Shelter Cove: PCT resupply or a Winter Get-away

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!

Getting to Shelter Cove Resort and Marina

  1. Hike the PCT Northbound from Mexico or Southbound from Canada
  2. Cross Oregon Highway 58 after a day of skiing at Willamette Pass Ski Resort
  3. 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.

  1. The scenery does not disappoint.
  2. 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.
  3. Scout out the cabins for future reference! Really, check them out, they look sweet!
  4. Plan a fishing or kayaking adventure. The lake is easily accessible and inviting for sure.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Kick your feet up. Even in the winter, there are plenty of deck chairs to take a load off after a fun day outside!
  8. Look for wildlife. We didn’t see it but I am sure they were there!
  9. 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!
  10. 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!

Other Amenities

  • 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
  • Boat Rentals
  • Fishing Guides

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!

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Check out these nearby winter sno parks!

Crescent Lake Sno-Park
Oregon Winter Day Trip
Check out Roost Vans for our latest additions.

Sprinter Adventures: 2020 Re-cap

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.

Sprinter Camper DIY additions!

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.

Checking off more National Parks

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.

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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!

Follow our adventures!

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Click for: Tips on packing for a pandemic road trip

Click for: Tips for starting a camper van make-over

Sprinter Camper Conversion 2020

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.

1. Time

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!

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Oregon Trip Planning: Dee Wright Observatory

Our second time at the Dee Wright Observatory was even more impressive than our first. We ended up there by default when the campground we aimed for was full. Oregon trip planning isn’t really something that I do very well. I actually don’t tend to do any trip planning at all.

Since we have been unable to get to our cottage this year, I have been trying to fill in the gap by buying another kayak and googling every freshwater lake in Oregon.

Oregon Trip Planning: Santiam Pass

We packed everything from kayaks to remote control trucks and headed to Big Lake Campground, near Sisters, Oregon. Most of the campground is first come, first served. It was mid-week and I was foolishly hopeful. The campground was full. For those of you interested in Big Lake Campground, it shares a driveway with Hoodoo ski area and is adjacent to Big Lake Youth Camp, which happened to be one of CD’s re-supply stops when he hiked the PCT. The campground was crowded and the sites were small. Other than feeling bad about driving all that way and not getting a campsite, I wasn’t too disappointed to not camp there.

Camping everywhere between there and Sisters was full. We headed back west on 242.

Cold Spring Campground had 2 spots available even though it was nearly 7:00 at night. We opted to gamble on the Willamette National Forest and continued west.

McKenzie Highway Pass: OR 242

McKenzie Highway runs between Sisters and Belknap Springs and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I recommend this route as long as you are not in a hurry, enjoy driving twenty miles per hour, and are not prone to motional sickness.

If you chose this route, the pay off is one of the most interesting lava fields I have seen.

It wasn’t long before we caught our first glimpse. The lava runs right up to the road to the north and towers high above it but to the south there is just the usual landscape.

Oregon trip planning at its finest! Check out the lava flow next to the road!

We hoped to camp at Lava Camp Lake Campground. Be careful not to confuse this with Lava Lake Campground, east of Bend. The entrance to Lava Camp Lake Campground is just before McKenize Pass summit when headed westbound. The entrance is difficult to find and is a dirt two track on the south side of the road. You follow this for approximately two miles to a day use area and a hand full of camp sites. Most sites are not on the lake. I wouldn’t have wanted to drive anything higher or much longer than our Sprinter down the road and when we got there, the campsites were full, of course. It is National Forest and I am sure some people slept in day use area parking but we chose a brief walk and drove on again.

Dee Wright Observatory

Less than a half of a mile up hill is one of the most unique places that I have been.

We pulled into the parking lot of Dee Wright Observatory, I opened the door and set up the stove. It was well passed dinner time and we all needed a break and a second to think of what to do next. I was lighting up the stove when some people a few spots away shouted: “you must have the same idea as us.”

It took for a moment to see what was going on but then I realized that this couple was setting up a tent on the sidewalk, a table next to thier car, and two camera tripods. Another couple at the other end of the parking lot were sitting in thier car playing cards and eating chips. Everyone was there to see the comet NEOWISE.

