I've been home almost a week and, funny enough, I'm itching to get back on the road. I know that the good weather months are dwindling and that soon it will be cold- my traveling and camping nemesis. I have a trip planned to Utah in less than two weeks and then the wait for the twins begins in earnest and I'll probably stay pretty close to home.
One of the most enjoyable activities of the winter months is planning the next year's travel. So far, I plan on two trips to Organ Pipe NM this winter. After 11 long years the monument is now fully open again which is exciting to say the least. I can now explore some places I've been itching to see for awhile but were closed due to the US Border Patrol's activities.
Have you read, "The Devil's Highway" by Luis Urrea? The setting is Organ Pipe- it's a tragic story and my views on immigration were only solidified by reading it. I know it's a complex issue but we MUST find a more humane way of dealing with those desperately poor people from Mexico who simply want a better life in the USA (as did all our relatives- except the indigenous). I have lots of deeply passionate thoughts about these issues and, perhaps, in future, I'll devote an entire blog to what I believe the problems are (and there are many - starting with the government of Mexico and US policy) and how we might go about creating a better world for our brothers and sisters from the south. If you have an interest in these matters please read Urrea, or "Border Patrol Nation" by Todd Miller. Or read anything that Charles Bowden has written on the Border problems.
If you know me, at all, you know I love all things Southwest- by extension- I love Mexico and the Mexican culture. It's everywhere you go in the Southwest and it's one of the major reasons I love it here.
Back to my plans for next year- so Organ Pipe is on big time. I'm also going to spend some time at Anza Borrego near Little Blair Valley doing some boondocking near a dry lake bed. Last year when I was there I was mesmerized by the solitude and stark beauty of the place. The problem was that it's at 3000 feet elevation, it was during a cold snap, and when I awoke it was 21 degrees F. WAY too cold. This fall/winter I'm hoping to go when it's a bit warmer. Of course, I'll also figure out a time to go to my beloved Joshua Tree NP.
In March I'm heading to Big Bend National Park in Southern Texas along the mighty Rio Grande. This is a trip that I've been wanting to do since my 20's and I'm finally going to make it happen. That trip will include stops in Arizona and New Mexico and may include a stop at Palo Duro Canyon and Guadalupe NP. April is a wonderful month to explore the coastal mountains near Santa Barbara and Big Sur and I'll backpack then. I love to travel in May because the weather is warming and the crowds are at a minimum. I will probably be in Taos and Santa Fe then. In June I'll head to the Sierras again. July is "Lupe and Lilly time" and we are still in the process of deciding. I'm considering two options for August - either Flathead Lake and Glacier NP in Montana or a Northern Cascades trip in Washington.
This last trip was really spectacular and I'm strongly considering heading back to the Four Corners in Utah and Colorado in September. I'm still, as I sit here at home, staggered by the scenery I saw in Colorado on this last trip.
My next trip, leaving on October 6, includes a visit with my very best friend from high school, Kevin D. , and still one of the best people I've ever known (or ever will know). He went to college in Utah and then got a job there and so our visits have been sporadic (at best) over the years. I'm hoping that changes in the next few years as we both move into the retirement phase of our lives. As I told him recently- one of us is still working (him) and one of us is a hobo (me) so his schedule will dictate things for awhile. Luckily he's free on the weekend of Oct. 11 and I get to hang with him on this trip. Knowing Kev he's explored most of that beautiful country up there and I'll be the beneficiary of his knowledge.
Here's my Utah tentative itinerary:
10/6 Navajo National Monument
10/7 Arches NP
10/8 Arches NP
10/9 Arches NP
10/10 Canyonlands NP
10/11 Visiting with Kevin near Vernal, UT
10/12 Goblin SP
10/13 Goblin SP
10/14 Capitol Reef NP
10/15 Kodachrome SP
Looks amazing doesn't it? Arches NP remains my favorite. Before I read Ed Abbey I visited it and had an OBE (out of body experience)- after I read, "Desert Solitaire" I understood why. I probably feel more "at home" in Arches than any other place on earth. There is no place like the Red Rock Country of the Colorado Plateau. Being there fulfills my heart's desire. I'll look forward to sharing pictures on my return as always.
Thanks for reading this. I hope all is well in your life and that you too are planning your next adventure. I'll look forward to writing again soon and sharing about another one of my new passions- playing guitar.
Notes From The Road- Ready To Go?
Hi friends. I'm getting ready to take off early, early tomorrow morning. "Pre-trip" is an odd emotional time. It's an exciting time usually tinged with some sadness about missing my wife and family. I also start to anticipate the first day's drive which means dealing with Southern California traffic until I get "out there". The older I get the more I abhor traffic and the lack of scenery in SoCal. As I leave I can't seem to put it behind me fast enough. In addition, my mind gets cramped with details. Did I pack everything? Food? Personal items? Do I have what I need? Am I ready?
