Road Trip: Our First Outing in Our New Promaster Van Conversion Camper – Exceeding Expectations

With the forecast of perfect early fall weather, we decided to head for the mountains and high desert this past week in our Promaster van conversion camper that I’ve been working on the past some months. It’s not really finished, as I still need to build some cabinet drawers and doors, and finish paneling the side walls. But all the basic systems were operational, so we packed up and hit the road. I’m not going to show you its interior, as I will do a full detailed write-up to document my build after it’s finished, and I only took a few shots of our trip, so this is just a little preview of things to come.

The first night we found a wonderful spot to pull off next to a babbling brook deep in the woods at the edge of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness area. It was down a little road past horse camp. There was no one around for miles. Dead silence, except for the gurgling stream. And the occasional momentary one second hum of the cooling fan of the DC-AC inverter whenever the AC fridge kicked in. We soon stopped hearing that.

The dog’s water bowl never needed filling here. He was focused on all the squirrels everywhere, and got really tweaked when we heard elk in rut nearby, which make a sound not unlike a human screaming in distress.

Wednesday we started off the hiking with a ten miler to Pamelia Lake (which was low on water due to the very long dry summer) and then up Grizzly Peak, directly across from Mt. Jefferson, one of the main volcanoes in our region of the Cascades. It too was almost totally bare of snow on its southern flanks. This was taken along the way. A bit further up, approaching the summit of Grizzly Peak, Little Man started sniffing the air and ground furiously, and his muscles tensed up. A minute later, we saw a juvenile black bear on the trail ahead of us, undoubtedly foraging for berries. he stayed on the trail ahead of us fro a bit, then finally bushwhacked off into the undergrowth.

On Wednesday, we notched it down to eight miles, to Duffy Lake. I took a refreshing swim in the pristine water, although it was getting a bit chilly from the cooler nights and high elevation. While I was warming up in the sun, a butterfly was very attracted to Stephanie’s arm. They were enjoying the last few warm and sunny days of their brief life.

On Wednesday night, we put the van’s bathing facilities with piping hot water to good use. It’s rather unorthodox, but it works splendidly. Stay tuned.

After two and a half days in that area we decided to head to somewhere new, Paulina Lake, which is in the crater of former Newberry volcano in central Oregon, just south of Bend. It’s a bit like a smaller Crater Lake, and of course drastically less crowded. There’s a 6.5 mole trail that circumnavigates it, and on the far shore, there are some hot springs that emerge on a sandy beach late in the season when the lake’s water lever drops a bit. Folks dig out little bathing tubs in the beach, so that the hot water can mix with the lake’s cool water just in the right proportions. This pool was just perfect. We were the only ones to avail ourselves of it. The air was a bit hazy this morning due to a burning pile of wood chips nearby in LaPine, but the breeze soon mostly cleared it out.

The next morning we drove over to East Lake, which is separated from the main lake by a lava flow. At an old-fashioned lodge there, I spotted this fine old Chevy flatbed. It really suited the vibe at this lodge and its cabins, which had been there for at least as long as the Chevy.

Next to the Chevy was this similar-vintage Thompson wood boat with an equally vintage outboard.

Thompson had a rep for excellent quality wood boats, so its claim to be “Better Built” was legitimate.


This boat brought back lots of memories as my family vacationed on Rehoboth Bay in about 1966-1967 for two summers, and the cabin came with a plywood rowboat. After I got blister from rowing across the bay with my little brother, my father consented to renting an old motor at a nearby marine shop.

It was a 6hp Johnson of this vintage, and I spent the rest of the vacation exploring all the ins and outs of that area. I can still hear (and smell) that Sea Horse. Ten hp was a good sized motor back in its day.

Later that afternoon we drove up to Paulina Peak, the spiky remnants of the volcano’s core, and which affords a superb view of the lake below as well as the surroundings. This is not my picture though, as it was still a bit hazy and I never bothered to pull out my phone. The steep gravel road up was heavily washboarded, which was a good test of the structural integrity of my build. But Little Man hates rough gravel roads, as he’s convinced that all the rattling of pots, pans and other stuff must be poltergeists (or squirrels) in the van.

In fact, he wasn’t exactly a happy camper, always eager to get out and reluctant to get back in. He’ll get used to it, and he does love all the hiking and vicariously catching all the ground squirrels and chipmunks that endlessly skitter about. I have to keep a firm hand on the leash at all times.

On Saturday morning we hiked up to this Obsidian flow, the youngest lava flow in Oregon (1300 years old) and one of the most obsidian-heavy flows anywhere. Obsidian, essentially glass, forms only in very old volcanoes, and Mt. Newberry has been at it for over 10 million years. This rare material was of course every sought after by the natives, to be formed into extremely sharp arrowheads, knives and other tools. Obsidian can be sharpened down to one-molecule at its edge, sharper than any steel scalpel.

We stopped at two more beautiful lakes on the way home, and had another hike. The weather is now turning cool and cloudy, so our timing was perfect. I’m going to finish up the van, and this winter we plan to head down to the Southwest for an extended trip.

Once again, I was quite pleased with its fuel consumption, which averaged an indicated 18.6 mpg for the 450 mile trip. That included lots of mountains and several stretches of rough back roads. And overall, it exceeded our expectations, which is very gratifying. Looking forward to many more trips to come.