4 Cool Spots to Camp on B.C.’s Hot Springs Route

The “Hot Springs Circle Route” in British Columbia is a 500-mile adventure through some of Canada’s most gorgeous countryside in the Kootenay Rockies region.

We did it last April in a CanaDream RV, which proved to be a great experience. The Class C RV was super comfortable and warm, which was nice during the early spring. Best of all, it allowed us to camp in some great spots along the way.

When we weren’t soaking in British Columbia’s hot springs, we explored some very interesting towns, met lots of friendly Canadians and hiked amid the beautiful mountain scenery.

Here’s a look at four excellent spots for full-service RV camping along the route:

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Leslie hangs out in our camp spot at Williamson Lake Campground in Revelstoke.

1. Williamson Lake Campground, Revelstoke

Just outside of Revy, as everyone calls it, is this clean and scenic full-service campground. The heavy winter snows were still melting, but the campground was up and running to a hardy group of travelers. Info: williamsonlakecampground.com

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The snow was deep, but the camping was excellent at Nakusp.

2. Nakusp Hot Springs Campground

High in the mountains about 25 minutes away from the town of Nakusp, British Columbia, this campground felt very remote. We were the only people camping at the snowy site, which offered easy walking-distance access to the beautiful Nakusp Hot Springs. Info: www.nakusphotsprings.com

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Sunset dinner along the shore of Kootenay Lake.

3. Kokanee Creek Provincial Park

On the shores of Kootenay Lake about 20 minutes away from Nelson, British Columbia, this campsite was another full-service affair, and it offered fantastic hiking through the park. The nearby picnic tables were perfect for our sunset dinner. The campground was a short drive from Ainsworth Hot Springs. Info: www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/kokanee_crk

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Our site at Fairmont was convenient to the pools and hiking trails nearby.

4. Fairmont Hot Springs Resort

This resort is ginormous and has its own set of hiking trails to go along with the expansive pool. Just down the road about 30 minutes is another great place to soak — Radium Hot Springs. Info: www.fairmonthotsprings.com

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Within a few minutes, we were away from the resort on the trails above Fairmont.

 

 

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6 Reasons Why We Absolutely LOVED Airstream’s Basecamp

We recently hit the highway in an Airstream Basecamp, the smallest model from the most recognizable name in trailers. Here are 6 reasons it was an absolute blast.

1. It’s So Adorable

The stylish, super sporty design of this cozy pull-along is attention grabbing. It received Basecamplogo2lots of admiring looks as we traveled around North Cascades National Park  and in one instance, it stopped traffic. As we were taking photos on State Route 20’s Washington Pass, a couple from Seattle pulled over to ask about it. Of course, we gave them a tour. Because it’s such a departure from the classic Airstream, it comes as a sweet surprise when people learn about this fairly new product. (It first debuted in 2017.)

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The Airstream Basecamp proved to be nimble on the roadway.

2.  It’s Easy to Manuever

Because of its tidy size, the Basecamp feels nimble on the roadway. We had an Infiniti QX80 loaner as our tow vehicle, and that sweet ride was plenty powerful to haul this 3,000 pounder. Backing into campsites was fairly smooth, though we did get into a jam in a parking lot of a trailhead, pulling too close to a barrier. Fortunately, a couple good citizens wandered over and helped guide us out of that pickle. Thanks, guys!

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Breakfast was a breeze on the nice Basecamp stove.
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Northwest succotash with prosciutto-wrapped shrimp was easy to do on the two-burner.

3. The Kitchen is Dreamy

The galley setup is at the front of the rig, facing a bank of windows. Brilliant! It has lots of cupboard space for pantry items, and the fridge is large enough to stock up for a week-long trip. Two propane burners fired up easily and cooked food quickly. The sink was off to the side, so it was a little too tight in the space for the dishwasher to be cleaning up after the messy cook at the same time. There wasn’t a ton of counter space, but we made the most it.

