Updated: Jan 30, 2020
January 28, 2020
Much has been left unsaid up until this point, mainly due to the constraints of time and the effort I put forth into a new life direction. Up until now, I identified as mandog, being that of harmony between man and his mutt, and thereby also containing a spirited connection with man and his god. I still continue to wear this name, but the dog I associated myself with, has been relinquished to a home outside my own. A very raw and contemplative time for me, but I used these emotions as a spring board to vault myself into a life unknown. One that expects nothing and has carefully positioned itself along the razors edge between destitution and a life filled with innumerable and immeasurable riches.
To explain myself, I had made the decision to leave my apartment, edit and condense my belongings into a small storage space and customize a vehicle for long-term travel and livability. The intention to travel full-time came at a cost. I left a permanent position of scuba instructor and captain, and also a very rich and fulfilling life in Florida wrought with friends and good memories. I still retain those connections, but the decision to uproot had to be stringent enough that I would be forced from spaces of comfort and out into a realm of risk, where chance and intuition would then become my primary forms of currency.
This space that I am in, one that is also undergoing the emotional pangs of being separated from a pet I adored and found a very deep connection to, has allowed a new chance to rediscover what calls to me. From very early on, I knew that I had connections to water and made sure I always put myself in close proximity to it. I also learned that I have a bit of pilgrim inside me, one that couldn’t help but to notice or think beyond the apparent horizons. Some call it the travel-bug, others say its a constant sense of discovery. I just liken it to my fascination with the world, and it speaks to me most when I am in motion and deep inside a journey.
This particular journey was to reconnect with the great states of the US and do so as many before me have done. That being, to explore the great American Southwest. Iconic vistas, native cultures and a space large enough to do healing without the constraints of feeling like I must be someplace else. The desert is a great place for that. No feeling has been more humbling than standing before a great ocean, or looking up into the broad expanse of a sky, or driving for a hundred miles through an open desert. The sense that you are small, in something much, much larger. I revel in that opportunity to be so small.
I had a place in mind to chart myself towards: Santa Fe, New Mexico. A board member from the project was kind enough to open up his desert home to me, and from there I would begin my pilgrimage around the southwest. What I didn’t realize, was how expansive this area was. To truly take it in, not just collect the patches of a hundred different landmarks, but to soak deep into the earth like the fallen snow I’m currently surrounded by. It meant that I had to narrow my focus. Seeing as I was in New Mexico and it offered a lot of what I was after, I chose to spend the majority of my time here.
As many of the readers know, I not only write, but also document the story in other various forms, such as video and still photography. This requires a lot of patience to work through a great deal of fascinating imagery, editing through weeks worth of footage, maintain a cutting edge on the latest software and somehow stay present in it all. From the customization of my vehicle to the seven days of travel it took to reach Santa Fe, I had accumulated a lot of footage. I gave myself the tall order of producing five videos and to create a single blog post from the weeks journey it took to get out here. What I thought would take four weeks, took five or six, but in that time I was gazing upon new and fascinating mountains, visiting ancient petroglyph sites, hiking upon great wildernesses and absorbing a desert culture that is much different than what I am accustomed to in the East. This is my first time to the West, short of California, which I think we can all agree has four or five of its own separate and distinct cultures.
In the spring, I do intend on returning to Florida to resume my role as the first mate aboard the research vessel, Stenella. That position is as much of an adventure as any pie in the sky dream I could ever conjure. I so look forward to making my return to that special place and being before the very charismatic, and very attentive eyes of a species that is like no other. In light of that, I still have much traveling to do and will let the story unfold as it may.
Included in here are my journal entries from the stops leading from my homestead in North Carolina out to Santa Fe. Also included are a series of video installments, deemed episodes that accompany the journey as well. I hope you enjoy! Thank you for your patience as I worked through this time of change and please stay tuned, as there is certainly much more to come!
November 01, 2019
Life was coming fast. Faster than I felt comfortable at taking it, but I am also a person who knows how to handle the seas when they are rough, and felt a similar strength to just hold course and all will settle down soon. I purchased a new vehicle that would be my intended conversion project and then began packing editing my belongings. What I felt shouldn’t be discarded, I stuffed into a 5x7’ uhaul trailer and during a steamy, Florida rainfall, left behind the life I knew for something unknown. The irony of it all was, that exactly two years ago I had been trailering my belongings down from Virginia after spending a year backpacking in South America. Then too, I was fearful and uncertain of my future. Thankfully, both times my family was unquestionably supportive and took me in as I determined where I would go next. A simple thank you seems deficient in all the many attempts I've had at, “figuring it out,” but none the less, I hold them in my heart every step of the way.
