My Month-Long Experience of Being Homeless.

My good friends Sara and Joe just recently bought a Sprinter van and plan to live and travel in it. Without rambling, I’ll keep it simple: I’m jealous.

Though I’m not joining them now, maybe ‘down the road’ (haha, see what I did there?) I’ll be able to join the van life for awhile. As for now, I will continue to enjoy my month-long climbing expeditions that my super flexible work schedule allows me to take.

Despite not climbing for about a month, Josh (my boyfriend) and I decided to extend a family vacation into a month-long climbing trip. We started from home in Sacramento, CA and headed to my beloved highschool friend Shelby, who resides in hipster-ville Portland, Oregon. Don’t get me wrong- Portland was amazing (with all it’s glorious rain).

After a night of local beers, fresh kale, quinoa and tofu, Josh and I headed north to Squamish, British Columbia.. the endless land of rock to climb on all surrounding the beautiful Howe Sound.


Being a poor rock climbing college student with a car that has inadequate sleeping space can make these trips more difficult than one would assume..

In between Portland and Squamish we took a detour to Leavenworth which ended in failure and spent a night sleeping in my car at a rest stop. Legs piled on top of one another, heads lying half on a backpack half on a pillow.. homeless move number 1.

In Squamish, camping costs $10 per person per night, and with two people that adds up quickly. So, we opted to camp in the ‘back woods’ (this is not necessarily legal, so I don’t recommend it… get a van!). We found a nice hidden spot and nestled our tent in, covering our tarp with moss to blend in. It worked too, I got lost every night trying to go to bed.

About a week later, our neighbors were infiltrated by a ranger and all of their gear was given to the police. We took a short hike around and the 9 other tents that were somewhat near us were gone. We were the last standers and did not want to piss off any sweet Canadians so we packed up and climbed for the day to get our minds off the fact that we had no where to sleep that night.

***Prepare for in-depth story. Skip to next section if you are uninterested in reading a short novel***

We later decided that we would just park on the forest service road and camp next to our car which a few people do. First, we went to meet some climbers at the only bar in Squamish, the BrewPub. We each had a beer and a half, enjoyed some sweet potato fries and live music and on the way to our new home, there was a checkpoint. The officers stop every car and ask if you have been drinking.

A thicker blonde man stuck his head into our car and Josh told him we had each had a beer. The man had us pull over and blow into this contraption which reads your blood-alcohol level. Let me ensure you that neither of us were drunk. After he blew, we waited in anticipation as the word, WARN appeared. Whew! I thought, We’re good. The officer went on to explain that in British Columbia there is a new law that states if your blood alcohol is between .05% and .08% you receive a ‘WARN’, your license is suspended for three days, the DMV sends your license back to your insurance and you have to pay a $200 ticket. Let me remind you that if we had been in the states, the officer would have waved us by, because that is legal. But no excuses I suppose…

The man made me blow into the gun-looking tool as well and because I was at a ‘WARN’ too, neither of us could drive for the next 6 hours. They had us get out of the car, and the younger (rude) cop drove The Black Beauty (my car) to the nearest parking lot: Mag’s 99 Chicken. They didn’t have much advice for what we should do for the next 6 hours, but we were not allowed to stay in the car so we gathered pillows and headed back over the bridge to the 24 hour McDonalds. Yup, I said it, Mckee Dee’s.

Commence homeless move number 2.

As I walked into McDonald’s at 11:30 pm with pillows in hand, I took a seat next to a sleeping homeless man and couldn’t help but giggle at the situation. Josh wasn’t pleased to say the least.

6 hours passed and we headed back to Mag’s to get my car. We drove to the forest service road and pitched a tent as the sun rose.. (don’t forget, we’re on the side of a road).

We slept until 1pm with giant logging trucks driving by and woke up to a new day in which Josh didn’t have a license and owed $200 to Canada. Three days passed and it was 4th of July. After a load of confusion going back and forth between the DMV and the police department, it turned out that because we were from the states, they were able to simply give Josh his license back and no payment was needed. “Lady Liberty was looking down upon us” as Josh would say.

***End short novel, new section.***

We lived on the forest service road for a few nights until a bear tried to break into The Black Beauty only 1 foot away from where we slept and for at least 2 hours I lay in the tent silent, scared that my breath would startle the bear and it would attack. I gulped multiple times. I thought that was just in movies.. No, it’s a real thing.

I refused to go back and luckily our friends from Oregon were arriving and they were staying in a cabin. We couldn’t stay in the cabin but Eric had an SUV so we called that home for the next week.

Climbing is hard. The first week was a buzzkill but eventually I got used to real rock and started sending some projects.

Here I am on Lounge Act, V6


Josh on a hard variation to Black Mark

Me on Black Mark

We hiked the chief, celebrated my birthday with dirtbag climbers from all over the world, played in a chess tournament, climbed till our tips were bleeding (wait, that happened the first day), competed in a man-competition (I went undefeated in one of the categories, thank you), ate poutine, survived a bear encounter, and the black beauty didn’t break down on us. All in all, I’d say it was a good trip.

Until next time!

2 Responses

  1. Ellen your post has left me feeling grateful for all the wonderful things we take for granted and with the feeling of being so proud of you and all the things that I know that you will accomplish! Good job!

  2. Thanks! Yes, it is very easy to take life for granted.

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