Author Archives: Blaize Sun

About Blaize Sun

I live in my van, which makes me a rubber tramp. I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. I like to play with color. I make collages and hemp jewelry and cheerful winter hats. I take photographs and (sometimes, not in a long time) write poetry. All of those things make me an artist. Although I like to spread joy and to make people laugh, my wit can be sharp. I try to stay positives in all situations, to find the goodness in all people. But I often feel compelled to point out bullshit when I smell it. I like to have fun, to dance, to eat yummy food, to sit by a fire and share stories. I want to know what people hold dear and important, not just make surface small talk. This blog is a way for me to share stories. This blog is made up of my stories, rants, and observations, as well as my photographs.

Wad of Cash

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It was a Saturday afternoon in mid-June and the Mercantile was busy. A group of tween Girl Scouts and their families were scooping up souvenirs throughout the store. I was working the floor, helping people find sizes and doing my best to watch out for shoplifting.

I asked two young adult women standing by the shelf of t-shirts for kids if they needed any help. One of the woman asked if I had anything in XXXL. I told her I had one design in that size and led her over to where those shirts were stacked on a shelf. I reached to the bottom of a pile and pulled out the XXXL shirt.

The woman had a handful of stuff, mostly brochures for tourist attractions from what I could tell. She set all the stuff she’d been holding on the shelf between two stacks of t-shirts so she could take the shirt I was holding. She held the shirt at arm’s length and cast a critical eye upon it. I think this will fit my husband, she said. I’ll take it.

Rolled 20 U.s Dollar BillShe draped the shirt over her arm, grabbed her stack of stuff from the shelf and turned away from me. I glanced at the shelf, and lying where her tourist attraction brochures had been was a wad of cash. It must have been on the bottom of her stack and was smaller than everything else, so when she picked up her stack, the money was left behind.

Sometimes we have time to deliberate over our moral dilemmas and sometimes we make our moral decisions in an instant.

I reached out and grabbed the wad of cash. It would have only taken me an instant to slip it into one of the pockets of my apron. When the woman realized it was gone, she probably wouldn’t remember setting it on the shelf. If she did remember where she’d last had it, well, there were a lot of people in the store and any of them could have picked up a wad of cash found sitting on a shelf.

Instead of putting the money in my pocket, I called out, Ma’am? Ma’am? Man Holds 10 U.s Dollar Banknote

The woman turned around, and I held up the wad of cash. You forgot this, I said to her.

She looked sheepish and said, I won’t be able to buy anything without that.

I reached out and returned her money.

It was the right thing to do.

 

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/rolled-20-u-s-dollar-bill-164527/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-holds-10-u-s-dollar-banknote-928201/.

Arches National Park

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The Lady of the House and I got to Arches National Park early in the afternoon. Once again, I was impressed by the rock formations visible from the parking lot near the visitor center, and once again, The Lady gave me a knowing smile. She’d visited this park the previous summer, and she knew what magnificence I would see shortly.

We didn’t see this formation from the visitor center, but I think it was one of the nameless formations that impressed me.

During The Lady’s visit the previous July, she and her companions had hiked to Delicate Arch. She said it had taken them about three hours to hike to the Arch and back. The trail was in the direct sun, she reported, and they were quite tired by the time they returned to the car. While I would have liked to see the iconic landmark up close, I didn’t really want to use my one day in the Park getting there and back. The Lady said there was a viewpoint a short walk from a parking area where we could see Delicate Arch from a distance. I decided seeing it from a distance was good enough for me if that meant I could also see other fantastic natural beauty in the Park.

From the visitor center, I drove the van up up up on the narrow, winding road. I mostly kept my eyes in front of me, but my furtive glances to the side showed me the deep drop to the world below. Arches National Park really is above it all.

Balanced Rock

Our first stop was at the Courthouse Towers area. I felt so tiny surrounded by ever taller rock formations. I already felt like I was literally on top of the world, yet the world rose up taller around me. How was a person from the flatlands (even someone like me who’d been living among mountains for some years) supposed to make sense of this geology?

Our next stop was Balanced Rock. One day the top rock will fall, and I’ll feel grateful I was able to experience the formation when it was all in one piece. Will they rename the formation when the top rock falls? Will we call it “Formerly Balanced Rock” or “Fallen Rock” or “The Rock Formerly Known as Balanced”?

After walking the short trail around Balanced Rock, I drove us to the parking area with Double Arch on one side and The Windows Trail on the other. We decided not to walk the trail to Double Arch, but I was able to snap a decent photo of it.

The walk to the North and South Window Arches was not very strenuous, and the visual payoff was fantastic! Across from the Window Arches is the Turret Arch, so a visitor gets to see three thrilling formations for one expenditure of energy.

Double Arch

Back in the van, I drove to the Fiery Furnace lookout. The trail here is apparently quite challenging. A limited number of permits for self-guided hikes are issued each day, or folks can go on ranger-led tours of the area. The Lady and I had signed up for neither due to time constraints (and my probable inability to enjoy a quite strenuous hike). So we contented ourselves with stopping briefly and taking some photos.

Our final destination of the day was the Delicate Arch viewpoint.

Before we got on the trail to the viewpoint, we saw a rustic cabin that I wanted to take a closer look at. The National Park Service says it was built in 1906 by John Wesley Wolfe to please his daughter Flora. The Lady maintained Edward Abbey stayed in this cabin during his two seasons (1956 and 1957) as a park ranger at Arches, but I could find no official information confirming that assertion. (Once back home, The Man of the House, who was then reading Desert Solitaire, said Abbey spent a night or two in the cabin during his time in the park, but hadn’t lived there extensively as I had imagined when The Lady said he’d stayed there. I think there should be signage saying “Edward Abbey slept here” or something to that effect.)

Turnbow Cabin, part of the Wolfe Ranch. Edward Abbey slept here, maybe once or twice.

I looked at the cabin and thought, I could live here, although hauling water would probably be quite an endeavor, and I bet it’s dark out there at night. Of course, it’s probably hot in the summer and cold in the winter, but I could imagine myself living there. I wonder how many other visitors even consider the place as a possible dwelling for themselves.

We took a short walk to the viewing area, and there it was—Delicate Arch. It didn’t look so big from where we were standing, but The Lady assured me it’s huge when one is standing right under it. The informational sign says the Arch’s opening is 45 feet high and 33 feet wide. That’s pretty dang big! The Lady pointed out the people standing around the Arch; they looked like tiny colorful specks, as if someone had thrown confetti around the formation.

Delicate Arch, from a distance

We contemplated Delicate Arch for a few minutes. It’s “carved in Entrada Sandstone”, the sign says, and “is composed mostly of the Slick Rock Member. The top is a five-foot thick layer of Moab Tongue.” I zoomed my camera’s lens in for a few grainy photos. Maybe someday I’ll hike out and see Delicate Arch up close, but in the meantime, I’ll revisit it on nearly every Utah license plate I see.

