A Hike To Repeat

Overlock with stone shelter built in the 1930s by CCC
Overlook with stone shelter built in the 1930s by CCC

Some hikes are good exercise and enjoyable just to be in nature. Then there are those hikes you would love to do again and reverse your travel direction to get a different appreciation. Yesterday’s 4.1 mile final hike at Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North) is one I would like to do again from the other direction.

This was the best hike I have taken at the park, both during this trip and the one I made in July. Long enough to be a workout but not so long as to feel like a march. With varied geography, scenic views mixed with forest walking, stretches of sun and shade, some of it flat, other parts requiring ascent/descent, lots of wildlife too…all combining to make it an enjoyable experience. The only thing it did not offer that I enjoy is some rock scrambling when necessary to forge ahead on the trail.

If you get a chance to go to the north unit of the park (in my opinion a better, more intimate experience that the south unit where most people visit), then drive to the River Bend Overlock, park, and hike this trail known as the Caprock Coulee Trail. I think you would enjoy it immensely.

To view the images below in a slide show, click on any image.

Walking Wonders

Teddy Roosevelt National Park
Teddy Roosevelt National Park

Finally back to one of my favorite activities (hiking) after a long spell away. Yesterday’s 6.5-mile hike was a pleasant meandering under a crystal blue sky with temps around 80 and a light breeze. Ideal conditions and despite losing the trail at one time, a good opening hike back into my usual multiple-hikes-per-week travel norm.

Teddy Roosevelt National Park’s geography is the badlands type, and is host to a lot of wildlife, most notably bison. This visit I haven’t seen too many of them (unlike the July trip when a herd of ~80 wandered into the campground and lazed about for a good two hours). What I’ve seen have made for good photos, as well as some turkeys, antelopes (no pix), deer (no pix), and prairie dogs.

There are enough valleys in between the mesas and such to make getting lost not a huge problem, and easy to one’s way back if needed. Still, this was my first hike since acquiring a Garmin inReach Mini, a GPS text device used by many hikers (especially good solo hiker gear). The InReach provides texting capabilities but more importantly an SOS button with a rescue service at the other end if needed. As I hike farther and farther distances into more remote wilderness, the inReach seems like a smart accessory to carry.

Enjoy the photo gallery below from yesterday’s hike (tap any photo to enlarge and launch slide show). Sorry about the sun flare in the photo at the top, but the shot was so beautiful I decided to use it anyway! See you down the trail.

Perfection is Subjective

My dearth of posts (two months!) isn’t because I’ve been in hiding!

The planning and prepping for the new camper van, plus the opportunity to continue minimizing my stuff at home before traveling, averted my mind away from writing and blogging.

Starting today, I will be writing frequent posts on my adventures and the highs and lows of near-full-time van life. And of course, commentary and insights on other non-van-life stuff.

Today is the 14th day since adopting VanGeist, a spunky puppy of a camper van. Technically, it’s a Winnebago Solis Pocket, a mere 17’-10” long, but drives more like a car than a big van. I still giggle a bit whenever I turn it in tight quarters or park in a normal space. So easy and fun to drive. That is one of the many reasons why this van is the perfect vehicle for me to get back to my nomadic ways and continue wandering America (and soon, hopefully, Canada, too). The features missing for my needs I’ve either added via mods or will complete in late October when LandedGear in San Diego installs several things I can’t do myself.

At the moment, I’m undecided on whether to launch another YouTube channel for VanGeist, but that’s a possibility. For the latest blog posts, stay tuned here (subscribe for automatic email updates in the footer below) or follow me on Instagram.

Circling Patterns

Life has a habit of circling us back into our past, taking us back to places from which, perhaps, we haven’t yet found what we were meant to discover.

Two years ago in April I first visited Abiquiu in northern New Mexico, introduced to it by a now former friend who has land here. It was a mystical experience I wrote about back then (posts here, here, and here). My soul felt rested here, making me wonder if this the place I should settle? Of course, since then, Covid-driven prices have made this area even more unaffordable than back then, so those thoughts are likely faded.

Now having circled back around these two plus years later and intending to spend a bit more than a week here, the land still makes me feel welcomed. As I sit here outside a quaint, vintage RV trailer I’m renting via airBNB, and staring into the distance at the layers of landscapes with different colors and tones, I’m left wondering why I’ve wandered back to this of all places when there are so many I’ve yet to visit.

We often, given the chance, lean to revisiting special places we’ve been. I wonder if it’s because we yearn to relive the good feeling those places gave us, or whether we’re sometimes more comfortable visiting the known rather than the unknown.

Certainly on this trip of now 32 days long, I’ve only stayed where I’ve never been until I arrived yesterday in Abiquiu. And before I’d been here 12 hours I’d decide to extend my stay from four days/nights to eight. It’s not that I’m lured to see more of the area, having deeply explored the area back in 2019, but there seems to be another reason.

I decided to stay because it’s a place I feel slowed down, connected, and one that stirs my creative juices. And so I reasoned that since I haven’t been writing as I’d planned to do on this trip, plus being way behind on YouTube videos (I have a mountain of video taken in the four national parks I’ve visited since the last post video on the channel), what better place to park it, give Obie a rest, and spend some serious days in creative mode.

PS: This is the first chance I’ve had to learn to fly the drone I bought for this trip! All the time before now I’ve been staying on one for or another of federal land where drones are forbidden. Outside of that, I could have used a few Walmarts I overnighted at, but at those places I like to be as stealthy as possible and a drone would definitely draw attention. Anyway, above short clip of the first test flight! More to come.

Drive, He Said

It finally dawned on me today (during driving of course) just how many miles and hours I’ve spent simply driving and enjoying the country. And varied country it’s been: from the wooded Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the grassy plains of the Dakotas, from the stark landscape of the badlands to the gorgeous mountainous west Montana and eastern Idaho. And today the long drive included the dry, desolate (not if you count the tourists/vacationeers in cars) stunning geography of Utah going into the Moab area.

Fact is, I like to drive. Guess I got that from my Dad who seemed to love nothing more than long drives on family vacations. I have memories as a kid of being ushered into the back seat with pillow and blankets before dawn so Dad could hit the road and start driving his 12+ hour day, traveling to some distant relative’s house.

I’m speculating though that the long, sequestered 18 months we’ve all been under has something to do with what is feeling like release and rejuvenation therapy on this experimental camping trip of 60 days. Almost half way there and I’ve passed 5,000 miles already while wandering through seven states (see the map here). The trip’s been all the more enjoyable since I’m venturing into states I’ve never been, and that adds to the wonder.

While I’ve enjoyed the times I’ve camped in one place more than a few days, there’s an undeniable itch each time to get back on the road and see more of America. Who knows: maybe I’m concerned another shutdown’s coming and I want to see as much as possible now. Whatever the reason, it’s been a blast so far.