Fresh "vanlife" folks here, Sophie and Jesse, coming from Portland, Oregon, in route to Alaska and beyond. We spent the last year building-out our Eurovan and have finally taken off this June.
We've been 'poppin the top' between the tall trees of the Pacific Northwest and scratching our heads about the more urban places we've slept in, still testing out our limits.
Something that may be important to other Westy folks is some clarity on pop-top plausibility. We can't find the info anywhere. It is a unique situation to be only mostly contained for stealth camping. Though, as our case studies go, things like Walmarts and rest stops are a-okay, so far. We do have a daybed contained for stealthier circumstances, but the top bunk is ideal. I digress....
We've mostly been monopolizing on Dispersed Camping spots, which I'm sure you've read up on. Rule of thumb is it's any pull-off in National Forest land at least one mile from a developed campsite.
Painted Hills, Oregon: (photo 1) The photo doesn't do it justice; it rarely does. This spot is just beyond the painted hills at the end of the road at left...not toward the lake at right. The last camp spot was idyllic, completely isolated in the hills with a breeze, and just a minutes hike from an incredible view. The second photo shows Jesse at the top of said view just before days break. We went in March and the birds were singing something magnificent. Bring enough water.
Alvord Hot Springs near Steens Mountain, Oregon: Not free, BUT, we strongly believe if there is anything worth driving to the middle of nowhere and spending 20 bux on this side of the Mississippi it really might be this place. It's at the heart of "the big empty" (the most remote land in the contiguous U.S.) where you're more likely to see Antelope than people. Although, a stay at Alvord means meeting Joe, self-taught architect and human extraordinaire. If you ask, you will be invited to tour his epic tiny home and to meet his parrot friend, not pet. You can sleep in the designated camp area or directly on the playa, Joe doesn't mind, though it does get damn windy. The hot springs themselves will make you feel like you own the world.
Anyway, today is a coffee shop day and I need to get researching our next moves. I just wanted to make sure I got a couple of these in. As I've made apparent, I could go on and on and on. More for round two, mayhaps!
Check out #wheredoyouwannawakeup for photos of my adventures.