Let Your Mind (and other parts) Run Free

I went into last night not sure what to do about the rest of my trip. Las Vegas had strippered me out of the vast majority of what I had intended to spend while traveling, but I still wanted to make the trip memorable, and entertaining. Do I just go straight to Chicago? I’ve got plenty of experience being poor in just one city. Do I soldier on through each planned waypoint in the face of my poverty? I couldn’t decide.

With all that on my mind, I had forgotten (on purpose) to write down which campsite I was occupying on my registration card. Honestly, I didn’t think anyone would check, but I’m glad the attendant did, because in our overly-long-you-clearly-don’t-have-many-people-to-talk-to-and-neither-do-I conversation, he mentioned that there was a hot spring not too far off. He warned me that it could be fairly “hippie-dippy,” I pointed out the “The Dude Abides,” shirt I was wearing, and assured him I’d be fine.

This morning, I started walking more or less right when I woke up, having learned a heat-related lesson from the Grand Canyon. Audiobook of choice for today: Theft By Finding by David Sedaris. After walking for two hours and some change, I was about to turn around when I saw a hat bobbing in the distance. I yelled out, “Hey, do you know where the hot springs are?”

After a moment of confusion, she finally spotted me and told me they were right below us. After convincing their dog, Dixie, that I was not a danger to her family, the male of the younger couple pointed out exactly where I could climb down, and which hot spring was the warmest. Ya know, my initial assumption was that they were a parents/children grouping, but they just as easily could have been swingers with a large age gap.

I made my way down the hill, then made sure that Dixie and the swingers had left, then cracked open a beer and disrobed (pictures upon request). While standing there in the glory of nature I thought, you know what’s cheap? Nudist resorts are cheap! With a new sense of purpose, I put my clothes back on, and headed for my vehicle. I caught up with and passed the swingers, but having confused and startled the older woman for a second time, I chose not to ask any clarifying questions as to the nature of their relationship.

I write to you from a resort just south of Denver, my tent set up, and my clothes in my car. Next stop: another spot recommended to me by the older couple (they’re all older couples) near Kansas City. More to come!

Which Hole Was Deeper?

After typing out my tale of debauchery surrounded by the wholesome folks in the North Rim Lodge there for a breakfast buffet, I headed to the rim itself and began what ended up being a much longer hike than I anticipated.

I set off a little before 9am with my water bottles filled and my spirits high. I distinctly remember feeling chipper, but noticing the sharply contrasting looks on the faces of people who had started much earlier, and were on their way back up. But I was listening to Anthony Bourdain’s audio book, and couldn’t be bothered with their negativity.

I kept up a decent pace, and felt like I was making good time. I asked multiple small groups along the way how much farther it was to ever-shifting goal locations, as my confidence in my ability grew with the discovery that I could refill my water bottles at the midpoint – Manzanita. I got there barely winded at all, slightly warm, and only marginally concerned about the trip back up. Good news: I had reached the bottom by 11am! Not so good news: the sign at the rangers station strongly advised against hiking between the hours of 10am and 4pm.

“How long did it take you to get to the top?” I asked the European backpacker who had arrived shortly after me. “About three hours,” he said, which is about what I was expecting. I sat around in the shade drinking water for 30 minutes or so, wet my face, my hat, and my shirt in the creek, then started my climb back to the top.

Right away I could tell that the heat and the elevation were not going to make this easy on me. I debated hanging out at Manzanita and waiting out the sun, but I decided I wanted to get on the road sooner than that, so I powered on, taking breaks in whatever shade I could find. At some point I realized that pants had been the wrong choice, so I lost those to my backpack. Then I couldn’t handle Tony’s voice in my ears anymore, as all of my attention needed to be on my misery for me to keep going.

A father and son duo from Amsterdam that I had seen on the way down caught up with me, and again gave me wonderful news of a nearby water station. Also, I was happy to find an outhouse, as the Valhalla Steak and Eggs from breakfast were waging war on my innards.

Brief aside: horse piss on the trail after hours in the sun is more difficult to deal with while you’re gasping for air during an ascent at elevation.

The water and shade and continuous rest breaks got me to the top around 3:30pm. “How far is Manzanita from here?” I asked the ranger at the top between breaths.

“5.4 miles and about 3600ft down, but I’d advise against it in this heat,” she said.

“Good to know,” I said. Normally, those numbers wouldn’t phase me, but with no training to speak of, 96° weather, and on the heels of an impressive hangover, the ranger may have had a point.

I made it to a campground in Utah last night, stopped at Four Corners this morning for the novelty of it, and decided I couldn’t spend another minute in the desert, so I headed north to the much greener portions of Colorado, where I sit happily with a cold local beer. Tonight sleep. Tomorrow Denver.