After two months (more or less) on the road, I have some observations of what has worked for me, what has not, and some thoughts that may be of use.
- Murphy is alive and well; so be flexible. Things can and do happen. Places closed despite what their website may say, an auto repair taking longer than expected, unknown loose ends crop up, etc. That is not bad per se. No different than if I was at my beige box cubicle job. The difference is that in my beige box, I would not get time to write or see friends in Colorado as easily, and know that once Murphy’s role is over, something wonderful awaits vs. my beige box the following day. 🙂 Just work with what happens and realize that you are enjoying a gift.
- Take half the stuff you think you need and twice the money initially budgeted is an old travelers tip. I have a healthy savings to dip into when Murphy raises his head, and my outdoor clothing and gear is dialed in very well from experience from over the years. However, I did get rid of a decent amount of town clothes when I was back in the Front Range last month. I do not want to be as grungy as when thru-hiking, but I can afford to be a little grungy.
- Always check out the local museums. A fantastic way to tie in the local area to the experience you just had hiking, backpacking, camping, etc. Knowing the natural and more recent history add some much more to my appreciation of the area. And the local museums are excellent repositories of this knowledge.
- Plans are a suggestion, not an absolute.
Pull off to that scenic overlook you are driving by in the afternoon. Check out that green spot on the map. And those roadside curiosities are fantastic to check out. And some oddities? Well..they are just, ah, odd!
- Chat up every one. You’ll learn of great museums, hikes to do, local watering holes, books to read, and places you have not heard of, and find interesting things to do. I am a social person despite my solo wandering inclination, so this is admittedly easier for me than others. But even you are more introverted, go to the local visitor center, ranger station, or volunteer. The helpful people will answer similar questions for you!
- When people offer up a place for you to stop by, they really mean it. I’ve been moved by how many people have reached out to me and have given me places to sleep, grab a shower, do laundry, and I have enjoyed their company as they’ve opened up their homes to me. I’ve met people I’ve corresponded with for years. And friends I’ve known previously in my community have been generous in helping me out. People are awesome!
- “But what GEAR are you using that is working so well ?!?!?!?!” Ah, gear. What’s an outdoor post without some sort of gear talk..’eh? 😉 OK, I actually have a legit answer! At the last minute I threw in two items in my road kit that is working very well gear wise:
A cheapie 1.5-liter cook set and my mini propane stove are always accessible near the back of the vehicle. I can brew up a quick hot drink or a late trailhead lunch without having to break out the main kitchen gear. The spoons, cleaning cloth, fuel, stove, and cook set all fit in one handy stuff sack. Propane gas bottles can be found anywhere and are convenient for these quick boils.
And way back in 1999, I had ambitions of being some sort of uber winter White Mountain gallivanter. Because as an AT thru-hiker, I knew crap. Well, I knew limited crap, but I did know *some* crap.;)
But, guess what, that -20F sleeping bag is coming in handy on this trip.
Now, the synthetic bag is very bulky and heavy. And I think it has a liberal rating (-10F or -5F I am guessing for a true comfort as opposed to a -20F survival rating). Why would I need a bag this heavy and bulky when I could layer two down bags or quilts for less money, less weight, and bulk for my occasional winter backpacks? Because I did not know any better! 🙂
I’ve had this EMS winter bag for almost twenty years. I never take it winter backpacking anymore. But it served a niche on this trip. Warm, not as heavy or bulky as my conservatively rated winter car camping bags of choice, and less prone to the futz factor that comes with a combo of two sleeping bags or quilts. Who wants to futz when car camping?
The winter bag is wide for layering so very comfortable and roomy for when layering is not needed. Has a draft collar and an inner hood that cinches as well. Down lasts longer overall versus a synthetic bag of course, but the synthetic bag (that is never stuffed) is more forgiving overall. And that older rip-stop nylon is more forgiving of abuse that seems to occur when I car camp. Those colder nights I’ve encountered on occasion was no problem with this old warhorse.
- And I still can’t wait to see what happens next!
My plans have changed on the fly. I probably won’t make my way Eastward until March now. ButI can’t wait to see what undiscovered gems are out there!