I took all the photos in this post.

Grateful Vandweller (An Interview with Devan Winters)

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I met Devan Winters of the XsyntrikNomad blog through Facebook, but for the life of me, I can’t remember exactly how that meeting came about. We’ve known each other for not quite two years, but now it’s difficult to remember a time when Devan wasn’t my friend.

What started as an internet friendship evolved into an in-person friendship when we found ourselves in the same metropolitan area. Over donuts we talked and laughed and comiserated. We camped together for a couple of nights right before Christmas 2017, and I was impressed by Devan’s kind and compassionate nature. It’s been a joy to see Devan spread her rubber tramp wings and fly into van life.

Devan’s a great writer too. I’ve been blessed with her contribution of two guest posts (“This Is the Story of a (Kind) Girl” and the comprehensive article “Traveling Van Cat?” about cats and van life) on this blog. Her writing ability shines through in this interview too, which was conducted via email. In it she shares her van dwelling experiences, including how she chose her rig, a recent accident that nearly resulted in her losing her van, and what it’s like to share her limited space with a cat companion.

How long have you been a full-time van dweller?

I moved into my van permanently on June 20, 2017. I ran some final errands for my adult child that morning and then drove 6 hours to southern California. I spent my first night as a Van Dweller in Del Mar, CA at a Denny’s.

How long did you want to be on the road before you got on the road?

The epiphany leading to this lifestyle happened very late in 2014. It took 2 ½ years to research, plan, and save.

What is the make and model of your rig?

I live in a 2013 Chevy Express 1500 Passenger van with a 5.3 Liter V8. (Her name is Zō)

Can you stand up in your van?

I cannot. It is one of the things I will probably change in the future if finances permit. It would be a delightful convenience, but it won’t be the end of the world if I can’t ever do it.

Why did you choose this rig out of all the available options?

So many reasons! First, I couldn’t afford a Class B. I am strangely put off by the cookie cutter uniformity of them anyway – the lines seem too perfect for my chaotic mind. 🙂 I like something with a bit of character, like the Airstream 190. However, I knew I wanted to finance and would need something newer to get a loan. I also hoped something newer would be more mechanically sound. I did a lot of research on engines, reliability, and repair trends. Once that was settled, I decided (for me) windows were a must. The end result was my Chevy Express Passenger Van!

What’s your favorite thing about living in a full-size van?

There are two sides to that question in my mind. As far as size, I can’t imagine anything smaller than full size working for me. This is the minimum space I need to be comfortable. My favorite thing though… is a feeling. When I crawl into bed at night, a sense of peace and contentment fills my soul. I feel strong, capable, and independent. And I love knowing I am not tied down to any location.

What’s most frustrating about living in a full-size van?

Right now it’s showering. I have a Planet Fitness membership so it usually isn’t a big issue. I decided to stay in Flagstaff, AZ to escape the heat this summer though and there is no Planet fitness here. The cheapest shower is $9 at the Aquaplex. My weed sprayer shower and wet wipes have become more important than ever!

Normally though, the biggest inconvenience for me is lack of power. Because I don’t have solar yet, I have to go to places like Starbucks to work (since my laptop holds a charge for 2 hours at best). I would also LOVE to be done buying ice for my cooler. Once I get solar, a 12-volt fridge isn’t far behind.

Do you travel with everything you own?

I do.  My entire life is in my van and I LOVE it.

I know you were recently in a bad accident and almost lost your van. What are the three most important things you learned from the experience?

#1 The value of emotional support in like-minded friends. I was on the scene of the accident for two hours. An officer suggested I contact someone to come pick me up. I sent a text to a long time friend I knew in the area. When he called me in response, I began sobbing about my “home.” He tried, but the conversation with him only made me feel worse. He couldn’t relate to my fears or provide the comfort I needed. In hindsight, I realize the incredible importance and value of my closest nomadic friends. No matter how much of a loner or introvert you may be, connections to others in the nomadic community are vital. When I talked to you Blaize, or my friends LaVonne and Patrick, it was completely different. I felt understood and supported in a way only a nomad or vandweller would be able to.

#2 Never underestimate the value of an emergency fund and a backup plan. I was not remotely prepared for what happened. You should begin creating an emergency fund now if you don’t have one. Calculate how much it would cost to re-establish your life if you lost everything. Keep in mind you may have to start over smaller, but make sure you save enough that you at least have a starting point in a worst case situation. Put a plan on paper with things like where you might stay, considerations for your pet, etc.

#3 Check your insurance coverage and Roadside Benefits. Look at medical, uninsured motorist, car rental, deductible, etc. My claims adjuster told me the state minimums in Arizona don’t always cover a serious accident, especially medical. Roadside assistance is also a must and you should check your plan for trip interruption benefits as well. I’ve just signed up with a new roadside assistance plan that includes reimbursement for out of pocket costs (in several situations, including an accident) for an interruption that happens at least 100 miles from ‘home’.

What should vandwellers know about insurance?

For auto/van insurance, what I mentioned above. Consult wih someone you trust to get honest answers on what the best coverage would be for you and your van. If you don’t know any insurance folks personally, check out the guy Bob Wells did a video with titled ‘Insurance For Nomads’. There is also someone who works with RVers and vandwellers on RVillage. Check the community forums there. As far as health insurance, your guess is as good as mine.  🙂 I’m hoping to find a remote job with health benefits. I know some working-age nomads use health sharing ministries and plans, but those aren’t for me.

A companion cat shares the van with you. How’s that working out?

It’s not without its challenges! It’s definitely more of a blessing than anything, but it does require special considerations. Like where I spend the summers!

Do you prefer to spend time in cities or on public land? Why?

Nature is healing for me, but I’m also a city girl. If I didn’t have to work and could do whatever I wanted, I would probably spend my time 50/50. This might sound strange, but when I vandwell in the city, I prefer to be alone.  When I spend time in nature, I often find it more enjoyable to camp with one or two other people.

What are three things you do to stay stealthy when you’re in cities?  

I keep my van very plain. No stickers or anything. The only thing identifiable on my van is the license plate. I even have 3 different styles and colors of windshield shades that I rotate to throw anyone off. I never stay 2 nights in the same place unless there is a situation out of my control. My windows are limo tinted, but when I press Reflectix into them you can kind of tell. I feel like that’s a pretty solid give away that I’m a vandweller, so don’t use it that way. If I’m on a street instead of a parking lot, I’ll roll Reflectix around the windows loosely and pin it at the top. I’d like to eventually make a curtain that goes around the van, using blackout material, with the option to roll it up or tie it to the side, when not in use. I’m not terribly crafty though so that idea will probably stay an idea.  lol

Is there anything else you would like to share?  

