Tiny Solar House Visits Sequoia National Park

National parks numbers 18 and 19 on our tiny house travels across America (Sequoia and Kings Canyon). Sequoia is the 2nd oldest national park and will definitely remain a favorite thanks to these giant, cathedral-like groves of beautiful trees that had a prehistoric and other-worldly feel to them. The Giant Forest is home to 4 of the world's 5 largest trees, some of which are 2,000 years old.

Pictures From Sequoia National Park

Earth Day is this Saturday, April 22nd, and visiting these parks certainly reinforced the awesomeness of the blue planet we have the privilege to call home.

Tiny Solar House Goes To Southern California

Well, we must be ‘snow birds’ because we spent the winter in one of the mildest climates America has to offer - Southern California! Sure, we had heard California was great, but we honestly had no idea how much we’d enjoy our 4 month stay soaking up the sun in SoCal!

Below is a photo recap with some of our fondest memories exploring San Diego and nearby attractions.

San Elijo State Beach

We first stopped at San Elijo State Beach and parked the tiny house near the ocean. Watching the sunset every evening was sublime, plus delicious breakfast burritos and watching surfers in the mornings.

Valley Center

We planned to do some WWOOFING on a farm in Valley Center, but a combination of bad weather and inaccessible roads forced us to find alternative options.

At least we had these scenic views for a few nights…

Lake Murray Mobile Home Community

Lucky for us we connected with Dita and her family at the Lake Murray Mobile Home Community in La Mesa. The park is located within walking distance to beautiful Lake Murray, and just a short drive from downtown San Diego.

Dita and her son Killian are the current property managers and are planning to transition the park to accommodate more tiny houses. If you’re mobile like us, or if you’re building and hoping to live near San Diego in a permanent tiny house, contact them to see if you’d like to call La Mesa home. Rent starts $660/month which is incredibly affordable for SoCal!

America’s Landmarks Roadtrip

During our stay at the community, we embarked on a 2,000 mile roadtrip with a fellow WWOOFER, Martin, who was visting America from France during a gap year before finishing college.

Loading up at midnight, we arrived at Mt Whitney just in time for a beautiful sunrise. Whitney is the highest peak in the lower 48 states at 14,505 feet.

Next stop was Death Valley National Park which drops lower than sea level.

After that we headed out to the Hoover Dam to see the incredible American engineering and visually stunning ‘avant garde’ design. At 2 Gigawatts of rated capacity (that’s 2 Billion watts), the Hoover Dam is a MASSIVE and beautiful example of America’s renewable energy potential.

Leaving the dam we then zoomed over to the Grand Canyon, arriving after dark and in the snow (no fun). It was all worth it, however, as we woke the next morning and hiked the south rim of the canyon.

Later that day we headed to Monument Valley on the Arizona/Utah border, the highlight for many of us. The park is located inside Navajo tribal land and is mostly a driving tour where you can get out and take photos. There are some really cool formations that reminded us of the Looney Tunes episodes with the Roadrunner and Wiley Coyote.

We also made a stop to check out Zion National Park, getting lucky with one of the last campsites available. “Sometimes you just have to show up and hope for the best.” - Katie

Hunting waterfalls at Zion.

Hunting waterfalls at Zion.

Last stop on the roadtrip was Las Vegas aka Sin City aka City of Lights. We spent a half day viewing attractions on the main strip, then headed to Freemont Street for their nightime light show.

Fellow Tiny Housers

While staying at the Lake Murray community we met tons of great people including a couple who live in a lovely 24-foot tiny house. Meagan and Leo were our exploring companions, game partners, drinking buddies, and cherished friends.

Joshua Tree National Park

One weekend the four of us took a daytrip to Joshua Tree. Our 17th national park, it was super neat with lots of boulders to climb and explore, including discovering a secret arch hidden deep within a trail.  We also saw the cactus fields and the start of the spring wild flower bloom.

Anza-Borrego Desert

One of our last hiking trips was at Anza-Borrego Desert to witness the so called  ‘Super Bloom.’ Meeting up with some friends who traveled down from LA, we hiked up to the palm oasis which started in the desert and lead to a cool stream at the bottom of a palm grove (very mirage like).

We also went hunting for the Ricardo Brecada metal sculptures, which turned out to be fun and fantastic.

Amazing how the desert can be exhausting and energizing at the same time!

