Following are the stories of my family’s journey from a place of perpetual rain, manicured lawns and HOA’s to the turkey capital of the world where we would encounter bugs we didn’t know existed, frigid winters and searing summers, bears and wolf packs, roof-crushing snow loads, neighbors that almost shot us, a driveway from hell – and the best adventures of our lives.
After we sold our house in suburbia in the Spring of 2017 and pulled onto the road towing our twenty foot Jayco Lite travel trailer, we didn’t know where we would end up by the end of that summer but we figured (rightly) that adventure awaited us on the open road and beyond.
Here’s our story.
We are a married couple with a sixteen-year-old son and two cats. We want a dog but for now we have the neighbor’s.
The population of the Puget Sound region where we were living was exploding so we sold our house in the spring of 2017, bought a travel trailer, and hit the road. We felt squeezed out like too much jelly on a sandwich so we set out to find a new slice of paradise in the rural regions of Washington state.
The national forest and anywhere else we were allowed to camp became our home for three months as we cruised the real estate websites for property. In September we found a few acres of land near the Idaho and Canadian borders that was just right.
It was three and a half miles from the nearest town in the foothills. At the time, there was one neighbor nearby with nothing else between us and the surrounding mountains. The property was undeveloped and had been unoccupied for seventy years.
Moving onto raw land means you’re on your own. You become the engineer, contractor, electrician (yeah, sure), and if something breaks, repairman for everything you depend on to live. We had to figure some things out.
At first, we got our water from the city standpipe then found out they close it in the winter. Luckily, by that time, we’d discovered natural springs on our property. For power we used a gas generator. The following autumn, we installed solar but couldn’t use it until the next summer.
We initially used a WiFi hotspot for the Internet but it became us vs the Google data pig. The neighbors let us use their connection until we got into a fight and they changed their password.
We could only get online from my husband’s spot in our bed anyway, and only if it wasn’t raining. We eventually had three huge trees cut down to get a line of sight to a tower for Internet.
In addition to the logistics of setting up “shop”, we had to adjust to a different mindset. Hardiness is respected in these parts and the local government pamphlet opens with the words “Welcome to the Wild West” and urges the reader to “get used to it”.
We were fresh from a lifetime of living in the suburbs and afraid to touch a gas-powered chainsaw let alone make a go of living amongst the trees and the turkeys. We wondered what we had gotten ourselves into but we were too excited to be new landowners to let any reservations get in our way.
Then winter barreled in with a seriousness that slapped all thoughts of anything but survival out of our consciousnesses. The neighbors had warned us of sub-zero temperatures and snow drifts as high as the eves on a house. It wasn’t far from the truth.
The weather turned cold and wet and we found ourselves ill-prepared for reality. Our water pipes froze and our worldly possessions disappeared under three feet of snow. Some things we didn’t find until the spring melt.
As the temperatures plummeted toward zero, my son and I went to stay in an emergency shelter while my husband hunkered down at the property with our cats. I worried constantly about him but we visited often. I would take dishes back with me to the shelter to clean and straighten things out while I was there.
Three months later we moved back while it was still frigid. We were low on money and propane. Keeping warm was always a challenge with frost and ice gaining an increasing foothold inside our trailer by the day.
I would grab whatever I could find and obsessively fill small crevices and holes where cold air was entering to cut the chill. Our central heating system was inefficient but we were given a small indoor heater that kept us comfortable until spring.
We sometimes cooked or made coffee over a fire. I would hunch over my homemade rocket stove in the cold and wet while my husband built his pit fire. I remember feeling miserable and hopeless as I struggled to get the stove lit in the freezing rain and snow.
The harsh winter had taken a toll and my outlook had become very bleak like the weather. There would be many challenges ahead before the days began to warm.
Spring, then summer arrived along with a billion new bug species. I took up slingshot while trying to shoot down yellow jacket nests and we discovered ticks, or rather – they discovered us. Ticks and Sticks
Sweltering heat made that summer one of the longest I’ve ever experienced but we had things in the works. We tilled rock-hard soil and planted a garden. We deepened the spring and dug a trough going down the hill to a catch hole.
We recommissioned some antique tools we dug up from the farmer’s dump on our hillside. We put a handle on an old pickax head and used it to chip away at the bedrock underlying the spring. A can opener I cleaned up still works like a charm.
We did whatever we could to pass the time and keep our chins up.
Thank you to my husband for helping me to get through it all. When I was at my worst, he would hold my face in his hands, look at me and say “Good things Baby, good things”.
It’s a year later and we have a solar power system, generators, a large shed, and a nicer RV (until we finally build a home). We have a fireplace to warm ourselves by and we have each other.
This lifestyle is tough. I cry often. I laugh often. No day is dull (how many people wake up to a rafter of turkeys outside their window or a skunk in their kitchen)? If life is a journey, we picked a detour and a clown car for the drive.
Welcome to our adventures and I hope you will enjoy the stories and poems that follow. 🙂