Our wanderings

Our wandering path

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.

Roadtreking Reprise: Photo Safari 2 (for us)

  • Roadtreks parked at Chewing Black Bones Campground on the Blackfeet Nation, just outside Glacier National Park.

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:

  • Roadtrek, Mike and Jennifer Wendland, and Mel, for helping create and nurture this great community and for all the work to put this week together.
  • The Blackfeet Nation for sharing their home, their chief’s leadership, their storyteller’s wisdom, their delicious food, their beautiful songs and their dancers’ gracefulness and strength.
  • Campskunk for his generosity in minor (and not so minor) unauthorized repairs, and just for being awesome. Sharon for coming out to mingle with the riffraff. It was the highlight of the week. And feline Fiona for letting me take her picture. So accommodating for such a celebrity.
  • Mary Ellen and Sue for arranging and inviting me to participate in the Creativity in a Camper. It was great fun and I loved hearing all the stories and advice from our fellow writers. And for the wonderful books that I’m already tearing through.
  • Mary Jane (we finally meet) for her amazing Wild Tea and discussion of cook book publication, and Jeff for being a stand-up tea guy and a great hiking companion.
  • Sandy and Lynne for being lovely neighbors and lunch partners, and for forgiving American politics on behalf of all Canadians.
  • Dan and Rhonda for a great lunch and more Canadian/American political crosstalk. Are all Canadians so calm, considerate and insightful? It seems so. And Dan for allowing us to watch his creativity in action with his painting.
  • Linda for re-congregating our first photo safari group (missing you Mary Z), for a great late-night visit with Pat, our new friend Janet, Steve (we know you’re itching to go full time) and the nice man with the whiskey whose name I’ve temporarily misplaced.
  • Jeremiah for being an excellent bus driver, guide, singer and storyteller, for remembering all our names, and meeting ALL our expectations. And for the book recommendation.
  • David and Nancy for being just as interesting as we remembered, updating us about your lives and bringing gluten-free chocolate dessert to the pot luck. You’re the best. Next time in Big Sur!!! With your new rig?
  • Yan and Kiki for taking us to Hidden Falls, sharing huckleberry sodas and a barefoot walk in the grass, and for initiating us into Kiki’s Realm. I still have a warm feeling about it, but it may be from what came out of the bottle.
  • The Everglades: A fragile river of grass

    • Sunset in Everglades National Park.

    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.

    Fun in Grand Mesa National Forest, western Colorado’s land of lakes and magnificent overlooks

    • The view from our campground spot on Cabbott Lake.

    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.

    Summer freedom: Warning lights and a stunning Colorado road

    • A tin-roofed barn nestled in a valley along Colorado 145.

    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.

    Don’t call my awesome ride an RV

    • Sitting on the steps of The Epic Van in Texas's Palo Duro Canyon with our folding bikes and Pippi, our 16-year-old cat, who traveled with us until she went to the road trip in the sky.

    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.)

    La Manzanilla, Mexico: Baby needs new shoes

    • Jackie rings the bell.

    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.

    2 Comments

    1. Reply
      electricscootershq.org March 1, 2017

      Nomads and the civilised look at each other with disapproval and misunderstanding. Why would anyone want to wander the wilderness and live in a tent? Why would anyone want to live in a box and obey unnecessary masters?

      • Reply
        Judy Nichols March 3, 2017

        Ali, Mostly we’ve found people think it’s really cool. Many tell us they dream of being able to wander the world. Are you a nomad?

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