December 3rd – December 9th, 2019
Krestova, BC – Idaho Panhandle NF near Coeur d’Alene
Finally, after months of working on my van I felt comfortable taking it on the road and my chosen date of departure had arrived. The 6 months leading up to this day had seen a long list of repairs to Truck. It started in June at my Grampas on Vancouver Island with brake pads, callipers and break lines along with repacking the ball bearings and replacing a piece of the upper control arm assembly. Then the ignition coil wire blew and with it the ignition control module so I fixed those. This work got me back to the Kootenays but along the way it became clear there was more work to do. We replaced the pitman arm (part of the suspension) and discovered my van was stuck in base timing which was why it had been pinging on my drive east and was horrible on gas. Dealing with my van was NOT what I wanted to spend my summer doing so my mom drove me down to Cascade Locks, Oregon where Frank and I began walking home. We hiked the Pacific Crest Trail north into Canada reliving memories from the summer before when we had thru-hiked the trail southbound from Canada to Mexico. Upon reaching Canada the weather took a turn for the worse and I threw in the towel. It was a good thing too because that extra month in the Kootneys was needed to get my van running properly to hit the road only a week later than initially planned.
So now here I am, it’s December 3rd early afternoon and leaving the comfort and safety of my parents. I’m 34 by the way and far from being a grown up. As long as I am pleasant to be around I am welcome to stay there and eat their food, but they do not fund any of my travels or adventures. I enjoy spending time with my parents and the solace they provide makes my current lifestyle a lot easier, especially when Truck (or myself) is in distress. 30minutes later I am in the town of Nelson, BC to hang out with a friend. I was excited to have a sense of independence again and I spent surprisingly well outside her home on a busy residential street. Nelson is a very hilly place and I lucked out with a fairly flat spot and for the first time in many days it didn’t freeze at night.
I was on the road again!
Today started with exactly the kind of stress this trip is aiming to avoid. Knuckles as white as the road itself. The warm night of rain in town had been snow on the pass. I didn’t want to be driving that road in that moment but neither did anyone else and the road was thankfully quiet. This was one of those ‘how did I not foreseen this’ kind of surprise stresses. Had I been thinking ahead I would have predicted these conditions and mentally prepared myself. But I wasn’t thinking ahead. I was caught up in the excitement of travel and so I dealt with it face to face. Breathing under control, hyper aware and controlled; just as practiced countless times both in climbing and in backroading.
The border crossing, yet another stress but this one I was thoroughly prepared for. Clear direct answers; the truth and nothing more.
Oh you want to come inside? Yes the dog is good. I’ll just sit here and answer the same questions you just asked me while you rummage through my stuff to make sure I’m safe to let in. We both know I’m legit, but I do drive a large shitty looking utility van and weed is legal in Canada now so really you’re just doing your job. Even with nothing in the van to warrant anything more than a few extra questions (such as the massive supply of food) my heart still raced. It’s the whole shebang, it’s intended to put you on edge so if you’re hiding anything you’re more likely to trip up. It’s the force. I just wish they had treats for Frank.
So much excitement and the post office in Metaline Falls wasn’t even open yet when I arrive. One final stress of the day, the best kind of stress. The kind of stress that you experience when you’re doing something that matters to you, that makes you feel vulnerable. As I packed up instant camp meals of my own creation to go out to locations all across the USA I worked through waves of doubt. In the end I assured myself that if I could eat more than 250 of them and still enjoy them then they can’t be horrible.
With that done I now had nothing I had to do so we walked around town. A charming little place that had obviously seen busier times. Several minutes down the road was Sweet Creek Falls. With the road clear the snow was easier to embrace. It was no surprise to be the only ones there, the enjoyment of which Frank made no secret.
It was hardly 3pm when we rolled up to a nearby lake. As expected the campground was closed for the season. Tired and sore from driving I parked a couple lots up from the ‘no overnight parking’ sign and called it a day. No one came by and we enjoyed the rest of the day cozy inside mentally preparing for the day ahead.
Today was the most dreaded day of my trip, and it did not turn out in the most ideal way but it did start out well. With a hike of course. We had been parked next to a couple trails and enjoyed a nature loop, unfortunately there were not more brochures to go with the numbered post through the forest but we did see some large cat prints in the snow. Further down the road we stopped again for a walk around Pend d’Orielle country park, not that it was particularly inspiring but in a way I was putting off entering Spokane.
As with anything you dread and put off eventually the time will come where you must face it. I guess I didn’t really need to stock up at Taco Bell and Trader Joes but and I ever glad I did. I arrived at TJ’s mid-afternoon thinking it would be quiet, but NOPE. It was crazy busy with people christmas shopping so I got a buggy and took my time. I cruised every isle and bought a lot more food than I was expecting but it was worth it.
This was where by day took a turn. I had intended to camp at the state park in town but it evened up taking more than an hour of driving around for me to find. By the time I arrived it was dark and my hip ached from a big day of driving. I couldn’t stand to be in the drivers seat anymore and didn’t have enough cash for the camping fee. Fuck it! I couldn’t imagine driving anymore today, I need to eat and lay flat.
Poaching campsites doesn’t make for a great nights sleep so in order to avoid any encounter with a Ranger I was up at 5am and on the road shortly after. My heart skipped a beat when I got to the entrance and it was gated, but luckily was able to let myself out. We drive through Spokane in the dark hours of early morning avoiding stress and traffic.
I had found my way to Liberty Lake, WA and it was time for our first solid hike. I did’t have much for expectations but the 10mile Liberty Lake Loop ended up being exactly what we needed to reset my nervous system. The midpoint of our hike was a old cabin but being fairly cold out we kept a move no. It wasn’t until the way down when we started running into other people and given I was trying to record a podcast episode it made for some embarrassing moments.
