Van Life

Hike and Bike Great Outdoors in Comfort

van, motorcycle and hammock next to a river with red sky behind

Comfortable living in wilderness and enjoying outdoor activities - that's what van life is all about.

Living in a van used to be a label for people who failed in life, upscale homeless. Not any more! Masses have discovered that traveling can be cheaper than sitting at home. Why pay mortgage, insurance, house maintenance and other costs of home ownership? Those are financial burdens that are mostly a pure waste, money down the drain. One can explore the world for a fraction of the cost of renting or owning a home. Many people, especially in times of Covid, found ways to work from their homes on wheels as well.

While the idea of home on wheels has been around for a long time, RVs and motorhomes are nothing new. Those behemoths are for people not willing to give up any of their worldly possessions. But for that, they sacrifice their mobility. They are limited in terms of roads they can take and places they can reach. Worst of all, they usually overnight in crowded RV parks, next to dozens of other RVs, listening to screaming kids and breathing smoke from neighbor's campfire.

For one or two people, a van provides enough living space and comfort (it's about the size of a typical Tokyo apartment). People who can handle the minimalistic lifestyle, get to enjoy something much bigger, much more rewarding - the great outdoors.

van parked next to a frozen lake with snow covered mountains behind

Even in June, high alpine lakes of Colorado are frozen. Some people put heaters in their vans and enjoy subzero temperatures. Not me, I prefer heat.

sunset glow on snow covered mountains

Van provided me warmth and comfort even without a heater atop the Loveland pass.

van on a road with red rocks behind

Only a few hours drive from the frozen lakes of Colorado, in the desert of Utah, it's warm and pleasant.

van and person next to it on a narrow dirt road hugging edge of a canyon

High clearance can get you to many scenic places.

person sitting next to a van and fire

Propane powered portable fireplace is perfect for chilly evenings.

van with awning extended parked next to a river

Many places are crowded, but it's still possible to find a secluded scenic spot.

van parked on a road with red mountains glowing in setting sun's light

Heading to the canyon country for some hiking.

Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks

Not exactly dirt bike riding destinations, but these parks were on my path, so here are a few photos from these two amazing, yet unbelievably overcrowded places. Despite the crowds, I managed to enjoy solitude on a few occasions.

setting sun peaking under clouds over grand canyon

Sun peeked below the clearing storm clouds just before setting.

a person resting in a hammock strung between a tree and a van

Chilling in Grand Canyon during mid-day heat.

a mesa and clouds above reflecting last rays of sun

Another beautiful sunset in Grand Canyon, but from the North Rim.

a hiker at the edge of the Grand Canyon

Some easy hiking along the southern rim of Grand Canyon.

a person in water below a cascade

Chilling in Virgin river in Zion NP.

a river flowing through a narrow red, canyon

Blissfully peaceful Narrows, after all the crowds are gone.

a person standing in shallow river going through a red-wall canyon

Slowly making my way back to the camp.

people, like ants, milling through a canyon

Vicious crowds just an hour earlier.

selfie in a narrow canhyong with water flowing through it

Luckily, solitude can still be enjoyed in many canyons.

water holes in a narrow canyon

Some of the pools are deep, requiring swimming in frigid water.

a hiker with legs in a emerald green pool inside a canyon

The famous Subway.

sandstone layers in early morning light

Millions of years of mother nature's sculpting at display.

a plate of grilled veggetables, shrimp and sauce on the side

Van-cuisine - easy to prepare, healthy and tasty.

canyon cliffs illuminated by morning sun with dark clouds behind

Morning clouds over the Zion as I am driving out of the park.

Pacific Northwest

A trail winding among giant trees

California Redwoods in a typical morning fog.

US Northwest is incredibly beautiful, one can find deserts, glacier covered peaks, rainforests and endless beaches. However, for someone who abhors rain, it can be a tricky destination. Last time I rode to the NW, I was chased by a major storm for 1500 miles, all the way to southern Utah.

a person touching a giant tree

Admiring giants in Del Norte State Park.

Van driving on a dirt road through towering redwoods

Exploring Prairie Creek State Park.

I started driving along the Pacific coast in Ft Bragg, While the temperatures inland were over 100 F, by the coast, it was outright cold, even in the sun. Things did not improve when I crossed into Oregon. But then an unusual "heat wave" came through the NW. While most locals were trying to survive 100 degree days, I could finally enjoy Oregon's beaches.

two people walking on a beach with fog off the coast

Tranquil beach in Oregon.

a tree stump on a vide stretch of beach

I could not figure out if this stump just "landed" or was it a stump of the tree that actually grew right at the beach.