Just that living this lifestyle makes me happier than I can put into words. Probably why it was so devastating for me after the accident when it looked like I might have to start all over again. The idea of having to stay in one place for a couple of years to regroup was more depressing than anything else I can think of. This lifestyle suits me and I feel blessed to be able to live it!

All photos provided by Devan Winters.

Moab, UT and The Lazy Lizard

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When The Lady of the House and I originally planned our trip, she wanted to stay in a hotel or motel for one night in Moab. We would have been on the road a couple of days by that time, camping at places with no showers. She figured when we got to Moab, we’d want showers and a real bed to sleep in. She called the hotel where her family had stayed during their visit to the area the previous summer, and the rate was around $250 per night. Yikes! That was way too much!

We planned to stay at a hostel in Santa Fe, which made me wonder if Moab had a hostel too. I did a Google Search and found the Lazy Lizard.

I knew The Lady was not going to want to stay in the dorm (although those beds are a bargain at just $12 a night). I also knew both the Santa Fe International Hostel in New Mexico’s capital city and the Snow Mansion in Taos offer private rooms. When we looked for private room options on the Lazy Lizard’s website, we found the hostel had cabins available for rent. Let’s get a cabin! The Lady said. I couldn’t argue with her suggestion. Staying in a cabin sounded really fun.

Our plans changed because the water pump on my van went out. We never made it to Santa Fe or anywhere else in New Mexico, but we rearranged our Utah itinerary so we could make our reservation at the Lazy Lizard.

We left The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park early in the afternoon and drove the couple hours to Moab. I was excited to see The Hole-N-the Rock tourist attraction outside of town; I’d read a little about it in a Sunset magazine article about the Toilet Paper Hero of Hoover Dam, and it was fun to see it in real life.

The Lady and I were hungry, so we decided to eat dinner before we checked in at the hostel. They’ll probably want to show us around, tell us about the shared kitchen, go over the rules, I said about the Lazy Lizard staff. That might take half an hour. Let’s eat dinner first, then we won’t be in a rush to leave again.

We had dinner at a place called Pasta Jay’s at 4 S Main Street Moab.The Lady and her family had eaten there during their previous visit to Moab. They’d all enjoyed the food at Pasta Jay’s very much, so much that The Lady wanted to enjoy it again and wanted me to enjoy it too.

We arrived at Pasta Jay’s around 4:30, which was great for beating the lunch and dinner crowds. The Lady ordered spaghetti with a meatless red sauce, and I ordered the special artichoke and spinach ravioli in a meatless red sauce. The sauce was so delicious, I would have been content to make a meal by dipping the included garlic bread into the sauce and eating just that. However, the ravioli were tender pillows of perfection that I also enjoyed very much. The portion size was big and if the food had been any less delicious or I had been any less hungry, I would have had leftovers to enjoy later. Since this was some of the best food I’ve ever eaten, there were no leftovers. The Lady ate with gusto what was put in front of her; she didn’t carry out any leftovers either.

I shouldn’t have worried about spending a lot of time on a tour of the Lazy Lizard. Check in took under five

Our cabin, #16

minutes. The Lady had prepaid with her credit card to hold the reservation, so we didn’t have to wait around to complete a transaction. The fellow who checked us in didn’t mention a single rule, didn’t show us the kitchen or tell us anything about its use, didn’t tell us where we could find the restroom. Thankfully, he did tell us which cabin we’d be staying in (#16) and that we could park next to it. We took our key and went on our way.

The cabin was more plain than rustic. There were no decorations of any kind, save for a (much appreciated) mirror. None of the lightbulbs (one in the middle of the ceiling and two in a lamp just inside the door) had a lampshade, which made the room seem harsh. I know we were in budget accommodations, but lampshades and some kind of decor would have helped the cabin seem a little more inviting.

In addition to a table and two chairs in the corner and another smaller table near the door, the furniture consisted of a bunk bed. The Lady took the bottom bunk and found the mattress was bigger than the frame. If she got too close to the edge, the side of the mattress drooped towards the floor and she ran the risk of rolling right out of the bed. I slept on the top bunk, which had a double mattress that fit the frame. I found my mattress adequately comfortable, but The Lady said the mattress in my van was more comfortable than the one she slept on in the cabin.

Before we started the trip, I’d sent an email to the Lazy Lizard to ask if linens were provided for the beds. I was told they were provided, which was technically true. Both mattresses were covered with a fitted sheet, and a flat sheet was folded on the foot of the bed. A bedspread was folded at the foot of each bed too. The bedspread was a joke. It looked as if it were purchased from a liquidation sale at a Howard Johnson motel that went out of business in the late 80s. It was too thin to do any good against the chill of an April night, so I brought in my comforter from the van. The pillows were flat; fluffing them didn’t help. I brought in my pillow too, as did The Lady.

Towels were provided too. There were six fairly fluffy towels for the two of us. However, The Lady found something crusty on the one she was going to use after her shower. She decided to forgo the towels provided and use the one she’d brought from home. The towel I used was free of crust and stains.

The shower stalls at the Lazy Lizard were narrow and utilitarian, but the water was HOT.

We knew when we made the reservation that the cabin didn’t have a private bath. I think everyone at the Lazy Lizard shares the restrooms. However, I guess in my imagination, our cabin was a little closer to the restrooms than it actually was. In reality, we weren’t terribly far, but it seemed a long walk to get to a toilet at 2am.

I think The Lady and I would agree that the highlight of our stay at the Lazy Lizard was the seemingly unlimited hot water in the showers. I was a little afraid the water was going to scald me, but once I got the temperature adjusted properly, I luxuriated in the hot water that never waned.

We should have figured out how to use the room’s electric heater before we went to bed. The room was warm enough early in the evening, but got cold in the night. When I came back from the restroom at two in the morning, The Lady told me she was really, really cold. Rather than turn on the light and try to get the heater going, I just went out to the van and got my big down comforter for her. She snuggled down, and we got a few more hours of sleep.

The next morning brought its own challenges.

The Lady went to check out the cleanliness of the kitchen, but found it was already full of people cooking their breakfasts. The little yard in front of our cabin had a picnic table, so I suggested we set up our camp stove and propane tank and cook there. The Lady was concerned someone would come along and tell us we couldn’t cook outside the cabin.

This is the picnic table where The Lady cooked our delicious breakfast.

If the man at the desk couldn’t be bothered to tell us how to find the restroom, I told her, I doubt he’s going to come out here and tell us we can’t cook.

I set up the tank and the stove, and The Lady cooked. I found out later that she kept catching the dude who had his tent pitched in the little yard next to ours looking at her through the missing board in the wooden fence between the two areas.

