CrtrGrl's joy of meeting & helping a homeless man build shelter at 2nd Beach, WA
Ok, so I'm actually smooching moss in the Hoh Rainforest Hall of Mosses at Olympic National Park, WA
CrtrGrl and I at the beginning of our backpacking trip down the Hoh River Trail, Olympic National Park, WA.
CrtrGrl and I rest at the Olympus Guard Station, about 9 miles in along the Hoh River Trail in Olympic National Park, WA.

Falling in Love with Washington

Our first trip to Washington was on a road trip from Southern California in 2013. After two long days of driving , we arrived on the Olympic Peninsula in the dark of night. We wanted to see Olympic National Park, so we stayed two nights at the Mora campground and the amazing Hoh Rainforest campground. The rainforests and wild coastline were from a fairy tale! We were in awe of the beauty. Three days was definitely not enough!

That initial trip planted the seed that led to our move to Washington. One long day hike on the Hoh River Trail was enough to inspire CrtrGrl to set the bold goal of doing our first backpacking trip in the Hoh. The following year, we did a 4 night, 5 day backpacking trip up to Glacier Meadows and back. Almost every year after that, we’ve made a trek to visit Washington, quickly deciding that we needed to live here.
<==  Photos from our initial trip to Washington and our backpacking trip up the Hoh River Valley the following year.

Searching for the Right Place for Us

We made a plan to start checking out areas to live in. We wanted to be close to nature, but also have easy access to civilization. Our requirements included being near amazing forests and mountains, but also near scuba diving in Puget Sound. So one year, while on vacation, we checked out Orcas Island, Anacortes, Bellingham and North Cascades National Park. Though each had their unique appeal, they didn’t quite check all of our boxes.

While hiking on Sucia Island State Park, we met a gentleman who told us he dreamed of retiring in Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula. We missed that stretch on our first road trip, so in 2017, we made the two day drive again with Port Townsend as our main destination. We fell in love with the charm and history of Port Townsend. It’s a small town that still looks like a sea port from the 1800’s. From Port Townsend, we were able to take day trips to more amazing Olympic National Park areas. We visited Sol Duc and the Elwha River Valley, and also to the towns of Sequim and Port Angeles. It definitely captured our heart!

CrtrGrl hiking in the beautiful North Cascades National Park, WA  ==>
CrtrGrl hiking in the beautiful North Cascades National Park, WA
CrtrGrl captured me photographing Fossil Bay, Sucia Island, at low tide.

There was one more place to check off. On our way south, we stayed near Hoodsport and the Staircase entrance to Olympic National Park. The diving there is reportedly amazing, but the town was a little too small and remote for us. At that point, we had done our homework enough to know the general area we wanted to live in. From then on, we focused our attention on the area surrounding Port Townsend.

All the places we checked out in Washington over 7 years! Click each dot to see where.

From Rat Race to Tiny Living

Starting in 2016, we got serious about changing our lives. I had a stable career working on computer systems, but the place I worked was in a building with no windows that came with a 130 mile round trip commute. We wanted a simpler life, with less impact on the planet. Then we discovered tiny houses, the skoolie community and minimalism!

We asked ourselves what was really important to us. For CrtrGrl, she could sit in the forest all day and be completely happy. For me, I love to explore and capture what I see to share with others. What would we be willing to sacrifice to have more time and space to do that? A lot!

Since then, we’ve had a Grand Plan (literally this check list in an Evernote note – just that last item isn’t done yet!):

  • Pay off all debts
  • Minimize expenses
  • Save money
  • Buy skoolie
  • Quit day job
  • Move to WA
  • Start online business
  • Buy small plot of forest land in WA
  • Build Skoolie and tiny dwellings in WA

Now it didn’t all happen in the order we planned or even in the way that we planned. But somehow, we’ve navigated the ever changing obstacles to get closer to our end goal. We paid off all of our debts and minimized our expenses by cutting out things that weren’t necessary. That allowed us to start putting money into savings. We did all of that over the years while we were traveling to Washington to find the perfect area to live. CrtrGrl and I also started to brainstorm ways to transition to earning income from home, with the ultimate goal of earning passive income. We yearned to do meaningful work that aligned with our values. We’ve been slowly developing alternate ways of earning a living, but really haven’t succeeded in that department yet.

