I love camping alone.
I can be messy. No showers for days. No sponges either. I wipe out cooking pots with wasteful paper towels. I do buy ice every day to refrigerate perishables, but dysentery lurks. I fill the car with junk: empty beer bottle, tour maps, ticket stubs, apple cores, and drained motor-oil bottles. Although such anarchy runs counter to my usual fastidiousness, I confine the chaos to my car, my body, and three days in the desert. On return, I will hose everything down or burn it to the ground.
I set my own schedule. I eat what I want, when I want, for as long as I want–usually quickly so I can bolt off on the next adventure. I walk at my own pace in any direction I wish. I can plan the next day meticulously or wander haphazardly. I sleep when tired and rise when rested. I can sit and stare or run about frantically. I lose myself in stretching, shifting my vertebrae, and expanding my chest. I’m pushing and relaxing.
I can think. I assess adventures, plan future projects, and figure out where I’m going next. I draft a list for my rest of my 40s by the cliff of a desolate crater. Now is not only the shortest of this desert trip, but also the length of the next eight years. I draw plans for an owl hat while resting in a mosaic canyon.
I can be anonymous. No one knows me here in this park crowd so different from myself. Most of my fellow campers are over sixty years old, coupled, in large RVs, frumpy, and friendly. I say hi on trails, but don’t otherwise enter conversation. I am the Lone Ranger on my blue-and-yellow appaloosa steed. Unlike in San Francisco, I’m did not come to the desert to meet people or make friends. There are only two worlds here: the outward stars and my inward heart.