Sprinter Roof Rails Self Installation Considerations.

We are half way through our roof rail installation. It was two steps forward, one step back all day.

Things that worked:

  1. The heat gun. We rented a heat gun and the plugs popped right out. The glue warmed up and wiped right off. The heat gun was worth it!
Sprinter camping conversion
#vanlife

Things that we learned:

  1. 1 inch bolts are better than 3/4 inch. Our bolts were 3/4 inch and they were too short. The hardware store only had eight 1 inch bolts this afternoon. It was enough to secure the racks and cover the holes but we obviously need more bolts.
  2. Butyl tape is better than putty tape. We didn’t have enough Butyl tape to do the job. The hardware store convinced us to try putty tape and we decided that the Butyl tape was better and worth a wait. We had gotten some Butyl tape from DIYvan.com in Hood River and will contact them for more.
#vanlife

Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off: Thru Hike Throwback

I met CD in 2006. He thru hiked the PCT in 2004. His first day on the trail was April 28. I remember it because it also happens to be my birthday. At this point, I advocate celebrating the anniversary of his first day on the PCT along with my birthday.

He kept a trail journal and has offered it to me. This is just the beginning.

#pct #pacificcresttrail

I know very little about his time on the PCT. He has told me that the first few weeks were a time of transition and learning. He went from hiking with a friend to hiking alone. He re-organized his pack and overhauled his food plan.

He told me that prior to being on the trail, he imagined walking and walking just to see what was over the next hill. He underestimated the people and relationships that make up the trail.

Walking over 2500 miles by yourself in order to better appreciate human relationships seems counter-intuitive. It is also an interesting topic in light of the past 6 weeks of physical distancing in the face of pandemic.

CD tells me that he experienced his first trail magic just a few days into his hike.

#pct #pacificcresttrail

He states: I was hiking through the hundred-plus degree desert sun and contemplating how much water I didn’t have. I had been reluctant to hike too far off trail for water and was pretty sure I could make it to the next source.  I laid down on the side of a dirt road, put my feet up on an embankment, and tried to make my own shade.

Despite the heat, a family was settling in for a picnic up the road. Within a short time, the father came up and asked me where I was hiking.  He was quite excited to learn that I was, indeed, on my way to becoming a PCT through-hiker He gave me water, fruit, and Gatorade. It was just the sign that I needed to let me know that I was on the right path.

With this, CD had his first glimpse of how much larger the thru hike was than just the trail alone.

He went on to Warner Springs, feeling lonely but not as thirsty as he may have otherwise been. Fellow hikers offered him a room to share. Being early in the trail, there were more questions than answers. He wondered: How fast should I hike? How long should I rest? How much should I interact with people? What was my larger goal? Was there supposed to be a larger goal?

It sounds like all of these questions were a collective work in progress during the next four months.

So, happy PCT kick-off anniversary CD. Lets walk around the block and see if we find some trail magic. I bet we will.

#pct #pacificcresttrail
#pct #pacificcresttrail

Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off

4/28/2004 was the first day of CD’s Pacific Crest Trail thru hike. April 28 is also my birthday, so we celebrate.

He kept a trail journal and has offered it to me. This is just the beginning.

#pct #pacificcresttrail

Transition to life on the trail

I know very little about his time on the PCT. The first few weeks were a time of transition and learning. He went from hiking with a friend to hiking alone. He re-organized his pack and overhauled his food plan.

Prior to being on the trail, he imagined walking and walking just to see what was over the next hill. The people and relationships that make up the trail were not really part of the plan.

Human connection

Walking over 2500 miles by yourself in order to better appreciate human relationships seems counter-intuitive. In 2020, it is also an interesting topic in light of physical distancing in the face of pandemic.

CD tells me that he experienced his first trail magic just a few days into his hike.

#pct #pacificcresttrail

Trail Magic, Pacific Crest Trail Style

I was hiking through the hundred-plus degree desert sun and contemplating how much water I didn’t have. As I was reluctant to hike too far off trail for water and was pretty sure I could make it to the next source, I laid down on the side of a dirt road and put my feet up on an embankment trying to make my own shade.

Despite the heat, a family was settling in for a picnic up the road. Within a short time, the father came up and asked me where I was hiking.  He was quite excited to learn that I was, indeed, on my way to becoming a PCT through-hiker He gave me water, fruit, and Gatorade. It was just the sign that I needed to let me know that I was on the right path.

With this, CD had his first glimpse of how much larger the thru hike was than just the trail alone.

He went on to Warner Springs, feeling lonely but not as thirsty as he may have otherwise been. Fellow hikers offered him a room to share. Being early in the trail, there were more questions than answers.

Self Reflection on the Pacific Crest Trail

How fast should I hike? When and for how long should I rest? How much should I interact with people? What was my larger goal? Was there supposed to be a larger goal?

