Family Time

It’s time for the main event! This section of the trip is all about seeing friends and family. We had a few brief visits on our way up the coast, including my sister in Las Vegas, my aunt in Los Angeles, father- and mother-in-law in Bakersfield, and our best friends in Eugene. From there, we traveled to Boise and stayed put for a bit to celebrate the holiday season.

But First, Let Me Take a (Bestie) Selfie

On the way to Boise from Port Angeles, we made a quick stop in eastern Washington, where we met up with our super best friends, Adria and Corey. They live in Spokane, where Josh and I lived for several years during our university studies. It is the second largest city in Washington and a short drive from both Canada and Idaho.


We had an amazing time re-connecting with our friends and returning to a former home town. One of the things I have always loved about Adria is how similar we are when it comes to planning. She kept us delightfully entertained (and fed) for the whole visit and even surprised us with a night at the local casino. We also got the chance to spend some time with their adorable daughter that we hadn’t yet had the privilege of meeting. Our stay in Spokane was definitely too short, but we made the most of our time together.

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Holidays in Boise

Before hitting the road again for #Vanlife Part Three, we spent a full month in Boise, Idaho for the holiday season, staying at Josh’s mom’s house. I got a part-time job at the local Target during that time, and though it wasn’t as glamorous as my old position, it was nice to get out of the house and earn some extra holiday cash. Thanksgiving was spent at my mother-in-law’s, where we had turkey, mashed potatoes, string bean casserole, stuffing, and candied yams — way too much for only three people! Christmas was spent at my dad’s house, where we enjoyed a home-cooked German meal and spent time hanging out with our nieces as they opened gifts and listened to a special holiday reading by Santa. We even had a mini-book signing to celebrate the publication of Josh’s short story collection. The holidays were great fun, and it was really a special treat to get to spend them with family once again.


The Glamorous Lives of Jen and Josh

Much of our free time in Boise was spent cooking and baking. Some of our special dishes included Nasi Lemak and a Chinese feast. Our baking dedication really came to a head when we vowed to bake at least one cake per week. We even baked my niece’s birthday cake, a three-tiered snowman whose head hilariously fell off in the middle of the birthday song.

We’re still learning.

And then there were all of the parties. That’s right, we hit just about every hot party in town, including several holiday parties, a roaring 20’s party, a pajama party, and a Mardi Gras party. We ended the month with a new collection of amazing costumes, fun prizes, and lots of new friends.

#Vanlife Part Three

There’s a lot more to say about our month in Boise, but I’m a bit overwhelmed and running behind right now (obviously as it is currently April and I’m writing about December). We made a lot of memories in Boise, but now it’s time to move on to the final portion of #Vanlife, which sees us traveling across the southern US from California to Florida. Stay tuned!

Port Angeles Hikes

Our house sit in Washington state may have been short, but we took full advantage of the Port Angeles hikes. The city is located adjacent to one of the most diverse ecological systems in the world. Although there are a million and one amazing hikes on the Olympic Peninsula, the few listed here are all within a 30 minute drive of downtown Port Angeles.

Hurricane Ridge – Olympic National Park

Hurricane Ridge is part of the expansive Olympic National Park system. Though not very far from town, the drive takes almost a full half hour due to the narrow, winding road. However, the drive itself is worth the $30 per vehicle park entrance fee (or free with your America the Beautiful Pass). The road climbs up through both the temperate rain forest and the evergreens to take visitors up above the tree line, offering an amazing view of the surrounding mountain ranges. Unlike the rain forested areas that Olympic National Park is most known for, this Port Angeles hike is high and dry up in the mountains.

View of mountain range from the top of Hurricane Ridge

Staring at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor’s Center, we hiked a little over two miles along the interconnected trail system. The Overlook gave us a tiny glimpse of the Puget Sound over the hills. Once we reached Sunrise Point, we returned to the parking lot via the High Ridge Trail. This one ended up being one of our favorites, with unbelievable views of the mountains and even a peek at of one of the park’s far off glaciers.

View of the Hurricane Ridge Visitor's Center at Olympic National Park with the glaciers and mountains in the background.

At over 5,000 feet (1,667 m) above sea level, the Hurricane Ridge Visitor’s Center was breathtaking. It was fascinating to go from beachside to frozen mountain top in only seventeen miles. The trip really drove home the incredible ecological diversity of the Olympic Peninsula.

Spruce Railroad Trail

Part of the much longer Olympic Discovery Trail, Spruce Railroad trail is a gentle, low impact hike along the north shore of Lake Crescent. Although part of Olympic National Park, this hike is free. With its lakeside bridges, dark mountain tunnels, and vibrant greenery, this was one of the most interesting and exciting lakeside strolls I’ve ever taken. Located only 25 minutes outside of town, it was easily one of our favorite Port Angeles hikes.

Crescent Lake and bridge over Devil's Punchbowl.

There was a bit of a drizzle during our hike, but in a place that averages 26 inches (2.5 cm) of rain each year, that’s not too bad. Starting at the Spruce Railroad Trail Head off E. Beach Road, we worked our way south along the lake. About a mile in, we found a lovely bridge and a still water pond known as Devil’s Punch Bowl. Just beyond that was the first of two tunnels, McFee Tunnel.

