I grew up in northern lower Michigan and am a product of parents that love to both work and play. I was raised to believe that girls can do anything. My grandmother and mom can do everything from cleaning fish to docking the boat. Gender roles weren’t really an issue. I was also raised to … Read more About Me
Below are links to products we use and love! We only endorse products that we use and love! Click on the pictures to find out more. Please be aware that we use affiliate marketing. This means that we may get a very small amount of your purchase if you purchased through a link. This would … Read more Products we love! Check these out …
Roost Vans specializes in DIY products for Sprinter van conversions. They have innovative designs and make beautiful vans. We modeled our second conversion after thier vans and are about to install a DIY electical system that they are developing! Check them out on instagram or the web and stay tuned for our electrical installation.
You can start a conversation, read posts, and search for threads. You may enjoy browsing the forum in your spare time because you never know what you haven’t even thought of yet!
Check these guys out on youtube. They have videos showing how to disassemble and re-assemble your van! Even after taking about two other vans, we still need these video! Re-assembly is never as easy as you expect! They also have conversions kits, accesories, and custom conversions.
Good old fashioned google in invaluable when doing a DIY Sprinter van camping conversion! All of the questions and answers are out there somewhere. You just have to find them.
There are tons of vanlife, van conversion, Sprinter van facebook groups. I don’t always love these groups and some are better than others but for the most part, they are worth joining.
These guys are also located in Oregon and offer products for sale, vans, and custom conversions. They are super nice and environmentally minded!
The bottom line:
Have fun! Be patient! Don’t be afraid to give your ideas a try! Don’t expect perfection on the first try but don’t settle when something could be better. You will change and so will what you want from your van. That is okay. Be flexible and embrace the evolution. Try and try again.
Mostly, don’t wait, take an adventure now! It will be great!
Odell Lake sits on the South side of Oregon Highway 58, just East of Willamette Pass summit. The Pacific Crest Trail runs adacent to it and Willamette Pass Ski Area faces it. We have driven by Shelter Cove Resort a hand full of times and each time CD tells a story about spending an afternoon reading a book there in 2004 while thru-hiking the PCT. Finally, we decided to stop in and check it out! Whether you are looking for a PCT resupply or a winter get-away, the Shelter Cove Resort won’t disappoint!
Hike the PCT Northbound from Mexico or Southbound from Canada
Cross Oregon Highway 58 after a day of skiing at Willamette Pass Ski Resort
Look for the sign, just East of Willamette Pass summit. Depending on snow conditions, parts of the road to the resort may be one lane but traffic is light and there is room to back up and pull over if needed. Go roughly 2 miles on the paved road to the resort. It is well marked.
10 reasons to stop in a Shelter Cove if you are just passing through.
The scenery does not disappoint.
Grab a snack and soda. The camp store is fully stocked with everything from soda and beer to frozen meals and PCT resupply items. The Hook and Tackle restaurant is closed in the winter but worth checking out in the summer for sure.
Scout out the cabins for future reference! Really, check them out, they look sweet!
Plan a fishing or kayaking adventure. The lake is easily accessible and inviting for sure.
Sit by the bonfire after a day of playing in the snow. Check out the fire pit by the lake. It was roaring when we stopped by.
Chat with the locals. The women at the store has been working there for 20 years and confirmed CDs hunch that he stopped there when hiking the PCT. The book lending library that he remembers is no longer there but she provided a historical perspective on the recent remodeling and shared memories of the old store front.
Kick your feet up. Even in the winter, there are plenty of deck chairs to take a load off after a fun day outside!
Look for wildlife. We didn’t see it but I am sure they were there!
Get in the holiday spirit! I don’t know if the pixie lights are there in the summer but in the winter they put out a welcome feeling of holiday spirit!
Take a deep breath and enjoy a moment of feeling part of the world, despite a pandemic! This place gives off good vibes as soon as you drive up!
PCT Camping Area
Cabins, Cottages, RV sites
Boat Launch and Marina
Hiking: Willamette and Deschutes National Forests
Alpine skiing: Willamette Pass Resort
Fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding
Subscribe to follow our adventures. CD is in the garage cutting wood for our new van conversion. We teamed up with Roost Vans to do a DIY electrical system – so stay tuned!