The Lazy Lizard isn’t a terrible place to stay if you go to Moab and don’t have a rig to sleep in. Just remember, it’s inexpensive housing, and you get what you pay for. If I went back to Moab alone and without my rig, I’d give the Lazy Lizard’s dormitory a try. If I had my van, I’d stay on nearby free BLM land like Willow Spring Road and pay to shower at the Lazy Lizard.

The Lady and I really didn’t spend much time In Moab. The day after our stay at the Lazy Lizard, we spent the afternoon at Arches National Park. That evening we went into Moab to eat dinner on the lovely patio at The Lady’s beloved Atomic Café (located at 1393 North Highway 191) where we had excellent veggie burgers. While we waited for the Atomic Café to open, we walked a bit downtown, pressing pennies at Desert Dreams at 71 N. Main and browsing in the (very expensive) Made in Moab store. However, I enjoyed the vibe of the town—busy but not too crowded, outdoorsy yet artsy too. Maybe there will be more trips to Moab in my future.

 

Cave Spring Trail

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My first ladder

The Lady of the House had told me about the ladders.

On some of the trails she’d hiked during her family vacation in Utah, visitors had to climb up or down (or up and down) ladders to get to different levels of the trail. Today I would experience my first ladder.

We were in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. We’d just hiked Pothole Point Trail, and now we were on our way to Cave Spring Trail.

It was early afternoon and warm. I was glad it was early April and not full-on summer because despite the mild temperature, the sun was beating down. The last hike had mostly been in direct sun, and even with long cotton clothing covering m body and my big hat covering my head, I knew the sun would wear me down. Hiking in the sun and the heat—well, that’s not my idea of a good time. But as I said, the heat wasn’t so bad, and I was enjoying myself.

The Lady had read a description of Cave Spring at the visitor center or maybe in the informational newspaper about Canyonlands she’d picked up during her last visit to the park. She knew this was the hike with the ladder. I was calmly excited to climb a ladder on a hike because it’s not something everyone had done. Climbing a ladder on a hike would probably make me a little tougher, gave me a little extra trail cred. Lord knows I need all the trail cred I can get.

The first interesting stop on the trail was the cowboy camp. According to the sign at the trailhead, this first alcove served as an open-air bunkhouse. I’m not sure when this particular area was in use, but the sign says cowboys lived in isolated camps like this one from the 1890s until cattle ranching was discontinued in Canyonlands in 1975.

Cowboy artifacts. The photo on the sign shows them better than this photo of mine does.

I don’t know  if the items in the alcove are the actual items left in this particular spot by actual cowboys or if they were set up here to represent what a cowboy camp might have looked like. The sign alludes to the fact that this is the real deal, but doesn’t come right out and say so. When I believe real cowboys left these actual items in this particular place, I feel real lonely. Did the cowboys know they would never return and decided these items weren’t even worth taking out, or did they think they’d be back someday to pick up their things? Did anyone ever miss the blue bowl left on the table?

The actual spring in the cave on the eponymous Cave Spring Trail

The next point of interest was Cave Spring itself. Located in more of an alcove than an actual cave, the trailhead sign calls it “one of the area’s few year-round water sources.” No wonder the cowboys wanted to camp nearby! There wasn’t a lot of water there—barely a pool—but enough for people to live off of when other sources were dry. I love the vivid green of the plants growing by the spring, especially against the browns and tans of the rock and dirt.

We soon saw that cowboys weren’t the only people who utilized this place. The sign at the trailhead says the area “contains evidence of almost 1,000 years of human use.” Past the cowboy camp, near the spring, we saw cave paintings.

We saw the handprints first. They’re not actually paintings, but the outlines of hands held up against the wall of stone while some white pigment was thrown or blown around the fingers. Who was this person who centuries ago decided to lean an “I was here” mark on the stone? Were there two people leaving evidence of their lives on that wall? (Only while looking at my photo of these hand outlines months later did I realize the outline on the left is that of a right hand—well, unless the person had the back of the hand pressed against the rock and not the palm as I’d first supposed.) Why is the outline on the right not very good? Was the wall too bumpy there for a good outline? What is the white pigment and how has it lasted for centuries? Did the person who left this mark imagine someone so far in the future would see it and wonder about it? Some of these questions may be answerable (how I wish I’d been able to attend a ranger talk at this site!) but the thought process that went into these marks will forever remain a mystery.

We saw more prehistoric art by the spring, these pieces produced with a rusty orange pigment. Most of the figures appear to me to be humanoid—I could see what I thought were meant to be arms and legs—but I have no idea what the figures are supposed to represent. Gods? Shamans? Aliens from outer space? Mom and Dad? Were these figures religious representations or the equivalent of a child’s drawing of the family fastened to the refrigerator door? Again, I doubt we’ll ever know with certainty.

The last of the rock painting we saw depicted hands again. I’m not sure if these were actual hand prints or paintings of handprints. The bright orange one to the far right looks most like an actual handprint done by someone who wasn’t very good at making handprints. (The outline of the thumb is barely there.) The others that look more spirally in the palm—was that from slightly different positioning in repeated printings? I wish now I had paid attention to the size of the hands, perhaps taken a photo with my own hand close by for comparison. I also wish I had seen the trail guide the sign at the trailhead describes as offering “more information on the human history of the area.”

The first part of the hike had been mostly in the cool of the shade. Especially near the spring, the air was damp and almost chilly. Soon after we saw the last of the rock paintings, we moved out into the open and back into the sun. It wasn’t long before I was climbing my first ladder!

There were actually two ladders on the tail. The trailhead sign says, “Past the spring, two wooden ladders lead to views of the surrounding terrain.”

View of the surrounding terrain

The ladders weren’t as rickety as I had feared. I thought they’d be more rustic, but they were held together with modern metal bolts and washers. (Not to worry, I’d get my share of rustic and rickety ladders at Natural Bridges National Monument.)

Why ladders? I wondered. Did the native people of the area use ladders to get to different levels of the land? Were ladders less cost prohibitive than were metal or wooden stairways? Did wooden ladders blend into the landscape better than other options did? I have no answers to these questions.

Past the spring, this is not a trail for people with serious physical limitations. I made it down the ladder ok, but I went slowly and carefully. I gripped the rung in front of me before I moved to place my feet carefully on the rung below. I wouldn’t say I was scared, but I would say I was definitely cautious. I certainly felt tough once I had my feet back on the ground. Oh, yeah! I do hikes that involve climbing ladders! I’m a badass!

As someone who enjoyed studying anthropology, the human history aspect of Cave Spring Trail made it one of my favorite hikes. I was fascinated by what’s been left behind there by humans of the past. And did I mention I climbed down two ladders while hiking that trail? Did I mention I’m a badass?

Badass with a big ass, and I’m ok with that.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

Follow Me on Social Media!

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If you’re on Facebook or Instagram, you can follow me there!