It sounds like all of these questions were a collective work in progress during the next four months.

So, every April we celebrate CD’s PCT kick-off anniversary.

In 2020, lets walk around the block and see if we find some trail magic. I bet we will.

#pct #pacificcresttrail
#pct #pacificcresttrail

Please follow our blog to hear more about CD’s hike and our other adventures.

Tips for Handling Mosquitoes While Hiking the PCT.
6 Reasons to Consider a Floor-less Tarp Tent.
Backpacking Menu: PCT Thru-Hike Edition
10 Clues That Your Husband Was A Thru – Hiker.

Throwback Blog Series: A Tour of Utah

You know it is spring in Eastern Utah when the rivers are running high, the sun is shining, and the roads are full of Colorado license plates. There is no better way to celebrate the end of seasonal ski resort employment than to leave the high country in favor of the red rocks of Utah. I started this tradition prior to meeting CD and we continued it together every May until we moved from Colorado. Utah has so much to offer that I don’t even know where to begin. While the order is irrelevant, I will start southwest, go roughly northeast but stay south of I-70 and then end southeast near the four corners.

Zion National Park is my favorite, hands down. We have been there over and over. We have hiked end to end, climbed its peaks, and waded through its slot canyons. Its red rock is made more brilliant by the Virgin river and green trees. The proximity to the town of Springdale with its cold drinks and hot breakfast doesn’t hurt either.

The Desert Pearl, in Springdale. If you are looking for a break from camping, this place is unlikely to disappoint.

Angel’s Landing is its most well known hike. It starts with switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles. It is well known that I love switch backs for the exercise alone. There is no better way to start the day.

It isn’t until after the switchbacks that this hike really separates itself from the rest. Angel’s landing is no joke in terms of exposure and drop offs.

The trail narrows to one way. There is a chain link railing. You are exposed to the depths of the valley floor, more so in some places than in others.

My first time up Angel’s Landing was with my brother. Making it to the top was a rush. Making it back down alive was even better. The next time was with CD. The rush was not as great but the feeling of relief after was even greater. The third time was with CD again. The steps felt more narrow and the valley floor seemed a bit further than before. With that, I decided that three times up Angel’s Landing is likely enough for me.

We looked for other routes with bigger and better views. Observation Point hit the mark. It is a more physically challenging and longer hike. It climbs 2100 feet and rises 700 feet above Angel’s Landing.

Back country sites are accessible from the main entrance. Below is the view from our camp site along the West Rim Trail. It is worth noting that we started the hike with a crowd headed to Angel’s Landing. As soon as we turned away from that route, we were on our own. It was super windy and we were surrounded by dead trees. We woke up in the morning to distance runners coming down the rim trail.

Kolob Canyon is Zion’s less known North entrance. It offers day hikes and backpacking trips with few other people around. Our back country site was in an old river bottom. Much of the hiking was in loose sand. Snakes loved it.

If you have seen the wide open spaces of Zion and are ready for a change, the Narrows may be your next stop. Do your research. Be informed. Watch the weather. These slot canyons are beautiful and it is good to pay attention if you plan to do much exploring. CD met a friend there for his fortieth birthday and they didn’t end up finishing their chosen route because of flash floods.

The Narrows: Zion

From Zion, you can get to Bryce Canyon in a short day. It is higher and cooler. This is great in the hot months and not as great in the early spring. It is smaller and more compact. The Hoo-doos are unique and impressive. I tend to pass through Bryce westbound to Zion or eastbound to Capital Reef but CD is a fan of the views at sunrise. He also has told me good things about a coin operated shower at the general store.

Apparently, he has a great memory of enjoying a post-hike beer from the general store while sitting on the lodge porch at sunset after a hot shower.

Bryce Canyon

I rarely hear people talk about Capital Reef but we have found it to offer great hiking, impressive rock formations, and amazing views. I don’t recommend hiking there if you are hoping to meet people and chit chat over hand fulls of trail mix. The trails are largely empty.

Capital Reef

At this point it is worth mentioning the San Rafeal Swell. It offers slot canyons with campsites tucked away on BLM land. My advice: Go there, if you have time. Bring your own shade. Do what I did and go with someone that has been there before – hopefully someone proficient at navigating slot canyons. Goblin Valley State Park is near by and may be a better choice if it is your first time in the area.

The price was right but shade was sparse.
This was our route to enter the slot canyon.

Canyonlands is easier to access from Moab than from the Southwest. The views are endless. The hiking is interesting and fun. Regions of the park have names like Needles, Island to Sky, and The Maze. Mountain biking the White Rim Road loop is popular and it is on my to-do list for sure. We have not camped in the back country but we have camped just outside the park and there are beautiful starry skies.

