It’s 5:30 am on Forest Road 050, five thousand feet high, deep in Umatilla National Forest, Oregon. I lay wide awake, huddled between my new fluffy quilted comforter and flannel sheets listening to the rain pelt my thin RV roof for the second night in a row. For three days it’s has been nearly constant: relentless, loud and cold.
Anxiety swirls inside me as the wind swirls outside, rocking my tiny home. I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to push away my anxiety and go back to sleep. But I can’t.
I toss and turn; sleep alludes me as the nasty noisy weather steals my comfortable silence. The wind rips through my awning and I regret putting it out yesterday when the clouds finally separated, revealing slivers of blue sky and hope for sunnier days.
My RV jolts and rocks as the wind howls; turning the awning into a sail. I’ve been laying here for an hour already debating: should I get up and put it down. Noooo it’s too cold.. Bed is warm… I’ll wait and see if it gets worse. WHOOSH! WHIP! Another gust takes hold and the RV jerks. I hold my breath, maybe it’ll die down. And the whipping and rocking subsides… for a while… and then it starts all over again. Ugghhh There’s so much to move and put away if I’m to put the awning up and it’s cold and dark and wet; I’ll take my chances. I’ll wait…
I arrived in Umatilla National Forest in the Blue Mountains of northeast Oregon, seven days ago. The National Forest is “1.4 million acres of mountainous terrain and deep v-shaped valleys” (source: Forest Service website). I found a picturesque, open, and spacious campsite (with 2-3 bars of 4G!) on dead-end forest road 020 (off of highway 204, 13 miles north of Elgin). The secluded spot, overlooking a small valley, beckoned, “stay. You’ll be safe here!” And how could I refuse! Surrounded by a forest, thick with a variety of conifers; Pacific yews, Western Junipers, Spruce, Firs and Ponderosa, Western White and Lodgepole Pines. I was in awe of all their different shapes and sizes and how they decorate the forest in layers of fall colors and contrast. It was gorgeous. Ahhh I found my new temporary home!
When I arrived, the sky was heavy with rain clouds. Occasionally, they’d open, spitting showers upon Capone and me as we explored the web of forest roads on foot. But they’d just as quickly close back up and allow the sun to break through and warm me just enough… However, within a few days we were huddled inside escaping wind, biting cold temperatures and even hail and snow. And for the last few days, instead of reveling in Mother Nature’s beauty, I’ve been huddled inside, escaping her.
I love the rain— or at least I thought I loved the rain. On backpacking trips, I’ve been beside myself with excitement; huddled inside my tiny tent as storms delivering earth-rumbling thunder, sky-piercing lightening and pelting hail rumbled over me. All my life, (yes, even as an adult!), I’m always the one to run outside and skip through mud puddles during thunderstorms. My ex-husband thought I was insane the first time I experienced a (rare) thunderstorm in the Bay Area (one of the things I missed the most about growing up in NY) as I ran outside to stand in the driveway and watch as it pass overhead, giddy with excitement.
As a backpacker, I’ve reveled in ‘being One with nature” and “weathering the storms”, hell, I even blogged about how nature isn’t supposed to be easy and convenient – and how I welcome all that she is! (Read it here: Alone on the JMT – my 26 day, 256 mile hike).
And now I lament: oh how easy it is to tolerate – or even love – a challenging situation when you know there’s an end (or you can go back inside and escape it!)! A few hours huddled in a tent while a storm passes over is one thing, but days and days of gloom, air thick with cold and damp, constant noise as rain thrashes my tin-box home and the constant worry that the tenuous seams of my old RV will burst, leaking water down my walls, is a whole other matter.
I think the reality of RV life is starting to settle in… it’s not like living in a sticks and bricks house where I’d have the luxury of peeking at the storm through a window, muting the TV so I can hear the rumbling thunder, or bundling up and stepping into the driveway to watch it pass over before retreating to the comfort and safety of a home that doesn’t rock in the wind or amplify the sound of raindrops on the roof. I don’t even have a radio or TV to drown out the sound of the rain and wind attacking my RV-home. It’s just me. Alone. In a tin box. In the woods. Fifteen miles from civilization. With just a tenuous layer of particle board and sheet metal between Mother Nature and me. This is pretty real!
Part of my motivation for living in an RV was to be closer to nature. To immerse myself in her rhythms, innate ruggedness and breathless beauty. Last spring – California’s first ‘normal’ rain year in a while- during one of my “practice” boondocking trips in the El Dorado National forest, I got to experience my first RV rain storm. I reveled and delighted at the sound of rain drops pelting the metal roof, sitting under my awning, watching the drops bounce off the drought-hardened earth and throw tiny splashes into the air. It was so new and exciting then…. Now it’s my reality.
Feeling disappointed in the weather – and myself – I conceded. The rainy season has hit Oregon and it’s time to move on. And now I just lay here wide awake impatiently waiting for daylight to crest so I can break camp and nohead down the mountain to dryer ground.
Life in an RV is different. We don’t have the comfort and security of sticks and bricks. We’re more exposed and vulnerable to the elements. It’s why I chose this life and now I’m disappointed that it’s what’s causing me stress. I hope the longer I live in my RV and the more I trust in her condition, the more comfortable I’ll be; knowing that I can literally weather the storms!