That’s right, this Port Angeles hike wasn’t named after a railroad for nothing! The whole trail runs along the old railroad route that was abandoned in 1951, leaving two railroad tunnels behind. We made it as far as the second, Daley Rankin Tunnel, about 1.5 miles in. Then we were forced to turn around due to renovation. It was still a wonderful, 3 mile there-and-back hike. I can’t wait to see the finished project scheduled for late 2019.

Marymere Falls

Lake Crescent had more in store for us as we continued on to our favorite walk of our Port Angeles hiking adventure, Marymere Falls. Off the southern bank of Lake Crescent, Marymere Falls is about 25 minutes away from Port Angeles. This hike is a two mile there-and-back walk through lush forest, culminating in a 90 foot waterfall.

Marymere Falls - Port Angeles Hikes - The Places We Live

We parked for free in the large parking lot at the Storm King Ranger Station, then took the pedestrian walkway under the highway to the trailhead. There was an excellent mix of terrain on this hike, from paved walks, dirt paths, bridges, and stairs. I really enjoyed the variety to match the diverse scenery.

Marymere Falls Trail - Port Angeles hiking - The Places We Live

It didn’t rain the day we enjoyed this Port Angeles hike, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t get wet. During our 10 day stay here, we got wet and muddy every day during our walks regardless of the weather. I’m really glad we brought an extra pair of shoes and quality rain jackets.

Far Afield

I limited our adventures to hiking that was within 30 minutes of Port Angeles, but there is so much more to see and do in this area. Even a full weekend road trip of Olympic National Park wouldn’t be enough to see all of the natural beauty this area holds. We are both so grateful that we got the opportunity to house sit in Port Angles and hope that we will get the chance to come back and spend much more time here.

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3 Hikes within 30 minutes of Port Angeles, WA - The Places We Live

Port Angeles – The Places We Live

Our house sitting adventures continue in Port Angeles, Washington! Nestled at the northern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, this area is full of diverse ecological landscapes. We’ll be spending a little less than a week here watching over a lovely home and three dogs on the outskirts of town. The Olympic Peninsula is also home to one of the largest temperate rain forests in the US, with an emphasis on rain. It’s going to be hard to see everything we want to with such little time, but we’re sure gonna try!

Port Angeles, Washington

The State of Washington is located in the northwest corner of the contiguous states and borders British Columbia (Canada), Idaho, Oregon, and the Pacific Ocean. Washington is a powerhouse in the tech and engineering world, hosting the Boeing assembly plant, Microsoft’s headquarters, and Amazon’s headquarters. This is largely due to the lower cost of living in the Seattle area versus San Francisco, where the median housing prices are almost double.

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Port Angeles is located on the northwestern tip of Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula. Long a Native American homeland, the town now hosts a population of nearly 20,000 people with about 2% mix of native peoples. As the name suggests, Port Angeles is situated on the water, and neighbors the Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Even more, standing on the shore, one can look across the Strait to see Canada. The neighboring town of Forks, Washington was featured in the popular vampire series The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer.

Our Home

We are house sitting for three dogs in a beautiful home just outside of town. It has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and is 2,700 square feet (250 m²) on 2.5 acres. There is a fully stocked kitchen, dining room, living room, laundry room, garage, and play area. The neighboring homes are ranging around $450k. Our home was very comfortable and well appointed, with lots of artwork created by the home owner, a professional artist.


The nearest business is a family-owned bar. Of which, the owners and locals were quite the cast of characters, and we enjoyed hanging out and listening to their banter over a pint of local craft brew. A little farther afoot is downtown Port Angeles, hosting a small collection of shops, a harbor, and several parks. We walked around downtown a few times during our stay and sampled many of the local restaurants. Most noteworthy was La Belle Creperie, which served up some amazing sweet and savory crepes like the goat cheese, spinach, and raspberry one pictured above (which now lives very happily in my stomach).

Our Family

Our hosts are a family of four whom we met very briefly. Understandably, they were very excited to head out on their vacation to Disneyland. Therefore, we got quick rundown of the place and sent them on their way. They seemed like a wonderful family and based on the artwork throughout the house, we have to assume a very talented one as well.


The pets for the week were three rescue dogs: (left to right) Snuggles, Lily, and Danny. Snuggles is a chihuahua mix breed and is the alpha in the house. He hated us for about the first three hours, then decided we might be one of the best friends he has ever had. Hence, Snuggles followed me everywhere and lived up to his name. Lily was a little bashful, but a bundle of love. She enjoyed licking our faces as often as humanly (dogly?) possible. In contrast, Danny was a bit of a loner, unless belly rubs were up for offer, or if Lily was available to play. They were all super cute, fun, and the perfect lap warmers during the cold evenings.

Our Lives

This house sit was very quiet and peaceful. We got a lot of work done, including publishing Josh’s short story collection, Finding My Voice. We were both nearly in tears with the excitement of this accomplishment. Josh is now a “Published Author”! It is so exciting!!!