Tomorrow I'll take the good old Interstate 15 through seedy, gaudy, tawdry, Las Vegas and then head toward Zion on my way to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. I'm interested in the state park and anxious to explore it. I hear it's a place a lot of the land maulers, aka Quad riders, visit. The noise, partying, and general attitude of those people aren't usually my cup of tea. We'll see. My hunch is that it will be more than fine.
It's a long drive (442 miles) but not as long as Tuesday when I drive to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison (476 miles). When I arrive there and get a camping spot my trip will settle down into a more relaxed mode. I work at slowing down constantly the first few days of any trip. Once that calm kicks in the trips can start to become tranquil and magical. After rushing around for 35 years slowing down is a daily challenge. I'll explore the new National Park at the Gunnison River and then head for fishing and hiking grounds near Silver Jack Reservoir, the Rio Grande and, eventually, the Arkansas River.
I will try to write from the road but that may not be possible given the typical lack of cell reception in the more remote and mountainous areas. I purchased a small digital tape recorder to perhaps more easily take notes. I also got a monocular for the camera and it will be interesting to see how that works. The playlist is ready- lots of Bob Dylan, Calexico, Neil Young, Gourds, Jon Dee Graham, Beck, Drive-By Truckers and Alejandro Escovedo. I'll be reading "Go In Beauty" by William Eastlake and bring lots of Edward Abbey & Terry Tempest Williams to supplement. I'm also bringing the classic, "Land of Little Rain" by Mary Austin.
May you all slow down and enjoy the simple things while I'm "on the road".
My next trip starts on Monday, September 8. I will be spending some time in Colorado. My father grew up there albeit in one of the most desolate spots in the state, La Junta. La junta means the meeting or meeting place in spanish and, sure enough, that's where several railroads meet (or met- passenger trains ain't what they used to be). My father used to speak about the wind and the snowdrifts and the unbearable summer heat. He also talked about his father being an excellent outdoorsman. I never met my grandfather. He died in 1948 at age 48 due to acute alcoholism. I wish we'd known each other. I have sensed in my lifetime that some of my genetic predilections are directly linked to him and his appetites.
The stories that my Dad told me about the outdoors often revolved around the southwestern part of the state in the San Juan mountains. Places like Creede and Pagosa Springs were mentioned. This is an area I'd promised myself that I would spend time in before I died. I plan on fishing, camping, hiking and exploring.
The mountains are at their peak in September in the West. The crowds and kids are gone. September is my favorite month of the year anyway. Even when I was working in the schools I loved it. The parents and kids were well behaved and everyone still had hope for a successful school year. While this made school and my job better than say, in March, I still always longed to be outside. I remember, even as a child, thinking that I was missing some important things going on in the outdoors in September. Now, at long last, I get to spend some time in the Rockies in September.
Do you know the song from "The Fantasticks"?
Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh, so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
I am going to "follow".
Here's the tentative itinerary:
September 8 Monday - Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, UT
September 9 Tuesday- Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, CO
September 10 Wednesday - Same
September 11 Thursday- Silver Jack CG - (Southeast of Montrose)
September 12 Friday - Same
September 13 Saturday Bridge Campground (Northwest of Pagosa Springs).
September 14 Sunday Bassam Guard Station (Northwest of Salida)
September 15 Monday -Same
September 16 Tuesday Holbrook, AZ
September 17 Wednesday Home
My trips are generally set up as "tentative". If I find a place I like, and it doesn't require reservations, I'll stay and stay. I have found, however, that being literally "on the road" is what I enjoy most. It's the discovery that I like. Of course, many of the best places are found in exactly that way.
I'm cutting this trip a bit short as I am required home to prepare for a baby shower of epic proportions. This should be a good "taster" of the area. I've always loved Durango and I'll be sure and spend some time there (if nothing else than to pick up a fishing license and grab a bite to eat).
The drive home requires one motel night in Holbrook. AZ which is a fine western town. When I get home I'll have a bit of time to prepare for my October Utah Red Rocks trip that promises to be spectacular. After that I'll be laying low waiting for my first grandchildren to be born. The twins are coming in November which means December and January will be perfect for celebrating their birth in Organ Pipe, Cabeza Prieta and other desert wonders in southern Arizona.
One last note, I've been communicating on Twitter with the excellent film director and cinematographer Eric Temple. He claims we are "brothers from another mother" and I agree. His films are all great and I own "Edward Abbey: A Voice in the Wilderness" which is truly excellent. If you can find it- buy it. If you can't buy it then see it any way possible. It's fantastic and features some other great Southwest artists and authors including the great Charles Bowden who just passed away. Charles' death is a huge loss for us desert and justice lovers. Eric did mention to me that for his next film subject he's considering either Maynard Dixon (my favorite Southwest artist) or my inspiration Everett Ruess. See? He is, indeed, a "brother from another mother"!
I'll keep you posted from the road.
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.
All content (C) Jeffrey C. Hubbard. No re-use without express written permission