notes from the road

(Post from April 28, 2017)

I woke up to frost on my windshield. On the inside of my windshield, that is. Outside, a short cargo train scraped slowly along a set of tracks I failed to notice when I parked on an empty dirt road last night, the passing locomotive’s chattering wheels pulling me out of sleep every forty-five minutes.

I sat up, wrenched my arms quickly through the sleeves of my puffy coat and fished around my sleeping bag for the beanie I’d worn to bed. Though I’ve been living out of Luna for a while now, I still don’t quite have my system dialed in. I can never find my pocket knife, phone charger, or toothbrush, and I somehow lost the first aid kit I meticulously assembled after my WFR course in January.

It’s cold, but there’s coffee to be made and elk wandering the field across the road.

I didn’t intend to get as far south as Flagstaff, but after a few long days hiking at the Grand Canyon, I needed a shower and a meal with vegetables in it.


The Colorado River–the great sculptor of this incredible canyon


Descending 4000′ to the canyon floor



I pulled up to the Backcountry Office at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon fifteen minutes before they closed, and despite the acute dissuasion from the ranger on duty, snagged an elusive overnight permit for the North Rim the next night. I planned to hike the Rim to Rim (to Rim) trail–24 miles and about 5,000′ of elevation change each way.


AMS, dehydration, and hyponatremia warning signs all over the Grand Canyon

As one of the busier parks in the nation, I’m sure its well intended, but there’s a fair amount of fear-mongering perpetuated by the Park Service. I had to sign a waiver acknowledging that I was completing this hike against expert advice, and that I understood what I was getting into.

I knew it was gonna kick my ass, but I also knew that I could do it.



Life on the road can be mercurial, and I often wonder what it is, exactly, that I’m doing. Sometimes I have to spell it out for myself: seeing friends, hiking new trails, skidding down rocky forest service roads, meeting new people, experiencing new things. That adventure lifestyle, or so it’s billed.


Hiking near Lee’s Ferry


Here there be dragons


Bugs need homes, too. Red Rocks, NV


I met a group of backcountry skiers outside of Independence, CA on an 8-day trek into the Sierra

Sometimes I pull off down an unkempt BLM roads and follow it, sometimes dozens of miles, till it stops. I pull out the broken lawn chair I found in Tahoe and set it in the dirt and open a novel or my sketchbook or just watch the breeze tickling the long dry grass.


Putting the Sierra in my rearview… for a couple weeks


A hike up the White Mountains offered this view of the Sierra across Owen’s Valley

I think about that grass in the breeze, or where all the bighorn sheep are and why I haven’t seen one yet, or whether I brought enough water, or where the hell I put my pocketknife this time, and I try to be present. I try, sometimes, not to think of other things. But they tug, as they always do, in my weakest moments, and I wonder why I’m really here. In this hundreds-of-thousands of acres of open land, sitting alone in a rusty broken lawn chair with a stuffy nose and sunburnt shoulders and a hiking shirt crinkly with salt.

And I’m not sure. The beauty of these spaces, the simplicity of this lifestyle, the intrigue of novelty, the people surrounding me–all these things, certainly.


Morning coffee


Bristlecone pines–here lie not only the oldest trees, but the oldest organisms on Earth. The old tree, the Mesthuselah, is nearly 5,000 years old.


And I wonder how much is motivated by a desire for atonement. A way to make amends for decisions I’ve made and roads I’ve turned away from in the name of “doing my own thing”; a way to try to escape my own shame for the things I’ve said or done–or didn’t say, or didn’t do; to make peace with the things I’ve messed up out of naïveté or anger or selfishness.

As eminent travel scholar Kerouac writes, “I have nothing to offer anybody but my own confusion.”


Ironic litter in Death Valley


Sunrise in the Great Basin


7 thoughts on “notes from the road

  1. Every little object will find its space don’t worry 🙂 each time we acquire a new thing, or lose one, it takes a month or so until it finds a home a stays put. Doubly important when two people need to find things! Thanks for the honesty and discussion of why some of us feel the need to live in the road- even if it’s just for a little while. We don’t really have a pat answer either, but we do know that we don’t like the brainwashed feeling of the 9-5, nor the guilt that comes our way when we try to break out of it. Just because our society condones being a workaholic and shuns a little healthy drifting, doesn’t mean we have to 🙂

    Keep enjoying the road!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Many adventures – I did hike down Angel trail & back in 1 day. Did have to walk 1 ½ mi to get to phantom ranch once we got to bottom – a ? bridge now for food & water – not to smart to go without preparations

    Re lightning getting near ,if that is what they say,but not under a tree as many cows die this way. Also lying horizontal not reasonable. I n Nigeria a visitor was struck in our house as he had his foot near an outlet’ Also while bending over putting on trousers we got hit & 5 ft in front of me was a fire ball 10 – 12 inches wide in front of me which quickly dissipated – only a scare & static electricity. Because of heat & humidity mission Bldgs built on higher ground & so more risks

    Your writings are fantastic & we enjoy them as well as the photos Some unsolicited advice as I have said B4 I think it would do you well to avoid 4 letter words in your formal writings

    They do not help your writings & may detract from them.

    So we will be looking for more “ jewels” in the mail’

    Love ya



    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! That’s quite a story from Nigeria. I didn’t know you experiences such erratic weather patterns there!
      I did still have about a mile and a half before I got to the ranch, so nearly ten miles from Bright Angel to the ranch–not too bad!
      As for those four letter words–that’s how I think and speak, whether that’s good or not, so that’s how I’m going to write!


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