The following photographs were taken in the past month starting in Utah. Zion National Park took our breath away (b.), Bryce Canyon gave us an entirely new perspective (e.-g.) and in a small town entitled Green River, we tried life a little slower to try and kick a cold. We spent two days camped along a golf course, set off of the main highway in a campground you'd miss if you blinked too long with free showers. The first we had come across in quite some time. Cottonwood trees were in their peak pleasant gold, holding their own against the deep blue sky. We drove 12 miles into the desert and bent our backs digging for dinosaur fossils. (h.-n.) Arches is the second to last photograph and today, as we crossed Colorado into New Mexico, we were greeted with crisp air and fresh powder.
The elk here are enormous and they visit our tent in the wee hours of the morning. It is cold at night now which means we have to pitch the rain fly. It obscures our view of the stars and those dark figures passing quietly by our tiny nylon home, stopping to give us an inquisitive sniff--their exaggerated harrumph of an exhale waking us both. Too cold, too sleepy to unzip the tent, the evidence they were there--shiny brown pellets scattered in the low desert shrubs, reassuring for some reason.
Too chilly here to venture out till 10Am, but we did today, to the east rim to watch the canyon wake up. Deep dusty purple and dreamy blue giving way to desert rose pink--soft and light for a few minutes before striking yellow orange as the sun begins to kiss the highest plateaus.
Afterwards, back to our tent. Our hideout since 7:30pm when darkness brings bitter cold. Sleeping in our thickest socks, thermal pants, sweat shirt, winter hat, extra blankets, and still cold all night. Plans for scarves and gloves tonight, so our fingers frost slower as we attempt to find a good position for reading: The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver for me, Wish You Were Here, Stewart O'Nan for Amber. The nights are so long now. Twelve hours of dark. Sixteen hours of cold.
Huddled back inside the tent this morning we brewed coffee Amber bought in Tijuana. Azteca, it's called and it smells like heaven. We listened to NPR--our lightweight, solar/wind-up radio is a trooper, even when we are miles from everything it keeps us connected--gay marriage legal in NJ!, Obamacare online system a mess.
We bought good food this time and this morning we are baking pumpkin bread with chocolate chips on our "whisper light" camp stove. Pretty astounding to have fresh sweet bread in our tent. Our smallest camp pot inside our bigger pot with an inch of water. Lid, lid and we've got a steam oven (and a much needed tent-humidifier)--thank you Mike and Maddie from New Zealand! It takes a little TLC and a lot of tending, burnt fingertips, but the bread is PERFECT. And we hoarded just enough plastic teaspoons of butter from the hotel in Vegas to eat like queens.
Sometimes it is difficult to write about this trip because it feels like bragging. Right now I am typing in bed. Amber just brought me breakfast: an egg sandwich on biscuits she baked last night with veggie bacon and avocado and a side of peanut butter bananas. I'm not this spoiled every day. Okay, I am, but I am feasting on this breakfast because I won a game: guess how many miles we are from our house in Pittsburgh. Closest without going over wins. We were both pretty close, but I won. I think this was on our drive through the ugly flat dry section of eastern Washington state a few weeks ago. The distance was somewhere around 2300 miles I believe. If I were being a good writer, I'd look up the exact number so I could give you a solid, important little detail that made you feel like my voice here is authentic.
Today is not that day. Today I am a braggart, so back to it. My breakfast is amazing. It is 9AM on a weekday and I am still in bed. When we have a bed to sleep in this is how we do it: I wake up when the sun comes in the window, go to the kitchen to look at the sky, still faintly pink, then make coffee for Amber and tea for myself and climb back in bed with a stack of books. We read or write or talk about what we want to do for the day until the chill burns off outside. We wear each other's glasses and have our feet all tangled up under the covers. I say "I love you" so often is it sort of embarrassing. (Amber just came and took away my dirty plate and handed me a piping hot cup of coffee. This is WHY.)
When we have a house and a bed we tend to stay close by it, making ourselves at home, being lazy, cooking a lot (our Instagram is all food right now), watching movies, reading, and cleaning all of our things that smell like camp fire, which is ALL of our things. The days have been easy this week while we've been camped out at my dad's house taking care of his dog while he and my step-mom are away.
Living out of our car is more work. We eat a lot of suspect food that makes us rush off to very suspect bathrooms. Everything in our cooler ends up a soggy-wet mess the day after we buy it. Our tent is 90% of the time inclined just enough backwards and to the right or left that we slide over night into a huddled mass in whichever is the most damp corner of the tent. But, we can see the stars. There has been so little rain that we can keep the rain fly folded up and I lie in the tent after dark still wearing my glasses, Amber tucked into the right side of our zipped-together sleeping bags like a cold hand inside a pocket, and stare at the sky. The whole roof of our summer house is mesh.
The sky in Newport, Washington is the most beautiful night sky I have ever seen. It is so huge and brilliant I cannot comprehend it. I could watch it for a minute or an hour and still not understand the vastness. Also, shooting stars! You don't have to watch for very long in Newport, Washington to see a shooting star. Every time I woke up the few nights we slept there I unzipped the tent, peed, climbed back into the left side of our little igloo, donned my glasses and waited. Each time I was rewarded. The sky in Montana is also beautiful. Glacier National Park is a member of the International Dark-Sky Association. I am going to be a member of this association.
Portland has great coffee, amazing (vegan!) donuts, and super hip, cute, and friendly lesbians, but even at my dad's house 30 miles outside the city there is a hum. And it's not the yellowjackets, it is the refrigerator, or a plane overhead, or the neighbor's car, or the junction box. The veil of trees is thin. I didn't start writing to make a point about conservation, but FUCKING CONSERVE. Swear to me that your next car will be a hybrid (mine will), that you will put a timer in your shower. That you'll flush the toilet every other time when you pee. That you will compost and eat less meat and then only organic. Investigate where your food comes from. Plant something in your yard that supports the native avian species. Bike to work. Bike to work. Bike to work. Seriously. After you get home from work today, go into your basement or garage and drag out your bike. Spend the weekend tuning it up. Sunday, get on, go somewhere flat and fall in love again. On Monday park your ass on that tiny little wedge of foam and pedal yourself to your job. In a month calculate how much money you have saved, LBs you have lost, stress you have avoided. Is the sky getting darker as your carbon footprint recedes?
Monday we pack up again and head south on the 101. We have been traveling nearly 6 months. Sometime next week will be the 6 month anniversary, but I have to tell you, it feels like years. Every few weeks we sit down with our maps and guidebooks and the internet and all the little notes we've made after talking to people who'v been where we are going and we plan the vacation of our dreams. Then, we go and do it. And it is never perfect. And one of us usually gets a belly ache. And we never see everything we wanted to. But it is always good.
Every single day of my life is good I swear to god. Even on the worst days when I'm missing my dog or have had enough caffeine to feel jittery, bored and doomed, or when the drive is all strip-malls, gas stations and most depressing sprawl, I have Amber, and she puts on the right CD and rolls the windows down just so, and puts her hand on my thigh or says something funny and poignant about where we've just been and it's cliche, I know, but I feel like the luckiest person in the world. Or at least the lower 48.