I present to you.. Episode 01. “Leaving Florida”
Nov. 02 - Dec. 14, 2019
Lake Norman, NORTH CAROLINA (Mooresville // I-77)
Miles traveled: 675 // Elevation: 800 ft
I spent the entirety of this time outfitting a vehicle for living. It was the accumulation of countless hours of research and preparation, now fully immersed in the application of those ideas. The packages were arriving at almost a daily rate, as I thought and contemplated on how everything would go together. I had seen many examples of these conversions online, but I felt not to many were invested in it full-time. Mine had to go the distance.
I present to you.. Episode 02. “The Buildout”
Before I left North Carolina, I had a great opportunity to soak up the sun with my mom and nephew at a nearby landmark, Stone Mountain. One of my favorite blessings in life is being able to return to the eroded and rugged mountains of the Appalachias during the fall time. Sometimes I think I’ve never seen fall colors, quite like the times spent here at home.
I present to you.. a bonus episode. “Stone Mountain”
Now Begins the Great Journey West
Fleshers of Fairview Health Center, NORTH CAROLINA (Asheville // HWY 74)
Day 01 // Miles traveled: 127 // Elevation: 2800 ft
Beginning with a short drive out to see my grandmother, I camped within the parking lot of her nursing home. We played cards late into the night, and then I wheeled her to her room before saying goodnight. We made plans to meet again in the morning and in these hours, she shared with me some of her own memories kept from a long history of time spent on the road. She couldn’t remember all of the details, mostly concerning who would have driven the car, but I am always at peace in knowing I am not alone in this desire to seek out new places.
Cordell Hull Lake Horse Trail, TENNESSEE (Granville // Nashville Highway)
Day 02 // Miles traveled: 250 // Elevation: 475 ft
Incoming weather forced the sky into stacked bands of clouds stretching themselves out in linear succession. After the sun had set and I sat camped within a bend of the Cumberland River, the winds began to tear through the valley and shook the truck with a tenacious disturbance. It was evident that a forceful weather system was encroaching upon what otherwise would be, a peaceful night along the river.
Beneath a blanket, I laid with my head out the back of the opened tailgate and watched as the illuminated and glowing moon seemingly had a magnetism that was drawing all of the sky’s clouds towards it. Finally, after it became totally immersed, I pulled myself into the shelter to fall asleep to the sounds of the shaking winds and calls of scattering geese. In the dead of night, I was suddenly awakened by the pounding rains atop the shell. Once arriving, they would not cease until I had crossed three more state lines.
That day, I had crossed over from Eastern Time into what’s referred to as, Slow Time or CTS. As my plans got flooded by the driving rains, I was limited for what I could do or go, as most my activities revolve around being outdoors. I woke up early to get changed and during a brief lull, made it back into the driver seat so I could make my escape back up the lengthy lake access road and return to an area that had cell reception. Pitted against a weather system that stretched all the way from Tennessee to Ohio, I was forced to return to the drawing boards to investigate a new option for where I would travel to. It was guaranteed that no matter where I intended to go, I would be stuck in this relentless rain and undoubtedly find it to be quite chilly.
The rains lightened some, making travel possible and without complication. I had decided on moving directly north into Kentucky to visit Mammoth Caves. It was certainly on my list of to-see things in the area, and coincidentally, spelunking is actually quite a good rainy day outdoor activity! It was less than a hundred miles away, which was perfect to get a good day of underground exploration in. I’m sure I’d be enamored by the entire adventure, so multiple tours would be in order in addition to scouting out the next night’s campsite.
I stopped at a local diner and enjoyed a breakfast egg wrap. It’s since been a staple of my morning and lunch-time eats. As I drove through Tennessee and soon there after, Kentucky hillsides, I started to notice how the surrounding lands were not only hilly, but also pockmarked by these many small depressions. These “holes” were saturated and overflowing with the amount of rain that had been coming down. All alongside the road, the feeder creeks and streams were flowing with a rapid pace.