The trailhead had clear ‘no overnight parking’ signs so I headed up the dirt road for 5 minutes and enjoyed a quiet night in a little pull out.
I sleep great on the side of dirt roads and last night was no exception. I woke up earlier than normal feeling refreshed and alert. I prefer to believe that the reason for waking early was the excellent nights sleep but in all reality it was probably the result of water dripping onto my hand. All the door seals have been leaking since I bought the van more than 3 years ago but it has yet to be a financial priority. Relaxed I lay with my arm overhead, hand positioned directly below the rear doors. Most of the drops hit my pillow, but the one that hit my hand had me wide awake in no time.
Today was the first day I didn’t have any reason to get the day going so I moved Truck down the road to hang out in the trailhead parking where I would have access to a outhouse. Frank snoozed in bed while I enjoyed coffee, writing and brainstorming. I really enjoy slow mornings, and this wont be the last time I say that.
By mid-morning I decided it was time to get on with my day and headed into the town of Liberty Lake where I parked outside Safeway and utilized their free wifi. It’s not at all glamorous like #vanlife os often portrayed on social media, but it is the reality. I don’t have a phone plan which means all my internet access comes in the form of public wifi. My primary goal was to download trail data for my route from Washington across northern Idaho and into Missoula, Montana. My van is loaded with food so I wanted to be prepared to avoid town and move slowly. Along other tasks I also listened to the first episode of a new podcast called “I’ll Have What She’s Having’ by Amber Samaya (available…….) and it made me feel so inspired and stoked for episodes to come. And yes I just plugged my friends podcast and I have so shame in it because I want to see her succeed.
With the coming spend sufficiently lazy yet productive it was time for the next hike. A short 20min drive later and we were in Idaho hiking in the Post Falls Community Forest. We didn’t see any waterfalls but had a lovely time walking through diverse landscape dominated by ponderosa pine. The wide gently trail meandered down to and along the Spokane River before cutting up through a maze of rocky bluffs becoming narrow and steep. In the distance I could hear I-90 but the forest was quiet and aside from a couple we didn’t see any other humans.
The trailhead didn’t have any signs saying I couldn’t stay there and I was tempted to but the gate made me decide to look elsewhere. Continuing East along the semi-rural residential street I came to a wide dirt pullout out of sight from any homes and scarfed down a quick and giant salad.
In as much time as it took to make a salad and devour it someone had decided my van was ‘suspicious’ and called the police. Soon after I noticed someone outside with a flashlight and I was a little spooked. Then I hear ‘Sherrifs department’, phew it wasn’t a creeper. The officer was surprisingly friendly and assured me I could stay the night there, but had to check follow up on the call by coming or a visit. Before the station could get back to him with my background check he took off and said ‘If you have a warrant for your arrest I know where you are’. After nearly 6 years this was the first I had ever had police knock on my door and it in the end I just laughed about it.
Today was an awesome day, with 4 hikes, friendly people and delicious coffee. I was up and driving before the day light and headed into downtown Coeur d’Alene. Being a Sunday parking was free so I slid into a easy spot to remove myself from once town got busy and headed for a walk. Downtown is a huge park and great patch of wilderness called Tubb Hill. The rocks lakeside trail reminded me of parks in Victoria BC, although the floral assemblage definitely did not. We hiked most of the way around the hill and then up to the summit before heading back to the van. I made Frank cozy and took off to find coffee. Turns out I was parked next to a delicious roaster where I spent a couple hours charging and writing while frank snoozed.
Leaving town I checked out Higgins Point and being a sunny Sunday it was packed with people in search of Eagle photos. Everyone was in a great mood and while the Eagles were nothing like in Brackendale, BC I couldn’t help by smile watching people enjoy them flying around.
The day continued with more hiking which included nearby Mineral Ridge and it’s side trails, followed by a checking out the Beauty Bay Rec area which paled in comparison to Mineral Ridge. The hike at Mineral Ridge was the closest we got to any views on our trip so far and we met some really friendly people.
Wanting to do more hiking in the area the next day I headed to my desired trailhead and discovered it was also a National Forest campground. Closed, but whatever trailhead is fair game.
Today was my favourite kind of day on the road; one where I dont drive anywhere. The night had been super cold but I slept well. So well that when I woke I had no idea where I was. This is a common occurrence on the road but today the confusion lasted until I peeked outside and remembered where I was. Oh yeah! We’re at a trailhead for the hike we want to do today, how convenient.
After a slow morning cuddling, sipping coffee and listening to the audio book “Becoming Supernatural: How Common People are Doing the Uncommon” by Joe Dispenza we headed out for a hike. Immediately the trail began climbing and it continued to do so until we reached the summit of Mt.Coeur d’Alene. Despite there being little to no views we enjoyed our day in the forest and were surprised by a run down cabin at the summit. Being the only people on the trail, which remained in the shade and frozen all day made for the perfect opportunity to record a podcast episode.
To most our day may seem completely unremarkable, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. The slow nature, getting my heart pumping and legs burning on a big climb and a happy dog by my side smiling up at me for giving him such a good life.
I was ready for bed by 4pm but instead I cracked a bottle of rum and put pen to paper. Literally, my computer was so cold it wouldn’t turn on.
Total Distance Travelled: 529km
Quote of the week:
“Imagine if we were all dogs, we would be sniffing each others butts right now”
~said by a young girl at Higgins Point while our dogs got to know each other
Pic of the week:
Thank you for reading my stories!
If you are interested in more updates I am on Facebook as ‘Tideline to Alpine Photography and Adventure’ and on Instagram @tidelinetoalpine. I also have a podcast about backpacking with dogs called ‘WALK 9 Radio’ which you can find on iTunes, Spotify and many more.