sweetie against sandstone...
Boondocking in what I have always thought of as a secret pocket of wonder in the USA, since my time here in the 90's, is a dream come true. Doing it like i wanted to back then. This part of the world has been a source of inspiration for me after spending a summer here when I was 20. I learned to explore here, ride bulls here, read a compass, ration, reason and rely on myself. Its where I rounded out becoming a man. This place completed me. One can learn alot growing up in the cut throat biz of Chicago construction and those tools can go a long way. But surviving alone with what you carry on your back requires a similar confidence but a different arsenal. The country shared between southwestern UT and NW AZ is wild. Its mostly indescribable, all lava flows, Navajo sandstone and eons of erosion. Water is a much sought after resource in this part off the country. Washes give way to slot canyons that feed the Colorado river. We are finding some incredible parts of this area. Slot canyons and river bends that insight fantasy and dreams of other times and places. These canyons are magical and only inspire adventure and exploration. But dont take whimsy for granted. A small shower can fill a slot canyon to deadly levels in minutes. So we need to be protected, right? No.
We need to be able to access our lands when we want. We need to be treated like real Americans and allowed to go into the parks and public spaces when we want. Restricting the number of people that can hike a certain hike a day is insanity. But thats what our Park Service and Bureau of Land Management are doing. They seem to be more concerned with grazing leases, There is a super cool hike in National Widerness Area known as The Wave, it pales in comparison to the magical navajo canyons pictured here but is still tp restricted to 20 hikers a day. The navajo canyons can be hiked by anyone who can afford the permit and guide fee (28$) and they had 2 million visitors last year. This country is not going to hike a hike out of sustainability. Lets be honest. Another thing that they do is set aside certain forest road areas in the National Forests for camping that are totally unreachable from the road with nothing less than a bull dozer. Then, when you do find that perfect meadow, its always marked No Camping. So the eggheads in DC can point to a map and say, "These public lands are your lands, you can camp here and here and her and all of over here." Everyone in the room nods in agreement that that seems fair and we are truly allowing honest Americans to use the land to connect with their country and reap a small benefit of the overwhelming tax burden most Americans suffer under. Not true. Most of the lands that are dedicated public are not capable, at least here in the SW. More on the NW this fall. Areas dedicated wilderness areas you can't even bring a cell phone into, technically. Then, in the name of erosion management, they trough the sides of the "roads" about 18-24 inches deep and a couple feet wide. They do this to manage water during monsoon which I get as a trained environmental biologist (TU 98), but they leave huge areas of the set aside camping unavailable to most vehicles. If you aren't driving a Dakar Rally rig, you are out of luck. We are getting the hang finding epic camping though. Our next site will knock your socks off, but thats another post. The Feds that run the Parks from WDC have no idea how the parks are being used. Their decisions are arbitrary and dislocated, of course these are just my first hand observations, but I can tell you, they don't want us enjoying our land. At least right now. Im on a mission to change that.
they call this one the lion. its the image that launched this canyon
Shame on you! These are your parks and you should make time to seek them out. The foreigners do. Right now we are in the most international city in America, Page AZ, established 1957. The city grew out of the construction process of glen canyon dam which was completed in 1966 but did not achieve full pool until 1980 and has a max depth of 2300 feet. The area, home to some breathtaking backdrops, has become as one local put it "the destination instead of the gateway". Pages proximity to nearby Grand Canyon has always had an "if we have time" sort of spot. Not anymore. This place is flooded with foreigners. They are everywhere. Asian, Euros, Brazilians, you name it.
Get this, we are at the above pictured Horse Shoe Bend NP taking photos and gawking at the raw beauty of moving water, light and sandstone and this gentlemen, representing a group of about 7 others asks sweetie, "excuse me, do you speak english" with a hefty french flair. We were puzzled and I was reminded of Richard Edsons line in Ferris Buellers day off when they hand off the keys to the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider (droooool) to the garage attendant and Ferris asked the same question. His response, and mine that day, "What country do you think this is?" I snapped a couple pictures for them and then they asked us. "where are you from, your english is superb?!" We answered "Washington DC" they all looked at each other and mumbled french mutterings to each other, as the french tend to do. After seeming to agree on a common question they all turned to us with puzzled french faces and their spokes frog asks with a strange hint of concern, "you are american?" As if he was truly amazed that he could bump into an American in AMERICAN PARK!!!! Thats how bad it is, Get yourself an interagency pass for 80 bucks its good for 365 days and gets you into every national park, forest, monument area etc...just don't expect to be able to backcountry camp where ever you want. Im working on that.
So that last story reminds me of a very awkward conversation we have almost daily. People ask us where we are from. Well we lived in a house last In Washington DC, but neither of us are from there (Lombard and Los Alamos respectively) and beyond that, where we are from right now is a camper that moves frequently so right now I am from the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and next will be from the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (horrible name, tremendous country) and if I campout at a walmart for a night am I from walmart? My drivers license has a TX address on it so am I from Texas? We are conflicted about how to decide to answer the simple question of "Where are you from"
The most awkward and potential incarcerating was at a border patrol stop when were were camping just 30 miles from the border. The agent steps the vehicle and asks us the question. I blurt out DC, Alicia chimes in "New Mexico" I follow her and say well I am from Chicago" The confused agent asks for my ID, and says "This says you are from Texas". Getting worried that were about to be cavity searched I, in a ham fisted fashion, tell him that we aren't from anywhere right now and that we live in a van down by the river. His look grows more concerned. I babble on and he lets us through. We still don't really know where we are from these days.