As I would come to later understand in my informative day at the caves, was that these water systems would all eventually lead into the Green River and thus the underground water table that extends all through Central Kentucky and the primary source of erosion upon this three hundred million year old cave.
These observed depressions in the hills were the primary culprit behind the landscape’s underground dissolution through a process called karst erosion, or the seepage of water down through the surface layers and inevitably eroding the limestone comprised sub-surface layers. Below a sandstone and shale cap, there exists ancient limestone beds which, over the course of millions of years, are dissolved by the carbon dioxide enriched water. Over time, the process continues to repeat itself, dropping down further and further into the earth.
Mammoth Caves are over 400 miles long and continues to be surveyed which is contributing to the perpetual growth of that number. The cave system is described to resemble a stack of spaghetti with its older corridors occurring closer to the surface, while the newer levels continue to work their way down deeper. At present, it is comprised of five levels and some areas of the tour take you well beyond two hundred feet below the surface. One tour in particular, the River Styx actually takes you down to the flowing river existing at the bottom. The series of connected rivers flow just as you would imagine a river would on the surface. Due to the amount of rainfall we had encountered today, two different park rangers who accompanied us on our tours stopped the group to comment on the voracity and sounds of the river flow. It was to a degree they had never experienced before. It was likely that the River Styx tour would not be available the next day due to flooding. In one particularly odd moment, while seated in the Great Relief hall (which aptly follows Fat Mans Misery), they pointed out in front of us a depth gauge marked with red and orange tape. The marks, one being as recent as 2004, were a solid twenty feet above where we were sitting, and right around this time was when the second ranger had stopped us to listen to the rapid flow of the river Styx which could be heard down a corridor to our rear. The notion of the water reaching an unprecedented height of over 100 vertical feet from its current position was disturbing to say the least.
Mammoth has 26 different known entrances, some natural and some man made and it was officially designated a State Park in 1961. Considering the span of all the caves, it required the state to purchase 53,000 acres of land. With all that land, it still left portions of the caves outside the parks boundary.
I remember while walking back with one of the rangers, a newly acquainted friend and I were bending his ear with regards to various subjects surrounding the park and the caves themselves. One of which, is did they go down and scope out the tour areas beforehand. He said nope! The tour guides (which I think rely upon volunteers) simply venture in and discover it for themselves. If the water is too high to continue, they turn around and make due with what portions of the tour they can explore. One thing they will evaluate beforehand is any freezing moisture from within the caves. If too much moisture gets into the entrance of the caves and the temperatures drop below freezing, it could spell disaster for anyone inside. As the moisture seeps into the cracks and fissures of the cavern walls and then freezes, the expanding molecules can break apart rocks with explosive force.
This ranger in particular, also described in detail his time spent volunteering with the geological survey teams that go into the far reaches of the caves, often the lower and more wet parts. Since they are exploring the newly discovered areas, it can be sometimes a multi-hour hike just to reach the survey site. And from there they will then go on to spend another series of hours crawling on their bellies through wet, freezing passageways or standing up to their waists in frigid river water while holding out survey lines as other persons on the team took notes or made sketches from the area. Many volunteers would simply become too hypothermic along the way in to continue and would be forced to turn back while the rest soldiered on. All of this information made me to feel as if I had entered into some sort of come at your own peril adventure park.
If you’re interested in learning more about the caves, I invite you to check out this cool, reader that contains a lot of information on the associated geology and park history. Click for Map Journal
Upon exiting the contently dry and relatively warm cave, we were all forced back into the intolerable and cold, driving rains and we also had a 0.8 mile uphill walk back to the visitors center. I had completed two tours now and this was the last one for the day. I said my goodbyes and thank you’s to the park ranger and tour guide and exchanged numbers with the new acquaintance I had made. There were no campsites available within the park, but by the the recommendation of one of the rangers, an off-site location was nearby and could be used.
My friend from the cave and I still regularly exchange stories from the road. He has a very cool and active website that not only lists and tells about various nationals parks, but also includes a lot of motivational information that is infectious in its nature.
