I’m writing this from a gazebo in a random little park in Las Vegas, NM. We happily discovered electrical outlets and are charging all our electrical things. Seymour is chasing his tail and John is playing on the charging Nintendo DS. The sun is about to set, and my belly is full of pizza and beer. My fingers are cold, but in my happy alive state, I don’t mind one bit.
After leaving the glorious area of Springdale, UT and Zion National Park, we headed North East to Bryce Canyon. When I had visited Bryce with all the other canyons in 2007, Bryce had been my favorite. This time around, however, I was seeing it with different eyes. On my hike day on the second day there, I discovered why I loved it so. The hoodoos, as the tall skinny towers are called, are out of this world. The surrounding landscape in the park is your typical desert with low shrubs and scrappy trees that look like they could kick another tree’s ass. As you step below the rim suddenly you’re in a different landscape all together. All around you are these tall, bizarre hoodoos. The visitor center tells you that they were formed by wind and erosion, but still, it’s almost hard to understand-and they are everywhere. 360 degrees of crazy scenery unlike any other. The bright white against the bright burnt reds against the deep, bright blue sky makes me wish I were a painter. Although I’m sure no one that hasn’t been to Bryce Canyon would believe that it was an actual landscape painting and not from a sci-fi dream of mine.
Eventually, though, I got sick of the up and down hills. (Although not really tired, I’m proud to say. At one point a couple resting on the switchbacks commented how they had just watched me pass everyone that was behind them without losing my breath. This is what happens when you live in your car, eat very little fat or dairy, and hike a few times a week!) However, Zion is now officially my new favorite National Park, taking even the place of Bryce, Redwood and Yosemite. I needed the test of a second trip to Bryce to be sure.
Earth bending at Arches, my favorite kind of bending. (Avatar: the Last Airbender, for those that don't know. And no, not the blue people, and no, not the M. Night movie.)
After we were done with Bryce Canyon, we drove on to Arches National Park. At this point in the trip we had been Seattle-ites who had not seen rain for 63 days (except for a 10 minute downpour at the Grand Canyon.) As we pulled into Arches it was sprinkling rain and the clouds were promising to give us more. We were stoked! We planned to spend the day trading turns during mini hikes. (Since Arches didn’t seem to offer us any hikes to make us feel badass; more chips thrown into Zion’s bucket.) However, within an hour the clouds were gone and it was gross, sweaty hot out again. We had put on jeans and long sleeve shirts and had been so excited to be rained on, and so this put us in a sour mood for the rest of the day. We stopped at the view points and went on the little hikes, but we found it difficult to be too excited when we felt like raisins drying up. As John likes to say, he likes it cold, dark and damp, and we had been experiencing hot, bright and dry for way too long.
Cranky hot whining aside, Arches is a unique landscape, and the arches at this park, a monument to erosion of the Earth, will only be around for so long. The night before we arrived one of the 200 or so arches collapsed in the night-however, not the famous skinny one. The longest arch in the world-longer than a football field, only 6 feet thick at its thinnest point, Landscape arch is pretty much expected to go any day now. I watched the sun go down behind it and then went to get some cereal to ease my cranky hot mood.
After sleeping on highway shoulders and in rest areas for the last 2 weeks, John and I were ready for some quiet semi-privacy. We found a free campsite just past the Colorado border and headed to it. Oh boy, what an oasis this place was! We had a beautiful epic view of the Colorado River with a huge, perfect rainbow over it as soon as we arrived. We spent 3 wonderful nights there and 2 long lazy days. Our first night it rained a little. We didn’t care how little it was, it sounded loud on the tent, and we pretended it was a storm. We spent both days in our pajamas, only leaving the tent to retrieve snacks or new books from the car. It was exactly the rejuvenation we needed.