Dark Skies, Oregon Trip Planning

Here we were at the top of McKenzie Pass, surrounded by 8 miles of black lava rock and not an artifical light in sight. It was nearly dusk. The kids and CD went for a hike while I made dinner. We moved the kayaks to the sidewalk and turned the van around for prime coment viewing. We just happened to find a great camping spot!

The excitement in the parking lot was obvious. People were chatting and pointing while be attentive to social distancing. It was helpful that there are two large parking lots and there was never more than six or eight cars at a time.

Between the cool temperatures and the wind, there were few mosquitos. We opened our van doors and watched the sky. We saw the comet in between camera flashes. It was good for the soul.

Cars came and went until midnight or so and then it was quiet and dark. We slept until 9:00 and woke up feeling like we had landed on the moon!

Trees and lava next to each are impressive, however.
Lava and mountains

From the observatory you can see glaciers on the Three Sisters, views of Mt. Washington, and random trees growing out of lava flows. There is a paved walkway with signs discussing different features of the lava flow.

Oregon trip 101, have fun, of course!

Pacific Crest Trail Access: OR 242

CD is pretty much always looking for PCT access. Approximately a 1/4 mile west of the observatory, on the north side of the road, there is PCT day use parking. You can hike southbound and head towards the observatory or northbound and head for Belknap Crater. We did both and they were both amazing! The landscape is so unique. Wildflowers, red dirt, and trees touch fields of black lava. The lava towards 10 or 20 feet above the ground at times and it feels bizarre to imagine how it just stopped flowing and piled up in such dramatic fashion.

The trail is well marked. Footing on the lava is a bit tricky but the dirt trail is easy walking. For this PCT day hike you don’t need much more than a parking permit, sunscreen, snacks, and camera. Enjoy!

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Sprinter Camper Conversion: Things I Learned

We chose a 2015 Sprinter 144 for our family of 4 camper van. It is our third camping van and our second camping conversion. We chose it because we drive more than we camp.

I am not much of a camper. In fact, I am really only starting to learn to camp and this can be painfully obvious for my husband at times. It was recently that I realized it would be best if I tried to learn to camp.

I am really a cottage girl. I grew up with a cottage and that is where my skillsets lie. It could be argued that few are more skilled at the art of cottaging. I can arrive at the cottage any time day or night and have everything I need. My biggest concern may be getting the cold food and drinks in the fridge and my chair positioned correctly on the deck.

So, here I am, the proud owner of a Sprinter 144 DIY camper conversion. There are dozens of great things about this van! CD gets all of the credit for the modifications. They are amazing and have helped to ease me into van life. New cabinets, fishing rod holders, and LED lights are our latest upgrades.

Even with these latest upgrades, 2020 has been an eye opening year. Here are a few things I have learned so far.

1. A Van Chosen For Driving May Not Be Ideal For Camping

It may seem like I am stating the obvious but this one took me a bit to wrap my head around. Last summer’s trip racked up 8528 miles and 190 hours and 55 minutes of total trip time. Our average mileage was 23.4 miles per gallon.

Our van is easy to drive in nearly all conditions. It is fast, comfortable, gets decent mileage, can park in any parking spot, and makes a U turn like nobody’s business. We may drive a couple of hundred miles during a day in the Rockies but nearly 1000 miles once we hit the plains. No matter how many miles we put on in a day, we rarely spend more than an afternoon at a campground. Our Sprinter has rolled into some of our country’s most beautiful campgrounds at dinner and left the next day. We have slept at a gas station in South Dakota, a rest stop in southern Michigan, friends driveways all over the US and Canada, and plenty of Walmarts.

Yet, our van is a Sprinter 144 DIY camping conversion. So what happens when we camp?

Sprinter camper conversion

2. Camping In Our Sprinter Is More Like Car Camping Than Van Living.

It turns out that I don’t really know how to camp. Even the best camping conversion may be hard for me to navigate.

My cooler is always a mess. I spill things and burn dinner regularly. I am constantly rearranging everything. At the campground, I take things out of the van and put them back in the van. CD recently pointed out that even people with RVs tend to arrange thier campsite by using outside space. I have since noticed water coolers on tables, dish washing stations on benches, accesory tables full of who knows what, chairs all over the place, laterns, and so many things that I can’t even remember.

