Our Try at Vanlife: Fall in Washington State - Pac Westy
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Our Try at Vanlife: Fall in Washington State

Our Try at Vanlife: Fall in Washington State

Story and photography by Connor Burkesmith

Our Try at Vanlife: Fall in Washington State

Over the past few years, I’ve been increasingly drawn to the idea of living on four wheels. The nomadic lifestyle seems to be ideal – a promise of freedom gained through a minimalist approach to life. Clashing tales of awe and woe paint a contrasting picture of the realities of vanlife. “I could do it,” I reassured myself. “I’m a relatively simple human. Who needs stuff anyways…” 

Essentialism and adventure are common themes interwoven in the outdoorsman’s narrative. What better way to test my ability to forgo creature comforts – apart from a full-blown cowboy camping stint – than to try my hand at vanlife. 

Our Try at Vanlife: Fall in Washington State - Burt

As the warmth of summer flowed into a balmy October in the Pacific Northwest, I was frantically jotting down jam-packed itineraries. Ideas for climbing, biking, and running adventures flooded my mind, as did remote locations tucked deep in the Cascades. 

As the dates approached it became more apparent that the mild weather was coming to an abrupt end. Rain and snow creeped into the mountain forecasts, forcing me into a brief panic as I saw my carefully laid out plans get swept away.

I still had a van. It was autumn in Washington. Something would have to work. After scrolling through the weather in various cities and regions throughout the state, we settled on the area near Leavenworth, nestled in the central Cascades.

My friends and I picked up “Burt”, an aesthetic 1987 VW Westfalia, from PacWesty’s headquarters on Bainbridge Island on a gloomy Friday morning. The waves thrashed against the side of the ferry as it sped off across the sound towards Seattle. Connor ate his “ferry” burger and we sat across from each other watching the weather rage from the dry side of the glass. 

If I had to sum up a common theme throughout our summer shenanigans, it would be “hurry up”. No matter what we did, we seemed to be in a perpetual state of running behind schedule. The chaos of summer had taken a toll. 

There is something to be said about long days spent frolicking in mountainous playgrounds. The shoulder season forces the adventurer to get creative – to find new ways to keep the mind and body busy. 

We parked the van beside a young larch tree in the south campground of Lake Wenatchee State Park. We cooked some dinner, drank some wine, and played a couple games. 

Our goal was to capture Fall in Washington. To us this had initially meant hunting for larches and climbing peaks under the soft autumn sun…

For the time being, the lone larch and sipping coffee while gazing out at the drizzling rain would do just fine.  For restless souls such as ours, this was minimalism at its finest and we spent a fine weekend enjoying the sights of Washington in the tight quarters of a small, but cozy caravan called “Burt”.