As I near the end of my trip, I count the days until my return to San Francisco. On the one hand, I want now just to sit, think, build, participate, study, cook, bicycle, and canoodle. On the other hand, I am sad to leave the road.
I learned the hard way today that the road to an alpine river often follows a switchback descent to the water followed by a tortuous ascent up the other bank. The poor car labors, but does not complain except for more oil (car sweat).
I lunched at Taco John’s in Rock Spring, Wyoming. How do these cities survive?
Roar! Another roar. Roar! I find home at Dinosaur National Monument, a little-visited park that straddles Utah and Colorado. The park’s main attraction is the Carnegie Quarry, discovered in 1906. An open-air bus zooms visitors from the park center to the quarry site. There, a large building shelters a rock wall, but oh what a rock wall. This sedimentary shale is studded with countless dinosaur necks, femurs, tails, ribs, and a few skulls. I’ve never seen dinosaur fossils in the wild, and this may be the best such site in the world. Most of the quarry fossils come from the larger dinosaurs, camarasauri and stegosauri.
Descending from the Quarry, I say goodbye to a grumpy stegosaurus model outside the visitor center, then drive to the Green River campsite within the park. I swap travel stories with the 70 year old (!) camp host. Fierce rains come. I shelter in my car from a fast-moving lightning storm. After the rain passes, I set my tent at site number ten.
This spot #10 abuts a river, has its own beach, faces a mountain range, shines a partial rainbow, and features gnarled trees and exotic scrub. Late-afternoon rabbits come by for a friendly hello.
This camping spot is so epically magnificence that I don’t know what to do with it. I pace the beach contemplatively with a cup of miso soup, but think more about San Francisco than the mountain view. Although I could open a book and fetch my computer, I should just stare at the Nature. I talk to the rabbits and the hopeless squirrel. I post humblebrag photos to Facebook.
I win, I win, I win. I won the year off, the drive around the country, the unexplored parks, and campsite #10 at Dino Park. With winning, my thoughts dwell on, “What is it all about? What am I here for?” I have a lot more thinking to do.
Some occasional outsdoorspeople complain about stuffy tents, deflating air mattresses, and peeing in the cold dark. I like camping. I like the methodic rituals to pitch a tent, light a stove, and pack up a car. I’m good at counting inventory and knowing where everything belongs.
I like the simplicity. I possess only what I haul in my car, and even a carful is too much. There’s no fashion out here and fewer electronics. I cherish the useful single cup and spoon.
I like sleeping at full dark and waking when the sun rises. I live with the day. Winter camping does mean long nights of hibernation. Summer bodes hot days and warm evenings. During the heat, I’m on the road.
I like setting up home each time I arrive. In the afternoon, I rearrange the furniture and explore the new neighborhood. The following morning, I give notice to my landlord and take everything down. The morning promises adventure. Yesterday, Wyoming. Today, Utah. Tomorrow, Nevada.