Last year we logged over 12,000 miles in our journey across America, of which 97% of the time we relied on our off-grid solar power kit.

We plugged in to the local power grid (used shore power) for a few days when weather was rainy and cold, using a total of just 42 kWh during our 4 month stay in Southern California, but the majority of the time we used free, limitless energy from the sun.

Does solar power work? Yes, indeed it does. And it feels great, too.

Mother Earth News Features The Off-Grid Tiny Solar House

Tiny Solar House Feature Mother Earth News

The Tiny Solar House has been on a surprisingly big tour of America the past 6 months, sharing experiences and inspiration of a solar-powered lifestyle. Logging over 12,000 miles since departing from Austin, Texas, in May, the journey has made stops in 18 states and 12 National Parks.

This 210-square-foot off-grid house on wheels is essentially an RV with a different look. The base of the home is a dual-axle trailer atop a structure was framed, insulated, and enclosed.

Click here to read the article featured on Mother Earth News.

Tiny Solar House Goes To Arizona

Next stop on the solar powered tiny house tour across America was the lovely sunny state of Arizona. We parked at Justin's Diamond J RV Park on the outskirts of Tuscon, conveniently located just minutes from Saguaro National Park. Checking off Saguaro marked our 12th National Park visit in under 7 months!

The park is named for the large saguaro cactus, native to its desert environment. Many other kinds of cactus, including barrel, cholla, and prickly pear, are abundant in the park.

Ancient Native American legends involve humans turning into saguaros, and after seeing all types of varieties across the park, it’s hard not to attribute human-like qualities to them as they seem to wave, bow, flex, and welcome us, each one very much its own ‘person.’

Pictures From Saguaro National Park

Bring em on!

Bring em on!

Hands up

Hands up

Is this guy flexin'?

Is this guy flexin'?

Detail

Detail

Cactus family

Cactus family

What do you think - Can you see any human-like qualities in the above cacti? 

After getting our exercise hiking around Saguaro National Park, we headed into town to check out the Tucson vibe. To our surprise, we found abundant bike lanes throughout downtown, numerous craft breweries, affordable fine dining, and some really, really cool art murals! 

Pictures From Downtown Tucson

Downtown art mural

Downtown art mural

Pedestrian tunnel at night

Pedestrian tunnel at night

Enjoying a tasty cocktail

Enjoying a tasty cocktail

Part of the goal of the tiny house travels is to research various cities where we might settle down. Austin was great, but we moved there about 5 years too late, hit by a high cost of living and way too much traffic & congestion on the roads.

By contrast, Tucson felt like a little known secret of America. We found the city was affordable, friendly, and safe, with a happening art scene and lots of promise for the future. Sure, the summers are hot (real hot), but the winters are mild and the humidity is low, so temperatures should be more bearable (in theory). Tuscon is definitely on the list, along with Ridgway and Fort Collins Colorado.

After a week in Tuscon we were back on the road, headed north to check out the scene in Sedona.

Sedona's main attraction is its array of red sandstone formations. The formations appear to glow in brilliant orange and red when illuminated by the rising or setting sun. The red rocks form a popular backdrop for many activities, ranging from spiritual pursuits to the hundreds of hiking and mountain biking trails. At an elevation of 4,500 feet, Sedona has mild winters and hot summers, much like Tucson.

Pictures From Sedona

sedona
If you look closely you can see solar panels atop many of the roofs!

If you look closely you can see solar panels atop many of the roofs!

Last on the tiny house tour of Arizona was Yuma. You might recognize the name of the city from the western movie 3:10 to Yuma.

All cowboy references aside, Yuma is one of the driest, sunniest, and least humid areas of the lower 48 states of America, and has the lowest frequency of precipitation along with the highest number of days per year (175) with a daily maximum temperature of 90°F or higher. Dole is one of the largest employers of the region thanks to an environment highly conducive to growing produce and vegetables.

Accordingly, more than 85,000 retirees make Yuma their winter residence, and we enjoyed our experience of being 'snowbirds' for a few days, helping out with some farming work-trade in exchange for free rent and good conversation at Tree Love Farm.

Pictures From Yuma & Tree Love Farm

Isaac, Lia, and the rest of the crew we encountered at 'The Jungle' (as the locals call it) made delightful new friends, and we hope to make it back to the area in March/April. 

12,000 miles into our solar powered journey of America, generating 100% of our electricity from the sun! Living off the land supported by an off-grid solar kit for 7 months!