Oregon may not be as well known for winter sports as other states but don’t let that fool you. January is a great time for an Oregon winter day-trip!
Cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing are all great choices at Walt Haring sno-park! Here is everything you need to know!
Where is Walt-Haring sno-park?
You can find it just East of Willamette Pass on Oregon Highway 97.
From Eugene: Take 58 East to 97 South. It is on your right, just North of Chemult.
From Bending: Take 97 South and look for it just North of Chemult.
From Kamath Falls: Jump on 97 North
Is there a trail system?
Yes! There is a complex system of cross country skiing or snow shoe trails. The map shows these as groomed but we didn’t see any indication that grooming had been happening.
In any case, there is a big trail system. I recommend looking at the map and understanding that there are two main loops, however. Each loop varies in length from approximately .5 to over 2 miles and the first two loops are connected to all other loops by a subtle connector trail. We were having so much fun that we found ourselves over an hour an half away from the parking lot and still going further into the woods! The only way back was to keep following the loops out and wait to head back or to turn around.
I can’t remember the last time we turned around while hiking but today was the day!
What should I know about the trails?
The trail is well marked by blue diamonds. Where the diamonds are absent, there are yellow ribbons in the trees. I could pretty much always see a marker ahead.
The distances on the map are for each individual loop, not the distance from the trail head. I can’t stress that enough!
Trail names and distances are absent from the trail markers after you get past the initial two loops. Trails are only marked by blue diamonds. No other trail markers are present.
The first loops (upper and lower runner) start at the campground. There is a lot of opportunity to be in the sunshine. The loops further from the trail head are in the forest and a heavier canopy makes it shady and cooler.
What is the terrain?
It was relatively flat at the beginning and then hills and valleys as we got back the two initial loops. Views of Diamond Peak were limited by the trees had personalities and there wasn’t anyone else in site!
The snow was too sunbaked for skiing but it was perfect for snowshoeing, however.
Do I need 4 wheel drive?
I would say “no” but here is how it was plowed today. We were alone when we pulled in but two trucks and trailers arrived later and quickly got stuck in the unplowed part of the parking lot. I found this parking lot very interesting as it was plowed for driving but if you parked where it was plowed it blocked the road. In any case, we did not use our 4 wheel drive but can see where it may have come in handy!
Chains are required on Willamette Pass if you come from the West.
What amenities are there?
A warming hut! A nice warming hut was just a few feet from where we parked. It is complete with a picnic table and wood stove. Be sure to come prepared with wood!
Bathrooms. They were open but posted that they are not maintained in the winter.
Picnic tables. Besides the one in the warming hut, there were picnic tables near the parking lot and at every campsite, of course. There was too much snow on them for us but there were plenty around and I can see where they would be useful on a sunny winter day.
Next time, I am bringing wood and friends (post-Covid, of course) and setting up shop in the warming hut. A fire in the wood stove and dinner in the hut would be the perfect end to an Oregon Winter Day Trip!
Next up is further progress on our Sprinter Van Conversion. We are working with Roost Vans on our DIY conversion so be sure to stay in touch and see how it goes!
When I am talking about winter van life, I really mean winter in the Pacific Northwest. That means rain in many places and wet snow in others.
In the Pacific Northwest, mud is an entire situation in itself. It adds another dimension to cold and wet winter socks!
Honestly, I am not much of a slipper person myself but when it comes to traveling in the van, I am fully onboard with slippers. Here are the reasons why!
We like to hike. We get on our rain jackets, boots, and rain pants inside the van. As soon as we step outside, there is no going back. So here we are, hour after hour in the mud and rain. The rain never seems to slow down enough to leave the van door open, take off our wet clothes and get inside.
It never fails that rain pours inside the van when we try to sneak in. With the rain, comes mud. Even when mud is not an issue, there is the standard issue of cold toes in the winter. My kids have really opened my eyes to all of the ways that snow can get inside your boots! I had no idea!
CD’s love for “camping socks” inspired me to try “van slippers”! It was a win for sure!
2. Camp Chef Stryker Stove
Hot chocolate? Tea? Chicken noodle soup?