CrtrGrl going through my comic books from jr high school
CrtrGrl going through my comic books from jr high school
CrtrGrl's RHCP benefit concert tshirt was sold on eBay
CrtrGrl’s RHCP benefit concert tshirt was sold on eBay
My childhood Star Wars toys
My childhood Star Wars toys that we ended up donating
As part of transitioning out of the rat race, we went through all of our belongings and started the process of minimizing. I’d read a few books by The Minimalists (Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life by Millburn/Nicodemus) and CrtrGrl had practiced it throughout her life, a result of moving a lot. The biggest challenge was going through my parent’s attic, where they had everything from my childhood. It was such a trip revisiting all of my childhood possessions (and school homework!). I pulled out a few things to hang on to, photographed things that had a special meaning to me and then donated/recycled them with the rest. We sold or donated a lot of our possessions, things we hadn’t used in over 6 months, things we wouldn’t need in Washington or be able to fit in a tiny house.

CrtrGrl and I Took the Red Pill

In late 2018, we bought Skoolie Woolie and in 2019, we made the leap! CrtrGrl and I saved up enough money to last about 6 months of reduced expenses. In March, I was promoted to deputy IPT lead for the Boeing team I was a part of. That prompted me to announce our plans that month and give my job over 5 months notice that I planned to leave. It enabled me to fully document everything I did and transition anything important. I was also able to negotiate some remote, part-time work after we moved and that helped with the transition. At the end of the day, I worked at that job for 17 years of my 21-year career. In some ways, it was leaving a family that was a huge part of my life. I definitely miss the people I worked with!

Boeing Seal Beach, CA, where I spent 17 years of my life.
Boeing Seal Beach, CA, where I spent 17 years of my life.
A subset of the Wednesday afternoon running crew.
A subset of the Wednesday afternoon running crew – Bob, me, Tony, Nathan, Sean, Mark & Dan. Photo taken by Mary Lou.
We are grateful my family gave us the opportunity to stay with them in Northern California, which made a huge difference in easing the transition. There, we did the demolition of Skoolie Woolie in prep for building it out the way we wanted and started collecting raw material. We also focused our time on a few of our entrepreneurial projects. After about 6 months, we found the perfect rental in Sequim, WA that would allow us to start our dream of living in Washington and also keep working on Skoolie Woolie. That was right about the time that COVID-19 really started to kick the United State’s collective ass.
View on my morning walk with Indi in Sequim, WA

Moving to Washington

We made the move to Washington in April, 2020, in the middle of the pandemic and while trying to launch our Forest2Sea AWEAR Apparel business. What a knack for timing! We packed up Skoolie Woolie with all of our belongings and made the long, 1 day drive from Northern California. The property owners were very supportive of our plans to build a tiny house/skoolie and have plans of doing their own year long road trip with their kids. We immediately got to work again on earning income, launching AWEAR Apparel later that month. Still living off of savings, we knew adding rent would push us harder to figure out income.

The family we’re renting a studio from have been such a wonderful gift to us. Combined with the other tiny house renters on the 10 acre property, it’s given us a sense of community that we hadn’t experienced in Southern California. CrtrGrl works in the shared garden, helps watch over the pets and we get to play with the kids. We’ve gone hiking and jogging and had late nights of beer and conversation around their campfire. It’s been a wonderful experience!

Our 400 sq ft rental studio in Sequim, WA
Our rental studio in Washington
My Grandpa Jack Santone, building their house in Del Mar, CA in 1942
Skoolie Woolie parked at my parent's previous house in Del Mar, CA

Generational Gift

I now understand generational wealth and the privilege that comes with it. Through no action of my own, I am receiving the benefits of decisions my relatives made 80 years ago. We acknowledge how fortunate we are and how most people don’t have this. Since we’re living off our savings right now and trying to start up our own business, we wouldn’t have been able to qualify for a traditional land loan through a bank for some time.

