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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
7 yrs and 6 days - end of the road

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Glancing Off the Wall

Oct 14, 2015
by John

Leaving the Oregon Coast in search of inland treasures helped us realize that we were starting to become a little road weary. Every day felt like a heavy Sunday afternoon, drowsy yet mildly coherent. We had been told by Pan-Am veterans that there would come a time we would hit a wall, a break from our travels would be in order. As luck would have it, making new friends and visiting those that are life long was the perfect antidote.

It’s easy to say that a trip such as ours is life altering. Living through it is far from being easy. Yes, we no longer have the stress of “normal” daily lives like regular 9-5s, still, life on the road is entirely different from being on vacation. Viva Las Vegas is not how it really goes. Describing it is almost impossible. We could start to rattle off what a single day is like, becoming trivially lost in the weeds. Time is blended in an entirely different way, consciousness becomes more focused and refined in the absence of distractions. Importance is declared more than it is defined.

Simply put, we all walk the same planet in different ways. A long term trip is not an escape, it’s more of an immersive experience in self and others. Each day we become more in tune with what is happening naturally in nature. The weather is a large factor. Rain, snow, sunshine… we are ever increasingly a partner in its dance. The concerto ushers in highs and lows, we wax and wane like the surf, growing closer to the harmony of the earth. Each day we are drawn deeper to an understanding, one that is not entirely understood. Our hearts are lighter, our gaze deeper, each step more confident than the last. Fearing fear over that of living, letting go of everything we thought we once knew.

The wall that started to present itself wasn’t due to lack of fun, excitement, or natural wonder. Our internal reckoning has been absent of those we hold so dear. Standing on a precipice holding each others’ hands is phenomenal, our sadness grows in that our friends and family could not be here too. It is a hard line to cope with. The more we travel the greater the distance from many of those we left behind. Nothing will ever be the same, how amazing, wonderful, and sad.

Our travels have evolved as we do, like all things in life. When we started to falter new friends were presented to us. Lost World Expedition (Luis and Lacey) happened to be back in the states on a break from their European tour and after messaging for over a month we ran into Alaska 2 Argentina (Liz, Jay, and Yoshi). Sharing stories and experiences over food was reinvigorating, reliving our own tales of travel creates an almost overwhelming perspective of how far we have come. Visiting our life-long friends Craig, Robin, Little (now Medium) Craig, and Cole was completely centering. The love and understanding we have for each other was almost too much. Life was speaking and we are fortunate enough to be listening. Yes Luis, it is most definitely about the people.

The Great Mistake, Times Two

In the past two weeks I have backed the van into a redwood and a dumpster. Both times escaping major catastrophe with minor scrapes and bruises. Our Aluminess box has a cute little dent, marking our first boo boo. The grill on the spare tire will live a life misshapen. Maybe I have become too comfortable or complacent, possibly a bit too lost in my own mind. Never-the-less, both events demonstrate one’s state.

When I hit the tree we had just completed an 11ish mile hike among ancient redwoods. I was calm and almost euphoric from the forest. I brushed it off and later recalled how laid back I was about it. My former self would have been royally pissed off, internally torturing myself regarding my stupidity. That’s exactly what started to happen when I crunched the grill into the dumpster. I was stressed over the melee that had unfolded in Yosemite Valley, nothing extraordinary, just a reminder about how some people just don’t care. It’s apparent there is a long road ahead for me to fully shed the chains I drag. Who knows what warts, scrapes, and bangs the van will have at the end of our journey, each a story and lesson all to themselves.

What We Did

Crater Lake
We weren’t sure about heading inland just to visit Crater Lake. Boy are we happy we listened to all of the locals. The drive in through the Umpqua National Forest and out past the Rogue River Gorge were remarkable. Crater Lake itself is fabulous, all together it is a must do. The Pinnacles hike is a nice easy break from driving. We drove around the east rim and eventually made the decision to skip part of the west rim (mostly because the weather turned sour).

