First and foremost, Aunt Pat of Maine-fame had surgery yesterday and is in the hospital. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. We love you, Aunt Pat!
While we make our way through Wyoming, we thought we would answer some questions that we’ve received via text and emails (people are especially interested in the poo-powder). Here we go!
Are you sick of eating any particular food? Craving/missing anything surprising?
I thought we’d be eating like we do at home, with lots of chopping and spices. This has not been the case! We have been leaning on easy to prepare foods with minimal clean-up. We eat oatmeal or English muffins for breakfast, usually some type of sandwich for lunch, and easy dinners (salads, sandwiches, bagel pizza, rice and beans, spaghetti, etc). We also get some good cheeses, fruit, trail mix, and crackers to have throughout the day. We found out the hard way that too many beans/full-fat yogurt can result in bloat, which is not fun (especially while living in a van). When we get sick of things, we try to have a day out with inexpensive eats (burritos, salads, pizza) and that helps us reset. I crave daily hot showers with water pressure and hot drinks, mostly. It can be messy and time-intensive to make coffee with the French press. The shower bag is great, but a “real” shower feels incredible. I have also found it very surprising how hard it is to recycle on federal lands. Most campgrounds have trash but no recycling.
Who were the questionable fellow campers that caused the early departure from Gila (or better question is what did they do)?
There was an older man who asked us about our van (he had an older VW model) and he was a little out of it, like he was on sedatives or something. He wasn’t going to stay there, but the overall remoteness of the Gila contributed to the creepiness. In general, we have felt very safe on the road and people have been great across the board.
I note there has not been an update about how the poo powder is working. Is this a product that we should all be using in our homes – particularly those of us with a litter box? 🙂
Ha! We have not used the poo powder! We have been fortunate that all of our campgrounds have had either flush or vault/pit (composting) toilets. It is waiting under the van bed. Will keep you posted (without too many details, ha). You can read about “Ever wonder who cleans the toilets?” by the National Park Service here. Good news! They are looking for volunteers!
Have you learned anything about yourself that has surprised you?
So far, it is that we need very little (material-wise) to have a good time. I thought this might be the case, but I am happy to find that it is true. I have also been surprised at how much we rely on technology and creature comforts and how nice it can be to not worry about keeping up with things. I find myself excited but a little squirrelly when I use the internet after days without it. I also have always believed that people are good, and we have been happy to reach out to others and vice versa.
Have you guys actually been using the scale (I would think it would be hard to keep your weight on with your vigorous schedules and the food limitations)?
Haha, we have the scale and it makes itself known by falling out of the van all the time. If these falls haven’t impacted the calibration, Tim has lost weight and I have roughly remained the same. He weighs himself regularly and I do not. We hike about 15-30 miles a week and have to do a lot around camp, which keeps our activity levels up.
How often are you using artificial light? (if not at all or not much, I wonder how that adjustment has been – it seems ideal and healthy to me to be more in tune with the natural rhythms of the day and night). Especially in our screen-centered worlds!
We don’t use a lot of artificial light. We have our little solar lanterns that we mostly use to find our way around in the dark and read. We use headlamps around camp, but only occasionally. We get tired early and we are usually falling asleep around 9:00-10:00pm and wake up between 6:30-8:00am, depending on how tired we are. We are less tired than we were a couple of weeks ago. Since we rarely have service in our campgrounds, our phones stay on airplane mode and serve as fancy watches and flashlights!
What is Ranger’s gas mileage?
Roughly, Ranger gets about 20 miles per gallon, which isn’t terrible, considering he hauls all of our gear up mountains.
Do you sleep well in Ranger? Do you use your tent?
Yes! We regularly sleep 8-9 hours per night in Ranger. We have a 2″ memory foam topper that sits on the bed (full-size) and we can both stretch out comfortably. We crack the windows if it is hot and put the curtains down in more populated areas. We are very fortunate to have Ranger for sleeping–he protects us from animals, high winds, cold temperatures, storms, people, etc. We have used our tents in “tent only” sites that allow us freeedom from paved RV lots.
Is there anything you wish you had left at home?
We both would have brought less clothing and physical books, but other than that, we use most of what we have. I think I would streamline our boxes and maybe get smaller containers that take up less space. We would both advocate bringing less and buy what you need as you go.
Is there anything you wish you had brought?
Other than our Aeropress coffee maker and a battery-powered radio, no.
Did you make camping reservations beforehand? How do you just show up?
We have made a few reservations for Forest Service campgrounds online, only to change or cancel them, due to changes in our plans. Overall, unless you know exact dates or are only camping on the weekends, we don’t recommend reservations. They are hard to come by, and the first-come, first-serve sites allow us the flexibility to come and go as we please and change our site if necessary (loud neighbors, etc.). We have not been shut out of a campground so far.
How can you afford to take this trip?
We planned for a trip of this sort for over a year. We knew when Tim had job security, we would travel. With changes in my job, the timing was right. We had saved for Ranger, bought him in cash and planned general costs for camping. We stay in low-free/free campsites provided on public lands (not KOA or RV campsites), shop for food once a week, and don’t do many (or any) fee-based activities (rafting, climbing), which results in a less expensive trip. We also budget pretty strictly during the year to allow for travel home and for pleasure.
Those are some of the questions we have received so far. If you have a question, you can leave a comment or send us an email. We are in Laramie, Wyoming right now and we will stop one more night before we reach Grand Teton.
NOTE: If you are 62+, you are eligible for the Senior Interagency Pass. According to the NPS, “A pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. Each pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees (day use fees) at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A pass covers entrance, standard amenity fees and day use fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas (or up to four adults at sites that charge per person). Children age 15 or under are admitted free. The Senior Pass may provide a 50 percent discount on some amenity fees charged for facilities and services such as camping, swimming, boat launch, and specialized interpretive services.” This pass is currently a one-time fee of $10 in person (!) or $20 if you order by mail/online. We were just told by a ranger that the pass will increase to $85 in October. Regardless, you can find details on the Senior Pass and all other annual/lifetime passes here. We use ours all the time and are so grateful for the ability to visit our beautiful public lands.