4. Comfy Sleeping Space

A seating area doubles as a bed, configured by moving cushions around. Not exactly the easiest bed to make — it’s roughly the same size as a queen, but is rounded at the bottom of the vehicle. However, once everything’s all tucked in, it’s comfortable. There are open shelves above that hold a surprising amount of stuff, clothes, towels, books, etc.

5. Outdoor Shower’n

If you’re in a private campsite, you can snake the shower head through a small opening and — ahhhhh, that feels good to cool off outside. If you’d rather get ‘er done inside, it’s a toilet-in-the-shower-stall kind of situation. Good to know: The Basecamp has one tank for both gray and black water, so it fills up more quickly than those RVs that have two tanks.

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The seating area was a comfortable place to enjoy wine and snacks.

6. Happy Hour in the Cafe

That’s what we nicknamed the seating area, after chilling and sipping wine, talking about our thrilling hike that afternoon. We spotted four bears — from the comfort of our car — on our drive up to the Thornton Lakes trailhead. It was one of those amazing moments that seems almost unreal, and reaffirms that insatiable desire to get out and enjoy nature.

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In North Cascades National Park, we explored the Skagit River Loop Trail in Newhalem, Wash.
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The Basecamp was a fun rig to take up in the mountains of North Cascades National Park.

 

Why Americans Can’t Get VW’s Best Van

To a large degree, the #Vanlife movement owes its popularity to the old-school pop-top VW camper van.

They did everything today’s vans do — and in some ways, they perform even better.

So it’s surprising U.S. consumers can’t get the Volkswagen California, a van that is proving quite popular in the UK and Europe. And just why is that?

After all, the VW Eurovans and Vanagons of the ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s are still outrageously popular in the U.S. Even late ’90s vans on the market can command prices above $30,000. So it seems like there’s a market, right?

Not so fast, Volkswagen dealers say.

“The market is just not here in the United States,” said Clint Richardson of Campbell Volkswagen in Edmonds, Wash.

There are two main obstacles to bringing the VW California to the U.S., Richardson said.

“It would be very expensive to get it here, and our safety standards are different than in Europe,” he said.

“For us to get it here and sell it — we’d have to charge over $70,000,” Richardson added. And that price is just not going to work for most buyers.

“Everybody wants one until they see the price,” Richardson said.

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The Peace Vans 80s-era Vanagon we used earlier this spring.
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The Road Trip Oregon Eurovan.

 

 

 

 

Cape Crusaders in Oregon

The Three Capes Scenic Drive takes in one of the nicest sections of the Oregon Coast.

Our #Vanlife experiment led us to Cape Lookout State Park in a rented VW EuroVan from Road Trip Oregon. From there we explored the other capes in this northern section of the coast: Cape Meares and Cape Kiwanda.

It was a fantastic two-day trip. The highlight was a five-mile hike to the tip of Cape Lookout, which juts out into the Pacific, offering great views for miles.

When we weren’t exploring the capes, we shucked fresh oysters from Netarts Bay, hiked along mostly empty beaches and had roaring fires at night. April proved to be a great time to visit.

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Leslie on the Cape Lookout trail, with great views of the north coast of Oregon.
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Lunch break on the Cape Lookout hike.
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The view of the cliffs at Cape Meares.
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The lighthouse at Cape Meares.
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A blue jay visited camp at Cape Lookout.
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Sasquatch sighting on the beach at Cape Lookout.
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Sunset along Cape Lookout.

The Vintages: Retro-Cool Trailers in Oregon’s Wine Country

Like the wines of Willamette Valley in Oregon, the retro trailers at The Vintages Trailer Resort  come in many flavors.

Which one is best? Oh — so hard to choose.

You’ve got the ’53 Vagabond. Or the ’65 Boles Aero. Or the ’47 Spartan Manor. And then there’s the many flavors of Airstreams, with their sexy chrome styling.