I can whip up hot chocolate, tea, or even soup in just a few minutes and from the warmth of the van. We don’t have a formal kitchen in our van and this product has been a game changer for sure! It is really best for heating water fast but when in a pinch or when I just can’t be bothered to set up the stove, I have made mashed potatoes and gravy, soup, indian food, and rice all in the Camp Chef Stryker. I don’t recomment counting on it for meals but it is good to know it is possible if you find yourself 1000 mile days and on a tight time schedule.
I recommend keeping a bag of marshmallows on hand to really impress the kids when they show up after a tough day of sledding and skiing!
3. A griddle
Earlier this winter, I hit the wall of what to cook on our camp stove. Then a camp stove griddle came into my life. Hashbrowns, perogies, grilled cheese, quesadillas, fajitas … The list goes on and on! This was simple solution to a boring camp stove cooking and added to the options for the next afternoon tailgating at one of Oregon’s sno parks.
4. Snow Tubes!
This has winter fun written all over it. Great for day trips but probably not very practical for longer trips as they don’t exactly pack small! After a hand full of broken plastic sleds, the snow tubes are where it is at for sure! The more air you add, the higher they bounce and faster they go. My only reservation is that I worry they are TOO fun! They can really catch some air and pick up speed, especially on highly trafficed sledding runs! In any case, go for the snow tubes to bring your winter fun up to the next level!
Whether you are hiking around in the rain or heading to the snow for some sledding, these four items have made our winter days much better!
Follow us for our latest van conversion! It is right around the corner and we are teaming up with Roost Vans for help with our latest DIY conversion! Check them out at Roost Vans!
December 27, 2019 was the last time I went through customs between the US and Canada. This is very unusual for me as I typically cross several times per year. Here are some of recommendations for the next time you get to explore Canada.
Waterton Lakes is directly North of Glacier National Park in Montana. Together, they are the Wateron-Glacier International Peace Park. Whether you are looking for hiking, biking, wildlife, boat tours, backpacking, restaurants, or classic hotels, this is one spot not to miss! Click here for more details!
If you are looking for somewhere out of the way and more quiet than Banff, Cranbrook may be a place to check out. The town has a classic small town feel and the anticipate of being on the edge of Fernie and higher mountain passes can be felt! Slow down a bit, grab some lunch and enjoy!
The Trans-Canada Highway through British Columbia and Alberta offers views, nice roads, minimal traffic, and adventure. Some of the highlights are Revelstoke, Banff, Yoho National Park, and the most amazing railway tunnel that I have ever seen. You won’t be disappointed!
These are just the hot spots on the West Coast. When the border opens again, I will start here as I head towards the parts of Canada that really hold my heart, Ontario. Cheers to 2021, hope for normal times, and the chance to explore Canada!
We decided to follow yesterday’s wildly successful sledding trip with a second trip to the mountains. This time we headed towards Willamette Pass, hoping to get a parking spot at Gold Lake Sno-Park. We arrived around noon and there wasn’t an open parking spot in site so we pushed onward. Approximately 7 miles later we found Crescent Lake sno-park. The parking lot is smaller than Gold Lake but obviously much less popular. Among the half a dozen cars there, at least three were attached to snomobile trailers and one was clearly park for the long haul. I had intended to opt for snow shoes today but once I saw the groomed and relatively flat route, we decided to try the cross country skis again.
Here are a few things to know about Crescent Lake sno-park.
1. There are snowmobiles and plenty of space for everyone.
The kids loved seeing the snowmobiles on the trail. I liked seeing the signs marking distances to towns and services along the snowmobile trails as this was reminiscent of winter in the the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. If you have a snowmobile, this may be one place to check out!
2. The terrain is perfect for beginner cross country skiers.
I am not talking about the kids here, they have picked it up just fine. My cross country skiing skills are marginal at best, however! These trails were perfect. We skiied on the groomed trails and in through the woods. I got tangled up a few times but nothing too serious. The kids progressed from beginners to experts as they provided me with tutorials about every kind of homemade nordic ski technique you can imagine.