So, is the idea to set up and tear down your own mini cottage at each campsite? If so, I think I can work towards that, although I am not sure I fully understand it yet.

Are these the things that I use to build my mini-cottage each week? Sprinter camper conversion

3. Camping In Our Sprinter Is More Like Car Camping Than Thru-Hiking

Okay, this one is really for CD. He has hiking tons of long trails, including thru hiking the PCT in 2004. Some of the skills that he learned on the PCT are not fully transferrable to our Sprinter. He does not need to drink the cooking water, save his one spork for every meal, eat two breakfasts, or check his pack weight for our day hike. Even though he doesn’t need to, he does all of this anyway. I guess that if I need to set up a mini cottage each week, he can act as if he is on a thru-hike! I am just glad that he hasn’t gone back to eating pop tarts in order to up his calories!

CD’s tent on the PCT

4. Putting Up A Tent Does Not Mean We Failed Our Sprinter Camper Conversion

The kids love tents. If we were staying at a campground for a few days and put a tent up near our Sprinter, it would not mean that we failed. It may mean that CD can sleep alone outside or the kids can play in the shade during the hottest part of the day.

The only time we put up a tent next to this Sprinter was last summer when we took our annual camping trip with my nephew. CD slept in my twenty year old tent. The rain seeped up from below and he soon realized that it is no longer water proof! The kids and I laughed about it while watching the storm from inside the van.

This was our first Sprinter and this actually did mean we failed. The low roof Sprinter did not work for us and we often used a tent to escape it! Waterton National Park

5. Camping, Either By Van Or Not, Requires Skill and Practice

It takes time to put up the table, organize the dishwashing station, unpack the kayaks, look for a fishing hole, or find a place to launch a boat. This all takes time away from my personal rest and relaxation. How much does that matter? Not much, I guess. My time is currently well spent organizing campsites and exploring unchartered rivers. Do I wish I was sitting on a deck or in a super fancy Sprinter drinking coffee and waiting for the best time to go fishing? Well, maybe – but now that I know that the van is just one part of the campsite, everything is looking up!

Schwarz camp

Would I change anything about our Sprinter camper conversion?

Not really. Well, maybe. Given endless time and a bottomless wallet, I would get a custom built Sprinter 170 for driving and camping. CD could spend his time doing minor modifications to the exsisting camping conversion, rather than being in charge of every detail starting with camping conversion design all the way through finish carpentry.

Wood paneling around rear AC. Part of our recent upgrades!

Would I recommend a Sprinter 144 camper conversion for a family?

Sure. Please make peace with its limitations in space and love its efficiency! I do!

Please like and follow our blog.

Sleeping 4 in a Sprinter: Budget Friendly Guide.
Sprinter Van Shopping List For The Minimalist
5 Tips for Starting Your Sprinter Camper Make-Over.
Sprinter Roof Rails Self Installation: 12 Easy Steps.
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Willamette Valley, Oregon: Schwarz Campground

We stumbled upon this Oregon Campground when we were on our way to Baker Bay but got discouraged by the crowds. It offered everything we needed and then some.

Campgrounds, dispersed camping, rivers, lakes, and parks fill the Willamette Valley. There are so many options that it may not be easy to find the campground that is the best fit in Oregon. Schwarz Campground is currently top of the list for our last minute, mid-week, get-a-ways.

Here are 5 reason why!

Open Space!

I will even say this again- Open Space! This campground is full of space. There is at least a hundred yards of open grass for any one to use. It was just calling for a pick up football game or a practice round with my pitching wedge.

In addition to open space, this campground closed approximately every other site to allow for better social distancing. Double sites are limited to one at this time (summer 2020), sites closest to the public river access are closed, and a good percentage of the regular sites are closed.

Row River Trail

The Row River Trail is a paved 14 mile rails to trail route. Grab your bikes and hop on just outside the park entrance!

I chose to drive to Dorena Reservoir, drop off CD and the kids and drive back down to the main road in order to ride back towards them. Dropping the car this way was overkill for sure as the trail was easy riding, fast, and fun. Next time we will just leave from the campground and ride as far as we like, then turn around and go back. Either way, this trail was a win!