We were lucky enough to stay in the ’57 Airstream Sovereign, like all the trailers at The Vintages, beautifully restored and finished. Located on the road between McMinnville and Dundee, it’s a great base for a tour of Oregon’s wine country.

So take a look. Which one is your favorite?

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The Neutron – Couples Edition.
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The 1958 Oasis.
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One of several Shasta trailers.
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The Airstream Bambi.
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Logos from some of the trailers.
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The Vintages is on the road between Dundee and McMinnville.

How to Build a Raging Campfire

She says: When you’re hanging outside, a campfire is everything. It’s entertaining, and warm, of course. You can cook on it, searing steaks and turning marshmallows gooey. Stare into it and think deep thoughts.

It takes skill, patience and practice — and lots kindling — to make an awesome fire. Here’s some tips from Johnny.

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Prepping

A hatchet is key for cutting logs into drumstick size kindling. Crumple newspaper and form a pyramid of kindling around them. Add fire starters around that pyramid, if you’ve got them.

Light That Fire

Once the flames get going, don’t think the work’s done. When the kindling phase of this project is burning hot, it’s time to add the larger logs, one at a time. If those pieces don’t take off, add more newspaper. Johnny tears off strips of paper, laying them on top of the fire.

Essential Tool

A pair of extra long kitchen tongs are really helpful in moving pieces of wood around. It’s important to create airflow. The more oxygen moving through, the bigger the flames. Careful, though! Cuz, you know… it’s fire!

Here’s a quickie Instagram story, shot on our recent trip to the Olympic Pennisula:

8 Reasons We Fell in Love with the Peace Van

She says: We recently took an amazing trip to the beautiful Olympic Pennisula in a 1987 VW Westfalia from Peace Vans, a rental company in Seattle. It was our first real taste of what Van Life might feel like, and I think we’re in love. Of course, it didn’t suck that the mid-March weather was spectacular, which you can see in the photo below from our stellar site at Kalaloch Beach. Here are 8 reasons we love the Peace Van.

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Kalaloch Beach campground has a few spots right on the bluff. This one’s D-33.

1. Peace Out

After an excellent tutorial at Peace Van HQ on all the features of this retro rig — thanks, Jimmer! — we hit the highway, and soon we were getting flashed the peace sign from cars coming in the other direction. So groovy! That’s the universal way to say hey when you’re behind the wheel of these beloved vehicles.

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Bring on the tie dye! Leslie Kelly photo

2. Shockingly Comfy

We got the 411 on popping the top. It’s easy! Getting it back down and all the fabric tucked in is more of a two-person job, but we handled that. And while the top bunk is designed for sleeping, it was a little too cold for that this trip. Plus, you’ve got to do some gymnastics to get up there. And we like to drink wine around the campfire — Lange Estate Winery Pinot noir from Oregon was the fave on this trip — so, hopping up top seemed a little bit like an accident waiting to happen. Next time!

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We kept the bed out most of the trip because it was easy. Leslie Kelly photo

3. There’s a Place for Everything

Talk about downsizing! It’s an amazing challenge to keep it as tight as this snug space allows, but we made it work. The plastic bins the Peace Van team loads up with kitchen essentials, including condiments, spices, and a French press felt just about right. Not too much, or too little.

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Plastic bins help keep everything organized. Leslie Kelly photo

4. Two Burners are Plenty

I’m typically a messy cook who covers every surface of the kitchen, but this setup forced me to dial it way back. The two-burner cooktop inside worked like a champ. I scrambled eggs and made coffee in the morning, and in the evening, we used the powerful Coleman stove to sear steaks and grill bratwurst. Brilliant!

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Bavarian Meats bratwurst and Olsen Farms potatoes for the WIN! Leslie Kelly photo

5. The Way the Bedroom Doubles as a Living Room

Once Johnny figured out how to swivel the passenger seat around — on the last night — we tucked the bed back into its couch form and — boom! Suddenly it felt like we had a whole lot of room. Might be different if it was pouring rain for days and we were stuck inside, but this was a very cool revelation.

