Welcome to our new monthly update series! This is where we will share everything that we've been up to since hitting the road. While we still plan to create blog posts on specific destinations and topics, this series is more like a diary for you to follow along on our trip. Stay tuned each month for new updates on what we’ve been up to along the way:
- Month 2 - Best Slot Canyons of Utah
- Month 3 - Hidden Places in Utah
- Month 4 in the Canadian Rockies
- Why we decided to quit our jobs and pursue vanlife
Sleepless in Seattle
To be fair, the title here doesn’t accurately describe our time in Seattle as we slept in every day, but were desperate for a catchy title. After leaving home and hitting the road a few hours late, we were lucky that the border wait was short and the friendly agent only asked us a few questions before wishing us the best on our adventure. This border crossing was certainly unlike any other we have experienced in the past.
We were on a mission to catch the last factory tour of the day at the Boeing Factory in Everett. It was already passed lunch and the last tours start at 4pm! We pushed through and arrived, only a few minutes after the tour started, with Bettina running to the entrance while Kyle parked Swifty. They literally held the bus for us, and we are very grateful!
The Boeing Factory in Everett is absolutely immense. Our jaws dropped when we walked into the main building, the largest building in the world by volume (472 million cubic feet / 13.3 million cubic metres). Seeing the gigantic 747’s moving along the production line was a special avgeek moment for Kyle. Unfortunately, pictures are prohibited so you will just have to take our word for it for how cool it really was!
The next few days we toured around Seattle, catching up with friends, and indulging more than once at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, which has THE BEST pastries that we have tried on this side of the Atlantic. COVID-19 was on our minds, as we kept our distance and practiced better hand washing than usual, but we still went out to drink and eat, and there was only a mild level of concern in the city.
Waterfalls – Oregon vs. Iceland
Soon enough it was time that we were really hitting the road. As we have been to Seattle multiple times before and we were staying with friends, it didn’t really feel like we had truly started our trip yet. Heading South into Oregon, we were off to new places and our first night in Swifty. Our first night actually turned out to be one of our worst nights as the campground we stayed at had freight trains rolling by on the hour throughout the night. We were right next to the tracks and every time a train passed, Swifty would shake and we would wake up from the noise.
Luckily it was sunshine and blue skies the next day as we quickly toured Multnomah Falls, stocked up on supplies in Portland, and headed into the mountains to find Abiqua Falls.
The hike to the falls was steep and muddy, but didn’t take too long. The reward at the end was breathtaking and totally worth the hike. Abiqua Falls is set in an amphitheater like setting of basalt columns.
Our waterfall tour of Oregon continued with a visit to Silver Falls State Park, an undiscovered gem. Here you can complete the Trail of Ten Falls, featuring the famous South Falls. A 177 feet (54 meter) curtain of water falls over the cliff, and you are invited to walk behind the falls. It was at this point we had a bit of deja-vu without our previous trips to Iceland. Abiqua Falls had us thinking of Svartifoss, and South Falls of Seljalandfoss. Who knew you could see so much so close to home. You can read up on our Iceland adventures here.
We weren’t done with Oregon though. A trip through Umpqua National Forest on our water to Crater Lake allowed us to take a relaxing dip at Umpqua Hot Spings, and take in Toketee and Watson Falls. Umpqua Hot Springs can be very popular and crowded at times, so we were lucky to have a pool to ourselves for most of the time, though we thought it was a bit busy for a random Tuesday morning in March.
The next day we made it to Crater Lake and were instantly rewarded with amazing views of this fascinating lake. Did you know that Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States?
Interestingly there are no inlets to fill Crater Lake, so it is completely filled via rain and snow. Even more interesting is that there are also no outlets, and nobody really knows where the water goes!
Spelunking in Lava Beds National Monument
We planned to camp at Lava Beds National Monument for only one night on our way South to Nevada.
Once we arrived though, we were loving the (new to us) warm weather and took the day to relax. The next day, we hid out underground and explored some of the many caves in the park. Exploring these caves gave us a new appreciation for true darkness, as we walked far underground in the cave system.
Our favorite cave was Golden Dome. It was clear once we were inside where the cave got it's name from as the ceiling shimmered in gold. When you looked closely though, the gold color comes from tiny water droplets that form on bacteria on the cave rock.
Winter weather was fast approaching, so we continued on to Reno, having to hunker down in Susanville for a few hours as the highway was closed due to high winds for over-height vehicles, and Swifty counted as an over-height vehicle! We made it to the Biggest Little City in the World in the evening and spent a few nights in hotels, our first hotels since hitting the road.