You can see my handmade creations, like this collage, on my Blazin’ Sun Creations Facebook page.

I have three Facebook pages you can follow: Blaize Sun, Rubber Tramp Artist, and Blaizin’ Sun Creations. The Blaize Sun page is about me as an author and a person. Each of my blog posts pops up on the Rubber Tramp Artist page on the same day it appears here. I sometimes also post photos and updates on my life and travels there. The Blaizin’ Sun Creations page is where I share artwork I’ve created that is for sale. If you follow my pages, you can stay up-to-date on what I’m doing through your Facebook account. Of course, I would be so pleased if you like any or all of my pages. You can also leave a review of anything I’ve made that you now own, this blog, or my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods.

I’ve been having a lot of fun on Instagram since I joined almost two months ago. You can find me @rubbertrampartist. I love sharing photographs there. Sometimes I take a great shot, but the photo doesn’t necessarily have a place in one of my blog posts. Instagram lets me easily share the photos you might otherwise never see. I do mention my blog and my writing on Instagram, but the photos in my account show a broader portion of my life, everything from the bargains I find (hello 99 cent organic polenta and a huge jar of Southwestern 505 salsa with certified Hatch, NM green chiles for $2.47) to the trees I see on  my lunch break. If you already like my blog, and particularly if you enjoy my photos, follow me on Instagram!

Bargain salsa! Hatch green chiles and only $2.47 for that big jar!

I’m not on Twitter or Pinterest. Should I be? Let me know what you think by commenting below.

I took the photos in this post. They originally appeared in my Instagram account.

Tips on Grooming Your Vandwelling Dog (Guest Post)

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Today’s guest post is by dog lover Adam Conrad of the Shih Tzu Expert website. Adam is going to tell you how to groom your dog on the road. Whether you typically boondock far from professional groomers or you want to save money by grooming your pup yourself, Adam’s tips will keep your pooch looking and feeling good wherever the road takes the two of you.

You and your furry dog are on-the-go living a life of adventure. Part of reaping the joys and benefits of that beautiful life means ensuring that your pet is healthy and safe at all times.

One of the easiest ways you can be a good pet owner is to ensure that your dog is healthy with some basic hygiene and grooming tips.  It’s easy to forget about some of these basicdaily routines, but doing these things habitually not only keeps your dog healthy and clean, but also makes grooming easier.

When you’re regularly brushing its hair and teeth, your dog won’t fight these behaviors because they become a part of its routine.  Here are some of the most effective and common ways that you can affordably and easily maintain your dog’s grooming needs.

adorable, animal, animal portraitBrush Before Bathing Your Dog

Your dog lives for life on the road and adventure. That means that he or she will require some extra hair care maintenance to undo tangles and knots. It’s recommended that dogs be bathed once every three months, but this number will increase if your pet spends time outdoors.

First, start with a good slick, metal pin brush that will really get through the strands of the hair, removing all dead hair and dirt. This is the key to keeping the dog’s hair clean. If your dog has tangles, you can use corn starch in the hair to help alleviate the knots quickly and affordably.

Try to keep your dog standing when you brush him, and do it as regularly as you can. Getting him used to this behavior will allow him to become conditioned to all other grooming habits.

Next, set your dog in a few inches of lukewarm water. If you don’t have a hose, you can use a pitcher to wet your dog. You’ll want to make sure that you’re using a high quality shampoo on your furry friend.

Take care not to spray the shampoo into your dog’s ears, nose, and eyes. You can protect your dog’s ears easily by gently placing cotton balls in the entrance of his ears, so that no excess water or shampoo gets inside. Gently massage the shampoo into the hair all over.

If you’re bathing your dog in you’re rig’s sink or shower, you won’t want to clog your drains. Make sure to use a adorable, animal, breedhair plug to protect your drain from clogging.

Minimize and Maintain Shedding

Shedding is a completely normal and healthy part of a dog’s life. Depending on the dog’s breed, the size of the animal, the time of year, and many other factors, shedding may be more prevalent. One of the easiest ways you can minimize shedding is by brushing your dog’s hair regularly. The more your brush, the more dead hair will be removed and caught in the brush and not spread all over your  living space.

Use a plastic bristle brush to break up the knots. You might also consider using a slicker brush to remove loose hairs.

One of the best indicators of a healthy coat is the kind of food your pet is eating. A high-quality food source with a good amount of protein will help your dog’s coat stay healthy and minimize shedding.

If your dog is larger and the shedding seems to be unruly at times, you might consider covering your furniture to protect your living space. Vacuuming often is another way to minimize dog hair in your living space. You might also consider picking up a special hair pick-up roller that is made for removing dog hair from furniture and fabric easily.

White and Grey Long Coat DogSafely Cut and Shave Your Dog

After you’ve freshly brushed and cleaned your dog, you might want to cut its hair. If so, please make sure that your dog is safely standing on a table so that you can easily access all areas of the fur. (For more ideas on where to place your dog for grooming, see the article on the Wag! website on How to Groom a Dog Without a Grooming Table.)

You might invest in grooming shears so that you can most effectively execute the cut.

It’s best to begin cutting your animal’s hair when it’s dry, unlike human hair. You’ll want to use the sharp tip of the scissors to trim your dog’s body, specifically the more delicate parts like the face and tail.

When trimming the ears, be very careful to have the hand not holding the scissors on the hair being trimmed to ensure that you’re never cutting your animal and inflicting pain. You wouldn’t want to hurt your best furry friend! Of course, it would be easier and safer to have a friend hold the dog while you’re working on the ears. Trimming the hair around the ears is tricky even for professional groomers, who usually use restraints.

If you’re looking to shave your dog, make sure to find a quiet and open space where your dog won’t get startled. Again, make sure the dog’s hair is clean and dry. Keep the blade flat against the skin, starting from the neck and move along the various parts of the dog’s body.

Be careful where the skin is thin on your animal, like its thighs and hips. Also, make sure to use a special blade for the dog’s face and to check that the blade is not getting too hot or burning your dog’s skin.

Trim Those Nails and Protect Those Paws

How can you even tell if your pet needs its nails trimmed? As a general rule, the dog’s nails will slightly rub the Two Person With Rings on Ring Fingersground when he or she moves. If your pet’s nails are making louder noises on hard floors or getting caught on carpet, it is time to trim your pet’s nails.

Before you even think of using dog clippers or grinding down dog’s nails, first try introducing the louder noise that the tool makes. This will help your dog not to get spooked when you’re actually cutting.

If your dog has white nails, it will be easier to cut its nails until you get closer to a light pinkish portion of the nail. Dogs with black nails don’t have an easily discernible quick, which makes it a bit more challenging to do. If your dog has black nails, try your best to cut slowly until you see a full portion of the nail that is black. If you do accidentally cut into the quick, you can use styptic powder or corn starch to stop any bleeding.

