You forget what it truly means to be on the road. You are rich in places to sleep, yet essentially homeless. Your car is your home. Your car is your kitchen. Every national forest is your home. Your hammock and tent, your nest. Every Walmart parking lot, a potential home if all else fails. You create systems inside your car that only you understand. Everything has a place. Five inches of space are as valuable as a whole room in your house. You become one. Your seats start to smell. The dashboard is thick with dust and dirt. You brought a bunch of clothes, but you wear the same every day. There’s a collection of rocks starting to grow already. Cold beer is god.
We alternated between trail and road. Sweaty then showering down in the campground bathroom. Or a bath in the creek, any cool water would do. The heat penetrated our souls as we careened across the south west of our country, and some days we felt like we may never be cool again. We began to deeply and carelessly long for our future in Maine; the notion of cold winter and icy fingers became an every day daydream.
A hike into the depths of the Grand Canyon brought us to our knees far away from the comforts of civilization. We struggled in a new way, but that discomfort made the reward that much sweeter: friends awaiting us at the rim with a campsite we’d call home where we hung our hammocks, drank cold beer and ate not-cliff bars. We slept like babies (until one of us was nudged by a burro in the night), and awoke refreshed, ready to find new roads to explore and new places to lay our heads for a night or two.
The options were endless, we chose the way. This was our new life.
Photo Locations (from top to bottom): Roadside stand east of Grand Canyon on AZ Rt 89; Crossing the Colorado River near Marble Canyon; Hermit Creek trail inside the Grand Canyon; Vegetation inside the Grand Canyon; Dreamcatcher on AZ Rt 89; The vast Grand Canyon National Park; Dealing with the heat inside the Grand Canyon; Rocks in Arizona; Comfort at Desert View Campground, Grand Canyon; Roadside stand flags east of Grand Canyon on AZ Rt 89; View of the Colorado River from the Tonto Trail inside the Grand Canyon.
As the wind blows free through the desert, meandering through groves of Joshua trees, cacti, and clumps of various Lichen, one can hear its sound; almost an echo. We can’t help but think that the desert is solitary, an encapsulation of a sort of insulated loneliness.
Coming from the thriving Sierra where vibrant greens top the tallest trees, rivers flow with deafening aggression, and monoliths of granite jut up through the sky, our wilderness is sheltered and comforting. Here, in Joshua Tree there is an awesome sense of nothingness and we are left with a clean slate to ponder the landscape, along with the sharp emotion of the nature of desolation.
Isn’t it ironic then to have inhabited places within a wilderness like this. As one looks at the crumbling buildings along the Salton Sea, there is the realization that it can understandably hold hands with a place like Joshua Tree despite the footprints of our predecessors. That the same feeling of quieted loneliness exists here as it does in the barren desert. That we as an invasive species built this and claimed it as our own with buildings, boats, and hotels… and yet, a short time later the desert reclaimed it and forced us out.
A sunrise out of the sea is hard to come by in California. Camping on the Sea of Cortez, although mainland Mexico lies beyond, you get to see the warm sun rise straight out of the water. The salty sea clashes smoothly with the sprawling desert that surrounds, and in the early morning, with not a soul in sight, it seems like another planet.