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Van Life Katie Larson putting on hiking boots in her van at a primitive campsite

A Weekend of Intention: Slowing Down, Resetting, and Being Present

I’ve been traveling in one form or another since I was 18, with outdoor adventures stemming back to my childhood, camping with my parents and many siblings. In the most recent years, traveling has become my full-time job, literally. I bought a cargo van in 2016, converted it, hit the road, and never stopped—until this spring.

My name is Katie, but I go by @soweboughtavan online. I recently purchased my second van, this time in co-ownership with my partner. We’ve been sitting still for the first time in a while, doing our best to flatten the curve and working on this van conversion. While I am so excited about this new project, it also means that life has been a lot of work lately, and not a lot of play.

Van Life Katie Larsen next to Sprinter van

So, when Pyramid reached out about working together to fuel an adventure weekend, it was the perfect excuse for me to take a break and do what I do best: spend a weekend exploring dirt roads and forest trails. I cannot express the excitement I felt leading up to this weekend, planning out the various trails I wanted to explore and potential campsites I would attempt to secure. Personally, a great adventure includes a breathtaking hike, some sort of swim, and a primitive campsite with ice cold Pyramid beer to end the day. But these things take time and research to find.

Primitive parking for your van in National Forest

As a person that moves fast, I don’t adventure to necessarily have a completely relaxing weekend. Instead, I recognize that finding beautiful landscapes and private swimming coves takes work and that the reward of relaxation is earned. This means that while my morning may consist of waking up, packing up camp, and heading toward a trailhead, I know that the end result will be sipping a beer, in the peak sunshine of the day, and enjoying a refreshing swim.

Gearing up for the weekend always means making sure my van was packed with all my adventure gear. Fortunately, my van is pretty well stocked with a lot of the basics (pots and pans, dishes, bedding, etc.) but some of the additional gear I was sure to pack included a tripod, hiking boots, backpack and water bladder, swimsuit, camera + lenses + batteries, my favorite camping chair, and of course, a bunch of Pyramid beer. I personally am a huge IPA gal, so my fridge was filled with 30% Outburst Imperial IPA, 30% Blazing Bright IPA, 5% with a few tall cans of Apricot Ale, and 35% fresh groceries for solid meals in between. Another personally important piece of planning an adventure weekend is figuring out meals. I find that when camping in the van, I’m more inspired than usual to cook thorough meals, so I always plan these out and make a detailed grocery list and run before heading out of town!

So with a trip to the grocery store and a quick fill up at the gas station, I headed NE about 2 hours towards the Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint area in Idaho.

Left: IPA in sprinter van fridge. Right: Pyramid beer in camper van

Day 1:

The first day of my adventure weekend was spent solo. After living in my van full-time solo for quite some time, I’ve learned to crave alone time in the outdoors, so this day was an exciting treat for me!

Van Life Katie Larson putting on hiking boots in her van at a primitive campsite

My original plan was to hike Schweitzer Nature Trail, a 5.2 mile out and back trail that climbs toward a beautiful overlook of Sandpoint. As I was driving there, I got a weird feeling about finding camp that night. I knew if I hiked this trail, I’d be getting into camp later than 6:00PM. Pro tip: if you’re arriving at primitive, free camping (no reservations), you’re more likely to have success the earlier you show up in the day. Spots fill up quickly anytime after 5:00!

Left: National Forest Primitive Camping. Right: Hiking in Farragut State Park

So, I followed my intuition, pulled over on the backroad highway and looked at my scribbled map. Boy oh boy was I grateful for that alternative plan I created! Just 10 minutes away was Farragut State Park. I turned around, paid the day fee, bought a map, and headed to a nearby trailhead. I enjoyed a shorter hike in solitude, completing 2.3 miles on High Point Trail. I also celebrated with a cold Pyramid Outburst IPA and lunch at the summit, and only saw one person during my entire hike. It was the perfect way to start my weekend.

Bottle of Outburst IPA held up in front of the sun

After I got back to my van, I made a simple, yet delicious dinner, coconut lime chicken. Then, I headed to my campsite where I became even more grateful for my alternative planning habits. The water-side campsite I had been planning on was packed so heavily that I struggled to even turn my van around. I drove back down the dirt road toward another site, only to find that site taken as well. Tired and defeated, I decided to locate a nearby forest road (not as exciting of a site but at least it’s totally legal for overnight parking) and climbed 4 miles up a dirt road in the dark. When I finally made it to the top, I enjoyed a celebratory beer and went straight to bed.

Parking sprinter van on side of road to camp in the National Forest

Day 2:

To my surprise, I woke up the next morning to find myself in the beautiful Saint Joe National Forest, high above the lake. The birds were chirping and the sun was out as I opened the doors of my van to let the fresh air kick off my day. I enjoyed a hot breakfast with a view then headed back down the dirt road to meet my partner, who was joining me for the day. We met at the trailhead of a popular spot in Coeur d’Alene called Tubbs Hill. This is considered a heavily trafficked 2.0 mile loop, BUT the beauty of it is that it snakes along the shoreline of a point, providing endless secret swimming spots.

Swimming at Coeur d’Alene near Tubbs Hill

While the first mile and a half were definitely populated, we were able to continue past the crowds and find our own little private cove, which we scrambled down to and enjoyed in private for the rest of the day. We set up camping chairs, ate lunch, cracked some beers, and relaxed. We spent hours swimming, laying in the sun, playing games, and listening to the waves. It was one of the better weekends I’ve had in a long time.

Lunch and beer in Coeur d’Alene at Tubbs Hill Enjoying a can of APricot Ale in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Katie at smiling at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Afterward, we drove about 40 minutes up a dirt road into the Coeur d’Alene National Forest, made some delicious steak bowls, and finished the night with some Monopoly Deal.

While my adventure ended up being far from what I expected, I wouldn’t change a thing. It reminded me to be flexible, present, and enjoy whatever each moment is offering. After the weekend was complete, I reflected on my feelings. As a person who focuses heavily on mental health, this weekend provided a reset for me that I knew I needed, but I don’t think I realized quite how badly I needed it. Getting into the outdoors, connecting with nature, experiencing adventure, these are things that I truly live for. I believe that taking breaks to be outside makes us healthier and happier humans.

Left: Sunset near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Right: Katie in back of van, sitting on her bed

So I encourage you to safely and responsibly take a break from your normal routine and plan a personal adventure for yourself soon, no matter how big or small. And, as always, don’t forget to bring some cold, Pyramid beer!

Cheers and keep on adventuring,

Katie Larsen
@soweboughtavan |