3. The lake is a short distance from the parking lot.
The lake is a short 1/2 mile from the parking lot if you access it through the campground entrance. The kids spent a fair amount of time chopping ice chunks from the shore and toss into the lake. I warned them about breaking through the ice and ending up with wet socks. In the end, I was the only one with wet socks. They stayed dry and had tons of fun!
The boat ramp is also adjacent to the Crescent Lake Resort, which appeared to be closed for the season but still accessible to vehicles and a somewhat popular way to access the lake in the winter.
4. The other nearby sno-parks have thier own personalities and the Pacific Crest Trail is right there in the middle of it all!
Approximately 2 miles before Crescent Lake parking, there is Junction sno-park. It has an unbelievably huge parking lot, which happened to be mostly empty. I think it may be a hot spot of snowmobile parking but am not really sure. Gold Lake was packed with cross country skiers and snow-shoers. The parking lot was much larger than Crescent Lake but was narrow and completely full. Don’t worry if you start into the parking lot and it feels narrow. Once you get to the end of the lot, there is a no-parking section that is labled “bus turn-around”. It worked great for us on this busy day!
Waldo Lake has a relatively small parking lot that I assume gets rather crowded. We stopped there to make dinner on our way out. It was dusk and there was only one other car but it was obvious that it is a popular spot during the day. The trail was wide and well packed from use. The kids grabbed the snow tubes and found some amazing sledding while I cooked soup in the van. Once it got dark, I pulled the van around to shine the headlights on the trail for them. They explored snow caves and hit some serious sledding jumps! I think Waldo Lake may be our next place to check out for a day but we may try to go early, late, or on a non-holiday weekday to avoid crowds.
The Pacific Crest Trail is right there for all of the PCT section hikers out there! My husband thru hiked the trail in 2004 and remembers Willamette Pass as one of his favorite sections! The trail was well marked but there was not any winter parking with direct trail access from the road.
These days of playing in the snow are keeping me going for sure! Remember to get your sno-park pass before you head out! You can learn more here!
Oregon sno-parks are designated Winter Recreation Areas. You should purchase a sno-park pass ahead of time. Information about passes can be found here.
Ray Benson sno-park is near HooDoo Ski Area in the Deschutes National Forest and is one of the more popular sledding, cross country skiing, and snow shoeing spots. The parking area is large enough to allow space, even on a busy day. The trail system is extensive and, although many people tend to flock to one area, there is plenty of room to spread out if you wish. Here are 5 ways to enjoy an afternoon at an Oregon sno-park.
1. Try out your new cross country skis!
Ray Benson offers a complex trail system. You can chose to stick to the groomed trail or venture into the woods. Either way, it is guarenteed to be a good time!
The trail is shared with snowmobiles, families snowshoeing, people hiking, and most likely some rogue sledders but don’t let that deter you, there is plenty of space. I chose the off-piste route on the way down as it turns out that I am still totally out of control on cross country skis. I wrongly assumed that somehow my skills improved since ten years ago when I last hurled myself, arms flailing, down a trail in Montezuma, Colorado.
2. Get some exercise with the reliable stand by, snowshoeing.
I can always count on snowshoeing for safe, effective, and fun exercise! Whether you are on the trail, off trail, or hucking a tiny cliff, snowshoeing is a guarenteed to be a good time. Remember your poles for the best work out and the best chance of making it back to the parking lot without tripping and taking a header.
3. Join the gang of sledders.
We steered clear of the crowds due to Covid but there was still plenty of amazing sledding. Our preferred vehicle are snotubes that were given to us by my grandma for Christmas a few years ago. If you chose a tube, consider inflating it to its maximum capacity. The extra inflation really steps the fun up the next level!
We chose to sled mid-day in the sun and again at 3:30 after the sun was behind the trees. The move from sunny and 40s to shady and 30s provided a super speed icy track to really put the sledding over the top for the kids while also just pushing my mom anxiety up a notch. Sledding was the biggest hit of the day for sure!
4. Set up for tailgating.
What is better than a campstove and chairs were set against the backdrop of moutains and fresh snow? Cheese and crackers, lunch hot off the griddle, and a couple of servings of hot chocolate with marshmallows seemed to keep my crew in top condition. Next time I think I will expand the menu and include myself when packing mugs for the hot chocolate.
