When the radio stopped working in West Texas, I was pretty certain that the universe was testing my resolve. I mean, the desert expanses and border patrol vehicles whirling past could keep my interest for only so long. The inconvenience was soon forgotten as Big Bend National Park took my attention. Between the mountain hiking that swept my breath away—from beauty and elevation—to the Rio Grande that offered a hot spring with a view of Mexico, I was enchanted. I darted around the park like a kid in a candy store. I thought Texas was only about oil and cowboy hats—and it is that too, but not entirely. Big Bend boasts over 450 bird species. I think I saw about three, including some kind of Wood Pecker with a brilliant red crown. I did see the javelina…not to be confused with the wild pig…as well as a road runner which looks nothing like the cartoon character and moved rather slow. There are 20 species of bats, but I gratefully missed those guys. At night, the coyotes gave their call which sounded perfect at a far distance. The balmy weather, the sound of the river, and the non-existent wind combined to offer a wonderful night’s rest, and a rewarding way to celebrate all I have grown to love in this adventure called camping.
As I neared home, the Subaru Sled lost its organizational accolades and became a receptacle for tossed banana peels and apple cores. The radio magically started working again just outside Austin. Fortuitous since Austin is a musical haven. It is also the part-time home to my friend, Michael, who showed me the sites, tried to entice me to swim in the spring, and introduced me to the country’s largest food truck selection. Tacos for breakfast, Heck Yeah!
From Texas, the radio stations rang in the holidays with various Spanish tunes and several renditions of Feliz Navidad. Crossing into Louisiana meant energetic Zydeco and New Orleans jazz as well as the obligatory stop at Cafe DuMonde! I knew I was getting closer and closer to my southern stop when I passed the invisible Bible Belt line and found an abundance of religion coming over the waves and then the familiar voices from my local NPR.
I pulled into home, just beating the rain, but alas not the cold. As with most things, the packing for a trip is far more enjoyable than the unpacking. My whole life has been contained within the confines of my well-traveled car and the unpacking could have benefited from a crowbar or at least a shovel. The car is empty, the clothes are washed, and all but two plastic tubs are sorted and stashed. The mail is opened and even some business attended. The borrowed camping accoutrements will be returned soon…I promise!
As the year draws to an end, we become an audience to the best of and the top ten of this and of that. So, why shouldn’t the CamperChick jump on board with her list!
Here are a few statistics for my curious readers:
Total Miles Traveled: 12,941
Total Number of parks visited including City, State, Forests, and National: 34
National Parks: 13
States Traveled: 22
The Best of:
Best Campground: Kodachrome Basin State Park, Utah
Reasons: Clean bathroom with showers, Price ($19), views of mountains and prairie, convenient, and did I mention the clean bathroom with showers AND plenty of hooks
Best Campsite: Signal Mountain, Grand Tetons, Site 15. I may live there next year, especially for $15 a night and the view is the best in the world
Best Sunrise View: Bryce Canyon
Best Sunset View: Zion National Park, South Campground, Site 62 on the river with mountains all around
Best Urban Campsite: Spearfish City Campground… in Spearfish, South Dakota: showers and walking distance to town at $20, yet still quiet
Best Campground Hosts: Calf Creek Falls in Grand Staircase Escalante, Pat and Cloyce who I would let adopt me. Pat came to check on me in the morning and two hours later we were still chatting.
Best Weather: A tie: 1) Grand Tetons for the crisp mornings which gave way to bright, warm days, and the brilliant clear sky for the October full moon and eclipse. 2) Sunset Bay State Park, California for warm air along the coast that kept me outside most of the night taking in the November full moon.
Coldest Night: Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone. Nothing Hot Here! It was 19 degrees. Nelly.
Best Hike: Cascade Canyon Grand Tetons National Park, UT: Well marked, forests, lakes, mountains, woods, and NO BEARS.
Runner Up: Grapevine Big Bend National Park, Texas: Quietest place on earth.
Most Dangerous Hike: Angel’s Landing Zion National Park: Not really, but the sign reminds you: Hikers Have Died on this Trail.
Worst Weather: Mt. Diablo State Park, California…40 mile an hour winds. Holy Hotcakes!
Most Memorable Night: Listening to the bugling Elk in Yellowstone and feeling giddy that I was actually doing what I was doing.
Best Pie: Strawberry Rhubarb from Capitol Reef National Park…it was either the best pie or the best place to enjoy the pie after a hike along the Fremont River.
Top 10 Borrowed Camping Amenities
Pat’s extra sleeping bag
Alice’s reclining sleeping pad
Dee’s whisk broom
Mark’s wash tub
Annie’s extra tent stakes
Sallie’s travel’n yoga mat
Tom C’s and Anthony’s knives
Amy A’s bear spray…thankfully not needed
John S’s National Parks of the West
Becky and Kara’s contributions of COFFEE
(I know that is more than ten, but there could be ten more!)
Most thoughtful additions:
Tom K’s AAA Membership and flashlights
Yoga Students’ gift cards and personal letters
Patrick’s Quiddlar deck of cards
Hap’s size 13 boots as well a hand delivered chocolate bar to the campsite
Heather P’s travel diary
Christie, Tiffin, Beth, Heidi, Tina, & Kara who took me in along the way
Angie’s house love and good energy
Gaye’s protectorate amulet
Tara and Sarah’s meeting me in Portland
Charlie’s NFL score updates
Nancy’s poetry and musical videos
JR’s texts of kind words
Donna’s Ovaeasy eggs
Misa’s hand-knitted washcloth
Phil’s home gossip updates
Brother John calling to see if I was still alive
Amy and Neville’s leftover alcohol & fuel
Michiko’s continued worry
Readers and Responders to the blog
Rather unnecessary items…at least for this trip:
Kara’s gift of a salad spinner
Greg’s suggestion of Christmas lights…you could have specified battery operated
Ann’s overpacking of clothing
Rob’s ice packs…only because they thawed
John S’s ax…come on, I’m not that hardcore
There are more memories than I could ever fit into this blog and there is far more gratitude than I can express for my friends at home, those who took me in along the way, and the new friends I have gained on and off the trail. The universe opened wide for me and I jumped in. Some say I’m brave, or foolish, or adventuresome. I say this big world of ours is out there ready and welcoming. May your new year be a beautiful adventure.