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Living room, bedroom, office, we were surprised by how roomy it felt. Leslie Kelly photo

6. No More Wet Tent

We’ve camped plenty in the rain, and even when it’s not dripping, there’s usually heavy dew. The weather turned nasty on that last night, and it was such a pleasure not to have to stake down the rain fly on a tent. Raindrops falling on the roof of a heated camper van sounded pretty sweet.

7. It Started Some Great Conversations

We enjoyed talking with fellow Peace Van fans, especially the mom and daughter we met at Peace Vans HQ in SEA. They were from Toronto and so pumped to explore the west coast, from Vancouver Island down to Cali. Randomly, we ran into them on our last night out, parked three spots away! So fun!!

8. They Make Road Trippin’ Extra Fun and Easy

On this chapter of Our Grand Tour, we went places we’d been before and saw them in a whole new light. Pull into your spot and you’re good to go. Also, having this self-contained teeny shelter pushed us to try some spots we probably would have avoided if we were tent camping. In La Push, for instance, we were basically hanging out in a parking lot with a bunch of surfer dudes. But we were steps from the most incredible beach, where we ate dinner and witnessed one of the most glorious sunsets of our lives. No joke!

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What a Trip: Old-School Sou’wester Delivers

We’re sitting in a 1953 Spartan Imperial Mansion at the Sou’wester Lodge and Vintage Trailer Park on the Long Beach Peninsula, drinking wine and listening to Frank Sinatra on the turntable.

As Old Blue Eyes croons “Anything Goes,” it’s hard not to feel like we’ve traveled back in time. Of course the wine helps, but staying at the Sou’wester is a real trip, in all the best ways. It’s quirky, arty, rustic and welcoming.

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The living room of the Spartan Imperial Mansion.

Rooms, cabins and trailers

The Sou’wester sits on three acres in Seaview, Wash., with a variety of accommodations, from its 1892-era lodge to its rustic cabins, and of course, those vintage trailers, all within a short walk from the Pacific Ocean.

Inside the lodge, you’ll find a large vinyl collection, yours to peruse and play at will on the turntables available in many of the rooms. You’ll also find an “Honor Store” — grab a beer or a bottle of wine from the fridge, put it on your tab, and pay when you check out.

When visitors arrive, they are told about the Honor Store, which “sets the tone when you get here,” said owner Thandi Rosenbaum.

Rosenbaum has owned and managed the resort for almost six years, creating a community of artsy employees that help maintain lodge and grounds.

While the suites in the lodge and the rustic cabins are appealing, the ever-growing number of vintage trailers (more than 20 at present) are what makes the experience unusual and appealing.

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Two of the trailers on the grounds at the Sou’wester.

Community feeling

Rosenbaum has tried hard to create an artsy enclave at the Sou’wester. Artists-in-residence receive reduced lodging rates while staying on the attractive grounds. The beauty of the oceanside lodging offers plenty of inspiration.

“It’s a place for people to come and focus on their own creative experience,” she said.

During our visit, the Sou’wester hosted “Spaceness,” a weekend of art installations and music on the grounds.

The Sou’wester also has an art trailer with pieces on display, a thrift-store and a Finnish sauna. Regular yoga and meditation classes are offered.

“We’re always trying to maintain that community spirit,” Rosenbaum said.

Old-school authentic

What sets the Sou’wester apart from other so-called historic resorts is its authentic style. Many of the trailers have their original woodwork and furniture, lovingly restored.

“We try to maintain them as best we can and as thoughtfully as we can,” Rosenbaum said.

The effect is to feel like you’re visiting and staying at a museum. Squint hard enough and it might feel like you’ve stepped back into the 1950s.

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Some of the logos from the trailers.
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The Silver Streak is a 1953 trailer that’s part of the “Baby Collection” at the Sou’wester.
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Another view of the Silver Streak.
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On Benson Beach at nearby Cape Disappointment State Park on the Long Beach Peninsula.