SE Oregon * Hart Mountain

We left Crater Lake on Monday, September 29. It was another beautiful day with blue skies and crisp fall air. We meant to zip though Klamath Falls, but once we stopped for gas we remembered that we needed to buy chains in case we encountered snow and ice in the mountains, and then we came across a local taqueria so of course we had to stop and get some burritos because you never know when you’re going to find a diamond in the rough (we’ll keep looking for that diamond).

Our pursuit to find fun things to do in cute little towns fell short in Lakeview, where the most interesting thing going on was Dennis, the guy working at the gas station. If we had room in our van we would have invited him along.

Although it was early evening we decided to keep on driving north to the tiny town of Plush, the nearest community to Hart Mountain, instead of camping in the immediate area. Our friend Andy’s recommendation carried a lot of weight plus we knew that the hot springs were just around the bend, so off we went.

Road Rules

We have a few rules of the road. One of our rules is that we won’t drive at night because of three reasons:

1. We don’t want to miss the scenery
2. We don’t want to drive off a mountain cliff
3. We can’t really see that well in the dark (refer back to number 2)

It was our third night on the road and we were already breaking one of our rules.


As Harry drove the sun went down and we experienced the most incredible sunset ever! Not only were the colors gorgeous but the Hart Mountain range appeared out of nowhere, illuminated by glorious colors.

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Plush, Oregon

We rolled into Plush in the dark of night, stopping at the cutest little general store. The woman working was an amusing spark plug full of spiritual energy and she encouraged us to keep driving up the dark mountainside to find the hot springs. She said she does the drive alone late at night all the time. We were convinced (if not a little nervous) so off we went. Not only was the road unpaved, it was washboard gravel (which makes for a very loud and bumpy drive), but we were – again – surrounded by the pitch dark. Luckily there weren’t any other cars in sight so slow and steady went the van, around and around turns and up steep pitches, breaking all the rules as we trudged up the mountain.

Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge 

We finally arrived at the hot springs and campground. Harry parked the van and there we sat in total silence in the midst of several antelope. We did it! But we really had no idea what we did because it was so dark. After donning our headlamps we came across the hot spring which was nicely contained by four man-made stone walls.

Of course we got right in! The stars were out, the air was chilly, and we were totally alone submerged in a beautiful hot spring. On the count of three we turned off our headlamps and blended in with the night.


Sleeping in the Van: Night 3

Transitioning the van from day to night and back again had become much easier and faster now that there were systems in place (I need to have systems!). Knowing that the side door was wide open made my mind relax and I fell to sleep pretty quickly… but I still wore my headlamp wrapped around my wrist for immediate access because, well, you just never know when Big Foot will pay you a visit. We woke up with antelope roaming around and we finally got to see the landscape that surrounded us.

Oregon Van


Oregon: Crater Lake National Park

We left Ashland, Oregon on Sunday, September 28 after breakfast burritos with our friend Andy. We drove back up through Medford to stock up on supplies and then headed northeast to Crater Lake National Park. Visiting this beautiful place together has been on our list for a long time; Harry’s never been, and the one time I went involved a harrowing experience with my elementary school friend Tracy Weber, some snow and ice, and an obstructed view. Needless to say Harry and I were both ready to experience the striking beauty of Crater Lake.

Crater Lake
We arrived Sunday afternoon with blue skies overhead. We carefully drove around the east rim and stopped at several viewing points to take photos in the late sun. I must admit that the lake was amazing, but I wasn’t exactly blown away (get the volcano reference?). I think I was just tired and didn’t feel like dealing with the other handful of visitors all vying for the best photo ever. We decided to call it a day and find a camping spot, feeling like Monday morning was going to be pretty special.
We parked our van at a trail head in the national forest and were thrilled to find ourselves actually camping FOR REAL in our van. There was one other camper van across from us in the lot but for the most part we were totally alone.
Harry whipped up a great dinner on the camp stove (which he had to take out of the box) while I constructed some window coverings out of our pack towels (ghetto or clever, you decide). I didn’t want the guy across the lot, or Big Foot for that matter, to watch us sleep.
IMG_3975First Supper
And then it got dark. Really dark, like the kind of dark you get from being under a canopy of trees in the middle of a big forest. The kind of dark that’s really deep and quiet. And it was only 7:00. So we sat inside the van and played Gin Rummy, making up rules as we went along because neither one of us could really remember how to play. I’m pretty sure I was the overall winner.
We crawled into bed by the soft light of our lantern and settled in for a good night sleep. And then I had a wee claustrophobia-induced panic attack. It was SO dark and I felt SO trapped! Once Harry opened the sliding side door, fresh air rushed in and I felt much better — it’s always reassuring to know where the escape route is. For good measure I wrapped my head lamp around my wrist where I could find it in a split second to ward off anything threatening (like Big Foot or the pitch darkness of night).
Crater Lake Day Two 
We survived the night without incident and made it back up to Crater Lake first thing in the morning. And that’s when the magic happened! The sky was so blue and the views were just stunning. We were so in awe of the deep blue water we couldn’t take our eyes away. We went on the only hike that goes down to the water’s edge and found total solitude and peace.
We left Crater Lake feeling jazzed and excited for our next Oregon adventure.

Good-bye Portland * Hello Van

It’s hard to believe that we left Portland eleven days ago! We are having such an incredible time that the memories of our stressful last week in town have long slipped away. What an emotional roller coaster ride that week was for us! Between our ever growing to-do list, saying good-bye to dear friends, and eating a lot of good P-town food, we weren’t sure if we were ever going to be able to leave. But we did! And we are forever grateful for all the love and support we received along the way. Our community of friends, family and neighbors truly helped us out in so many ways — Gracious!

The Beginning

We drove out of Portland on Saturday, September 26 at 10:30 am. Our goal was to make it to Ashland (in southern OR) by late afternoon to catch the wedding reception of a dear family friend. Three hundred miles later we arrived on Mt. Ashland to celebrate Natalie and Ryan. It was wonderful to see our “adopted Oregon family” and to share big hugs before we parted ways.
Since we were in Ashland we made a game time decision to spend the night with Harry‘s grad school friend, Andy Fischer. It was fun to see him and hear his thoughts about how we should spend the next few days. We weren’t even on the road for 12 hours before our plans changed! But we really liked his suggestions and local knowledge is exactly what we’re counting on to shape our travels.

The First Night

The Top 10 Reasons Sleeping in our Van on the First Night was so Memorable:

10. Andy lives in a city neighborhood and we were parked in his side yard next to his Subaru with the tail end of our van hanging over the sidewalk.
9. We realized that when we turned our head lamps on people could see right inside the van (so much for tinted windows).
8. Several people walked by with their dogs and curiously watched as we got ready for bed.
7. When we finally got up on the platform in our sleeping bags we did a happy dance!
6. When our happy dance ended I realized that although we had a lot of head room, and plenty of room to roll over, I felt kinda claustrophobic.
5. I manged to work through my pending psychological meltdown by taking some deep breaths.
4. We were actually sleeping in our van!
3. We both slept incredibly well because our bed is seriously comfortable and also because we were both exhausted from the previous week’s emotional and stressful task of packing up our lives and leaving Portland.
2. When we rolled out of bed (well, we actually have to slide out of bed) the next morning Andy‘s neighbor stopped to chat about traveling, etc — and this happened even before I’d gone inside to use the bathroom.
1. We actually slept in our van!
Andy Van