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.
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.
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.
You know I love The Epic Van. And I love the company that makes it, Roadtrek.
The first year we were on the road, we went to the Roadtreking Photo Safari near Yellowstone. It was a gathering of my kind of people. We still have friends from that first meetup.
Now, three years later, we just finished our second Roadtreking Photo Safari, this one near Glacier and, once again, it was a blast.
My personal thank-you list is looooong. So, here goes. Thanks to:
The Florida Everglades, the River of Grass, feels fragile, like any moment a hurricane will wipe it off the map, or humans, after decades of abuse, will finally kill it, or invasive species will forever alter it.
The longer you’re there, the more fragile it feels.
By Tom Nichols
I never heard any of my outdoor-loving friends in Arizona mention Grand Mesa National Forest. There are so many wonderfully eroded canyons and expansive mesas in Utah and Arizona, so many famous peaks and alpine parks in Colorado’s Front Range, it’s little wonder that Grand Mesa National Forest, the nation’s biggest tabletop mountain, is never mentioned.
By Tom Nichols
There’s nothing more liberating than returning to The Epic Van and setting course for Glacier National Park, the next leg of our Year Four adventure. I feel like a first-grader on the first day of summer vacation.
This may be totally stupid, but I have a hostile reaction when people say, “Oh, you’re driving around in an RV. Cool. My grandmother does that.”
This usually happens after I’ve told them of our totally awesome, unconventional, fearless life on the road. After I’ve specifically told them that I live in a big camper van. (Which, OK, technically is an RV but, in my world, is my free-spirit house on wheels.)
In La Manzanilla, Mexico, and its surrounding villages, shoes can be hard to come by.
Especially if you’re poor. And you’re a kid.
So Lucero Castelazo, who now runs her late mother’s place, Casa Maria en La Manzanilla, also carries on Maria’s charitable spirit, collecting and distributing shoes for kids who need them. She gets money from friends and buys discounted shoes from companies in her hometown of Leon, a shoe-manufacturing mecca. Then she hauls them in her white van to La Manzanilla.
When we visited for Christmas, we were lucky enough to be included in a couple of the distribution runs.
At the end of the main road in La Manzanilla, after the farmacia and the paleta shop and the sidewalk stand of charcoal-roasted chicken and the stacks of beach toys and the tiny bodegas and the place with the coldest cerveza, you come to a chain link fence marking the edge of the crocodile preserve.