nearly out of the 6 liters of water we brought, and immediately began to abort our hike and head for the road (I know, I know). Almost as soon as we got onto the road, trucks began to pass us, and we recognized them as the volunteers we saw on the trail. Stuck between not wanting to look like rookies and wanting to flag them down for a ride or water, the trail Angel revealed herself, pulled over and filled up all 6 of our liters of water + offered to give us a ride. We declined; determined to now finish trail A with plenty of water. I am happy to report that we did in fact complete the trail that day.

Halfway through Trail A

We planned on bunkering down for an impending storm in Happy Valley, AZ, but last minute decided to stock up on supplies and head for Sedona regardless of the forecast. Our first stop was at one of our favorite places to hike around; Bell Rock. Only, this time was even better because all the rain had caused the desert to turn into an oasis and every where we looked there were the most beautiful pop-up waterfalls.

pop-up waterfalls make good showers

We stayed in a rest area that night because more rain was expected. We woke up at 5AM and headed for Courthouse Butte, another famous formation that we had never hiked. I fell into a cactus pretty early on and spent the rest of the day pulling needles out of skin and clothes, good times. We hiked a few trails (about 10 miles in total) and headed to our favorite camping site to take a nap and relax for the evening. When we woke up from our nap, we looked out the window and saw a couple parking themselves FEET from us, with nothing but wide open spaces around….we were annoyed to say the least. We kinda felt bad after because we made it pretty clear that we were frustrated with them, and decided that next time we would react more friendly + welcoming. It’s not often that we camp around others, so it probably wouldn’t kill us to be near someone every once in a blue moon. Meh. Thankfully they left early, so we had the place to ourselves.

right before falling into a cactus

We went looking for one of Sedona’s more known Vortex hotspots, Boynton Canyon, and found a trail that took you straight up the formation and away from the droves of people, and when we were tucked in a little cave, we sat + had lunch next to a still-barely streaming waterfall, pure magic. We decided to head back to the van after lunch and look for another hike to do, and saw one right up the street called Fay’s Canyon. Like every parking lot in Sedona, it was jammed pack but we got lucky and scored a spot- a nod from the universe that we took as a good sign of what’s to come. We did the short hike to Fay’s Canyon and unbeknownst to us, you can hike up into the box canyon once the trail ends, and that is exactly what we did. It was incredible + a rare chance to get away from people. A great ending to another successful + eventful day.

Fay’s Canyon

The next morning was especially windy, so we took the opportunity to do some van hiking + check out roads that have been catching our eye. We were stoked because we found a ton of primitive campsites that we plan on taking advantage of on our next visit. While driving, we saw a sign for Tuzigoot National Monument, and knew we had to stop to learn more about the Sinagau people the land belongs to. Our National Park Pass had just expired so we picked up our new one while there, and got a National Park Passport while we were at it, I am PSYCHED about it. It turned out to be an awesome stop, and lit a fire in us to see the 2 other National Monuments nearby, Montezuma’s Castle + Well.

Tuzigoot

That night, we decided we wanted to try out a new camping site, and found a dirt road to drive down. We found a few spots, but wanted to see where the road would lead, and much to our surprise, we started to see what looked like a cult where the road would end. The closer we got, the weirder the place became. A giant heart + peace sign were made out of rocks on a big grass space facing the road, a rainbow bridge could be seen in the distance, and the 3 cars that passed us by all had the same white dream catcher hanging from their rear-view mirror. With no where to turn around, we drove down the hill and headed for the cult. Turns out it was just some hippy healing center that had steam rooms and salt caves and a spa or something. Dream catchers helped identify the cars of guests vs visitors. Liked it better when we thought it was a cult. We turned around and pulled into an empty site next to another van that had the best view of any site we ever stayed. As we were enjoying the sight, our new neighbor and his dog started walking towards us. Sean and I looked at each other and laughed because the universe was testing us already. Turned out to be a really nice guy and his wife was just as rad! They used to work for BLM in Salt Lake City, so they gave us so many awesome recommendations, we felt very lucky to have met them, still bummed we didn’t get their Instagram handle to keep in touch (Jeremy, Pam, + Callie, if you are reading this, reach out!)

sunset from a great site

We woke up to watch what we assumed (+ were right) would be an awesome sunrise, and then headed for a hike Jeremy recommended, Cockscomb. We got their super early and had the whole trail to ourselves right up until the last mile, it was such a nice way to start the day. Once we finished that hike, we went straight to Bell Rock determined to climb to the top. We quickly hit a spot that we could get Rufio up, but weren’t sure how we would get him down and decided to look for another place to keep climbing. We found a small trail that took us straight up to the top, Rufio was rock climbing better than us (fun fact: Rufio LOVES rock climbing) and we made it straight up to the viewing platform and were rewarded with the most stunning view, epic even.