His site can be found here at: HuntChallenges
Houchin’s Ferry Campground, KENTUCKY (Brownsville)
Day 03 // Miles traveled: 85 // Elevation: 400 ft // 33º (first snow)
It was located just outside the park’s boundary in a tiny, little town by the name of Brownsville. I was hungry and it was of course raining. I did a quick scout of the site while there was still some marginal daylight before returning to the town to hopefully find something worthwhile to eat. I googled the area and came up with about four options: pizza, a Dairy Queen, a barbecue place or a Mexican restaurant. I chose the pizza option, which unfortunately happened to be inside a gas station. It also happened to be a dry county, which meant I couldn’t even lounge there with a cerveza. I ordered some cheese sticks and a small veggie pizza. It was of course all kinds of complicated and they kept running around the corner to tell me they were out of this and that but could do this and this for me. I said sure to anything they said and continued to type away at the day’s activities. It was as close to a “lounge” as I was going to get, but I was just thankful to be out of the rains.
Of course this gas station would be a county landmark and also be the hub of activity for the town. I got a lot of opportunities to check out and peer into the looks and lives of these rural Kentuckians. Nearly all commented on the weather with grimace. Some discussed their marital problems while at the register and others dashed too and fro still adorning the day’s hunting garb.
One gentleman, purchasing a series of lotto tickets came over to talk to me. He said, “You look like you’ve been traveling, I hope not on foot.” I told him about my adventures in the caves and he went on to tell me about Floyd Collins, the late great cave explorer who’s tomb had been exhibited within the cave. In 1925, during one of Collin’s cave explorations he had become stuck in a narrow passageway inside Sands Cave. Despite being 150 feet from the entrance he could not free himself. He had knocked over his lantern and was now in total darkness. The next day, after not returning, he was discovered but was unable to be removed still. He was given crackers and waited an entire week while a rescue plan was conceived. In that time, a cave in had occurred and the team deemed it unsafe to go in after him. They dug a shaft in from a different location but when they had made it to his body, he had already died from exposure. He was buried in situ, but later his family thought this was too uncouth for him to remain there and had his remains exhumed. After the sale of the Crystal Cave, where Collins had been re-buried at, the new owners dug up his grave, and put his body into a glass-topped coffin re-displaying his remains inside the cave. A leg of his was stolen, and they later moved the coffin to a undisclosed location, chaining it to the floor of the cave. In 1961 after becoming a national park, the park services by request of the family removed his remains and placed him appropriately within Mammoth Cave’s Baptist cemetery.
Beyond this gruesome, and lamentably humorous tale, the gas station patron then switched subjects to give me the run down on all four restaurants to choose from. In mentioning of the Mexican restaurant he proceeded to describe the size of their portions with his hands and then aptly patted his rather rotund belly as if saying he had one of their meals in him already. He then asked me if I knew where the fastest internet speeds in the US were. I of course didn’t, so he mentioned a factory outside Lexington that Apple has recently sent a splurge of money towards. Apparently all of Apple’s devices are using glass manufactured from the Corning plant there in Harrodsburg. I’ve no idea what this has to do with internet speeds, but apparently to this Brownsville native 20 mb is fast.
I finished my cheese sticks, threw away most all of the veggie pizza and then made my way back into the rain to wind down into the valley for another night of freezing cold, riverside camping. I would certainly enjoy it a lot more if I could get out and explore, but alas, I was confined to my blanketed refuge and forced to tightly wrap myself into a cocoon to await the morning when I could depart.
Big Lake Wildlife Management Area, ARKANSAS (Manila)
Day 04 // Miles traveled: 235 // Elevation: 200 ft // 25º
“The Path is new, The World is free” -Whiskey Shivers
When looking over the properties that once housed our settling ancestors, often all that remains erect and still in totality are the tall, spiring, cobblestone chimneys. What does this artifact from a time before tell us? It tells us that people have always liked and found reason to stay warm. And thus continues my saga of exploring the US during winter and attempts at staying warm.
As I rolled through the various backcountry towns, where there were as many cemeteries with american flags as there were volunteer fire departments, New Beginning baptist ministries, porches with timber for sale and the stark images of rural, Southeastern US.
In a brief moment that encapsulated the amount of time it takes to sneeze and re-open your eyes, I had gone from one side to the other on one of the most distinguishing features of the US, The Mississippi River. The 2300 mile long natural landmark that segments the Eastern United States from the Mid-West and South Central was now behind me.