Uncertain Times in Reno
Our time in Reno was great in that we got to ride out the Winter storm from inside a hotel room, but it created a lot of anxiety and stress for us as the COVID-19 situation dramatically worsened in the United States during this time. We were bombarded with daily news updates, panic on social media, and messages urging us to stop traveling. We went back and forth for days on what we should be doing, with our situation being more complex than may first meet the eye. We passed these days, with our newly rekindled love of red wine and dark chocolate, which helped us get through the worst times.
Solitude on The Loneliest Road in America
We decided to continue our adventure as we would be safest camping in the countryside, automatically self-isolating.We set off on the Loneliest Road in America, which cuts straight across Nevada from the California to the Utah border. The name dates back to a Life magazine article from 1986, which the state re-purposed as a marketing slogan.We were thoroughly impressed by the diverse sights along the way.
We had two more refreshing dips in some of the many natural hot springs near the road, and experienced true solitude away from everything.
Although, surprisingly, cell reception was great the entire way and we were able to keep everyone updated about our adventures on Instagram. We didn't have any real expectations for the Loneliest Road in America, which caused us to be surprised by the dramatic mountain ranges, old ghost towns, and everything in between.
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument – A Relatively Undiscovered Gem
The Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is not well-known, but contains some very well-known natural attractions like The Wave. You need to have a permit to visit the Wave, however you either have to apply four months in advance online, or enter the daily lottery at the Ranger Station. Since the station was closed due to COVID-19, we didn’t get a chance to see The Wave, but we saw so much more instead.
Deep in the National Monument is White Pocket, accessible by a 4x4 only road with deep sand and ruts. We made it without issue and were in total shock about the craziness of this place.
It is a huge area of very diverse natural rock formations, with hardly anyone around. We were blown away by its beauty and spent a few days there, camping and taking it all in. There aren't any facilities at White Pocket and it remains protected by its relative inaccessibility.
Nearby Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch slot canyons were the other highlights of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. The day we hiked the slot canyons, it was a relatively balmy 39 F (4 C) but was a mix of on-and-off snow and sun all day. We somehow managed to time our hike mostly in the sun, and were well rewarded! We had these canyons all to ourselves, and marveled at how these must have been formed over generations.
The entrance into Wire Pass presents an interesting challenge, as there is an 8 foot (2.5 metre) drop in one of the narrowest parts of the canyon. There is a make-shift "ladder" which is just a tree stump, and it looks very intimidating from the top. However, after a little bit of patience and sliding slowly down, it really wasn't that bad!
Horseshoe Bend - Arizona
Having been to Horseshoe Bend in 2017, we more or less knew what to expect. What we didn't think of is that in the meantime, Horseshoe Bend would turn into a commercialized tourist attraction! Entrance fee to the attraction is $10 which we paid to see the bend again. The parking lot was quite empty as COVID-19 has gotten worse in the last couple of days. From the parking lot, it is only a short 0.2 miles walk to the viewpoint. The viewpoint was everything we remembered it being - stunning, breathtaking, incredible, and a bit scary!
Since we almost had the entire Horseshoe Bend to ourselves, we decided to take a lot of photos to remember this rare moment. (We were told that this attraction is usually incredibly busy and we can see why.)
After spending the morning here, we headed into Page, Arizona, to spend a few days at an AirBnB. We desperately needed to catch up on laundry and all things online.
Utah – Saving the Best for Last
Our goal when we moved to Chicago in 2015 was to see all 50 states before we left the United States. We *almost* achieved this, reaching 49 by the time we returned to Canada. We weren’t too concerned though as we knew we would be spending a ton of time in Utah on this trip. We finally made it though and had our own mini-celebration, as we don’t feel like travel milestones are appropriate to boast about at this time.
So far, Utah has not disappointed at all. We are currently waiting out park closures, and taking in the some of the Southern sights (i.e. warmer weather).
Turning a Page at Alstrom Point
We planned a few recharge days at an apartment in Page, Arizona, and completed a full clean out of Tacoma and Swifty, washed all laundry, baked pizzas in an oven, and caught up with everything online. This was exactly what we needed, and also allowed us to refill our water tank, propane tanks, fuel tanks, and fridge before hitting the road again, to Alstrom Point.
The road in to Alstrom Point is not long, but it is slow. 4x4 and high clearance are recommended, and we would highly recommend both. The vast majority of the route is a maintained gravel road, but the last few miles are where the going gets rough. The road travels over slickrock with quite a few more technical areas.
