10 and 2: Hell’s Canyon and Heaven’s Gate


Returning to #vanlife after a quick stint in Los Angeles was a welcome shift back to the lifestyle I’ve grown more used to.  While I can’t say that I’m surprised, it was nice to see that I really don’t feel like I’m missing out on “city life.”  I definitely miss the friends who became family over my nearly ten years in Los Angeles, but I’m glad I’ve traded it for life on the road.

After landing in Spokane and retrieving the van from long-term parking, I spent the next day in the city catching up on work and emails, doing a lot more laundry than normal, and preparing to head into Idaho.  Until this trip, I had never been to Idaho, but I knew I wanted to spend some serious time there.  The mountains are big, the rivers hold tremendous trout fishing opportunities, and there’s A LOT of public land to explore.  Lots of public land also means lots of free camping (read:  free camping = no campground amenities = no crowds or neighbors!).


I dropped into Idaho from southeastern Washington and basically followed the western border south towards Lewiston.  North of town, the land drops off dramatically from Lewiston Hill, and you get amazing vistas of the land to the south and a great view of the junction of the Clearwater River and the mighty Snake River.  A consistent theme of the trip has been forest fires.  As with most of the Mountain West, Idaho is basically on fire; the drought has hit the state pretty hard. The first night I slept in Idaho, a lightning storm moved through the area and over 50 new fires were started overnight from strikes.  Everywhere I’ve been this summer, Mother Nature has really been putting the wild land fire fighters to the test.

Even though the fires have limited the normally epic vistas, and a number of places have been closed to wilderness activity, I’ve been able to do quite a bit of exploring.  My first real taste of Idaho adventure was in Riggins.  Riggins is a very small town that consists of a handful of rafting and fishing outfitters, a couple of restaurants and bars, a couple of filling stations, a few full-time residents, and a whole lot of rafting guides.  The culinary scene is weak, but the adventure scene couldn’t be better.  It’s also blisteringly hot in the peak of summer, with daytime temps well over 100 degrees.


Just outside of town to the south, a small road breaks to the right, called Seven Devil’s Road.  Over the course of 15 miles of washboarded dirt road, you gain over 6,000 feet of elevation.  Eventually, you end up at Heaven’s Gate, where on a clear day, you can see into three surrounding states (Washington, Montana, and Oregon).  On my trip, I barely had visibility of 5 miles due to the smoke from the nearby fires.  Even though I didn’t get the vistas I was hoping for, the campground at the top was much cooler than the town of Riggins that I left.  The 30 degree drop in temperature at the Seven Devil’s campground near the apex of the road justified the rough trip to the top.

So far, Idaho has proven itself to be way, way more than potatoes and Napoleon Dynamite.  With a whole lot of mountains, rivers, and trails ahead of me, I’ll have my hands full of more than enough adventure over the next few days.  This state has much more to offer than the “Famous Potatoes” brandished across its license plates.




So what is 10 and 2? Meet Ryan and learn about why he’s on the road with Crown & Caliber.

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Ryan O’Connor is recovering from a decade of work in the investment management industry. He’s currently living out of his van and traveling the United States with his girlfriend, taking a very long route to Texas. In addition to long walks on the beach, sunsets, and production paperwork, he digs photography, fly fishing, hunting, rye whiskey, and Texas BBQ.

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