Ultimate Crag Dog

Wanting to camp alone with no one else around, we went to a secret spot we reserve for times when we need solitude. It seemed like as good of time as any to shave our heads, so I went first. The clippers weren’t working, so we took the attachment off, cleaned them, and then they were as good as new. Sean shaved straight down the top of my head before yelling “oh my god NO!!”….we never put the attachment on, so my head is as shaved as shaved gets LOL! Oh well, thankfully hair grows back.

Bald + Beautiful

The next day, knowing it was our last (at least for a little while) day in Arizona, we wanted to check out Montezuma’s Castle + Well and we are so glad we did. Truly incredible! We learned so much, and found ourselves doing research after leaving to learn even more. Next, we wanted to check out what is described as one of the most well preserved Petroglyph/Pictograph sites in the country, and our minds were officially blown. The walls were covered in 1000 year old rock art and showed a functioning calendar that uses sunlight to tell what day it is. Even as a person who searches for rock art often, this was impressive beyond belief.

Montezuma’s Castle
Montezuma’s Well

We left Sedona for Moab, and got here a little earlier than expected, couldn’t contain our excitement! Today (3/20) is Rufio’s 5th Birthday, so we wanted to celebrate with him in our favorite place. We plan on being here until summer starts, so if you’re in the area, shoot us a message and let’s hike or climb together!

Since transitioning to Vanlife we have been incredibly lucky to experience so many peaceful and relaxing moments. But, amongst all the quiet sunsets, there have been some truly challenging times. We learned pretty quickly that the difference between a trip and an adventure is something going “wrong”. Many of our favorite stories stem from something going haywire, our challenge is to stay calm and laugh about it while it’s happening. We thought it would be fun to dedicate a post to all those times (+ there has been plenty these past 10 weeks) that a trip has turned into an adventure. Hope you can find the humor in them like we do!

For starters, we planned on moving into the van and leaving Denver at the end of January. We were fortunate enough to work together, and when our jobs found out about our plans, they asked for us to give them as much notice as possible, so they could hire and train replacements. Without a second thought, we gave 7 weeks notice. 3 weeks later, on our first shift of 2019, they “honored our notice early” and told us that we no longer worked there. A devastating blow for the first 10 minutes, but for some odd reason, we drove Bernie to work that day instead of our normal ride in on our bikes. As soon as I (Ashley) turned the key to the ignition, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” blasted through the speakers, we looked at each other and said “LET’S DO THIS!”, we recognized what the universe was doing and we were ready. When we got home, we remembered the van was actually not even close to being ready. Sean thought it would take a week, I was firm we’d get it all done in 1 day. And that next day, on January 3rd, we got every last thing done. On the 4th, we went to all of our Denver favorites for one last horrah, and then eagerly (+ very nervously) went to sleep on the floor of our empty bedroom with plans to leave at 4AM.

After driving through freezing New Mexico for the first few days, we headed west for a wilderness area in Arizona that we planned on camping for an extended period. It took almost an entire day to get there, we were ansy and excited for our first night sleeping in the van the way we had been picturing it: all alone, in the middle of no where, off some old dirt road. That excitement quickly turned upside down when we were met with quite literally a river flowing across the road. We considered driving the van straight across, but with no one around for miles (probably because the forest was flooded out) we decided to turn around and look for somewhere new. Except there was no where. The closest town at this point, was Douglas, a small border town, hours away. Turns out there is no camping near border towns (imagine that), and no overnight parking (especially cargo vans without windows) at Walmart’s. With no where else to go, we called Walmart and pleaded our case, they agreed to let us stay, but couldn’t promise Border Patrol wouldn’t harass us and make us move during the night. We decided to risk it and stay, and thankfully they never came to hassle us. You could cut the tension with a knife in Douglas, it felt very militarized and VERY scary, even as citizens, we left before sunrise happy to get away from the swarms and angry faces of the border patrol.