We made it without issue but it took us quite a while to navigate the at times non-existent road. We were definitely rewarded with the best campsite we have every had the pleasure of staying at.
The views from Alstrom Point are almost other-worldly, with Lake Powell and surrounding cliffs dominating the horizon. You are perched high above the lake with steep drop offs on all sides.
Sitting here watching the sunset we both had the realization that this is exactly one of the moments that what we were looking for when we set out on this trip. Quiet, peaceful solitude, and viewing awe-inspiring nature in epic proportions.
The Stats – Month One Hitting the Road
We created a map and compiled stats so that you can follow along our trip easier and which you can use to plan your own adventure!
Miles driven: 2,058 miles
Nights in Swifty: 18
US States crossed: Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona
Bottles of Red Wine Consumed: 12
Bars of Chocolate Consumed: 22
Number of Nights the Propane Tank Ran Out and Furnace Turned Off: 1
Number of Nights Too Windy To Sleep: 3
Days of Snow: 7
Favorite Meal: Homemade pizza at an Airbnb in Page, Arizona
Favorite Campsite: Alstrom Point, Utah
The trip so far has been full of ups and downs. Since hitting the road, we are still getting used to living full-time in Swifty, and Bettina really struggled with the endless nights where the temperature was below freezing. COVID-19 dominates the headlines and we realize that our situation is unique.
We have no true home other than Swifty, and are practicing appropriate hygiene and social distancing everywhere we go. We realize we are fortunate to be able to continue our adventure for the time being while chaos ensues around the world. We see vanlife and camping as one of the best options to stay safe, mentally and physically, and it is moments like this that reminds us how important it is to be out in nature.
Save this pin in our road trip Pinterest board for when your next road trip across the US!
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You’ve out done yourselves! Photos are beyond spectacular!
Thank you! Some of them even turned out better than we imagined!
Love this post so much! Beautiful pictures too!
Your photos are stunning. Can life looks like a great alternative to being stuck inside for two months!
It is an amazing alternative. We’re very grateful we can do this!
OHH EMM GEE!! These photos are amazing girl! Loving your blog!
Thank you so much Amanda! You are so sweet!
Alstrom point looks absolutely incredible! Never heard of it before
It’s our biggest surprise and by far my favorite place so far! Camping there was unreal! Make sure you have a 4×4 vehicle with high clearance when going there (if you want to go there), as the road is mostly just a pile of rocks.
You take beautiful pictures!
Those falls were just breathtaking, I gotta go!
Thank you for the inspiration 🙂
Thank you so much! It’s all Kyle’s work! I loved seeing these waterfalls! I can highly recommend seeing them!
Wow, wonderful photos and these road trip spots all made for perfect photography destinations! I’m so lucky to live in Arizona and I agree Page is a wonderful spot. I have yet to see The Wave (if I ever get lucky in a lottery for it lol) and on my top list of this list to visit is Crater Lake and those waterfalls!
Oh where in Arizona do you live? I love spending time in and around Page. There are so many great things to see here! I would love to visit the wave as well but since the BLM offices are closed now, we can’t participate in the day lottery. Hopefully things open up again soon!
It’s seriously been such a pleasure to follow your journey through IG Stories – and now to read about it in more depth! Your pics are STUNNING and reading this truly inspires me to do something like this myself one day (I don’t know if I’d have the guts to go for as long as you, but still!) Amazing work!
Thank you so much Elena!! It has so much fun to share my vanlife experience on Instagram and I’m so happy to hear you love following along. I hope next month is going to be just as amazing.
Oh I’m sure you could do it! You can rent a van and do a trial run somewhere for a week or two to see if you would like doing it for longer.
I love your photos! You have been so many incredibly beautiful places! Road trip in the US is definitely on my bucket list! Saving this for later 🙂
Thank you so much! Doing a road trip in the U.S. is amazing. This is truly the best way to see the country!
Wow! Your road trip has been so epic! You’re making me so excited to done mine in June (hopefully). Also, your photos are so beautiful and everything looks so dreamy. Amazing post Bettina! 🙂
Thank you so much Taylor! I hope you can go on your trip in June! I would love to see these places through your eyes!
Such stunning photos on the road! Totally in love 🙂
Awesome job you guys. I hope to visit Seattle soon!
Thank you so much! Seattle is such a great place to visit! I think you would love the city! Let me know if you need any tips at all.
What an adventure! Utah is especially beautiful!
