Posts in Category: Our wanderings

Cave Springs Campground: Cool base for great Sedona hikes

  • The Courthouse Butte hike is a short drive from the Cave Springs Campground near Sedona.

Cave Springs Campground  3 out of 4 stars (3 / 4) 

By Tom Nichols

Cave Springs Campground, about 12 miles north of Sedona, Arizona, in upper Oak Creek canyon is a good base camp for exploring red rock majesty in the Verde valley region.

Double trouble: weather and dash alerts

  • Weather can be an issue when you live in a tin can on wheels.

We live in a metal box on wheels, so weather becomes a demanding taskmaster we can never ignore.

This spring, we faced down the polar vortex and the bomb cyclone.

Tom and Judy rate their camps

  • The Red Wing Iron Works in Red Wing, Minnesota.

By Tom Nichols

Our goal for our fifth year of adventure in The Epic Van is clear. We’re spending more time in the Four Corner states of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado.

And along the way, we will search for the best places to camp in The Epic Van and tell you about them with our four-star rating system.

Frolic in Organ Pipe

  • An organ pipe and saguaros in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Each time my Mothers Who Write group came to poetry week, I would groan, not because I hate poetry, but because I feel so inadequate in its world.

Still, Deborah Sussman, our highly literate instructor, (who with Amy Silverman forms the MWW yin/yang) would coax us along like discombobulated chicks, encouraging and praising our efforts, no matter how pitiful.

I’ve also been inspired by my friend David Stabler’s brother, Martin, who each morning sends out Daily Sightings, a collection of his and others photos, poetry and thoughts.

So, this year, as I vow to broaden my self-expression (because those who know me know I don’t express myself nearly enough), I’m dabbling with colored pencils and watercolor (another out-of-my-element endeavor) and trying different kinds of writing.

Hence, I offer this, Desert Invitation.

Deborah and Martin, this one’s for you

Ten reasons I love Tucson, in no particular order

  • The shuttered Catalina Odeon in Tucson.

1 – Driving past old haunts like the Catalina Odeon Cineplex Cinemas and remembering when Tom and I, newly in love in journalism grad school at the University of Arizona, would ride our bikes on dates, coming out after the movie to cycle home in moonlight and warm breezes. The poor shuttered Cineplex is looking a little worse for wear, slightly decrepit, should I say, aged, but don’t we all.

Gathering silver and gold on America’s backroads

  • The Epic Van with two Casita pals perched on the edge of the prairie at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other gold.

So says the iconic scout song I learned as a Brownie, too many years ago to count.

The sentiment is true. The past four years full-timing in The Epic Van has been a testament to this theme. We’ve driveway surfed from Washington to California to Kansas to New Orleans, looking up old newspaper colleagues scattered to the four winds. We’ve broken bread with relatives near and far. And we’ve camped with and made fabulous new friends on the fly in Idaho, Montana and California.

Embracing nomadism: a homey rhythm

  • Our second campsite at Goose Island Campground outside Arches National Monument.

There is an odd rhythm to nomadism, a dance, a feeling of slight disorientation as you get to know and embrace each new spot you call home, even if only for a few days.

Now, in year four of our journey in The Epic Van, we seem to have gotten better at it, reaching a comfort level we didn’t have in the beginning, when each new place felt wildly exciting, exotic and fascinating, but a little foreign.

An ancient bristlecone pine grove gives a lesson in patience

  • Aspen in beautiful orange and gold along the Alpine Lake Loop Trail.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, Tom has become a true tree freak.

On hikes, he frequently stops to gaze upward at branch arrays, set his hand on a trunk’s bark, count the number of leaflets in a bunch and test the spikiness of needles against his fingers.

He takes photos of the whole tree, the leaves and the bark, and then compares them to photos and descriptions in his tree book when he returns to The Epic Van.

He’s so thorough that I’m beginning to know the difference between an Engelmann spruce and a limber pine.

And so, when we were at Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada this week, we headed for the ancient Bristlecone Pine Grove on Wheeler Peak.

Arches and Canyonlands: The Permanence of Impermanence

  • Judy on top of the world on the trail to Double O Arch at Arches National Park.

At Arches National Park, we scrambled over clusters of rock to walk along a sandstone fin with sheer sides, heart-stopping dropoffs and amazing views. I felt like I was queen of the world.

At its sister-park, Canyonlands, we looked out over miles of canyons, spires, and cliffs, cut by the Green and Colorado rivers. I felt small and insignificant.

And both parks, created from eroding and ever-changing rock forms, made me think about the impermanence of things that seem permanent.

Big Sur: Our semi-wild life and semi-crisis in this semi-wilderness

  • The Big Sur coastline, fog rolling in.

When I think of Big Sur, it is the wild radish I will always remember.

The crunch of it in my mouth, similar to the texture of a radish, but a milder, sweeter flavor.

A wilder flavor.