We Location Independent RV- Living Nomads have a saying: “If you don’t like your neighbors, move.” And lately my “neighbor” has been an unrelenting nuisance. So it’s time to bid adieu and find more hospitable ones.
Carolyn, I think you are very brave in your RV in the forest, in the rain. I lived in Oregon for a very short time through the winter. We were in a mobile home and it was scary at times. I think it is about getting used to a new norm which is always changing in your case depending on where your at.
I enjoy your blog, thank-you for your raw honesty.
Shelley, thank you very much! Yes, it’s all new and a lot to get used to. I love reading about yours too! So proud of you! – carolyn
Did you see any mushrooms?
yes, I did see a few. Big white ones.
I just got into the magical world of Fungi. Oregon is one of the places on my list to visit. keep an eye out.
Will do, If I think of it, I’lll snap a couple of pictures next time! Have fun with your new hobby – and be careful! – C
Thanks for the detailed description of your adventure, and for including the gps coordinates for boondocking spots.
It does get easier to trust your rig. I keep an 8″ roll of butyl tape by my door just in case I need to make a temp patch in the rain. Starting my 3rd year full-timing and I would never go back.
Mike, your comment sent a wave of relief over me. You’re right- stuff is going to happen, I just need the experience to learn how to handle them. A roll of butyl tape- how easy is that! (I think that may be what I just bought — the super strong tape for roof sealing??). Thank you for taking the time to leave your thoughts! – C
butyl tape is similar to plumbers putty….maybe 1/2 inch wide, flat and in a roll…..great for sealing seams. holds up in weather.
Lynn, Yes that’s what I just bought. I look forward to trying it out! (well, sort of!). Thanks for the tips – c
– and you’re welcome on the coordinates. I plan to post them all to te boondocking page on my website to show people in bigger RVs that it is possible to go remote! – c
What a great idea, Mike. I think I’m down to to about 5′ of Butyl tape, so I’ll stock up.
A very interesting account of your experience .. I was right there with you hearing it all especially the beauty of a melodic gentle pitter patter on your rooftop. I love this about our home. We are in SE Oregon facing our first winter after living in Southern California in the warm zone. We are on a learning curve too and excited to be bere. Safe travels
Ada, yes, i usually enjoy the sound of the rain on the roof. I was disappointed that after a few days that joy was filled with anxiety. I am counting on the joy coming back in time! Good luck in Oregon – it sure will be a big change from SoCal! Safe travels and thanks for reading! – C
Thank you so much Carolyn for the awesome description of your adventures.
Safe travels as you return to the Bay Area.
I enjoy so very much reading your blog and hope to meet you on the road someday.
William – I appreciate your comment. I’m glad you’re enjoying my stories. Safe travels! – Carolyn
I love the desert. It has 8 months of spring and 4 of hell. I live on the border of Arizona and California in Blythe. There is a strip of green that is next to the Colorado River. Temps are still in the 90F region in early October. After Thanksgiving they should be much lower and liveable for northerners. RV Snow birds are beginning to slowly arrive in October and will leave by March. It sure beats the cold wet windy northern California where I lived for 37 years….in Davis area.
I used to own property overlooking Agency Lake, north end of Klamath lake. It can get bone chilling cold in eastern Oregon. Decided not to retire there.
Bob, thanks for the info. I’ll be heading down there soon! I know Davis very well – actually my car is stored in Woodland, heading down next week to sell it- breaking my last tie! Glad your enjoying the desert. I can’t wait to get there! Take care! -c
So true…one storm lover to another. I have both a home and RV for another couple months. Rain is such a precious commodity here in San Diego that when I know rain is coming I packed up my jammies and dog and head to the RV so I can enjoy the the storm. I can’t imagine living somewhere where the storms would become a nuisance, however after reading what you wrote I begin to get the picture.
I look forward to meeting you at the RTR
Tiki – Yep, living in Northern California with (at best) a few rain of months a year – and even less in recent years – I savor the few rainy days we have. I am now thinking I have a lot going on that is stressing me out (having to go back to the Bay Area next week to sell my car, for example) so that may have contributed to my anxiety – and having a group of friends join me who were miserable… if it was just me, I may have been more relaxed. I look forward to meeting you too! – Happy travels, – C
Hi Carolyn. I’m glad you weathered the storm. Every time I’m in a big rainstorm in our Class C I get a bit nervous about leaks! I guess it’s just part of living in a RV. We are in a too loud campground this weekend and I can’t wait to leave tomorrow and head someplace peaceful.
I look forward to seeing you at Quartzsite at the RTR.
Peace and blessings.
Kelly – From what I’m hearing and reading, leaks will be a part of life and I’ll just have to learn to deal with them! I wish you the best of luck with yours and I hope youfind your next peaceful place! Do you ever dry camp in national forests? There is an abundance of peace and quiet there (usually!). – C
Hi Carolyn. We have just started our full time rving experience a few weeks ago. We are visiting family on our way down south (Florida) to establish our domicile. We will leave there the end of November and head to Quartzsite where I very much look forward to meeting you at the RTR.