River Access

The campground is located below Dorena Lake, downstream from the dam. Only two sites offer high quality private river access but there is a well stationed common access. Even in these times of social distancing, there was room to spread out along the river bank.
Note that the dam is several hundred yards up stream but there is a sign indicating that water levels may fluxuate without warning. I took note of the sign as I sent the kids out in their kayaks and I think it is worth paying attention but we were far enough from the dam that I wasn’t too concerned.
We kayaked, explored a nearby island, watched and heard a beaver chewing on a stick, fished for hours, went swimming (it is cold!), and found lost treasures on the river bottom. There was never a dull moment.

Campground. Site access to river.
Oregon Campground: common river access

Huge campsites at this Oregon Campground!

Again, there is plenty of space here, even in non-COVID times. Each side has a large picnic table, fire ring, parking area, and tent site. There are just enough big trees to enjoy but not so many that you are cold and attached by bugs.

Oregon Campground

Hiking Trails, Horse Shoes, A Playground, and Wildlife

There are plenty of wild turkeys, lizards, and ducks. There is a huge open space, horse shoe pits, a playground (closed currently), and hiking trails. You can walk from the campground, through the woods, and to the overlook on the dam. From there you can view Dorena Lake and its recreational boaters. There is a public boat launch several miles up the road and several campers were obviously headed that way.

Oregon Campground

Which park amenities did we use? Well, this is it and it was awesome!

HELPFUL TIPS:

My Sprint cell service was sufficient to download texts but not emails. After driving 4 miles to town, I had enough bars for a zoom conference.

There is poison oak along the trail.

Bring water shoes if you plan to get wet!

Keep an eye out for the alligator lizard. Seriously, we saw it and it was weird!

Please follow our blog for more adventures!

Sprinter Camper: 10 Upgrades That I Love!
5 Tips for Starting Your Sprinter Camper Make-Over.
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5 Tips for Starting Your Sprinter Camper Make-Over.

We have been home since mid-March. Our pandemic projects include sour dough bread making, teaching home school, and continuing work on our Sprinter camper. CD’s progress with the Sprinter has been the most successful of the three.

Roof rails are installed, LED lights are wired to a dimmer switch, cedar tongue and groove is in place, and two new cabinets are ready to be filled.

Writing guides for each of this projects will take a me a bit of time but while I work on that, CD offered his top 5 tips for our diving into a Sprinter camper project.

Sneak peek! I can’t wait to share more.

1. Accept gaps in wood spacing or make custom pieces.

CD chose to custom cut each piece of wood. Time was not of the essence.

2. Realize that your Sprinter is not square.

No matter how square things start out, your van is not square.

3. Create things with wiggle room.

Plan on fine adjustments and be flexible.

4. Consider both your ideal end product and your acceptable end product.

Decide which of these you are working towards.

5. Be honest about your timelines.

Realize that your acceptable product will likely take as long you thought your ideal product would. Set out to make your ideal product and you may end up with your good enough one. If you are set on your ideal product, plan to increase your time spent ten fold and have plenty of extra wood on hand.

Have Fun With Your Sprinter Camper!

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Sprinter Roof Rails Self Installation: 12 Easy Steps.
Sprinter Van Shopping List For The Minimalist
Storage In Our Sprinter: A simple solution
Sprinter Low Roof vs High Roof
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Here is great source for van campers! Check it out!

DIY Promaster Camper Conversion Guide – Part I

Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan: Summer Top 5.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore sits on the western side of northern lower Michigan. With dunes rising 400 feet above its 65 miles of shoreline, this park does not disappoint! Check out forests, wetlands, streams, inland lakes, historic homesteads, campgrounds, hiking trails, a 1920’s village, and the more recently added Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail bike path.

It is hard to decide where to begin but here are 5 ideas to get you started!

5. Empire Bluff Trail

This trail is short and sweet. This 1.5 mile round trip hike will satisfy hikers and photographers alike.

Start at the Visitor’s Center in Empire and get directions to the trail head which is just a few miles down the road. The trail is unassuming at first but don’t let that fool you. The views from the top some of the most remarkable in the park.

4. Glen Haven

Whether you are looking for a Junior Ranger cancellation or are excited to check out a working blacksmith’s shop, Glen Haven is worth the stop!