Crossing over the muddy-brown waters of the Mississippi, I had entered into the flat, lonesome stretches of land that extended out in between the dated and rustic cotton gins of Eastern Arkansas.
Welcome center? More like, Daddy Rabbits Towing and Recovery. And while eight out of every ten vehicles that passed by was a tractor trailer, homes from towns like, Oil Trough and Locusts Grove, displayed piles of junk so excessive it could have filled an entire second home.
As I went towards my next campsite, I passed through the rural farming towns of about 3000 persons, into the larger, industrialized factory towns of about 60,000 where Post, Unilever and Stoufers (Nestle) had their establishments.
Once a ways into Arkansas, I ventured way off the highway onto a state road that led back to a Wildlife Management Area, called Big Lake WMA. There were a series of lakes, all contributing to the tributaries and streams that fed into the Mississippi. This one in particular, was called Mallard Lake.
It was total seclusion along the gravel road that encircled the lake. Small, semicircle pull-offs were the gist of the campsites. I picked one that I could back the truck up so the rear of the vehicle would face East and have the rising sun rise grace my bedroom window. The nose, would face the NW where any winds might hail from. The temperatures would be steadily dropping from the low 40’s to be in the mid-20’s by the early morning hours.
As I walked up the road towards a freshly constructed pier that zig-zagged into the water, a couple of hunters in their trucks rolled past. I snapped a few photos here, but did not delay long as I still had dinner to cook and wanted to take advantage of the daylight to rig up a new bungee net I had gotten. Dinner was rice with a coconut curry pour-over packet.
I survived the cold of the night quite well, considering the grounds had become entirely frozen by dawn, but at 3:30 AM a convoy of hunters had made their way into the area rolling past my encampment. I counted at least twenty had gone by within the hour. And by dawn, the cadence of rifle sounds mimicked that of a small militia firing off in succession. Needless to say I was up and on my way. I ventured back into the neighboring town, Manila, and found a quite cute coffee lounge. This one lived up to the term well and despite a momentary loss of internet, was able to download a few podcasts and tracked my next route.
With the rain and snow continuing on in the North, I would stay south and travel due west to Arkansas’ portion of the Ozarks National Forest.
Sam’s Throne Recreation Area, ARKANSAS (Mount Judea)
Day 05 // Miles traveled: 260 // Elevation: 2035 ft
A TRUE campsite, atop a mountain ridge, it was twenty miles of vertical switchback travel to get to my perch along one of its peaks. At the bottom of the camp grounds was a one mile trail that loops out to a series of rock bluffs that overlooked the expansive Buffalo River valley.
The site was also a haven for rock climbers. Which, upon first glance at the cliffs, made perfect sense. The rounded, protrusions of stone that comprised the “bubbly” rock faces were perfect grooves ideal for climbing. I explored the overlook areas for a bit while waiting for the sun to nestle back behind the opposing ridge. I sat down in front of Sam’s Throne and watched as the shadows of the sun started to climb its rocky face. There couldn’t have been a more apt name for this place than Sam’s Throne. The formation jutted right out from the mountain in the most prominent fashion. I sat staring into the various rocks imagining the names of different “thrones” like, Long Legged Throne, Recumbant Throne, Lazy Boy Throne and such.
For the family members reading, you can also imagine the personal connection I had to this site's name. My grandfather, despite being named Robert went by the name of Sam or Sambo and he always seemed to have a seat at any place he went To. Not likely to sit upon a throne, as he was much too busy to be just lounging around at the expense of others, but he did enact a sort of figurative throne in the sense that he was a distinguished figure within our family. I’m not sure if he had ever come to Arkansas, but it looked like a nice place to visit. The site was actually named after Sam Davis, an early 1800’s fire-branded preacher that gave sermons from atop the local mountainsides.
Before nightfall, I had prepared a camp fire and watched the sun’s final glow come through the trees as the camp fire began to rage. I walked in the dark over to a nearby primitive camp site I’d seen earlier in my exploration. It had a pile of prepared fire logs and I snagged a few to keep mine going for a bit longer. It was fun walking through the woods and using natural navigation amongst the darkly shrouded forest. I tried not to think of the extremely intense and terrifying Big Foot film I’d seen recently called, Willow Creek. After awhile, I buried the coals and then tucked away into the shell.
