Where to begin?
When I last posted, I felt full of confusion and uncertainty. Our travels had come to an abrupt halt, we went to recover at home with my mom, we said hello again to all the people we had so recently said goodbye to, and watched the leaves turn in Colorado- a seasonal event I was hoping to miss; despite its beauty, it never ceases to draw me into a mawkish pit of nostalgia and sentimentality.Now I sit on an unfamiliar loft bed in house that we are temporarily sharing with two strange men (in both senses of the word), in North Portland. I admire the shy sun through the skylight, not because I miss it, but because its effort is endearing. Yes, it’s fairly rainy here, but I love the moodiness.
Let me back up a few steps, to a warm evening on Friday October 14th, when we wearily pulled up to a vacant walk-in site at Kane Creek Campground in Moab, Utah.
It was an exhausting and trying day. We had started out early, packing the last of our belongings into my newly purchased 2003 Honda C-RV and crossing our fingers that it was going to make it on our 4,000+ mile road trip west.
We drove silently and calmly through the neighborhoods of Boulder, anticipating the six-hour drive to Utah and noticing the last bit of pink fade from foothills. No plans were made, no campgrounds reserved, no routes decided upon, and there was no apartment was waiting for us in Portland, our final destination.
Around 11 am we stopped in Penny Hot Springs, a not so hidden gem off the highway outside Carbondale, Colorado. A river runs alongside the road, and in one area people have created hot springs by dragging boulders together in the river to create shallow pools. It was a splendidly sunny and colorful day; joyous yellow cottonwoods shook their leaves in the breeze, the silvery green river sparkled and rushed cheerily, the angular blue mountains rose up confidently all around.So we should have expected the gorgeous scalding pools to be crawling with people. Flabby old men lethargically discussed hunting and real estate, a woman camped out with a visor and a book, a child splashed around noisily to my dismay. Despite my slight misanthropy, we enjoyed ourselves in the pools, and even jumped into the icy river for a second to relieve our slow-cooked bodies.
After returning to the car, wet, sandy, and stinking of sulphur, my stomach dropped. My car would not turn on. No lights had been left on and the only thing we could find that could have maybe caused the battery to short was a brand new car phone charger that I had plugged in when we parked. It was not charging anything, but it was only $5 from Target, so perhaps you get what you pay for. Regardless, a nice old man from the pools jumped the car and shortly thereafter we were on our merry way. Only not so merry, because I was completely rattled and disheartened that day 1 of our long journey the car had already flaked. What would it be next?
In the early evening, we rolled into the town of Moab, and were surprised to find it more crowded than either of us had ever seen before. The sun was near setting, and we were eager to find an open campground where we could quickly pitch our tent, set up our table and stove, and cook dinner before it became too dark.
As we made our way down to Kane Creek, steep canyon walls reached up out of sight alongside the narrow road, and the car brakes squealed down each harrowing switchback. We passed campsite after campsite, but all appeared full and were bursting with people.
Farther I insisted, just a little bit farther. Finally we found a compromise, a large campsite with a few vacant walk-in sites. It had a nearby composting toilet, and no adjacent neighbors. It was getting dark now so we missed the fact that the actual plot was just beyond some spiky-looking brush, and attempted to pitch the tent over some rock solid red earth that the stakes would barely penetrate (the following day, we nearly lost the tent because of this).
We clumsily unloaded our gear from the trunk and something heavy fell out onto my toes. There was the new Coleman two burner stove we bought from a sports recycler store, my brand new REI sleeping bag and our sleeping pads, a cooler with ice and food we just picked up from the mobbed City Market in town, two folding chairs from Target, a basin filled with basic cook wear we picked up at a thrift store in Boulder, propane, and firewood.
Though we had all the right stuff, as camping newbies, it turned out that setting up camp in the dark on our first night in a windy, sandy canyon with pricker bushes and fire ants and darkness (did I mention it was dark?), was a tad tricky. Ben’s flashlight decided now was the right moment to kick the bucket, so we shared one headlamp as we awkwardly attempted to slice up veggies with a dull Swiss Army knife and then unsuccessfully tried to stir fry them with garlic and ginger. We didn’t know how much gas to use as first-timers, so the veggies would not cook. After little success, we finally threw up our hands and ate mostly raw watery vegetables with raw ginger and garlic in the dark, while we spitefully watched our new neighbors blow up their queen sized air bed and drink wine from real glasses around their campfire.
In all, our first night camping could easily have been our last. Yet it was absolutely worth it, and after time the growing pains eventually lessened. Moab and it national parks were achingly beautiful, and I have the photos to prove it. 🙂
The camping pantry (that was frequently restocked).
Sunrise at our campsite in Moab.
Breakfast was a bit more graceful.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park- Balancing Rock
Funny looking formations in Devil’s Garden, Arches.
Arches National Park- the infamous Landscape Arch.
Me overlooking some impressive views in Canyonlands National Park. I like that Canyonlands doesn’t try to keep you in with ropes or fences. They let you get as close to the edge as you want.
The land of canyons and White Rim Road, viewed from Island in the Sky.
From another viewpoint.
Ben and a rainbow of canyonlands.
Our tent at sunrise at campground numero uno (note crappy stakes).