Back On The Road: First Camping Trip Of 2016
I used to think that in order to see new things, experience new places, and meet new people, I had to travel abroad. I had to save, work, save some more, and buy a plane ticket to a place thousands and thousands of miles from my home, and though my yearning for ten hour plane rides is still a very, very real thing, there has been a shift in the way I view adventure.
All of those things that I mentioned above, they surround you. They are right there, waiting for the moment you step foot outside your front door.
I had my pills counted and put in their proper containers, snacks in the front seat, bags packed and puzzled together in the back (honestly, Adam did the majority of this), gas tank filled, and coffee placed in the center console.
It was time for an adventure, and my gosh I couldn't wait to get going!
*Be sure to play video in HD*
Soon enough, I found myself nodding off as we rotated between podcasts, silence, our favorite albums, and back to more silence. Temporarily waking up as the roads became gravel, buildings turned to sagebrush, and rearview mirror showed nothing but billows of dust for miles and miles. Between my naps, I began to notice a shift in the way I processed information. Simply put, I would see something, say a field mouse running across the road, and instead of immediately being taken back to a moment a couple weeks back, where tears came to my eyes as I almost hit a little creature, I would move on. I would let the comfort of absolute nothingness take over. My thoughts mellowed and passed me by.
One by one, I held no judgment, felt no doubt, and remained completely content with my surroundings.
Camera at the ready, we began to descend into a barren valley, filled with red rock, big horned sheep (though they remained hidden from our view - rightfully so), and dancing shadows as the sun hid behind the pillars of rock. I found myself munching on peanut butter filled pretzels as we rounded the corner to our campsite. It was the perfect little spot, and just a short walk from a beautiful reservoir, which we would be visiting as soon as our tent was pitched, hammock assembled, and sandwiches were made.
After an hour or so of floating through the clay colored water, we found ourselves back at our campsite, packing for our sunset adventure to a short trail just up the road. Little did we know, getting to the trailhead was an adventure in itself, as there were no signs, just a small, unmarked, single car parking spot next to a hidden valley taken straight out of Lord of The Rings.
As we navigated our way through dry cracked earth, bundles of sagebrush, and the remains of some wildlife, out of no where, the rock walls around us began to expand and open up into what felt like an ancient amphitheater, scattered with wild yellow flowers that pressed against the dramatic desert landscape.
The result of a long day of travel began to sink in as we made our way back through the narrow valley walls (sniffing a few of the wildflowers as we passed), to our bug splattered and dust covered, adventure mobile. The only thing missing was our panting, drooling, and oh so lovable hippo dog, Kona. We decided it best to leave him at home while traipsing through rattle snake territory.
Back at the campsite, we prepared dinner while taking turns heating our bodies by the roaring campfire. The gusts of wind through the valley lifted the sparks from the fire, scattering them across our campsite, forcing us to hop around like crazy people as we tried to (unsuccessfully) avoid them.
Once the winds settled down, sparks stayed put, and sky turned from bluebird to a deep navy, I found myself entranced by the glow of the fire, allowing the sense of wonderment to sink it. I started to think about each part of the adventure so far. The long drive in, the vastness of the landscape, the switch in time zones. And as I thought about each part, I realized just how little I had noticed the throbbing behind my eyes, aching in my neck, shaking in my hands, and nausea in my stomach. It was very much still there, but somehow my mind decided that my body could handle it. That despite the inevitable setbacks that I face because of it, I could still find small, yet extremely significant ways to enjoy myself.
To take this adventure and make it my very own.
As much as I love camping, I have yet to figure out how to get a full nights sleep. However, I must have slept for long enough to have rolled off my pad and against the tent, which would explain why the entire top and left side of my sleeping bag was damp from the early morning dew. So, as I wriggled out, I put on every single layer I could find, and made my out of the dampness, and into the beams of sunlight.
With breakfast in our stomachs, coffee in hand, and the sleeping bags finally dry, we piled our belongings back into the truck, making our way back through the dust covered roads, and out of the valley, promising ourselves that we would find a way to make it back here again soon.
About four hours, a few herds of cattle, and more than one unmarked road later, we found ourselves yet again, making our way through another valley. This time, the luxury of drinking a coffee and eating a snack were not available, as all of our attention was on focused the miles of un-maintaned, extremely rocky, and questionable road. Besides, I was wearing my favorite flannel, so spilling my coffee was completely out of the question.
We drove right above the edge of the seemingly endless valley, carved out from years of the river's steady movement. Finally, we rounded our last bend, and found ourselves perched on top of a small cliff overlooking the vast expanse of nothingness.
After we ate a few strawberries, made ourselves some sandwiches, and lathered our bodies in sunscreen, we walked through walls of whispering grass, and down to the shore of the river.