Wake up and there’s another new view. Another chance to fix myself into a routine. Its extremely simple, but the closer I am to a pattern, the more fluid it becomes. Travel an entire tank of gas (roughly 400 miles), camp, sleep, wake up and drive until there’s another view to lay down next to.
Henryetta Nichols Park, OKLAHOMA (I-40, Route 66)
Day 06 // Miles traveled: 205 // Elevation: 805 ft
“Baptized in the river, I was out of my own” -Good Charlotte
My first take on Oklahoma is it still carries the sadness of the dust bowl era, but it doesn’t stop the people from being nice, kind or even helpful. Also, note to self and anyone else that finds themselves following a cattle transport... Don’t follow too closely or else you’ll get cow pee sprayed all over the front of your vehicle. Yick!
This disc golf course campsite was a much needed haven for me. It felt so good to be out in the warm sunshine. I played on the swings, ran through the woods, experimented with various filming techniques, solar charged my battery bank and ultimately soaked up as much of the days’ light as I possibly could.
Mesquite Campground, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, TEXAS (Amarillo)
Day 07 // Miles traveled: 371 // Elevation: 2600 ft
As Texas began to ramp up towards the neighboring Rockies, I watched the elevation seemingly defy the characteristically flat landscapes. The phrase, “Everything is bigger in Texas,” could not be truer. The plots of land are exceedingly long and wide. The roads, insurmountable and lengthy. The trucks and people, of course, are gargantuan as well. I don’t mean fat, although the size of the arms and bellies I saw would indicate that, but it was as if the same hormones in the steer and feed for the cattle was also being injected into them, producing these gigantic cowboys that I would bump into within the cramped aisles between snack racks or the tiny doorways between the rest stop bathrooms.
Aside from that, I really enjoyed the winter climate of Texas. I saw it rise above sixty degrees and the sun was beaming. I got a tip from my friend from the caves to check out Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which, conveniently was across from the same town I had intended on stopping at, Amarillo. I had been looking at Lake Meredith’s ATV trails on the north side of I-40, but the same distance to the south was the incredible terrain of the deeply cut gorge, deemed the, “Grand Canyon of Texas.”
I had plenty of daylight left to explore and spoke with the rangers before traveling the ten miles down into the ravine to my campsite. I opted for an RV site that had water and electricity hookups plus bathrooms. It proved excessive, but at the time I thought the only site I could “drive into” were the RV ones. I later learned, there were a few campsites that had vehicle access, but it was only an $8 difference between the nightly rate and the RV sites boasted access to bathrooms. Whereas, the other two drive-in, non-RV sites were a half mile or two mile trek back to either of the RV parks for access to their restrooms.
In accordance with the abrupt spontaneity of my inner child, I immediately blasted a quarter of the way up the neighboring cliff that towered over my campsite. I had left my vehicle open and ran up the crumbling slopes without a single piece of gear aside from the GoPro. Within minutes of ascending the first of many summits, I spotted what I thought were big horn sheep. They were much, much smaller than what I would imagine, and of course, without the telltale horns. I was right in that they were sheep, but what I would later learn from the park rangers to be a type of Barbary sheep from Africa, specifically called Aoudad Sheep. Having asked what sort of wildlife I might see there, they said not much in the “bottom” as most the wildlife exists in the upper part of the park, near to where the entrance was. Most all of the park is in whats considered the floor or bottom between the towering 800ft high cliffs.
And within minutes of my exploration, I was looking down upon these incredible and rare sheep. They were of course alert to my presence despite being hundreds of feet away and most of the flock had begun to scatter and scamper up the steep, craggy slopes. In the same instant of getting to see this awesome terrain from an unseen vantage, I was also in a timely encounter with something as cool as these sheep. The few that lingered behind stared off in my direction, before resuming as the others had in venturing off in the opposite direction to me. I was hard pressed to spot them, and only when they moved could I discern from the slopes of tumbled rocks this family of eight. I was amazed at their ability to move along this tough and uneven terrain. I slipped and slid my way up further to get a glance at how this ridge line progressed and if it would be a viable path to explore the next day. Noting the watershed winding its way through the canyon floor, with the emergence of pale, leafless Cottonwood trees, I thought this too could be a good route to take and after properly planning for a hike, set off in its direction.
