I’m out west and I’m by myself. I’m over 40 and I’ve never taken an extended vacation alone and I decided it was time.
I love to travel, and I usually love to travel with friends, but there are some places I’ve wanted to visit for years that my husband and my friends view as snoozers. A few years ago I read the book House of Rain by Craig Childs. It describes an elaborate culture that existed in the desert southwest long before Europeans made it across the Atlantic. Most of us have heard of these people. We call them the Anasazi. Child’s book wove a detailed story about why the Anasazi “disappeared” (or whether they really did) and painted a vivid picture of their their elaborate and highly ritualized culture. Through his book I first realized that places like Chaco Canyon, Hovenweep, and Salmon Ruins are masterpieces of ancient native architecture. I decided I had to see these places for myself.
I researched some of the places I wanted to visit and my final list was ridiculously long. To see everything I want to see, I’d have to spend at least a month wandering the desert. I narrowed my list down to four significant sites and got packed up.
I drove for 22 hours across vast stretches of pretty, rolling countryside that slowly and surely turned to scrubbed brown desert. I drove through the impossibly flat ranchland of the Texas panhandle, and finally made it to New Mexico. The scenery changed. Hills and mountains rose up in the distance. Yellow flowering bushes dotted the landscape. Light green sagebrush carpeted the desert floor.
For the first few days of my trip, I stayed in hotels or with friends. Tomorrow, I head off into the desert, to national parks with no electricity, plumbing, or water to spare. I’m going to camp the rest of the time. I brought all of the food I’ll need, comfortable camping gear, and pepper spray (just in case). I also brought a camera with the intent of spending an absurd amount of time photographing the ruins and desert, a landscape still alive with color.
Going on a long trip to places that are actually pretty remote brought up some concerns. There is likely no cell service in many of the areas where I’m going. What if my car breaks down? What if I run into questionable characters? My car has a lot of miles on it (over 200,000) so I decided to rent a car for this trip. I also gave my husband my itinerary so someone will know where I am. Even though I’m going to be tempted to drive down obscure desert roads looking for rocks or petroglyphs, I won’t do that when I’m by myself. I’ll just have to save that kind of stuff for when someone is out here with me. But I’m looking forward to camping out in the desert by myself and looking up into the clear night sky at a sea of constellations.
I’m looking forward to finally visiting some of these places I’ve read about for so long. Maybe next year I’ll have to come back and bring some friends.
Cross-posted at my other web site.