Make sure that you’re clipping the nails quickly and with force. If you use dull clippers and move slowly, the nail might not clip cleanly, leaving sharp edges, or it may actually chip and split.

Your dog’s paws will require different care in the summer and winter. In warm weather, your dog is probably active and spending a lot of time running on various terrain outdoors. In the winter, your dog might be running on pavement that has been treated with chemicals and salt after snow. You’ll want to make sure your dog’s paws are cleaned so that he isn’t ingesting any of those chemicals; also check to be sure his paws aren’t chafing or cracking from the cold weather. Apply coconut oil to dry paws or consider buying an affordable pair of winter booties for your pet. (To help you pick the right winter booties for your active pooch, the American Kennel Club website has an article on the Top 10 Dog Boots for Winter & Cold Weather.)

Since your dog is spending a great deal of time outside and then coming back into your rig’s small living space, you’ll want to take extra care to clean your dog’s paws. Cleaning wipes are critical. Try to make a habit of wiping down your dog’s paws after running around outside. Remember that purchasing dog-specific wipes is important, since almost everything you put on your dog will end up in its mouth. Doing this will ensure that your dog isn’t ingesting any harmful chemicals or ingredients, and will keep your pet safe, fresh, and clean. (The Top Dog Tips website lists the Top 10 Best Dog Wipes for Light Grooming to help you decide which ones to use on your canine companion.)

Natural Ways to Keep Your Dog’s Coat and Skin Healthy

There are a plethora of easy-to-find products that are healthy for your dog and help maintain grooming. One of the most important ways to maintain your dog’s grooming is by taking care of its coat. A healthy coat is a happy dog!

Fish oil and flaxseed oil are two products that are easy to find, safe for your dog, and help maintain a beautiful coat. These oils are rich in the essential fatty acids that help promote a healthy coat for your dog from the inside out. Another great oil for dogs is salmon oil. You can drizzle these oils on your dog’s kibble or on a chew toy for your pup to safely ingest.

Does your dog happen to have a dry, scaly nose or paw pads? Maybe they simply need more water. If your dog is Close-Up Photography of a Dog's Snoutproperly hydrated and this dry, scaly skin is still persistent, try picking up some coconut oil. A little dab rubbed into the scaly nose and paw pads should create moisture and alleviate the dryness.

We’ve only scratched the surface on some of the most important DIY grooming tips for your vandwelling dog. Remember that proper and regular grooming of your furry friend is one of the most effective ways to keep your animal clean, healthy, and safe. Maintenance is key! That means that the more you keep up with it, the easier it will be. Plus, your dog will get into the habit of regular grooming and not put up a fight to let you brush it, trim its nails, or any other critical grooming technique. Happy grooming!

Adam Conrad is a dad of 5 Shih Tzu pups and the creator of Shih Tzu Expert. His passion for helping people in all aspects of dog care flows through in the coverage he provides about dog health issues like Parvo, CDV (Canine Distemper Virus), pet containment systems, dog grooming tools and techniques, and best food for dogs with specific dietary requirements. In his spare time he is an avid scuba diver and a trail runner. 

Remember, you are responsible for yourself and your dog(s). Neither Blaize Sun nor Adam Conrad are responsible for you or your pup(s). Use common sense depending on the regulations and conditions of your location.

You can read about the real-life dog grooming experiences of part-time vandweller who travels with dogs at DIY Grooming Tips for the Vandwelling Dog.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/adorable-animal-animal-portrait-blur-422212/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/adorable-animal-breed-canine-356378/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/animal-dog-pet-53564/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/two-person-with-rings-on-ring-fingers-792775/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/animal-cold-cute-dog-434113/.

Saving Lives

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One Saturday afternoon, I saved three lives. Well, ok, I don’t know I saved those lives. Maybe the people would have been fine without me, but they also could have died had I not been there.

It was the last Saturday I would work the parking lot before the start of the 2018 camping season. The box truck with new merchandise for the mercantile would arrive later that afternoon, and my coworkers and I would spend the next few days setting up the store for the opening later in the week. I’d be working retail, but that Saturday I was selling access passes and answering questions about the trail.

The first people I saved were a lady and her toddler. Judging by her accent, the woman was German, but I can’t be sure of her nationality. She arrived in a vehicle with a license plate that read “consul,” following a car with a license plate sporting the same label. The first car was driven by a woman who was alone in the vehicle. A man was driving the second car. The woman in the first car asked where they could have a picnic, then paid the access fee for both vehicles before they disappeared into the parking lot.

The next time I saw the group, it had expanded to include—in addition to the two drivers and one passenger I’d seen in the front seats of the cars—four little kids who all seemed to be under seven years old and who all belonged to the couple from the second vehicle.

The woman who’d been the passenger in the second car looked to be in her early 50s. She and the middle-age man who’d been driving the second car seemed to be the caregivers of the four little kids, but whether they were the biological parents, grandparents, foster parents or adoptive parents, I could not tell.

When I first saw the woman, she was carrying the littlest kid—a toddler new to walking—and strolling through the parking lot.

White Dodge Ram 1500 Pickup TruckA man in a giant pickup truck had just pulled through the parking lot and was preparing to park in one of the spaces on the asphalt in the front. I could tell by the way he pulled in front of the space that he was going to back into it. The woman holding the toddler must have thought he was going to drive the truck forward and out of the lot because she stepped behind the truck like it wasn’t even there.

I don’t know if the guy driving the giant truck saw the woman with the toddler behind him. I knew he was about to back up, and I knew the woman was directly in his path. If she was in a blind spot and the guy started moving his truck in reverse, there was going to be a catastrophe.

Ma’am! I shouted in her direction. Watch out! That truck is backing up!

Oh? She said, completely oblivious. It’s backing up?

She stepped out of the truck’s path and the disaster was averted.

Later that afternoon, a fellow arrived in the parking lot with two little kids under the age of five. He parked the sports car he was driving in the dirt of the first curve through the lot. I didn’t realize the car wasn’t completely off the road until it was too late; if I had noticed sooner how he had parked, I would have had him move the car completely off of the asphalt.

I saw the fellow and the kids as they walked toward the trail. The boy child was small enough to sit in one of those Man Walking on Top of Mountain Under Blue Skykid-carrying packs the guy had on his back. The girl child with them wasn’t much bigger than the boy, but since the guy had no more room on his back, she had to walk.

The little family wasn’t gone long. I noticed them again when they came back. I watched them idly as the fellow opened the back passenger door (which faced away from the road) and loaded the boy into the car. There must have been a car seat involved, because the adult had his head and upper body in the car for quite some time. While he was distracted by his efforts in the car, the little girl walked around to the driver’s side of the car and disappeared from my view. Her caretaker didn’t seem to notice that she was no longer by his side.

