“Where all have you been? Did you plan a route?”
HA! Bwaaahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaa! A route … no. But that’s funny.
First, where have we been? Up, down, west, east, coast to coast to the Great Lakes to the Gulf. It would take a couple hours to go through all the places we’ve been, scenic byways we’ve driven, quaint towns we’ve stopped in, camp spots we’ve stumbled upon, and we’ll inevitably get sidetracked in the details. We are working on adding pins to the map on wanderboldly.com, slowly. That’s a lot of data entry that we probably could have been doing all along … Hindsight.
Now, the thing about planning a route is that it never works. It always changes. We may decide to go “somewhere,” but our path there will make many, many diversions. For instance, a few weeks ago we said, out loud, that we were headed to Yosemite National Park, but then we decided to head towards Colorado to surprise our people for Thanksgiving, and plotted a new course. We thought we’d go through Vegas (because why not), but then decided to go to the Grand Canyon – we had to at least see it, and if we went that way we could jump into Utah for Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. But then we got stuck in Page, Arizona because Antelope Canyon is just too bewitching and sunset at Horseshoe Bend is striking. We skipped Zion and Bryce this time so as to not backtrack west and headed instead to Moab, stopping on the way out to say hello to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. We only changed our route options twice by the time we rolled into Colorado, but you can see where this is going.
When it came time for us to head back to Southern California for a wedding we considered several options from our camp in Smith Rock, Oregon. Crater Lake —> west to the Redwoods or Crater Lake —> south to Lassen? Lassen —> west to the coast or Lassen —> south to Napa Valley? Wine (the clear winner) —> San Francisco —> Highway 1. And then south for a day or two to La Jolla, stopping for tacos in Santa Cruz and the most expensive diesel in the country in Malibu.
It seems a little ridiculous, but it’s not so much that we can’t make a decision, it’s that there’s so much to see and do and be a part of that it’s hard to commit to just one direction.
And that makes it hard to decide where to go next.
Climbing destinations help. After discovering the surprisingly lavish beauty of Snowy Range in the Medicine Bow Mountains we were enchanted with Wyoming. We headed towards Tensleep to see what else we could see, and to meet fellow travelers with decades of stories. We found ourselves in Lander from there, where the town welcomes you to camp in their City Park – for free – and encourages climbers to learn and to push themselves and to fall in love with Wild Iris and Sinks Canyon. Even on rain-induced rest days you’ll find the whole community at the coffee shop on the main drag and the energy is palpable. “Next” was easy after that, as we were on course to be astounded by the Tetons and how they just appear, jagged and intense and immensely beautiful, pompously cutting across the skyline; not to mention the beer at Melvin Brewing in Jackson.
Friends help, too. It’s wonderful to have the ability to drop in and see people we’ve been missing, friends we’d see maybe once a year in Colorado – if that. And we’re lucky enough to have ridiculously fun people to miss and to visit all across the country. From City of Rocks in southern Idaho we went to Boise to do some catching up, to walk laughing through a river and discover the coolest, biggest farmers market where we bought bags sweet white peaches. These are friends who directed us into the Sawtooth Mountains, an undiscovered range for us that offered crystal clear lakes for paddling and big skies for dark gray storm clouds to turn into pink sunsets, and this put us on our way to Montana and Glacier National Park.
Friends have showers, too. Thank you, friends.
We drive towards National Parks and natural wonders; we stop for sunshine and run away if we get too cold. We bounce between weddings – we love love and we love to help celebrate. We say to each other, “ooooo – I’ve always wanted to go there” and then we go, and we get there eventually, after a detour or three.
Zigzagging is the name of our game, really. There’s no route but there are innumerable destinations, and we’ll circle back if that’s what it takes to get there.