My grandparents were fortunate to be in a position to buy land in Southern California in the 1940’s. They built their own house, by hand, on 5 acres of hilly chaparral. At the time, it was very rural, with only dirt roads in the area. Fast forward a few decades and it ends up in between the wealthy neighborhoods of Rancho Santa Fe and Del Mar. My grandparents gave some of that land to my parents as an early inheritance, so that they could be around to see my parents enjoy it. When my parents moved out of Southern California last year, they sold their property. With some of the proceeds from the sale, my parents wanted to do the same thing for their kids that their parents did for them.

Our dream has been to eventually own land to park our skoolie on. We want to preserve a small patch of forest and live in harmony with the plants and animals. We’re so grateful to my parents that they made that happen for us. Because of an early inheritance from them, we’re now the super excited and a slightly frightened owners of 5 acres of forest next to Olympic National Park, near Port Angeles WA.

<===    My grandfather, Jack Santone, building their house in 1942 and also my parent’s property with Skoolie Woolie parked on the driveway.

Take a tour of our forest with us!

Getting a Forest of our Own

From our new property, we’ll have access to multiple entrances to Olympic National Park. Lake Crescent is only a few miles away. On our way into town for groceries (20 minute drive), we’ll cross over the beautiful and recently freed Elwha river. Past Lake Crescent, to the west, is the Sol Duc river valley. Going west to 2nd Beach on the Pacific coast is only an hour drive. Then, the amazing Hoh Rainforest is 1.5 hour drive. If we want to visit the Salish Sea / Straight of Juan de Fuca, it’s only a 20 minute drive.

The land is heavily forested, with 3 cleared areas. It has electricity, a well and a septic system. It is second growth forest, bordered on one side by Washington State DNR (Department of Natural Resources) forest – that we hope is never logged! It’s filled with beautiful hemlock, cedar, dogwood and bigleaf maple trees. The forest floor is carpeted in ferns and moss.  In one cleared area, it has a view across the valley of Mount Storm King. One of my favorite discoveries on the property are the moss covered, glacial erratic boulders that came from Canada in the last ice age. There’s also an overgrown trail to the upper part of the property that has a little cleared area that we plan to turn into a meditation/yoga spot.
Our plan is to preserve as much of the natural forest as we can. We don’t plan to cut down any more trees. CrtrGrl and I want to learn all that we can about the native plants and encourage them. We’ll be buying something temporary to live in, like a travel trailer, while we build out Skoolie Woolie into a permanent residence. Our plan includes building a greenhouse, growing a garden, plus building an office that can be a cabin for guests. We want to learn to be as self sufficient as we can, by growing much of our own food.

CrtrGrl and I plan to share our adventures and journey with you. As we learn to live in the forest, with minimal impact, we’ll share how we do it. We want to share our triumphs and our silly mistakes, so that you can learn from us. We’re all sharing this small blue planet. And we are interdependent with nature to provide a livable habitat, so we need to minimize our impacts and protect it the best we can.

7 Comments

  • Brian Ta says:

    WOW! Congratulations! I am so happy for you guys yet little jealous. I knew you guys has a big plan but that was pretty tough to make the transition from stable job to no job and from city life to tiny space. I know the forest is in good hands and I know you guys will make it work. Thanks for sharing.

  • Amy says:

    I’m all smiles reading this! So super happy for you guys and I’m sure the forest and the forest spirits are overjoyed to have you guys as custodians! Kinda close to my high school slightly north of Victoria, BC and I remember taking the ferry down to Port Angeles to visit the US! Sending so much love to you and Carolita and cheers to manifesting and living your dream!🍻🀩

  • Arianne says:

    When you guys are set up for visitors we would love to be one of them! What a way to manifest dreams and true intentions about living off the grid minimally. I am happy for you both. Creative open minds forge a new and more beautiful future for all of us. Congratulations!

  • I am definitely along for the ride and hope to be able to visit you guys someday. πŸ™‚

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