There is a general store, boat house, clean restrooms, and beach access with picnic tables.

4. Sleeping Bear Point Lifesaving Station

On your way out of Glen Haven, follow the road until it ends at Sleeping Bear Point. The building from 1901 is now a Maritime Museum.

Learn about the lives of the people that lived at the station and the tools they used for rescues. Look out for an opportunity to participate in the daily lifesaving demonstration and you may even see them fire the Lyle Gun!

You can also access the Sleeping Bear Point Loop Trail from here. This 2.8 mile trail may not be the most picturesque in the park but it is certainly one of the most diverse. Hike up and down rolling dunes as you experience some of the different terrain and ecosystems that Michigan has to offer. Bring water and keep in mind that 2.8 miles over sand dunes takes longer and is more difficult than the same distance on pavement.

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2. Dune Climb

Whether you want to play in the sand, have a picnic, or climb for a view of Glen Lake, the Dune Climb has it all. Some amenities include clean restrooms, potable water, a gift shop with a park passport cancellation, and an ice cream vending machine.

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For those of you that are looking for a challenge, the Dune Climb trail ends at Lake Michigan. Be aware that this hike is rated strenuous and in my experience, it is easy to underestimate its difficulty. There are wooden posts marking the trail so keep an eye on those. bring water, hat, and sunscreen. Prepare to be exposed on wide open sand dunes for 3-4 hours.

While there are much easier ways to get to Lake Michigan, you will likely feel the greatest sense of accomplishment if you arrive there by foot via these dunes. Honestly, I only do it for the exercise so if that is not a huge motivator for you, I recommend skipping this hike, accessing Lake Michigan at Glen Haven, and climbing the dune just high enough for a bird’s eye view of Glen Lake.

1. Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail

This is one of my favorite things that has happened anywhere in the past several years! The Heritage Trail is a mixed use, non motorized trail planned to extend 27 miles from Empire to North of Glen Arbor. There are currently 22 miles completed.

Avoid traffic and parking hassles by utilizing the trail. In 2019, my husband, myself, and three kids under 10 logged 29.1 miles on the trail in 2 days. Bikes were our only means of transportation once we set up camp at DH Day campground.

Here are the top reasons we love the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail.

  • It is more safe for families than riding on the road
  • It is the fastest route from DH Day campground to Glen Haven or the Dune Climb on a busy day.
  • Bike parking in Glen Arbor is less stressful and more available than car parking.
  • Your car can be kept safe from sandy kids.
  • Riding the trail is good exercise and better for the environment than driving a car.
Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan

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Sleeping Bear Dunes: Bike, Swim, Repeat
Steamboat Springs: Top 5

Leavenworth Washington In An Afternoon

We took a side trip to Leavenworth from our road trip northbound on Washington 97.

Was it worth it? Absolutely!

4 Things To Know For Your First Time In Leavenworth Washington

  1. The town center is basically a Bavarian Village.
  2. Every season is tourist season in Leavenworth. Parking may be an issue and it helps to be patient your first time visiting.
  3. It is on the edge of the North Cascades and the scenery is straight out of a magazine.
  4. While it is great to spend an afternoon there, a week would be even better!

3 Things To Do On A Summer Afternoon in Leavenworth Washington

  1. Eat. Even if you aren’t hungry, this town calls you to eat and drink. Food is everywhere, including brats, beer, and everything German.

2. Walk downtown. Window shop and soak in the culture.

We walked on our own but saw several groups of guided walking tours. It sounds like Leavenworth may have some interesting history to share.

View to the West. Leavenworth, Washington.

3. Spend some time at Waterfronk Park.

Walk a few blocks downhill from town and you will arrive at Waterfront Park. The Wenatchee river’s inviting swimming holes and beautiful scenery are made even more fun by a festive parade of tubes and kayaks.

Bring a snack and you could stay all day!

Waterfront Park, Leavenworth, Washington

2 Circumstances That Lead To Staying At Wenatchee Confluence State Park

  1. Leavenworth is at capacity and you don’t have a reservation.
  2. You are headed northbound on 97 and just passing through.