About that time, a new arrival pulled into the parking lot. The Man was working with me that day, and he approached the car that had just come in. I looked back to the fellow with the two tiny kids. He still had his head in the back seat, and the little girl was still standing on the asphalt on the driver’s side of the car. I imagined the newly-arrived car taking the curve a little too fast or the little girl stepping out into its path…I shuddered inwardly.

The Man had taken the driver’s money and handed her a day pass. The car was about to roll.

At the last moment, I stepped up to the car and said, Ma’am?

The driver looked at me attentively.

Please go around this curve slowly and carefully. There’s a very small person on the side of that car (I pointed to the car in question) who’s not being supervised very well. I wanted to let you know she’s there.

The driver, a middle-age mom type, thanked me for telling her about the kid standing next to the car. She maneuvered the car slowing and carefully around the curve. As the car went by, it seemed to remind the caregiver to pay attention to the little girl, or maybe he’d just finished strapping in the boy child. In any case, he walked to the other side of the car, took the girl by the hand, brought her to the passenger side, and put her in the car too. Another disaster was averted.

I’m often surprised by how little attention some parents pay their kids in the parking lot. They don’t see the dangerous situations I witness every day I work in the lot—people driving too fast, people driving the wrong way on the one-way loop, people who are oblivious and/or distracted—or they would hold their children close. Of all the danger I’ve seen, this day stood out as the worst. I was glad I was there to make the parking lot a little safer.

Photos courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/4k-wallpaper-4×4-auto-automobile-1149058/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-walking-on-top-of-mountain-under-blue-sky-1157386/.

There Should Be a Sign

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The campground wasn’t open yet, but people kept coming in. Some were the usual lookie-loos who just wanted to see what was at the end of the dirt road, but some folks were looking for a place to camp. The Big Boss Man told The Man that as camp host, he could choose to let people camp for free, or he could explain the campground was closed and send them on their way. The Man has a kind heart, so he let most of the would-be campers stay even though he was trying to get the campground ready for the opening of the season.

This photo shows the big tree that fell and crushed one half of the gate at the front of the campground. Notice the arm of the gate on the ground.

It was easier to keep folks out of other campgrounds that were closed because other campgrounds had big metal gates at their entrances that could be chained shut. The campground where The Man was the host only had a gate. Sometime before I’d ever been to the area, a huge tree fell and crushed half the gate. One arm of the gate would still swing shut, but the other arm was on the ground.

The Man swung the one arm of the gate shut one day, and that cut down on lookie-loos a bit, but folks continued to come in looking for a place to camp. It was easy enough to squeeze in between the closed half of the gate and the crushed metal and fallen tree on the edge of the driveway. Some people would even get out of their vehicles, open the closed portion of the gate, get back into their vehicles and drive into the campground. People who swung the gate open generally didn’t bother to swing the gate closed.

This photo taken in 2015 shows the Forest Service sign on the standing gate. “Road Closed to Motorized Vehicles,” it says. In 2018, the sign was no longer on the gate.

Two seasons before, when I had been the camp host at the campground in question, there was a Forest Service sign on the standing arm of the gate, visible when the gate swung shut. The signs said the road was closed to motorized vehicles but non-motorized travel was welcome. However, when I checked for the sign after The Man swung the arm shut, I realized it was gone. I think someone must have stolen it during the winter. Perhaps a sign would have kept people from driving down the road when half a closed gate didn’t deter them, but I doubt it.

The Man did let some people who bypassed the partially closed gate camp. After talking for a while, he invited a nice couple to stay the night. I think the woman was pregnant, he confided in me. We agreed a pregnant person should have access to at least a pit toilet.

That couple left the gate open, we discovered later, and a single European man drove into the campground that afternoon. I let him stay, The Man told me after going over to talk to the guy. He didn’t speak a word of English. I suppose it was easier to let him stay than it would have been to try to pantomime campground closed and explain to him where to find dispersed camping.

The next morning when I returned from my night babysitting the yurts, I saw the European man making his exit. He’d driven his car to the edge of the dirt road and found half of the gated closed. Instead of driving out on the side of the road with no gate, he had opened the closed arm. When I approached, he was still outside his car. He knew I’d caught him immediately after the act of opening the closed gate, and he looked hella guilty. Instead of getting in his car and driving away, he did some nervous pacing in circles, as if he was unsure of what to do.

The road into the campground is only wide enough for one car, so I waited patiently on the main road for the European man to pull out before I pulled in. He finally got into his little white sports car and drove away. After I entered the campground, I got out of my van and closed the gate behind me.

About a week and a half before the campground officially opened, The Man discovered someone had stolen the heavy steel fire ring from site #1. He decided he didn’t want anyone coming into the campground while we were down in the valley, so he came up with a plan as we were leaving. Once I pulled the van past the gate, he got out and not only swung closed the half of the gate still standing, he dragged the downed arm across the rest of the entrance. The blocked road should let people know the campground was closed, we agreed.

We spent one night in town, returning late the next afternoon. The blocked driveway was a slight pain in the neck when I left in the evenings to spend the night with the yurts, but it was worth it to have a day off in peace in the still-closed campground.

After our two days off, it was back to work for us. The Big Boss Man asked The Man to get the group campground ready for campers, so that’s what he spent most of the day doing. I sat in the van and reconciled the money I’d collected from the iron ranger over the last several days.

We got back to our campground early in the afternoon. When we pulled up to the gate, we saw the large piece of metal The Man had used to block the entrance was pulled to the side. Someone had moved his barrier!

As I drove down the narrow dirt road, a white pickup truck came flying from the depths of the campground like a bat-out-of-hell. I pulled off the road as far as I could so the truck could (hopefully) get past my van, but then the truck pulled off the road too. So I pulled back onto the road, then drove up next to the white pickup truck.

The driver rolled down his window. He was a young guy, probably no more than 30. The woman in the passenger seat was young too and wore a ball cap with a ponytail passed through the opening in the back. She kept her face turned toward the window facing the meadow, acting as if she were very interested in examining its every detail. Never once did she look in my direction.

The campground’s closed, I told the driver. It won’t be open until Memorial Day Weekend.

Are you the host? he asked me.

He is, I said, gesturing to The Man sitting next to me.

We saw your camp, the driver said.

The campground’s closed, I repeated.

There should be a sign! the young man said, probably to distract me from the fact that he’d not just crossed a barrier so he could enter a closed campground, but had in fact moved the barrier in question.

There used to be a sign, I explained, but now it’s gone. I think it was stolen. That’s why we had the gate closed.

The woman in the passenger seat continued to study what must have been the most interesting meadow in the world.

After wishing the people in the truck a good day, I drove the van deeper into the campground. The driver of the trucked pulled it out onto the highway.

A sign, huh? A 150 pound piece of metal didn’t discourage him from entering the campground, but he wanted me to believe a sign would have done the trick?

