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  • Kayla Sulak

Winter Warrior: My Second Winter in the Truck

It's my second winter of living out of my truck in Central Oregon, and so far, it's nothing like last year! At first it seemed like we might have a repeat of last winter, as the season started out with a cold snap and snow on Christmas. Actually, all I wanted for Christmas was snow! However, conditions quickly changed to fog inversions, freezing rain and relatively much warmer temperatures after that. It feels more like we skipped winter and went straight to springtime in Bend!

Thankfully, I was able to dash up to the Canadian Rockies for a nice taste of winter a few weeks ago. In the few days right before my visit, Alberta had an extreme cold snap with temperatures plummeting to around -30 degrees Celsius (that's -22 degrees Fahrenheit). The snow capped peaks and frozen lakes were incredibly beautiful. The landscape of the Canadian Rocky Mountains is especially rugged, and it's quick to eliminate the weak. Lucky for me, the nights were quite a bit warmer than that during my stay there--lows of maybe +28 degrees Fahrenheit at the coldest--so I was able to camp out of my truck comfortably like normal.

Sunrise over a frozen lake in Alberta, Canada

Above: a vibrant sunrise over a frozen lake in Alberta, Canada; below: methane gas bubbles trapped beneath the icy surface of the same lake

Methane gas bubbles trapped beneath the surface of a frozen lake

This winter, I have a sense of confidence about making it safely through the season, as I already got my "Winter Tough Badge" (yes, I just made that up) after enduring last year's record setting snowfalls and subzero temperatures. Before those snow storms came last winter and I started learning that I had a rather unique ability to thrive mentally through it, I had been embarrassed about living out of my truck. The fear of people judging me filled me with anxiety, because I knew most would doubt me to begin with, or make harsh assumptions about my finances, quality of character, etc... so I avoided telling people... You know, telling them that I was "homeless," which is traditionally regarded as the lowest status in American culture, if we're being real here.

This week at work, some newer coworkers (who are also new in town)--and whom I have been open with about the fact that my home is a truck, not an apartment--have asked me some questions like, "do you just sleep for a little while each night, until it gets too cold in your truck?" or, "have you ever camped out in that park a few blocks from work?" And while I know they were innocently curious, their questions implied that they probably think I'm just barely hanging on through the winter, struggling with the cold... and, that I'm the urban homeless person who camps out in city parks, apparently. Last year, this was the exact kind of thing that gave me anxiety and made me want to hide behind a mask at work.

Contrary to those assumptions, winter is probably my favorite time of year to live out of my truck. It's not about scraping by, or just barely battling the cold because of HAVING to stay out there. No, it's about testing my strength and learning outdoor survivalism, and keeping the level of "badassery" cranked up to level 100 in the face of the storm, because I WANT to be out there. Nobody forced me leave the comfort of my cheap rental space or my old life in the Willamette Valley. To be completely honest, I still haven't gotten around to searching for a place to rent in Bend yet... not ever, in the nearly two years that I've lived out of my truck. I double-checked my priority list and it's not even on the list. Not to mention, in the winter there are no pesky bugs; it's a lot easier to keep perishable foods cold; and there are no campfire bans in winter.

Almost never have I lost sleep because it was too cold, either... although it takes some diligence. My sleeping bag is not a fancy -20 degree sleeping bag, but there is a strategy to layering extra blankets and keeping your head covered while sleeping. As they say, most of your heat is lost through your head. Weirdly, I've also found that I sleep warmer without socks, for some reason which might only be psychosomatic, or very legit. Who knows? This year I bought a Pendleton Woolen Mills blanket (on clearance from their outlet store in Bend), and it is so warm that it actually replaced not one, but TWO blankets I was using before.

There are other things to think about, aside from bedding, in order to stay warm through the night. Heat reflective window insulation helps keep the icy draft out. Even your diet can make a difference in how you adapt to the cold: a lot of studies have proven that eating a lot of (healthy) fatty foods causes you to generate more heat as your body burns those fats. This is the stuff I love to try out in real life. This is why I call myself an outdoors woman and a survivalist.

Anyways, two days ago was my 28th birthday! The day was spent playing in the snow and hiking to waterfalls. A coworker recently pointed out that this is around the time a person experiences their first "Saturn Return," when Saturn finally completes its first orbit back to where it was in the sky when you were born. It takes about 27-30 years for Saturn to make that trip. The first time it occurs in one's life is regarded as a rite of passage into adulthood, and a time of changes, big life lessons, etc. Upon doing more research, I learned that my own Saturn Return in the house of Capricorn began on December 19, 2017 and continues until March 21, 2020. Oh, boy! No wonder I've been so hungry for, and in anticipation of big changes in my life. Anyone born between February 15th, 1988 and February 5th, 1991 is also experiencing their Saturn Return, according to the internet (but don't quote me, hah).

That concludes today's blog post! There are no more big adventures on the calendar yet, although my sights are set on a trip to Death Valley, Mojave, and Joshua Tree National Parks in the springtime.

Happy New Year and happy new trip around the sun, everybody! Thank you for reading! Please don't be shy about leaving a comment or sending an email if you have questions, ideas, or anything else you want to say.

With love,


A few more pictures from the recent trip to Banff National Park:

Above: a very cozy looking Emerald Lake Lodge; below: a frozen lake in Alberta with fascinating textures, methane bubbles and cracks in the ice

©Kayla Sulak -- please contact me if you're interested in acquiring high quality prints of my images!

#lifestyle #travel #roadtrip #Photography

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