Canyonlands

Arches is a straight shot from I-70 and is complimented by it’s close relationship with Moab. The Colorado River provides contrast to the red rock backdrop. The La Salle mountains rise up with snowy peaks and provide further contrast and depth to the scenery.

Moab is like the old west meeting a trendy art gallery. The restaurants and shops are full of personality and there are tour companies to suite everyone’s needs. You can sign up for 4 x 4 tours, mountain biking, hiking, river rafting, paddle boarding, horse back riding, and pretty much anything else you can imagine.

While I cannot speak to the tour companies, I can attest to the hiking and camping. Hikes range from easy to more difficult. Arches is typically one of the more crowded Utah parks but for good reasons. Campsites are dotted along the river banks and range from rustic and isolated to developed and popular. I recommend them all!

Double Arch

Just a bit East and on BLM land, you can find Castleton.

Castleton Tower from above the parking lot

Pretty much everyone was there to climb. CD climbed with friends while I hiked and then read a book at the campsite. It was great. Everyone was happy.

Hiking up to start the climb. It looked taller in person.
This is where I turned around and CD went up
Our tent – in the shade!

If you don’t climb, it is still beautiful to see but you will likely enjoy camping somewhere else more than camping here. This was packed with climbers and surrounded by wide open desert.

Dropping down to the four corners, you can hop into Mesa Verde. While the cliff dwellings are interesting and worth seeing, you may find a bit of crowd. My favorite feature is its proximity to Durango. Check out the Silverton Narrow Gauge railway and head North to Ouray or East towards Pagosa Springs on your way out of town.

These petroglyphs are at Mesa Verde. You can see similar markings along I-70 just West of 191.

I could keep going on and on about Utah but will stop myself here for now. Utah is dense with natural wonders. I recommend going there and seeing it first hand.

Red rock dust from ten years ago still stains my hiking boots. Seeing it makes me smile.

What next?

I imagine that this week is off to an unusual start for pretty much everyone. What are we doing? Day dreaming. Art projects. Cooking. Cleaning. Making phone calls. Waiting. Working on the Sprinter.

I think I mistook the past 20+ years of trying hiding out and escaping the fast pace of society for social distancing. Imagine if that were actually social distancing by current standards. There would be endless beautiful views, amazing food, and bottomless cocktails shared among small groups of friends. Those were the days!

Social distancing by current standards looks a bit different. I find myself surrounded by laundry baskets, dirty dishes, and restless kids. I am still working some, so CD could actually speak more to the extent of these things. In any case, our main sunset view is that of neighbor’s houses and yards that are off limits for now.

The empty street and yard view may be a bit rough for the kids. Grace started the day by writing a letter to a neighbor. The first line read: “I will never forget you”. I guess 3 days is equal to 3 years in kids time.

At least our Sprinter project is likely to benefit from this social slow down. CD made a run to the hardware store late last week. He is drilling holes and getting ready to put up paneling. I am not typically one to pushes for aesthetics ahead of function but the transition from the grey Sprinter ceiling to light wood paneling has been high on my list. I look forward to the transition from passenger van to tiny home. I also look forward to my old style of social distancing.

Here are a few examples.

Sprinter DIY. Colorado.
Sprinter DIY. An unexpected day on Pike’s Peak.
Sprinter DIY. Yurt trip.
Sprinter. First time up Angel’s Landing. Utah.
Sprinter DIY. Hike to Iceberg lake. Glacier National Park.
Sprinter DIY. Why aren’t I here now? Home.
Home.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. We usually have a big St. Patrick’s day party. We cancelled this year’s just after buying a few cases of Guinness. CD has a plan to walk to friends houses tomorrow and leave Guinness on porches. Stay home. Drink Guinness – its good for you.

Sprinter Conversion: Back at it.

CD decided its time for insulation. I was so happy that I drove to Hood River to pick up Thinsulate. If you are anywhere near Hood River we recommend heading over to DIY Van. They are the best!

Here is a short picture documentary of the insulation project.

Removing the head liner.
Putting in the insulation and getting into every crack.
More insulation stuffing.

For our 144 passenger van, we purchased 39 linear feet of insulation. CD is not quite done yet but agrees that we have about the right amount. Our only other expense was a new pair of scissors.

While CD was busy wrestling Thinsulate, the kids and their friends practiced their camping skills. As you can see, they are ready!

Sprinter Conversion: Insulation

CD decided its time to put insulation in our Sprinter. I gladly drove from the Willamette Valley to Hood River, Oregon to pick up Thinsulate at DIY Van.

Here is a short picture documentary of the insulation project.

Removing the head liner.
Putting in the insulation and getting into every crack.
More insulation stuffing.

For our 144 passenger van, we purchased 39 linear feet of insulation. CD is not quite done yet but agrees that we have about the right amount. Our only other expense was a new pair of scissors.