7 Reasons To Love Staying at Wenatchee Confluence State Park

  1. It is approximately 30 minutes from Leavenworth.
  2. You may get lucky and get a deal! We arrived around dinner time. The park was full but they sometimes allow “overflow” parking for a fraction of the price! We scored a lake side spot with flush toilets, hot showers, bike path access, a beach, and a playground!

3. Flush toilets and hot showers.

4. A playground and picnic tables.

5. Open green space.

6. A beach.

7. Apple Capital Loop Trail.

We rode our bikes on miles and miles of this trail. It circles the Columbia River with 22 miles of paved trail. The trail can be used to connect Wenatchee Confluence State Park with Horan Nature Area, Walla Walla Point Park, and Wenatchee Riverfront Park.

We spend most of a day that was intended for driving, riding this trail and I would do it again.

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Cranbrook, BC is sometimes on route between Oregon and Ontario, or more specifically between Creston and Waterton Lakes National Park.

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How did we first discover Cranbrook, BC?

Notice the bugs on our windshield!

Our journey to loving Cranbrook started at Moyie Lake Provincial Park, late one afternoon.

We stopped to stretch our legs and look for a place to sleep for the night. Moyie Lake Provincial Park is easy to access from Highway 3/95, and offers exclusive public access to the lake, tons of green grass, sandy beaches, flush toilets, picnic tables, a playground, and beautiful views.

Moyie Lake Provincial Park

Day use parking at the beach is easy to find. I grabbed a picnic table for dinner and the kids hit the beach.

Things started to go bad pretty quickly, however, when I swatted one fly while getting the cooler and a second fly while getting the stove.

By the time I was set up to cook there were more flies than I have ever seen in one place and I am from Michigan so I have seen a few black flies. This, however, were the black fly scary stories that people tell around campfires during full moons.

I rushed dinner, ran everything back to the van, and by some stroke of luck, the van was nearly fly-free. The van was a mess, I was frazzled, and desperate to get back on the road again!

Anytime, other than this day in mid-June, I would gladly endorse staying at Moyie Lake but we certainly were not staying that day.

If you decide to stay there in June, here are a few items that I may consider packing.

Fly strips – yes, these still make these and you can hang them in your van!

Mosquito head netting may seem like overkill but I would have paid good money for a head net!

Where did we stay?

We rolled into Cranbrook just before dark and, for lack of a better plan, followed the little signs with the blue camping symbol. We didn’t have much confidence in this plan as the signs led us right into town and to the front desk of Mount Baker RV Park.

If you are anything like me, you may want to stop reading as soon as you see the words “RV Park” but please continue reading! Mount Baker RV Park was like a little bit of paradise. In that moment, it was everything we needed and then some!

One side of the park are RV hookups and the other side leads over bridge crossing a stream to a open green space that is intended mostly for tents. There were not any tents in that space and we didn’t need hook-ups, so we paid the nominal fee and slept in a field of freshly cut grass, next to a river, with flush toilets, hot showers, and laundry facilities.

I didn’t really even need to do laundry but I did anyways. The kids threw sticks in the river, kicked soccer balls, and did somersaults. Things couldn’t get any better!

We woke up the next day and realized that we really were in the town of Cranbrook. From Mount Baker RV Park, we walked to town and loved what we saw.

Cranbrook BC: 5 Things To Love

1. The Historic Downtown

A few blocks from our campground we found the historic downtown full of local shops and restaurants.

2. The people

Locals on the street and in shops smiled and stopped to chat. People in cars smiled and waved “hello” as we crossed streets or parking lots.

3. The restaurants

Historic downtown offered tons of food options. We weren’t even looking for a restaurant but we couldn’t resist!

Soul Food is a local farm to table cafe and restaurant. We sat at a table outside, had drinks and two rounds of food!

Soulfood. Cranbrook BC

4. Diverse downtown shopping

Just as we weren’t really looking for a restaurant and we didn’t really need to do laundry, we weren’t really looking for a large grocery store but there we were. Historic downtown Cranbrook, a stone’s throw from our campground, also happened to have a large chain grocery store so we picked up some odds and ends!

5. Cycling routes, side walks, and parks

Cranbrook has it all. There are bike lanes, cycling routes, cross walks, and parks all over downtown. Check it out! You won’t be disappointed!

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