I took the photos in this post.

 

How to Train Your Dog to Live The Vanlife (Guest Post)

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Maker:S,Date:2017-9-26,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

The dog days of summer are over, but at the Rubber Tramp Artist blog, we’re still sharing information about vandwelling with dogs.

I was absolutely pleased when the good folks at Gnomad Home reached out to me with an offer to write a guest post I could share with my readers. I jumped at the chance, as I love a good guest post. I was especially pleased to find out Jayme and John had lots of experience vandewlling with pups. Their expertise fits right in with the content I want to share with my readers. 

Today Jayme and John tell you how they trained their doggies to share their van life. Whether you’re transitioning a house dog into a road dog or bringing a brand new pup into your rig, these training tips can help keep your nomadic pooch safe and happy.

Once you make the jump from dreaming about vanlife to actually making it happen, all the big, scary steps you imagined seem to become easier and easier to manage. Selling your items stressed you out at first, but now you have no problem accepting $20 for that trinket your aunt gave you for your 13th birthday. Many of these transitions become more exciting than nerve-wracking, and mentally, you are more and more ready to just take off and hit the road. But of course, you can’t leave without your best furry friend! As it turns out, dogs need time to transition just as much as you do, and a well-trained dog makes for a very fun and easy life on the road.

We are currently traveling around with our two pups Nymeria (3) and Delilah (7), but believe it or not, there was a time when the dogs in our van outnumbered the humans! We recently had to put down our girl Crow (#CrowtoriousDOG) who was just shy of 17. We gave her one hell of a final year out on the road, letting her stick her paws in all kinds of waters from the Atlantic to the Pacific!

Needless to say, we know quite a bit about packing your pups and hitting the road. Here’s all of the tips and tricks that helped us get our domesticated dogs ready to live out in the wild!

Re-establish Basic Training Skills

This is easily the most important step of them all. Maybe you can get your dog to sit and stay because they know you’re about to toss them a treat while you guys are comfortably hanging out in your living room.But do they know how to sit and stay in a large vehicle when there are other automobiles whizzing around and you are trying to unload the groceries from the shopping cart into your fridge without your dog taking off down the road after a squirrel that emerged from the bushes? That’s why honing these basic training skills is essential.

The main commands we drilled into our dogs’ heads before beginning our adventure were, “Stay,” “Come,” and “In the van.” We practiced these commands in multiple situations, not just in our backyard. We would go out to the woods to practice, we would begin training in the middle of dog parks…anytime we found ourselves in a situation that was new to them, we would find time for some training.

Living on the road is rarely equivalent to hanging out in someone’s living room or fenced-in backyard. There are always distractions, noises, movements, creatures, and more going on around you at all times – that’s why it was very important to us that our dogs were familiar with responding as we expected under any circumstances.

“Stay” is probably our most used command. This helps when the doors of the van are open, when they are about to get into something we want them to stay away from, if they see a creature we don’t want them getting involved with, and more.

“Come” is perfect for when we allow them to run around off leash (which we do a lot of the time). We are always responsible about when and how we allow them to galavant off leash, which means we certainly don’t allow it in Walmart parking lots or National Parks.

But there are some areas where we do trust them off leash: when we are on BLM (Bureau of Lang Management) land or we find ourselves in National Forests – and if the area and conditions seem acceptable to our standards – we let them free! They LOVE getting to explore all of the scents and different terrains we find ourselves in. It’s almost as if you can see heaven glowing in their eyes as they leap over fallen trees and jump at the sight of a bug they’ve never seen before.

Unfortunately they can’t be off leash 24/7, and we need them to return to us from time to time. That’s when “Come” truly comes in handy. If a hiker walks near our spot and seems uneasy about the dogs, calling for them to return (and knowing that they will) makes for an easy pass on a potentially confrontational situation. Or if we are ready to roll to the next location, we just have to give a little holler and they come running back to the van, ready for the next adventure.

“In the van” is just a great, simple command for them to know. Whether we want them to seek shelter from an incoming storm, get ready to hit the road, or whatever the case may be – if we tell them, “in the van,” they hop right on in!

Build Trust with Your Dog and Let Them Run Around Off Leash

This one is VERY important to us. Our dogs have a lot of energy, and a trail run on a leash is not enough exercise for them to burn all of their juice. However, you can’t just take the leash off of your dog and expect all to go well on the first try

This is a practice that took time for us. We started training Nymeria to behave off leash when she was a puppy. There was a wooded area not too far from our house that not too many people frequented, and we were able to practice with her there. We would have her on a leash for a little bit, then let her off. Anytime she would come back to us we would make a very big deal about it, with excessive praise and even a few treats (we don’t normally give our dogs treats, but we do when we want something to be a BIG deal).

When we took in Delilah, she was a Stage Five RUNNER! If a door was even slightly cracked, she would bust right on through it and be gone in a second. In the end, what it came down to was that she was just dying to explore and check out her surroundings. After we took her in, we let her off leash in the same area where we trained Nymeria as a puppy. Naturally, Deliliah took off, and it actually took about 15 minutes for her to return. Yes, it made us nervous,but this is part of the trust. Our dogs don’t want to be away from us forever – they just want to explore. When Delilah returned, we showered her with praise and treats!

The second time we let her off leash, she still ran off to explore, but when we called her name, she immediately sprinted back to us, tail wagging and excited for a treat and some praise (granted, she is a very food driven creature!).

Shortly after this second time of off-leash exploring, we were at John’s parents house. The front door opened, Delilah began to run out, and we called her to come back. She immediately stopped, turned around and sprinted back to us! Now, anytime we go into the woods and let her off leash, she tends to stay within ear shot. Delilah and Nymeria never adventure too far, we can typically see or hear them (they each have a bear bell on their collars, as well as lights that can be turned on to a solid or flashing light), and the second we call for them they happily trot on back to us.

Enjoy Exploring the World with Your Pup!

Establishing a strong and trusting relationship with your dog is essential for an easier life on the road with your furry bestie. Nothing about living a nomadic life is 100% easy, but these tips and tricks should help make the transition from domesticated life to living in the wild simpler for you and your four-legged buddies to handle!

Jayme and John from Gnomad Home live out of their 1996 Chevy Express van they built into a tiny home with their two pups Nymeria (3) and Delilah (7). They now create free content for others wishing to pursue a lifestyle on the road whether it be full-time travel or part-time travel. They have been living nomadically since the Spring of 2017.

Remember, you are responsible for yourself and your dog(s). Neither Blaize Sun nor Jayme and John from Gnomad Home are responsible for you or your pup(s). Use common sense depending on the regulations and conditions of your location.

First two photos coutesy of the authors. Other imags courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/landscape-clouds-mountain-dog-65867/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/portrait-of-dog-248273/.