Utah is such a beautiful state! I’m so excited to finally be here!
wow wow wow!! Those waterfalls sure give Iceland a run for its money! I had no clue we had waterfalls like that right in the US!
Right? Me neither until I started doing Oregon research and came across these waterfalls! They are amazing!
oh these photos are spectacular. I REALLY love the campground at Alstom Point. It looks like you are the only ones on a distant moon planet!
Thank you so much! That’s exactly what it was like! Day 1 and 2 there were a few other people but came Monday, we were the only ones as far as we could see!
Sounds like you’re having an amazing time so far! Incredible photos, and it sounds like you’re taking precautions with COVID-19. I’m glad you can continue your trip despite the virus. Safe travels and I look forward to following more of your journey!
Thank you so much Erin! We are doing everything we can to stay safe. Being on the road definitely helped us staying sane too!
I’m impressed this was only a 22-chocolate-bar trip 🙂 I’m definitely saving this for future reference – you two went to some seriously beautiful places and the photography is stunning! This makes me want to plan a road trip asap!!!
Haha, we could have easily eaten more. We didn’t report our chips intake, haha. Thank you! These places are some of our new favs and definitely worth a visit! Feel free to reach out if you ever have any questions!
Wow, your road trip looks epic! I especially loved reading about the “Loneliness Road in America”. I am sorry COVID brought worries upon your trip, I hope you got home in the nick of time before things escalated!
Thank you Natalie! We actually sold our home and are living on the road full-time. This means that we’re still on the road, despite COVID-19. However, we are doing everything we can to stay safe. And camping does allow us to be outdoors and completely isolated from others which is amazing. Hope you’re staying healthy and safe! <3
I have never considered Van life for me but I have been following your adventures so definitely wanna try once.
Oh cool! You should definitely try it! You could rent a van or an RV for maybe a month and tour Utah and Arizona to get a taste.
the clarity of your images is really impressive, I almost feel like I was right there with you, although I probably didn’t look as nice 🙂 You hit a few of my favourite spots. I loved road tripping in the western USA!
Hi Rhonda! Thank you so much! I’m so glad you like it. The western USA is seriously impressive!
Your blues are just way too stunning! Totally obsessed with your IG feed too!
Thank you so much! I love all things blue and always have – hence my predominant feed color. 🙂
Omg what an amazing month you had! I was so amazed by the Oregon waterfalls that I thought it couldn’t get any better but then you nailed it with the Arizona pictures! Goshhhh I can’t wait to get back to the USA again and do a roadtrip like this 🙂 Stay safe guys and most of all, enjoy the trip! 🙂
Thank you so much Kriszti! I’m so glad you like the review. I wish we could be traveling together right now – that would be so fun! Hope you are doing well and are staying safe!
Your photos are so beautiful! Your adventure seems so freeing and I’m happy you can camp and be own your own!
Thank you so much Lucile! We are were fortunate we can still camp despite all that is going on. 🙂
That’s such an awesome month on the road! There are LOTS of places I want to visit when we road trip this area later this year so definitely saving for later! I love your waterfall photography, btw! xx
Thank you, Brittany! These places are amazing and definitely worth visiting. Let me know if you need any tips or have any questions! It’s a great road trip so far. X, Bettina
I’m so glad you got to enjoy my home state, Oregon! It’s one of my favorite-ever places in the world, and you captured some of its gems. Also, I’ve never been to Boeing for the tour – now I really want to! Thanks for the tip, and safe travels.
Oregon was absolutely stunning! You live in a beautiful state! The Boeing tour was seriously epic – highly recommend a visit, once we can travel again!
Wow this is absolutely gorgeous!
Thank you so much Melissa!
Great post! Seattle is one of my favorite cities, and the southwest Utah area is my favorite national park area! I’ve visited horseshoe bend, vermillion cliffs NM, Zion NP, Bryce NP, Grand Canyon, Glen Lake, and more! There is just so many beautiful things to see in the US
Thank you so much! I love Seattle and Utah has seriously taken my breath away. Wow these places you visited are amazing! I’m hoping to see some of these as well once they re-open!
An awesome trip you have! I just can imagine how even more spectacular it would be if you don´t need to worry about this COVID-19 situation! I hope you stay safe!
Thank you so much Pia! Omg it would be even better and so much more relaxed! It’s a bit hard on our mental health constantly thinking about it. Hope you are staying safe as well!
Ahh you guys have stopped at so many of the stops we did along our trip! Really making us miss it right now! Hope you guys are safe.
That’s awesome! We love it here and having time to explore it all! We wish you could be here with us! Hope you are staying safe as well!