5. Come prepared to stay all day.
An afternoon at Oregon sno-parks require spare socks, spare gloves, different boots for different sports, spare hats, layers, windbreakers, down jackets, fleece … the list goes on and on. I never would have packed like this in Colorado but Oregon is different. The snow is wetter here. If you have seen it, you know what I mean. So, come prepared because everyone will want to stay all day and they minds well be dry and warm!
Please follow our adventures as we convert our latest Sprinter van into a camper for our family of 4!
We have enjoyed countless day trips and many long road trips in our DIY vans. Despite the hours and seemingly endless Sprinter adventures, we failed to anticipate how 2020 would elevate our attachement to our van. There is nothing like a pandemic to help us appreciate traveling in a vehicle that is more of a self-supported safety bubble than a mode of transportation. I have never been more grateful for our Sprinter and, as most of you know, I was so grateful that I took just went out and bought a 2020 4×4 Sprinter to start our DIY camping conversion all over again!
Here is a run down of some of the experiences that our Sprinter camper brought to us in the midst of a 2020 and a world wide pandemic.
CD spend March and April in the van and it was worth it! I learned a ton about 8020, wiring, finish carpentry (van style), hinges, and options for storing fishing poles in a Sprinter 144. The van has never looked so great or been so comfortable. Despite this, CD kindly agreed to do it all again! I look forward to seeing what is next!
Exploring the Oregon Coast, pandemic Sprinter Adventure 2020 style
Any where on the coast is fair game when you can eat, sleep, change clothes, and use the restroom in the safety of your van! Once we realized this, we hit the coast enough times to find a favorite beach, settle into a routine, and pick up two new skimboards along the way (thank you grandma and grandpa!)
Revisiting Oregon Dunes
A great thing about the Pacific Coast and Oregon Dunes is that the weather is nearly the same whether you are there in winter or summer. The difference is that in the winter, it may be warmer than in the valley and in the summer it may be cooler. Either way, it is always fun! We spent Thanksgiving there and it was just the escape we needed. Thank you Sprinter van!
Camping anywhere that is less than a two hour drive
It wasn’t super easy to find available camping in Oregon during COVID times but we happened accross a campground that was open and perfect for us! This also led to a third child-size kayak purchase. We now have kayaks several thousand miles apart and one to spare.
Sprinter Camping in a lava field while watching a comet
No worries if the campgrounds are full. We slept like babies in the parking lot of an observatory in the middle of a lava field on a night of prime comet viewing. Not too bad!
Escaping wildfire smoke
As self supported travelers, we felt it was safe and reasonable to leave the state to escape wildfire smoke, even though traveling during the pandemic was not recommended and included post travel quarentines. School and work continued without interruption despite everything. We even snuck in a few hikes and a national park stop while on the road.
We managed to get a few new parks in the mix and that isn’t easy to do, even in normal times! Dinosaur National Monument was a win for sure! We also hiked, slept, and explore a handful of other parks and monuments, some of which we would not have taken the time to explore during our usual summer travels.
Waking up in Michigan
We made it to Michigan. I am grateful. It wasn’t long enough and it was a tough and confusing time earlier in the pandemic. Mostly, I know we can do it again. We can safely travel thousands of miles in our Sprinter to be with those we love. Next time has been on my mind everyday since.
Here is the van we will do it in next time, summer or winter.
On to 2021, a new Sprinter camper DIY project, more pandemic safe adventures, and more opportunities to take the road less traveled. I look forward to seeing what’s next. Happy New Year!
It has been hard to get motivated to go exploring so far this week. I am not sure if is because of the holidays, the sugary snacks, or the rain, but we it seems like we just need a push to get out there. We have already hit our usual local hikes, so we widened our driving radius a bit and headed a bit out of town. William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge is managed by The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is popular for spotting Elk, bird watching, and hiking.
Woodpecker Loop Trail
The woodpecker loop is our usual go-to trail. You walk through forests, near ponds and streams, through grasslands, and even catch distant views of fields and mountains. Today did not disappoint!
The trail had even been updated with information stands. You pull open a little door and a laminated card with information about the trees, plants and wildlife is inside.
