General Update on Life in the Van

Hi everyone, I’d started writing a post about our recent visit to Bandelier National Monument but wasn’t feeling especially motivated, so I took that as a sign to leave that one be for now and give you all an update on how things are going in general instead. We’re still in New Mexico, we made our way to the northern part of the state over the course of about two weeks. With the exception of a few nights, our route consisted of jumping from one national forest dispersed site to another.

A few of our sites were in the Cibola National Forest, where we fit in a quick hike the first day, then spent about a week at a site near some great multi-use trails. Good forest service roads or decent trails are one of the things we look for if we want to stay in one spot for the duration of any given work week. That way we have plenty of easily accessible options for hiking or running after work, together or alone. The spot near the multi-use trails was especially nice because it was the first time in over a month that we were able to have a campfire.

Free, dispersed camping areas like this one, relatively close to a city and surrounded by multi-use trails, tend to be busy on weekends with people driving out for mountain biking, dirt biking, horseback riding, etc, but the flip side to that is they’re usually quiet during the week. This one we had almost entirely to ourselves the whole time we were there.

The day hike we did in the southern part of this national forest was our first hike in a while where we were actually at high enough elevation to run into some snow! Since then we’ve hit more snow on the trails, we even had some snow flurries not too long ago when we were camped near the northern border of the state.

Day hike in Cibola National Forest

Aside from working and slowly moving around the state, things have been fairly low-key lately. However, we are reaching the point where we need to start thinking more seriously about our upcoming thru hike.

Last year our CDT plan was to start from the southern terminus on April 20th and hike north from there. When we postponed the hike to this year we’d planned on the same mid to late April start, hiking from south to north. However, after a month or so on the road we talked about it and agreed we weren’t quite ready to leave the van. We had just come out of about a month and half of living with parents in the time between our lease ending and the van being ready, so settling back into our own space and this new routine after those weeks of transition, it’s just not something we wanted to give up quite yet. Our plan now is to head to the CDT northern terminus mid to late June and hike south from there. 

With a little over a month to go until we start, our focus has been shifting towards preparing for this next adventure. If we had been starting at the US/Mexico border as we’d originally planned we could rely on building up our hiking endurance in the early weeks on trail. Now that we’re starting at the US/Canada border instead, we do need to train a bit more before we start. The northern sections are more rugged than the southern end of the trail, and many parts are at higher elevation.

The few long hikes we’ve done since arriving in New Mexico have gone well, our longest so far was around 23 miles and despite feeling worn out when we finished, we were both fine the next day. That was only with day packs though, now that we’re getting closer we’ll start carrying our full overnight packs, even on day hikes.

Since arriving in northern New Mexico we’ve been able to start hiking more at a higher elevation. Over the weekend we went for two day hikes, and although we couldn’t summit either day because of the snow, what we did do went a long way towards easing my mind about our current hiking shape heading into the final stretch of training before hitting the trail. On Sunday’s hike we estimated we were around 11,000 feet when we had to turn around, and most of the 1,400 feet we gained was in less than two miles, so getting back to the van feeling like we hadn’t done more than a nature walk was reassuring, to say the least.

I can’t complain about the snow, I love winter hiking and was a little disappointed we didn’t fit any in before leaving New England. These hikes may not have been full on winter hikes, but they did check off enough of those type 2 fun boxes to scratch that itch. Plus, it was perfect snowball snow, need I say more?

As if the hiking alone wasn’t enough to make us fall in love with northern New Mexico, we’ve been camping along the Rio Grande which might just seal the deal for us. The views, weather, hot springs, and access to good hiking has us feeling quite content here.

Staying near the river has the added benefit of easy access to water for cleaning up. I don’t remember if I’ve shown you all our shower set up yet, but we’re using my parents’ old solar shower and it’s been working wonderfully. It can be a little chilly sometimes, especially if it’s windy, but if we’re in a spot like where we are now and there’s no one around we can usually set things up to block most of the wind while staying in the sun as much as possible. And if we’re being completely honest here, if one of the few downsides to living in a van is showering outside with these views, we have nothing to complain about.

All of that to say overall, things are going well. Lately we’ve both been feeling even more grateful that we’re able to live like this. The slower pace and living in areas that actually suit us and make us feel fulfilled rather than burnt out has put things into perspective in a way we just didn’t get before moving into the van. Matt’s experiences on his two thru hikes are the closest either of us have been to this before now, but those were such intense experiences in their own ways that it’s hard to compare.

We’ll keep you all updated on our plans as we get closer to our CDT start date. It will be harder to post regularly once we’re on trail, but we’ll do our best to get something up whenever we have enough service. For now, we’ll be soaking up the comforts of the van and enjoying as many rooftop sunsets as we can.

3 thoughts on “General Update on Life in the Van

    1. Thanks, I thought you’d like that one 🙂 We were up there again last night to catch the end of another sunset. One of these days we’ll bring dinner up for a picnic!


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