Our cloudy beautiful FREE campsite
On our second day there, our camping neighbor told us he heard there would be a storm the next day, so he was heading out. That night, the third night, we saw that storm. We had been yearning so hard for rain, and we got it! As we were lying down to go to sleep, the rain started to come down on the top of the tent harder than ever. John felt confident that the tarp over top of the tent would keep us dry, but warned me to not touch the sides. Well, I’m almost 6 feet tall; it’s very difficult to not touch my head and my feet to the sides of our little tent, especially when the wind is whipping it around! A couple hours after falling asleep I woke up with wet feet. I bent my knees a little bit and figured if I stayed like that I could make it through the night. An hour later I woke up to find that the water had pursued me. At this point I have John cramping my space on one side and poor little Seymour trying to steal my warmth on the other. I bend my knees more and hope that I can make it the rest of the night. The rain pours down more and in an hour the water has accosted me in that position as well! I realize I would have to stay in the fetal position all night, cramped, cold and uncomfortable and I still may not escape getting soaked. I decided that whatever John wants to do, I’ve gotta move to the car if I want to sleep anymore that night. John, whose about 3 inches shorter and likes curling up in his sleep, declared that although he could stay in the tent, we’re a team, and so let’s do this thing while the rain has paused itself.
It was 2 am, dark, wet and cold. We moved 2 days’ worth of stuff from this tent (remember we haven’t left the tent the whole time except to bring more things in), the bed mats, 2 bins and the wet bedding. And a cold, confused dog that has recently decided he’s afraid of the dark and must growl whenever he sees it. We also had to take down the tent and stack heavy things on it to keep it from blowing away. It was a fun middle of the night adventure to have, that’s for sure. We chose the least wet of the blankets, layered with the sleeping bag that had stayed in the car and made a new bed, falling asleep fast. And it’s a good thing we moved in there after all-the storm got so bad that it was shaking even our big fat van, which had trees on either side.
Because we’d gone living in the van for over 2 months without any rain, we had also have gone over 2 months without discovering one little problem: the back door leaks. Right onto where our feet are. This time I was able to make it the rest of the night with bent knees, being that there was only half a night left anyways. Needless to say, we left this oasis earlier than we had planned, and headed straight for hot coffee and a Laundromat. Our hearts, however, have been filled with the love and life that rain gives, and for that I forgive the wet feet. We are still trying to figure out the best combination of tarps, duct tape and wedged towels to keep our blankets and feet dry when it rains.
After the success of this campsite, we ventured to find another one. We took a beautiful drive over the continental divide through the Rocky Mountains. We had never planned on coming to Colorado, it had been a consolation prize for the loss of the rest of the trip. The aforementioned campsite, the friendly people with hot coffee in Grand Junction and this drive, have made Colorado a damn good consolation prize.
However, this luck with wonderful like-minded coffee drinking hippies and gorgeous free campsites was short lived. Our next town visit and free campsite were a total bust-the road to the campsite was paid and closed anyways by the time we got there. And we realized we were venturing into country where when John wears his hippie jacket with Ohms painted all over it, he gets more untrusting looks than compliments.
And so we ended up at some more rest areas, then we paid for a campsite we hadn’t looked into. It ended up being the most expensive and the least scenic site we’ve had on the trip so far, so we learned that lesson.
Today we have ventured into New Mexico, my home state from age 14-18. Tonight we’re splurging (gas is $3.25 over here!) on pizza and a movie, and tomorrow we start our loop of southern New Mexico, visiting the famous aliens, caverns, and nuclear weapon testing sites. Our trip is winding down to its end after that-after Carlsbad Caverns, we head North West the rest of our time in the car. We’re starting to transition our excited energies into our dreams of coming home. Oh boy, to have a home! I will never again underestimate how lovely it is to have running water and a refrigerator! Last night I daydreamed about all the different types of cheese I could keep in my house at the same time without them going bad! But, of course, the end of this dream is coming up, and that is a bummer thing. While our crazy exciting hiking days are pretty much behind us, I will continue to live it up and relish every moment of the next 3 chilly weeks.