This a past issue of Weightshifting, a newsletter documenting overland travel and the American West by Naz Hamid and Jen Schuetz.
A few days separate us from our time at Canyon of the Ancients and our last camp from this fall trip. After a mangled tale of an ER (mis)visit and a return for refuge at Sage Canyon (this time camping just outside the Workshop Loft — thank you, Grant, for the use of your bathroom and heated towel rack), we depart the southwestern corner of Colorado and back through the Four Corners, venturing through Utah.
We start our path home, originally planning a break in St. George. A convenient stopover for extended road trips, we used this city over the summer to serve as a respite from the oppressive heat. Hotels are plentiful along this stretch, so acquiring a pet-friendly room with a king-size bed and air conditioning is effortless. However, now in early October, the temperatures are nearly perfect, so spending money on a hotel didn’t align with the spirit of overlanding.
Instead, we go off-road into the area between Apple Valley and Rockville. Gooseberry Mesa is the objective, a point of interest we had pinned after scoping out Smithsonian Butte. Our decision to change course presents us with the camping trifecta: temperate weather with no wind, a beautiful landscape, and a private campsite camouflaged by plenty of vegetation.
A number of dispersed sites with fire rings are nestled around the main trailhead; this area is popular for campers, hikers, and mountain bikers. We claim a lovely spot right at the edge of the mesa overlooking Apple Valley. We can’t see our neighbors, but their subdued voices carry. They had just returned from what was surely an epic bike ride and were unwinding in front of their Sprinter van and truck.
Jen and I execute our now-familiar routine: level the rig, unpack sleeping accommodations, set up living space, settle the dog, scope out bathroom proximity, and prep dinner before the sun disappears and the light fades to ink.
It’s a primal feeling to live this way — a reminder of the raw rhythm of life that modern living turns on its head. Having electricity and lights and gadgets disrupts the natural balance and compels us to consume everything, schedule more tasks, and never relent. Out here, you tap into instinct and the survival programming that’s hardwired into our genes from long, long ago.
Tonight’s meal is yuba noodles and sausage. Jen arranges our camp chairs on the mesa’s rock edge. We watch the sun set as it casts its life-giving glow into the valley, reflecting off the rocks and terrain. The last hurrah for this day.
Clean-up commences. We discuss a game plan for tomorrow and the subsequent journey home, and we settle into the tent upstairs. Since cell service is often unreliable or completely nonexistent, the evening ritual consists of Kindle reading or downloaded content on our iPad. Most nights are early nights as we attempt to realign with our intended circadian cadence.
The quiet is stunning and even deafening — just the sound of your environment and sometimes casual voices or laughter of a neighbor. How strange to think that garbage trucks and sirens and drunken bar patrons are our normal cohabitants, but the symphony of insects and birds and gentle wind is considered unnatural.
I awaken early the next day. Jen and Barb are snuggled up under all the puffy sleeping accoutrement, and I unzip the tent on my side and make my way down the ladder. A longer drive awaits us today through Las Vegas and into LA. I have to post up at a coffeeshop in Las Vegas to take a video meeting while Jen anticipates a medical appointment in LA.
Colors change rapidly at first light. Navy and misty blue fill the skies, with the first evidence of the sun peeking over the mountains in the distance. I set up the kitchen, and suddenly my world is red and orange. I get coffee going for Jen and tea for myself.
I do a perimeter walk as the water boils, and the light is ever-changing. My camera is with me and moments are captured, relished.
The promise of hot coffee rouses Jen, and this morning, like almost every morning on the road, is punctuated with contemplative and deliberate movements.
We eschew a hot breakfast, opting for energy bars and a jumpstart to a long day behind the wheel. Our teardown of camp has become speedy due to repetition, so the rig is soon repacked and ready. We drive out of the area slowly, navigating the contours of the road, and taking in our last sights of wilderness. Knowing this trip has come to its close as we return to business and life maintenance imparts a tinge of sadness. However, whatever heartache we feel is quickly replaced by anticipation for the next adventure.
We recognize that our experiences are special. I wish for others to feel what I have felt, to see what I have seen, and to know what I now know.
I hope this retelling can offer you that.