Our plan is eventually to do lots of boondocking in the desert, national forests and other places.
I hope someday to start a blog and I truly love reading yours and look forward to us being friends someday.
Peace and blessings.
Kelly, How exciting. I’m so happy for you.. what a wonderful life to share with your significant other… I wish you all the best for safe and happy travel and hopes that we cross paths some day. Have a great time! – Carolyn
Your posts are well worth the wait, filled with the textures of life that should be in enjoyed, experienced and occasionally endured, Life doesn’t come with a manual, those Lucky enough to live life on there own terms and then to share it enriches us all.
As I read along you take me to a range of emotions from, I Can do that sounds simple enough, to what did you expect, to OMG I never saw that coming, too I would probably do the exact same thing.
Thank you very much Kevin! I’m so glad you get so much out of my stories and grateful for your kind words. Happy travels! – C
Hi Carolyn Rose,
I so wish you could write a book, your posts are just so colorful and you truly have a gift with words. So great to have another blog post from you.
I was wondering how things were going to be up in Oregon during this time of the year. I’m a sun loving Cali girl and could not deal with the rain and cold too long. I’d stay in my warm bed too!!! LOL. 🙂
It certainly is an adjustment, having to change and think about what kind of comforts you want and can’t deal with. Hope you are able to find somewhere a little warmer and less rain before it starts pouring buckets.
Get in and out of the Bay Area quickly and best of luck selling your car.
Wishing you all the best,
Thank you for your kind words and encouragement! I appreciate that very much.
Oregon is cold and rainy. I’m back in Sisters now which is a bit better than Elgin, but tomorrow the rain comes and stays for at least a week. And last night the temps dipped in the high twenties. My friends are heading to the Nevada desert and I’m heading back to the Bay Area for a couple of weeks. Like you, I can’t deal with the rain and cold too long.. for a few days it’s fine, but being cooped inside burning my propane – not fun!
I do hope to get the car sold quickly- being back will be a shock to my system.
thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and continuing to read.
All the best, – C
Really enjoying your blogs, Carolyn! Hang in there and let me know if I can help in any way while you are here in the Bay Area.
Thanks Jeannie. Will do. Would love to see you and catch up! – Thanks for reading! – Carolyn
i just watched your video on RTR and heard your frustration and sadness with unsolisited and unkind comments on your blog and lack of privacy at the RTR…i heard you make a strongly felt plea asking all of us to feel and consider the words we’re using and the intention behind them before we speak… we seem in america to over-value individual freedom (of speech, particularly) at the expense of ‘we”, which takes empathy, patience, and back and forth dialogue, considerate dialogue…
in michael moore’s last video, he interviewed womyn leaders in iceland, where feminist principles run the country…they even consult faeries before building roads and bridges in natural areas!!…when he asked one of the womyn what she had to say to americans watching this movie, one of the womyn leaders said, “i would never live in america…you are too ‘me’ oriented and we are ‘we’ oriented”….
i agree with your word ‘narcisisttic’…i believe we have bred a nation of highly narcisistic, masculine-principled materialists and we can all see where that “dream” has taken us!
so, i thank you for speaking up… i love your (these are all MY descriptors) “unedited”, emotion-filled, practical and “sometimes-i-don’t-know-what-i’m-doing” videos…i look forward to new ones coming out and i am applying many of your ‘attitudes’ about small living to my living situation in a HOUSE…it’s amazing how much i can do that!!…
i hope too, to have the same courage you have to show up in an “unedited”, open-hearted way i see you doing… i have much gratitude for your willingness to be public with your life and speak from your soul and heart…i would miss you if you took a break from it, but maybe sometimes that’s sometimes necessary in such a public life… with gratitude, elisabet skyhawk, port townsend washington
Thank you for the very kind note elisabet, and the story of Michale Moore’s movie ( love him).. So much truth and inspiration in your message. A lot to ponder. Thank you for the encouragement! <3 - Carolyn
back to you carolyn…
i have been pondering too, what kind of citizens we in america collectively ‘condition’ ourselves to be…. it seems as a collective, we are arrogant, entitled, (using way more resources than ever was our right), judgemental of ‘lesser’, usually defined by the amount of green pieces of paper and material goods you have acquired, pretentious, way over-value speed, efficiency, technology and production, scientific to the exclusion of mystical, magical, spiritual, shallow in our over-valuing ‘happy and productive’ and undervaluing the worth of elders, artists, and disenfranchised groups….and, i must add, our discounting the nourishing affect Wild Earth has on humans…
i am very inspired to watch those like you and bob forging new frontiers in our falling-apart/dead-end value system… i hope you both take good care of yourselves and find plenty of alone/Earth time while doing this!
Water is the nemesis of your RV. While we all need and appreciate water and rain, it can cause some serious damage to your RV that is going to be expensive to repair. That’s why RV Roof Magic protectant is one of the best ways to protect your investment.
Don’t let one bad day ruin your RVing experience. We cannot control weather, so all we can do is to live for the moment and create cherished memories. Happy camping!