I rested my feet up on the cushion of the raft, as my head nestled into the grass. Just before we left for this adventure, I found myself stressed about little things, things that should have been able to pass me by, and it seemed that the only way I was able to find contentment with this restless state of mind, was to run and hide from these feelings.
I did everything but face my fear and doubt, and for good reason as they have a way of consuming my entire being. Not even Adam can get through to me while I am weighted down by this very dark and very heavy cloud.
Funny thing is, the only way I am able to remove myself from this place, is by facing these insecurities head on. Even if it takes absolutely everything I've got. Even if it takes doing the exact opposite of what I feel like doing (and believe me, it most certainly does). After all, only you can remove yourself from this place. Only you have the power to stand up and come face to face with yourself, telling that person that things will be okay, that life will move forward, and that whatever happens, you will make it through.
So, as I lifted myself up off the ground, grabbing a paddle, hopping in the raft, and making my way to the other side of the river, I remembered all of this. I remembered all the past moments that have made this life very much worth living, all while letting my body fill up with the excitement of those to come.
We climbed out of our rafts and scrambled up and away from the river, and towards the warmth of the hot springs, nestled just above the glistening waterfall. As we took off our shoes, climbed over the rocks, and into the crystal clear waters, we placed ourselves at the very edge, watching as the waters rushed between the rocks, joining the waterfall below us, and eventually making it's way to the river below that.
And just before the sun set behind the trees above, we climbed down. Down the waterfall and over the streams, making our to the rafts that would take us back across the river and to the comfort of our river-side oasis.
I was pleased to find a perfectly dry sleeping bag as I woke with heavy eyes, acknowledging the presence of the few unlucky mosquitoes that trapped themselves between the tent and the rain fly. With coffee and sunrise on my mind, I climbed my out of the sleeping bag, emerging into a world not yet touched by the morning rays of sun.
Eager to have our coffee with a view, we packed our bags, deflated the rafts, and made our way up the steep cliff side road, across a few dry stream beds, and to a spot just before our decent down through another valley. To keep ourselves warm while we waited for the french press, we bounced around, coming up with something that we now called "the pre-coffee dance," which we realized might actually replace our second cup of coffee.
We soon found ourselves back on the road, making our way through yet another herd of cows as we passed beneath endless bluebird skies. Next stop, burgers and fries at our favorite little town, Fields. The last stop before we drive another 30 minutes to "the beach," or better known as, The Alvord Desert.
With full stomachs and warm hearts, thanks to the friendly residents of Fields, we drove out onto the white desert floor, passing by tire tracks of the people that camped before us. The sun was still high in the sky, and with the reflection of the light earth, we created a safe haven in the shadow of the truck, carefully setting up our chairs to face away from the sun, and towards the Steens Mountains towering above us.
This will have been my third visit to this wild place, and I couldn't help but feel like I was coming home.
With golden hour well underway, and the sun hid behind the mountain peaks, we found ourselves dancing across the clay earth, letting our inner child run free (because let's be honest, we never really grow up). As golden hour was replaced with the light of the moon, we nestled into our chairs and watched the sky light up.
I felt small, but the good kind of small. The kind of small that puts things in perspective. The kind of small that gives me every reason to make adventures like this, a priority.
I grabbed my journal from deep inside my bag, and I began to write. Occasionally I would look up to see a light in the distance, knowing that Adam was out there capturing this beautiful night sky. Before I knew it, I found myself rolling over in my sleeping bag, briefly waking to a chorus of coyotes. For all I knew they were just outside our tent, but I didn't have time to investigate as I was once again fast asleep until first light.
It was 9:00 a.m., and there we were, back on the road.
With the window down, hair in knots, and miles of open road and podcasts to go, I couldn't help but fall even more in love with it all. In love with the packing before the trip, early sunrises, endless car snacking, tiny towns you stop at along the way, the people you meet, places you see, and miles and miles of open road that you cover. I couldn't help fall in love with it all, even the drive back home from such an incredible adventure. Even the unpacking, the dust covered clothing, and dirt beneath the fingernails.
Take away any one of those things, and the experience would not be the same. It's the unpredictable qualities of such a trip that remind me that this feeling, it doesn't have to be set aside for adventures like this. I have the power to let it trickle down into every aspect of my life.
After all, there will always be chaos, heartbreak, loss, and pain. There will always be those things, just like there will always be happiness, joy, and love. So, rather than looking at them as insurmountable feats, I will look at them as a challenge. A challenge and an opportunity to embrace the parts of me that make me the strong, resilient, and brave woman that I am.
No matter where you are, what you're doing, how you feel, or what you've accomplished today, you are more than enough. And you know what? This moment right now, this very moment is an adventure.
So Go Ahead and Share Yours...