The watershed was a difficult terrain once within it. Cottonwoods twisted alongside the river that flowed at very low levels and I was unable to jump from one side of it to the other. Soon enough though I had instinctively navigated myself towards a plank of wood someone had laid down randomly within the obscured landscape to make it over to the opposite side. I walked amongst the tall grasses that came near up over my head. I could imagine the threat of rattlesnakes in the summer months must be rampant, but was safe from their strikes as well as the flash floods that plagued the region. Some areas have been known to get cut-off from exit during the peak rain reasons and campers are forced to stay extra days until the water has found its way through.
I became bored with the monotony of this densely covered scrub trail and made my way back out while the sun was still shining. It was so pleasantly warm and dry out, I couldn’t help but to bask in this great, radiant glory. At camp, I fixed up some dinner, set up some time lapses and watched the sun arc its way over the western rim. While I let the camera and sun do its thing, I ventured on into the luxuriously heated bathrooms and took my first hot shower after seven hearty days of travel. It was heaven! I sauntered back to my site, cleaned and refreshed with a sizzle of warm to my skin before settling in to the confines of my plush, comfy camper bed.
As usual, the hour of sunset marked when the true colds would begin to settle in, but even still, to a seemingly much lesser degree than any of the other sites I’d camped at on this trip. I sat in the bed and listened to a podcast with the windows open as I watched the universe begin to illuminate. A few hours after dark, a truck had pulled in to the campsite next to mine and started to erect their tent. I guess they too opted for the amenities of the RV park and play site.
At dawn I was up fixing coffee and I heard the stirrings from the tent situated behind me. This time I had a proper bag packed to venture up the Northern rim I had so ostensibly climbed without preparation or much thought prior to doing so. This time, though, I was going to go for it and make it all the way to the top. The switch inside me saying to go further was fully triggered and I wanted to push past what seemed like an ordinary and satisfying limit.
Up along the ridge, and at the start of the craggy, fallen rock portion, I made my way up, panting and burning at the legs and lungs. It wasn’t objectively difficult or troublesome to climb, despite the consequences of any unfortunate slips or falls would be rather grim or possibly fatal. I walked along the splits in the rocks that held just enough space to put one foot in front of the other and then up towards the face of the cliff. It was magnificent to be up and out before the sun. To combat the cold, I had on a pair of sweat pants beneath fleece lined pants, two pairs of socks, two thermal shirts, a cotton hoodie and a thick winter coat plus gloves, a balaclava and a beanie on top of it. I suppose I was warm enough. The exertion of the climb quickly had me warmed by the time the sun was up and beaming.
The big Texas sky is as magnificent as any picture you’ve seen of it. The long stretches of blue, with radiant sunshine slowly filling it with the hues of pinks and oranges as it goes and comes is as divine as one would imagine.
No more sightings of wildlife, but all along the climb I could see the traces of the sheep, with their scat and hoof prints littered about. I also noticed some rather aggravated foraging marks at the roots of a cactus indicating feral hogs were also in the area.
The different terrains that adorned each of these “levels”varied by some degree. Some had smoothed rock portions that were evident of the massive flow of winding waters, while others had large, boulders that were likely fractured and fell to their current locations. Once atop the rim, I was astonished at how flat it leveled out to be. It was as if most of Texas remained unaffected while this one huge swath of land received a gash in its surface by the melt-water coming off the receding glaciers during the end of the Pleistocene, the last occurrence of a major Ice-Age.
The rapid rise in elevation in which I had just climbed I estimated to be about 600-800 feet in height. It was a thoroughly riveting ascent. But it was the descent, without a proper balancing/walking stick that had me concerned. I explored around at the top of the rim, noting all the game trails and different tracks I could find before making my way back down to the various levels. At the level with the smoothly eroded rocks, I stopped to erect a sculpture and dine upon Texas’ very own state fruit, a ruby red grapefruit. Texas is the actual creator of the red variety perfected nearly 100 years ago.
Once back down at the camp, I enjoyed warming up in the bathroom and before long, was winding my way back out of the park. It would be my last stop-off on the 2000 mile journey from Jupiter Florida to Santa Fe New Mexico.
To culminate this day, I present to you.. Episode 04. “Palo Duro Canyon”
And lastly, to encompass the entire journey, I present.. Episode 03. “NC to TX”