Washington's Olympic peninsula is a home of America's only temperate rainforest. A famous hike along the Hoh river has been on my bucket list for years, I finally got to do it with a friend. We hiked 18 miles along the river, all the way to the lateral moraine of the glacier on Mt Olympus.

a hiker standing next to a big tree

On the hike along Hoh river.

water seeping down moss-covered rocks

No problems finding drinking water on Hoh trail.

various plants grwoing out of a dead tree

Every dead tree is home to numerous new plants.

a hiker standing amoung giant trees covered in moss

Hoh trail winds through a moss covered forest most of the way.

a hiker between two parts of a cut log

Fern, moss and lichen.

a person sitting on a branch of a large tree

A moss covered tree near Lake Crescent.

a person swimming in blue-green lake

Going for a dip in crystal clear waters of Lake Crescent, the largest lake on the peninsula.

Beahes of the Olympic peninsula are also a big attraction and home to a few famous hikes. Unfortunately, because of Covid, many beaches were not accessible.

driftwood piled up on an empty beach

Driftwood strewn beaches of the Olympic peninsula.

beach ro cks stacked on a large log

Rock stacks on the famous Ruby beach.

Mt Rainier is only half a day drive from the Olympic peninsula and we wanted to do some day hikes there as a preparation for the longer hike that we had planned to do in the Cascades.

view of Mt Raininer through a snow cave

Mostly melted snow cave along the skyline trail on Mt Rainier.

view of Mt Raininer with a cascading river in front

Creeks are cranking, carrying glacial melt from Mt Rainier.

a person in a hammock with Mt Rainier behind

Chilling at Sunrise point of Mt. Rainier.

Hiking a Section of the Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail goes over 2000 miles from Canadian to Mexican border, passing through some of the most stunning scenery. We decided to do just one section, 74 miles long (according to a sign). We were dropped off at Stevens pass off US highway 2 and hiked south to Snoqualmie pass on I-90. There were a few hairy river crossings, quite a bit of elevation change, but the biggest challenge, by far, were the mosquitoes. We were bitten everywhere and all the time. Later on, a local lady told us that July is the worst time to hike as far as mosquitoes are concerned.

a hiker with many fallen trees in front of him

The trail is literred with fallen trees. Because it's a wilderness area, chainsaws are not allowed, so the crews cut and clear fallen trees like it was done 200 years ago. Doesn't seem like the best use of tax dollars.

a hiker walking into fog-engulfed forest

Foggy mornings give that true feeling of being in the Northwest.

a hiker high above an alpine lake

Just one of many pristine alpine lakes along the trail.

After the hike, my friend and I decided to explore the eastern side of the Cascade mountains. I also wanted to ride some famous single track motorcycle trails near Cle Elum. So we setup a camp by the Cle Elum lake.

a van and a person in a hammock next to a lake

Camping at the edge of the Cle Elum lake.

a person swimming in a creek

Cooling off in a creek.

Wanatchee National Forest has many great motorcycl trails to ride. Some are fairly easy, but most were at the limit of my abilities. After a few days of excellent riding, I ended up on a trail littered with fallen logs. It turned to be a much bigger adventure than I had planned for.


Idaho, the potatoes state, as proudly shown on state license plates, was off my radar for years. What a shame as it is my favorite state now. There are no national parks, or any breathtaking sights, but lots of beautiful forests, canyons, rivers, lakes and, the best of all, lack of crowds.

Passing through one village in Idaho, I saw a sign "Redneck Home." Rednecks they may be, but boy, do they know how to make beautiful campsites! One campsite is more beautiful than the other, one gets spoiled with choices. There are many pit toilets in national forests and they are cleaner than anywhere else I've been. Thumbs up for rednecks and how they take care of their public lands.

A stark counterexample comes to my mind from California's Big Sur where a section of the national forest has been closed off due to wide-spread public defication. So much for "progressive, tree-hugging Californians."

van, motorcycle and hammock next to a river with red sky behind

Sipping morning coffee while listening to the gushing river in Idaho.

old cars and trucks lined up

Old cars and trucks along a highway in Idaho.

a person in a hammock next to a lake

One of my favorite spots of the trip - Upper Payette Lake.

a person sitting under a giant tree working on a laptop

Working on my project in Idaho mountains.


A van parked on road with mountains behind

The Grand Tetons.

a person standing on a footbridge over a gushing creek

Solitude lake trail follows a gushing creek.

a person sitting next to a cascading waterfall

A waterfall just below Lake Solitude.

A person walking on a trail

The trail passes Wigwams (that is the name of the peak).

As beautiful as Grand Tetons are, crowds simply spoil the experience. So we headed to the Wind River Range in search of solitude. We were not wrong. We were not alone, but compared to the previous few days, it felt as if we were the only people there.

A person sitting next to a fire ring with wine glass

Happy to be away from the crowds.

A river meandering through a green valley

We hiked along a wide valley following the Green River.

A lake and mountains behind

One of two big lakes that the Green River flows through. No wonder the area is called Green River Lakes.

A van with sand dunes behind it

Chilling at Killpecker sand dunes ( yes, it's a real name!)

By the time I reached Colorado, the weather was already getting cold. Two and half months was about the right amount of time for this trip. I did not rush through any area, nor did I feel bored spending too much time in any place. The trip was an awesome experience, but, now, I am ready for a change of scenery, climate, culture, cuisine ..., a new continent.