Further, our non-work time was spent cuddling with the dogs, going for walks, exploring Port Angeles, and the neighboring Olympic National Park. The area is absolutely beautiful! As long as getting wet from the rain isn’t a concern, the nature adventure options are endless. I can’t wait to explore more and see what life is like in this new place we live.


#Vanlife – Los Angeles to Port Angeles

The next leg of our trip takes us from sunny southern California to the gloomy rain forests of coastal Washington. We’ve driven much of this stretch of highway before, but only in little bits at a time, never in one straight shot. Our route from Los Angeles to Port Angeles doesn’t run quite the entire length of the coast, but at 1,370 miles (2,204km), it’s pretty darn close. Along the way, we got to experience the beauty of nature, drink some tasty beers, and spend ten days with our amazing besties!

Map of the Western USA highlighting our route from Glendora California to Port Angles Washington. Stops along the way include San Francisco, Burlington, and Eugene. The Places We. Live #Vanlife Part 2

San Francisco, California

Jen at the Consolato Italiano San Francisco - The Places We LiveAfter a quick overnight with Josh’s dad in Bakersfield, we were on our way to our first major stop of our Los Angeles to Port Angeles adventure, San Francisco. We were in a bit of a hurry, so we took the freeway to get there. The total drive was 415 miles (667 km), with very little scenery to speak of. We arrived in the city a little before sunset and checked in to our private room at the Green Tortoise Hostel. The place was awesome with several free meals, friendly staff, and clean rooms.

The next morning, we were up and dressed early for the walk to the Italian Consulate for my Italian dual citizenship interview. I have been working on this process since 2011, so it was a very special day for me. The consulate was a mile walk from our hostel, up and down the iconic hills of San Francisco. Josh dropped me off with a kiss and a wish for luck, and then it was time for my long awaited appointment. The interview went really well and I was told that my acceptance would be emailed to me within a few months! We went out for pasta in Little Italy to celebrate before jumping right back on the road.

San Francisco to Manchester

We had driven the majority of Historic Highway 101 on previous trips, but not the portion through northern California. With the interview over, we had plenty of time, so we opted to take the scenic route on our way to Humboldt Redwoods State Park. All of my fellow travel bloggers promised that the drive would be long and slow due to the twists and turns of the highway, the ocean views would blow us away. They were right about it being long and slow.

California Coast Fog - Los Angeles to Port Angeles - The Places We Live

The wind was blowing, it was cold, and the view was shrouded in fog for most of the day. On top of that, HWY 101 is famous for its snakelike twists and turns. Although Josh enjoyed the physical driving part, I was challenged to keep my lunch down. After a long day, we opted to spend Night 4 of our Los Angeles to Port Angeles adventure in Manchester, California. It was no surprise to either of us that we fell immediately asleep upon arriving at the Manchester Beach KOA.

Manchester to Burlington

Four tasters sitting on top of a North Coast Brewery Co (Independent since 1988) menu

We woke up to a beautiful warm and clear day and hoped for the best. Our first stop was Fort Bragg, where we visited Glass Beach and North Coast Brewing Company. I wish I had planned a little better and had us spend a couple of days there. It was a really lovely town with quite a bit to do.

Glass Beach California - Los Angeles to Port Angeles - The Places We Live

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to visit Yosemite National Park along the way from Los Angeles to Port Angeles, but we were able to spend the night at the beautiful and wondrous, Humboldt Redwoods State Park. I have visited the Redwoods before and it blew my mind. Somehow, only a couple of years later, it did it again. These trees are some of the tallest in the world. Hiking among them truly makes me feel the power of nature.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park - Los Angeles to Port Angeles - The Places We Live

Eugene, Oregon

Much of our adult life was spent living in Eugene, Oregon and I hated it the whole time. It was too laid back, too wet, and too alternative. The moment I moved out, I missed it. It is so relaxed, so green, and so creative. Damn it, Eugene! I missed you! But even more, I missed all of my friends, especially my besties!

The Places We Live

We spent the week crashing at their home just outside of downtown Eugene. It felt so good to go back to our old routines together. Evenings were spent playing games, eating food, and going out. As they both went to work during the day, we camped out in the dining room and got our own work done. My favorite part of our quiet afternoons was the daily walks with our pug-phews. Parker and LP are so cute!!

Not only was this the perfect friend visit we were dying for, it was productive. Our buddy, Travis, is a digital artist. We got the chance to work with him on Josh’s upcoming book cover. So far it looks amazing! It has been really special to be able work with friends on a project that is so close to our hearts.

Port Angeles, Washington

It was a real challenge to leave my friends (again) and move on to Washington for the final leg of the Los Angeles to Port Angeles adventure. I don’t cry very often, but I have to admit I bawled my face off for a little while. One of the few downsides of traveling full-time is the loneliness. I’m so thankful to be traveling with my best friend and true love, but I miss my friends and family. I’ve taken too many nights of Catan and mixed opinions on music for granted.

But we are on to Washington for our next house sit. This one will be a little less than a week, but offers us the opportunity to explore the Puget Sound and Olympic National Park. We’ve spent a decent amount of time in Washington, but house sitting in Port Angeles will be a new and exciting adventure for us.