Crater Lake, OR, USA


Pumice Castle, Crater Lake, OR, USA

Quite a puny castle if you ask me

Phantom Ship, Crater Lake, OR, USA

Hey, that ship is made out of stone

Pinnacles, Crater Lake, OR, USA

Ummm, we're in public

Rogue River Gorge, OR, USA

I thought coming here meant we'd be eating a lot of food

California Coast
We skipped some of the Oregon coast to head inland but a really friendly local family told us that the Northern California Coast is similar so we headed there from Crater Lake through the Redwoods. The winding road through the giant trees shares glimpses of the bolder strewn shores. We eventually popped out to the wonder of the ocean and shared new memories with wonderful new friends.


Too tame for the Ex-Presidents

Fort Bragg, CA, USA

California hospitality

Fort Bragg, CA, USA

Yoshi's world, pretty badass

Redwood National and State Parks
Head deep enough into a forest, where silence overcomes the soul, you will not be overrun by fear but rather peace. Your heart will understand this place, this earth, and all of the preciousness in life. The Miner’s Ridge hike is one of the most moving experiences I have had so far. The ancient forest calls.

Miner's Ridge Trail, Redwood NP, CA, USA

There's dufus

Avenue of the Giants, CA, USA

This tree is about 50 of my bootys wide

Eastern Sierras and Inyo National Forest
Mandi decided we should enter Yosemite from the northeast through the Sierras, how genius. We stayed close to the Yosemite National Park border to get in a couple of hikes, spending our evenings and nights free camping in the Inyo National Forest. The fall colors are breathtaking, the landscape as equally moving.

Eastern Sierras, CA, USA

Yippie yi yo kayah

Mono Lake, CA, USA

Ha, that lake has the kissing disease

Inyo National Forest, CA, USA

Yup, they ran power lines right there

Inyo National Forest, CA, USA

In yo face!

Inyo National Forest, CA, USA

I wish our AT&T bars looked like those golden trees

Tioga Lake, Inyo National Forest, CA, USA

Dam, that pic would have been perfect

The Gaylor Lakes hike was tough, at over 10,000 ft in elevation it kicked our asses. We were reminded of the Dempster Highway as we drove the Tioga road. What a truly wondrous place. Most of the campgrounds were closed since it is end of season, we managed to free camp without incident. Our nights were sleepless as we worried about bears trying to break into the van, never happened. Mandi joked how we spent months in grizzly territory and now were on full alert for the Yosemite black bears, damn hoodlums. The Wawona Hotel is phenomenal (we didn’t stay just had breakfast). Magnificent, magnificent, magnificent!

Middle Gaylor Lake, Yosemite, CA, USA

Puff, puff, break. Who freaking hikes at 10k feet!

Upper Gaylor Lake, Yosemite, CA, USA

Can you get hantavirus from drinking the water?

Tioga Road, Yosemite, CA, USA

The frowny faced grill, how clairvoyant

Tioga Road, Yosemite, CA, USA

Makes me want to run and flap my arms

Tenaya Lake, Yosemite, CA, USA

John Muir bathtub, uh huh

Olmsted Point, Yosemite, CA, USA

I'm tellin' ya, there's an army of plague ridden chipmunks out there

Yosemite Valley, Yosemite, CA, USA

Dome, dome, goose

Yosemite Valley, Yosemite, CA, USA

O Captain! My Captain!

Navigating by 'USA' tag - Navigate by Date
Say what? (2)
Oct 14, 2015 at 06:48 PM
Yep, Crater Lake and the Sierra's are amazing! Glad you got to meet new friends, and old. Luis IS right, it's all about the people and, as any long term traveler knows, that in addition to getting travel burnout, you'll also become to understand that only other people living such as you do will ever fully understand. After our 14mth RTW backpacking adventure previously, we still find many of our friends and family who refer to it as "that long vacation" which, as you have already found, is anything but. A vacation is 2 weeks in a resort with room service for most, and life on the road is more about border crossings and break downs, and cold showers. But, it's also about rediscovering your authentic self and finding magic in the everyday and in TIME, that often elusive yet most important commodity. Keep enjoying the magic!
Oct 20, 2015 at 12:55 PM
We cannot wait to share a campfire with you guys!
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