We found a beautiful hike we could do through a National Forest, put that into the GPS and headed straight there. As we are driving, we see a sign for a bird mating area, but didn’t think much of it. The sky was still dark as sunrise was looming, and as we were driving, out of no where, a giant ass bird came into view, smashed into the windshield with a loud “CAW” noise that we can still hear, and then just as fast, it was gone. Not even as much of a crack in the windshield, but it certainly got our blood going and scared the crap out of us. Right as the sun was rising, we were getting to the part where the pavement ends and the unmaintained dirt begins when we were met with yet another flooded out road that prevented us from going any further. Once again, we were in the middle of no where, with nothing else around to do. So we got back in the van and headed north. Around 7:30AM we saw a sign: “Border Patrol Checkpoint Ahead” and 30 feet later another that read: “All Cars Must Stop. Roll Down ALL Windows”. Another 20 feet, we see a makeshift checkpoint with heavily armed patrolmen and dogs sniffing every vehicle. Neither of us knew what to expect, but we realized that my (Ashley’s) Medical Marijuana Card and medication, may give us a wee bit of trouble. The dogs flagged our vehicle, they asked if we had any “drugs, hidden people, or weapons” in the van, we tell them the truth: No. He see’s what were doing here, and says “What about medication, do you have any medicine on you?”, I stared kinda blankly at him, and he said “Marijuana. Do you have any marijuana on you?”. We tell them yes, they ask us to pull over for a secondary inspection. They separated us, I had to sit with the van and Sean and Rufio had to wait outside the tent. Trying to avoid them ripping the van apart, I tell them exactly what we have and where it is. They don’t listen. They rip off insulation and wallpaper, and quickly realize that there’s nothing in the ceiling. Eventually, they find some of our medicine, but not everything. Nervous the dogs would come back to see if we were telling the truth, I direct them to where we actually kept it. He informs me “if you didn’t have this card, I’d be calling the townies on you”…great story, we have the card now let us go. They do, but not before telling us “We wish we didn’t have to do this. Go to Tucson to get more medicine.” which is not how it works at all, but felt like they tried to save face at the end when it turned out we were just citizens abiding by ALL state laws who now had their van trashed. Sign of the times, we chalked it up to.

The checkpoint was obviously extremely stressful, so we decided the border patrol were right and we headed to get more medication. Needles, CA seemed to be the closest, and we drove 6 hours straight to get there. On our way out of Needles, I felt a change in a tire, and turned into a gas station, just feet before getting onto the ramp for the highway, Sean probably laughed because I am a freak when it comes to checking the tire pressure, I do it daily! Took one look at the drivers back tire and you could see it loosing pressure, we quickly googled a tire shop, and it prompted us that one was a mile away and was “closing soon!” but we made it in the nick-of-time. The tire was patched and we asked the guy to check our spare, just to be sure. Turns out the spare was dead flat. Couldn’t save us, not even if we were drowning, a good lesson in everything happens for a reason and to always check your spare tire before a trip.

If you thought a flat tire would be the last of our car trouble, you’d be wrong. Haha. After getting a full inspection and oil change in Flagstaff, we headed south to Phoenix. About an hour away, we stopped for gas and when we went to leave, our (brand new) battery was dead. After popping the hood, it looked like corrosion could be the problem, so we went inside and purchased jumper cables (yeah, probably should have had those already) and we waited for someone to come in a truck or bigger that could not only jump us, but also knew how to use them. HAHA. Luckily, a Daisy Mountain Fireman pulled in after about 10 minutes, and even though he was running late, he jumped us, and told us the corrosion caused the cables to loosen and that we should go straight to Pep Boys to have them fix it. Which we did and they had us back on the road by 10AM, even though it was Superbowl Sunday. Luck struck again.

More recently, we were about an hour outside of Flagstaff when we kept getting whiffs on antifreeze before we realized that there was antifreeze leaking through the floor vents in the van. It was a Sunday night, and expected to be ten degrees out, so we got a hotel because we were afraid to sleep in a fully closed van with antifreeze leaking inside. We were hoping we could get Bernie in to Pep Boys first thing in the morning, but with no way to call we just had to hope they had availability. When we dropped Bernie off the next morning, they weren’t very hopeful she’d get done that day or that they even had the parts they would need so we paid for the hotel for another night and hoped for the best. They called at 4:30PM and told us that she was all fixed and that it would only be $650. We learned a long time ago to (pro tip) always ask if they have a coupon we can use because they almost always do. This time was no different, and it brought the total down almost $100, just for asking. Since we already paid for the room, we took advantage of the time by doing laundry, taking long hot showers, and lounging around indoors, we definitely got our moneys worth. It ended up being a really nice 2 days in Flagstaff after all.

