End of the Road (Trip) – Some Thoughts

My sabbatical consisted of from Thanksgiving 2017 until a couple of weeks ago of vagabonding.

The classic American Road Trip but with an outdoor focus.

Camping, hiking, backpacking, and visiting friends and family.

And now I am about to start a backpacking trip. Followed by a return to employment.

Now that the sabbatical is winding down, I can’t help but not reflect over the past year.

What I learned

  • My guidelines for car camping still seem to hold: I quite enjoy car camping from October-ish until mid-May or so. (Shift from November until April for desert climates)  After that, I want to go backpacking.  Car camping is good for inexpensive lodging in-between backpacks and exploring areas that aren’t backpacking destinations. However, once late Spring rolls around, the car camping areas, even dispersed ones, get way too crowded. I don’t mind people at all. Honest. 😉   I prefer to see such places as Chaco when there are fewer people.

  • The Pacific Coast is beautiful but expensive and crowded

The redwoods, the ocean, and an opportunity to see the Bay Area is something I enjoyed quite a bit. And I am glad to see them. But more to visit than an extended stay, I think. Of course, all the people I met in SoCal made the trip extremely memorable!

  • There is a lot off of beauty back East, and it is where I am from, but I do prefer the Mountain West at this point.

I realized that 80% humidity with 80+ degree heat is miserable (Sorry Dad! 🙂 ), I need easy dispersed camping and wild places with broad, open vistas.

But I honestly did enjoy the pockets of wildness I did experience. Be it the rocky New England coast in my home state, or seeing the southeast Appalachians with wildflowers blooming, beckoning ridges, and (once off the AT!), surprisingly little-used trails.

  • I found Texas to be a delightful state!

Not much public land, but I enjoyed the land I found.  Free-range bison, canyons on the plains, and of course Big Bend State National Park.  Amazing!

  • Nevada is a state I wish I explored more 

For various reasons, I spent less time than there anticipated. But what I saw makes me want to go back. Nevada reminded me of New Mexico in the sense that it is off-the-radar for many outdoor enthusiasts. I need to go back!

The Firewave @valley.of.fire #hiking #camping #Nevada

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Big Horn in the #valleyoffire #wildlife #camping #hiking @valley.of.fire

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But this view is better… #sunset #camping #roadtrip

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The stark and isolated terrain and the history bring equal enjoyment.  Walking through the canyons, enjoying the red rocks, and then stumbling upon an ancient dwelling that may or may not be on the map…  There is a reason why I seem to return to parts of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico over and over again.

The Cliff Palace in @mesaverdenps #colorado #findyourpark #nps #ancientpuebloans

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Scenic, unmarked picnic spot on a dirt road on our way to points north. #arizona

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#petroglyph sightings on the sunset #hiking #utah #moab

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The history, the culture, the food, and the outdoors all come together in a place where I’ll make my home eventually.

Chaco Canyon, Canyon de Chelly,  Mesa Verde,  and other Ancestral Pueblo sites are well-known.  But there are other sites. Sites no longer readily acknowledged by the NPS or the  BLM. Old web pages, markings on a map, fence lines, and roads removed from any official signage are the only indications of these ancient dwellings.  I suspect there are multiple reasons for this “secrecy through obscurity.” Hunches why? Trying to preserve a site that can’t be closely monitored, cultural sensitivity as many of these outlying sites are near or even surrounded by Dine’ land, and simply not enough funds to properly maintain the site if visitation increases. I recently found a Chacoan outlier reached by a little over a mile walking on a rough jeep road. An unlocked gate with no signage next to a private business made me question if I was going the right way.  The outlier is directly in line with Pueblo Pintado and located on the Great South Road that linked communities,  Great Houses, and Great Kivas on the way to Chaco itself.  I knew I had found the correct path when I saw numerous potsherds strewn all over the ground on my walk. Remnants of 800-year-old trade goods. And the outlier itself? A now lonely outpost with Chaco distant on the horizon. But still impressive. And I had it to myself. #newmexico #newmexicotrue #landofenchantment #hiking

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Here is a montage of the Painted Cave in #bandaliernationalmonument . I rarely do a series of photos on Insti due to the autocropping, but I’ll make an exception here. The Painted Cave is an amazing pictograph panel deep in the Bandelier backcountry. A twenty-mile r/t hike over some stiff terrain needs to be done to access the site. Shown are both post and pre Columbian #pictographs . The black pictographs are thought to be post #ancientpuebloan . Note the classic Zia Pueblo petroglyph that is the #newmexico state flag. I always wondered if the Star of David is related to the “crypto-Jews” recent studies related to New Mexico discuss. (Sephardic Jews who converted to Catholicism to avoid peresecution and then fled to the Spanish colonies. Some cultural traditions were kept is an assertion). The cave is still a place of pilgrimage for modern Pueblos and a place most can’t enter. And why I schlep a large camera! All in all a fascinating place that blends the outdoors, history, and deep cultural roots. #newmexicotrue #landofenchantment #landofentrapment #hiking #backpacking #camping

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  • Colorado is my adopted home. But it is time to leave. 

Every time I come back, I noticed the increased congestion, crowds, and how busy it all seems.  Something I wrote about before. Perhaps too much? 😉 Being in isolated areas and then coming back to the Front Range certainly does not help. But there are ~5 million people in 2018 along the Front Range Urban Corridor now versus “only” 4.3 million of 2010.  Never mind before 2010.  I am part of that issue, of course. But having grown up in the crowded Northeast, I don’t wish to be in an area that is expected to have 3 million more people in the coming decades.

Denver Post photo of Floyd Hill

More people means more regulation, harder to access places due to traffic and parking issues, etc.   The culture is changing as well, too. From outdoor focused to a more urban lifestyle focused environment.

It is what it is.  But not a place that feels like home anymore.

  • I’ve been nomadic for almost a  year now. And feels like I am passing through and observing what is around me rather than being part of the place itself. Think after my hike, I am ready to call a place home for a bit.

I’ve loved traveling. But for a person who values community, the logical end of my journey is coming.

  • Serendipity is a real thing!

I almost did not take this photo. And it ended up being a trip favorite!

I’m enjoying the ride that is life.  An excited to see more of the unexpected. New places to see, friendships made stronger, reacquainting myself with friends from my past,  seeing my family happy and on to new challenges, and sparking a new relationship.

Life just gets better…

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5 years ago

Please refrain from using the N(evada) word again on this blog :). By far the most underrated public lands in the lower 48…by very far.

5 years ago

I was going to add, please don’t bring up New Mexico too much more either : ) I left Denver a couple years ago b/c i couldn’t stand it anymore for reasons you mentioned. Been back east helping with some family stuff, but after my CT hike starting in a couple weeks I plan on checking out Albuquerque for a near future move. Let’s not speak anymore of these places…
Looking forward to following your Canadian adventure. Best of luck with that.