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8 Favorite Destinations, Year 4

Hike to Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii

Four years ago we set out to travel the country fulltime in an R.V. When people asked us how long we planned to live in a motor home, the best answer we could give them was “until we’re done.” We didn’t know how long it would take for us to see everything we wanted to see or how long we’d enjoy (or tolerate) living in what amounts to a fancy truck. We now know.

It took us just shy of four years to zigzag across the country from Maine to San Diego and make the roughly 250 other stops we wanted in between. Year four took us along the West Coast, out to Hawaii and up to Alaska, where we completed our westward migration.

With our domestic travels largely completed, we traded in our motor home for a couple of backpacks and set off to see the wider world.

If you ask us now how long we plan to travel this way, lugging all our worldly possessions on our backs, the best we can tell you is “until we’re done.” We may not know the path ahead, but we do have pretty clear recollections of the year we’re leaving behind.

With that in mind, here’s a list of our favorite destinations from our fourth full year of fulltime travel. As always with these posts, the destination header links to the original blog post on the topic. 

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Mount Rainier

Mount Rainer National Park, Washington

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Two Views in the North Cascades

Diablo Lake, North Cascade National Park

The promise of seeing Diablo Lake’s turquoise-colored waters was enough to lure us from Seattle into Washington State’s North Cascades National Park. The intense hue comes from minerals and rock ground down by the surrounding glaciers and carried into the lake. To have a look at Diablo Lake (actually a reservoir), we drove along Highway 20, pulled into a parking lot, and walked a few hundred feet to a viewing point. Instant gratification.

Not all vistas were as easily seen as Diablo Lake. When our Jeep could take us no further, we set out on foot along the Cascade Pass Trail. For nearly four miles we navigated forested switchbacks, rocky slopes, wildflower-laden meadows, and patches of summer snow, steadily trekking upward into alpine country until we finally reached our destination: Cascade Pass and its view of peaks and glaciers.

Northern Cascades, Cascade Pass

Rustic Falls

Rustic Falls, Moran State Park, Orcas Island, Washington

Rustic Falls is just one of several waterfalls that can be seen along a short hike in Moran State Park on Orcas Island, WA.

Whidbey Island, Just What We Needed

Whidbey Pies CafeWe had just spent 10 days ferrying around Alaska’s Inside Passage and, to be honest, we were plenty ready to do something new. Unfortunately the very next thing on our agenda, ferrying around Washington’s Whidbey and San Juan Islands, didn’t sound like something new. It sounded an awful lot like what we had just done, only on a seemingly smaller scale. After all, how could Washington’s lesser-known archipelago compete with the grandeur and beauty of Alaska? Surprisingly easily, it turned out.

Art is everywhere on Whidbey, even brightening up this porta-potty.

Art is everywhere on Whidbey, even brightening up this porta-potty.

What we found on Whidbey, and really throughout the San Juans, were small towns with their own distinct centers of gravity. These weren’t places that sprang into existence solely for the benefit of tourists. We got the feeling that if tourists stopped coming, they’d continue on pretty much the way they are – perhaps a bit poorer and a little less polished, but more or less the same.

That’s because behind the down-home facades and overflowing wildflowers were real businesses serving real communities and selling real things. We don’t recall seeing any t-shirt stands. The shops weren’t stuffed with cookie-cutter items produced by the world’s cheapest labor. Much of what we saw on store shelves was produced locally by members of “Puget Sound’s largest artist colony.” Even the stores themselves were often owned by local artists, displaying their own and others’ work.

And then, of course, there were the flowers that seemed to spring from nearly every inch of earth. Manicured, wild, and agriculturally grown. It was July when we were there, and the flowers bloomed everywhere as if stuck in eternal spring.

Whidbey Island Lavender Farm

Whidbey Island Lavender Farm

The flowers and the wonderful people welcomed us onto an island that was so much more than just a ferry stop. Whidbey was just what we needed.

 

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