While CD was busy wrestling Thinsulate, the kids and their friends practiced their camping skills. As you can see, they are ready!

Please follow our blog for other updates!

Sleeping 4 in a Sprinter: Budget Friendly Guide.
Suttle Lake, Oregon: Camping Review.

Sprinter Camping Conversion: Our stagnant progress.

I imagined our biggest debate would be which color wood to install or where to put the overhead lighting.

We planned to begin the next phase of our camping conversation in January. It is January. Our progress has stalled.

CD was halfway to Eugene to pick up the roof rails when he changed course. He dropped by to chat with the fellow Sprinter owner that we met a few weeks ago. They shared thier visions and ideas.

CD turned around and drove home. His hesitated to spend money on factory roof rails. Our friend endorsed a much less expensive option.

So here we are, along with many other Sprinter owners. Part of our dream is financial sustainability.

When should we get the factory products? When should we improvise? How much extra work and time are we willing to put in to each step in order to save a few dollars?

It wasn’t hard for us to answer these questions. We are on board to save money if the alternate plan provides the same result in the end.

What is holding us up now?

Our Sprinter works well for us. We are happy. In just a few weeks last spring, CD pounded together a camping conversion far superior to any other way we have traveled.

In order to move forward, the current conversion needs to be dismantled. Not only will we not be able to camp in our Sprinter, we will not be able to use our Sprinter.

Our garage will be full of dismantled food boxes and beds.

Nothing in an Oregon winter is free of rain and mud. I can’t guarentee the wood will be safe.

So, here we are. I anticipate that one day we will just get up and start tearing the Sprinter apart. It will be both sad and exciting. I will be impatient and restless. It will be worth it.

Until then, here is a bit about Sprinter life in Oregon in the winter.

The Hackleman Old Growth forest is easy to drive past. It can be found on the South side of Highway 20 between Corvallis and Sisters. The parking lot is paved and easy to access. A sign marks the trail.

After driving past it dozens of times, stopping there this year was an obvious choice. When driving the Sprinter, it seems like trail heads and parks pop up everywhere!

Short trails or boardswalks are an excuse to make hot chocolate and play a game of cards or two.

It is about the journey; we stop often

Our afternoon base camp at the old growth. It is raining but we were warm and happy
This is a slug. The slugs are one of a handful of things that I found amazing when I moved here. This isn’t the biggest we have seen.

Are you looking for a hike in the high country? Colorado Winter Hikes.

Some places are so great that it doesn’t seem right to put them out there on the internet for everyone to see.

Most places are already fully accessible online. They are all likely more crowded than before the internet existed. The crowds are not because of my little blog. In the interest of sharing some great spots, I will start will a great one.

Mayflower Gulch is the sort of hike that you see in magazines or on television. It is picturesque.

It was a weekday afternoon type of hike for us when we lived in Summit County. According to the internet it is a 5.9 mile loop. It didn’t seem that far. The trail head is less than 10 miles towards Leadville from I-70. The road is well traveled.

As with many hikes in the high country, I recommend it in the winter. With snow it is quiet and light. There will likely be a few other people there but they will all be smiling.

Skis with climbing skins, Nordic skis, snow shoes, or boots will all typically work well for this trek. Old mining cabins mark the end of the trail and offer a good place for lunch with a side of inspiration.

What should we do with our spare Sprinter seats?

We store the seats from our Sprinters in our garage.

Three months into owning the first one, we dismantled the bed, put the seats back in, and sold it in its original passenger van form. It was easy to sell.

It was nice to re-claim our garage. Sprinter seats aren’t small.

We chose the passenger van for the windows and we don’t regret it! The kids can see out. We can see out. We can lay on the bed and look at the view. We can also chose to put up the blinds and act as if we don’t have windows at all.

I sometimes wonder if I would be claustrophobic without the windows. When the blinds are up, I sometimes lift a corner just to look out at the world.

This was our van when we bought it.

The seats do not move easily. The back seat is especially hostile. It is bolted to the wall of the van and the other seats needs to be removed to get it out.

Just imagine the possibilities of easily changing a van from a camper to a passenger van. You could sleep in it one day and take all of our friends to the beach the next.

We haven’t invented the camper conversion that would make this dream a reality but will let you know if that changes!

In the meantime, I am voting for selling our seats and re-claiming our garage for the second time.

Would you like to buy two rows of 2015 Sprinter seats? We are offering a great deal to the first person that stops by to pick them up! Just think of all of the kids you can take to soccer if you had two more rows of seats!

Here we are in Utah. Deep in the heart of gridlock

For us, a bed in a van is so much better than seats! The soccer car pool will have to go on without us but if any one needs to lay down and rest, we have just the vehicle for that!