The woodpecker loop trail was not as muddy as the picture of the woods. As far as mud goes during December in the Willamette Valley, this trail is one of the better options. The trail is gravel and mostly higher than surrounding land. Don’t let the rain deter you!
The woodpecker loop connects to the Mill Hill Trail. We typically do the two loops together. The Mill Hill Trail is mostly wooded and runs along a large wetland. We have come close to seeing a herd of Elk on this trail in the past but no such luck today. Hundreds of geese were our main wildlife sighting. Halfway through the Mill Hill Trail today, the sun came out and we could all see our shadows for the first time this week. We past three or four other groups of hikers in the hour and a half that we were there. Each hiker was wearing a mask and looking just as happy as we were to be walking in the sunshine.
If you happen to find yourself looking for a day hike in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Finley Wildlife Refuge is one option. Stop by the general store for a souvenir, snack, and a chat if you have time as well! (in non-Covid times, of course!)
We are a family of 4 that wants to combine efficiency for long trips with comfort of frequent day trips. This is our third Sprinter. Our first was a low roof, our second was a 2015, and our third is a 2020 4 x 4. The big question is: what should we do differently with this Sprinter camper conversion?
Answering that question has not been as easy as I imagined. We are still at the beginning. Here is a list of five considerations for our most recent Sprinter build.
I have never been known for my patience. I sold our mini-van to buy this Sprinter. In doing so, I kept our 2015 Sprinter. While having two Sprinters in the driveway seems a bit unusual, I do not regret it! We have one van ready to go for day trips at a moments notice!
We spent Thanksgiving at Oregon Dunes and yesterday hiking in the pouring rain. Our van made it all possible, even in the midst of a pandemic. For better or worse, we have time to debate and plan our next build. So far, insulation is in and all of the other plans change hour to hour.
2. Sleeping Space
We are all older than during our first build and we plan to keep this van for much longer than the others so we need to use the space much more carefully than before. We went from 2 people sleeping on the floor in our first van to a genius 2 bed system in our second. The challenge of our second build is that when the beds are converted, you can no longer stand on the floor. How can we use space to allow privacy and preserve floor space even at night? Is this even possible?
3. Kitchen Space
Our prior Sprinter camper builds did not have kitchens. I am typically happy to cook outside or eat cheese and crackers inside when the weather is bad. It rains in Oregon, however. Rain is so much more difficult for me to deal with than snow. Rain means mud.
I cooked two meals while on our recent Thanksgiving trip. I sat on the electric step in a puddle of mud both times. It was the best option.
If you have ever tried to sit at a picnic table in the Pacific Northwest between the months of October and March, you know what I mean. Everything is muddy, wet, and mossy.
In retrospect, my shift towards indoor cooking started last winter with hot chocolate and went as far as soup and instant mashed potatoes by July. By then I was really stretching the limits of the Camp Chef Stryker that we bought for boiling water for tea. At this point, I am open to discussing a kitchen.
4. Thinsulate installation goes more quickly the second time.
The van was insulated in a fraction of the time of our last build. The panels did not go back in more easily than last time, however. We still needed two people and a bit of patience to get the front panel back in. The airbags added to the stress a bit but mostly because it felt nerve wracking to have exposed airbags just hanging around.
5. All options are on the table and that doesn’t make the process easier.
This is the first time that I have been ready to spend additional money to get the best build for us. It turns out that short of buying a van that is already converted, deciding to spend money doesn’t really help. The world of DIY Sprinter Camper conversions is open ended, confusing, and popular, especially right now. Everyone we talk in the business is busy. Supplies are back ordered but ideas are still limitless. Everyone has good ideas. Not all of the ideas are interchangable so each decision affects the next.
So far, in addition to insullation, we have installed a modular rack system. It was easy to install and we love what we can do from here. With that being said, we drilled holes to secure it to the van, so we must go forward from there. As we browse the internet, we are careful not to click on other modular systems or accessories attached to systems other than what we have in place.
It feels like we are headed down a rabbit hole but keep getting turned around and going back. As I mentioned, patience is not my strong suit but I am doing my best to give the process a chance. Even I look forward to seeing where this all lands! I just hope it lands somewhere while there is still time for a ski trip this winter. Wish us luck and leave us comments with your ideas and questions!