Troubles come and troubles go, so don’t think we are sharing these so you’ll feel sorry for us! These are some of our funniest and favorite memories since living on the road. However, despite these tough moments, we wouldn’t change a single thing about this journey so far! Time has taught us (remember, we have had 4 years experience of spending extended time on the road) to try, and wait for it…enjoy the challenging moments. Stress will sour the experience, and we have learned to just laugh in the moment, it’s all a crucial part to the story. “You can laugh or cry”, that’s your choice!

As for us, we’ll take an adventure over a trip any day. Call us crazy.

Plans for the Future

Happy Hump Day! If you read our last blog with answers to all of our most frequently asked questions, then you’ll remember we saved question #10 for its own blog; What are your plans for the future?

Before we jump right in, it’s crucial to mention that we barely ever stick to a plan. Frequently, we make announcements of exciting things to come, only to never make another announcement that our plan changed. For example, we announced a move to the US Virgin Islands in 2016, except 3 months later, we were announcing our new home in Denver, CO, quite different than an island. So with that being said, take everything below with a grain of salt because things change quick ’round here.

Spring:
We are currently just outside of Phoenix, AZ in a little town where we can gear up on supplies and get some work done before starting our journey North. We plan on getting to our favorite place in the world, Moab, Utah, sometime in the last week of March. Which at this point, gives us about 2.5 full weeks to make the voyage up there. With the weather much colder up North, we tried to wait for it to start warming up before leaving the 70’s we grew accustomed to in Central Arizona. We have about 8 stops planned along the way, which is a lot, even for us. The good thing is, if we don’t make it to all of them we can always come back, we won’t be far.

tentative stops on the way to Moab, UT


We plan on scoring seasonal jobs while in Moab so we can experience everything we always wanted to do while there. Something we could only do if we commit to working a few days each week. Some of our goals while in Moab for the spring are: rock climbing along Potash, solo skydiving, learning to canyoneer, and renting a jeep to go off-roading in. We are really stoked on our Moab plans, but we are trying to not wish the time away in the meantime, and really enjoy each day and place we experience. If all goes well, we will be staying there until Summer begins.

Summer:
When we decide to leave Moab, the plan is to head west to San Diego, CA. Of course, we have a ton of places we’d like to stop along the way: Capitol Reef NP, Fishlake NF, Dixie NF, Zion NP, Red Cliffs, Grand Canyon South Rim, Valley of Fire SP, Red Rock Canyon, and the Mojave, to name a few. Once we get to San Diego, we want to spend the summer traveling up the west coast all the way up to Canada. On our way back down, we will go inland before heading south, stopping at every National Park and Monument along the way. Places like Olympic NP, Mt St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Steamboat NP, Crater Lake NP, Lava beds, Lassen Volcanic, Yosemite (so stoked on this after watching Free Solo last night!), Death Valley, Kings Canyon, and Pinnacles are some of the stops we plan on making. We may have to post up to work at some point towards the end, it all depends on how fast we spend our savings.

Fall:
Come fall, we will probably venture back through Utah, enjoying the fall colors in places we have always dream about, like Ogden, before heading North to Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. Idaho has some of the most incredible hot springs and scenery to explore, we hope to get there in prime time to fully enjoy all that they have to offer. Once we get our fill, we will head over to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, before getting up to Glacier NP for our first visit. When the cold becomes too much to bare, we will start heading south for warmer weather as Winter begins to roll in.

Winter:
After this winter, we have definitely figured out what works best for us, and that means, the warmer the nights are, the better. Cold mornings and nights can make even the most basic of tasks difficult to complete, so we will take that into consideration before posting up for the season. We are thinking we will probably work for the season, or at least part of it to take advantage of the shorter days, snow birds, and holiday season while we can.

Spring:
At the moment, it looks like we will be headed to the Southeast! Our best friend from our time living in Beaufort, SC is marrying the love of her life and they invited us to celebrate with them. Naturally, we will have to utilize the miles as a way to experience a completely different part of the country. We are dying to see New Orleans, LA and it’s probably the one city we can’t wait to experience. We haven’t even began to think about where we will stop because it’s over a year away, but we are really looking forward to seeing our good friends again.

Well, there you have it. Our verrrrry *tentative* plans for the next year. In 2020, we hope to turn our travels international; with extended travels through Canada and Mexico. Our dream is to drive all the way through South America to the tips of Chile and Argentina, but we have a little while to go before we are prepared for a trip like that.

If you have a suggestion on places to stop or visit, let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!