Monthly Archives: August 2010

>DAY 17

>An errand post: notes about finances and a plea to leave comments.

Alas, we only stayed at Happy’s one night. We were a little frustrated with ourselves–why did we bail so early? Basically, we were too drained to work and too used to our routine of complete independence; we felt odd and slightly stuck residing in another person’s home doing their chores. For me, I missed our tent, missed simply lounging at our campsite and reading in mid-afternoon, knowing that I literally had no obligations.

So, we left. Since it was already getting late and we had no real destination in mind, we decided to drive back up to Sedona for the night and figure out where to go the next morning.

And here is where I want to explain to you our ways of thinking when it came to finances. As you’ve probably realized, Nic and I are very frugal, minimal people. In total, we only spent $800 each on the road, which includes food, campsite/park entrance fees, and gas money. Looking back at the experience, we may have been a little too cheap; it took me a good day and a half to rationalize a vitamin water I bought at a gas station, and Nicole would scoff every time a mocha-iced coffee would be upwards of $3.

Still, we had a system. Throughout the trip, our parents were very generous when it came to lending us some extra cash for either our safety or comfort. For example, there was an instance where the only campsite we stayed at in Albuquerque was in a dangerous area; the night we slept there a bunch of motor-bikes were stolen ( I guess the barbed wire surrounding the site didn’t phase us at the time). Since it was the only campground around, my mom said she would pay for us to check into a nice hotel the following night, rather than taking the chance of someone coming in and either viciously murdering us or stealing our gas stove. Another example: due to the only fight we had over a lack of showers, Nic’s mom graciously deposited $30 into her account so we could treat ourselves to some comfort food to get over the quarrel.

So, this is how we thought: Mom payed for a hotel room? That saves us a good $20 we would have spent on a campground! Now, we can use that money to go have breakfast at a diner, rather than eat oatmeal. The check was only $15? We still have $5; let’s get coffee tomorrow before our long drive. Your dad gave you twenty-bucks? Let’s put that toward a motel room; now, the room is only “$30,” rather than $50, which means we’re only spending $15 each, which is only a few extra dollars than what we would each pay to split a campsite! But– remember the time we slept in that state park for free? That free night covers the extra bucks we spent on the hotel room. Therefore: hotel room and diner breakfast= totally rational.

Get it?

In other news, feel free to comment on the posts. DO IT. Please? This whole blogging thing is still very new to me and I don’t know if I like it yet. Sometimes I think that I am only writing to myself, which would be really odd since this is a public site. So leave a comment! Constructive criticism accepted, a statement of praise and astonishment highly encouraged. Or you can just say hi or tell me a joke. Also, you can become a “follower” if you want. I don’t really know what the purpose of this is, but it makes me feel popular. And since this blog is a self-indulgent public-sphere of my thoughts of my trip, it really is all about me, right?

>DAY 16

>“I’m sick of being a nomad.”

That’s what Nic told me when we woke up one morning in our forest outside of Flagstaff. I agreed with her; I was sick of putting up camp every other day, always figuring out where to drive to, where to sleep. To remedy this, we drove to Prescott, AZ, to wwoof at a farm we contacted: Happy Oasis. Our original plan was to stay there for five or six days– sleep in beds and have meals cooked for us in exchange for our labor.

Rather than going over the whole story, I’ll just provide some photo-commentary.

OK. Here is Happy Oasis. Yes-first name Happy, last name Oasis. Conveniently, her farm is also called Happy Oasis. Coincidence? I’m not one to judge.
Oh, also, her face isn’t deformed. We had just finished putting clay masks on our faces. Talhu decided to cleanse his face as well:
So here’s Talhu. He apparently likes clay masks and wearing sunglasses indoors. He has been living at Happy Oasis for a few months, working in exchange for room and board. There were also three Christian bicyclists staying at Happy’s, who have been biking around the US for thirteen years. They were staying at Happy’s until God told them where to bike next.
This is the farm. Happy lives in the middle of rocks. AKA, not much farming to do. Instead, I bleached a pool in the 100 degree heat and applied sealer to the surrounding pool tiles. Nic prepared raw-vegan oatmeal for everyone and transplanted arugula plants. Unfortunately, all the transplanted plants didn’t like being uprooted (ha!) and passed away.
Here is where Nicole slept. Nice, right?
Did I mention that Happy Oasis is a raw-vegan farm? That’s right, we were only fed raw food. This is what we had for dinner: assorted vegetables and mashed sunflower/sesame “hummus” wrapped in a leaf. MMM. (Where’s my steak? Boiling potatoes doesn’t count?) We also had celery smoothies the next day for lunch. That’s right. After bleaching a pool that was becoming filled with my own sweat, I nourished myself with celery.

I may be sounding a bit bitter, but we did have a good time. Here is us posing for our “broccoli cult” picture. We also sat in the bathroom one night and talked about how one of the Christian bicyclists changed her name from Brittany to Shalamede after a bout with meth at age 14.

Maybe if we went to Happy Oasis earlier in our trip, we would’ve been up for more work, more celery smoothies. But granted, we were tired, Arizona was hot (who knew?) and the farm work wasn’t really what we expected. So yeah, we didn’t stay the planned 5-6 days, thus continuing our nomadic lifestyle.

>DAY 14&15

>Arizona: meeting friends younger than sixty and a sunny hike in Sedona

Flagstaff ended up being both a fun and funny experience. When we were walking around town, we acquired one of those big touristy maps (you know, the colorful ones with all the cartoons and bubble letters) and spread it out in the middle of the town square. Soon after, three gentlemen came over to us and asked if we knew of anything fun going on, since they weren’t from the area. We replied no (duh), and so they asked us if we wanted to explore the town later and maybe get a drink or two. Later on, I realized their scheme was a pretty poor attempt in simply asking for our numbers. After all, we were gushing over a huge map of Flagstaff at the time….. we certainly weren’t locals. I don’t do well with “signals.”

We had a good time, though! They asked us to get dinner beforehand, but our schedule was pretty full. First off, we had to set up camp in our forest. Here she is!

Then we had to do something about the fact that we hadn’t showered in a few days. We could take an eight-minute shower at the campgrounds for $4, but that was obviously way out of our budget. Instead, we filled up our jerry-jug with water at the tap and took sponge baths. Same concept, and now we were $4 ahead of the game! After clean, we had to go grocery shopping to stock up on essentials. We got the usual invigorating foodstuffs: bread, salsa, rice, cookies, vegetables.

Our night out was fun; our new-found friends were in no way creepy or aggressive. It was actually really interesting to talk to them, as they grew up in a totally different environment from the all-competitve east-coast. They didn’t have college degrees, yet seemed to be content, intelligent, and financially comfortable. They had different goals for themselves. Even better, they bought all the drinks! Rest assured, we were also responsible; can’t forget that we have to drive back to our sleeping bags in the forest.

The following day Very hot. So what do we decide to do? Go for a hike at noon in Sedona. So smart! We almost ended up doing a 5 mile loop (another Moab mishap), but an elderly couple told us the direction we were heading was going to probably lead us to dehydration. So we turned around.

>DAY 14

>Escaping the desert…in Arizona?

We woke up the next day here: the sun was out and we finally felt rejuvenated, ready to tackle a new state. With hindsight, I almost wished we stayed in Canyonlands another day. We barely tapped into the National Park; it’s actually quite huge. We were staying in the Needles District (named so because many of the rocks resemble needles), but the park also includes Island in the Sky, Horseshoe Canyon, and the Maze District. What is even more provocative is there are no roads that link the districts, and much of the park is only accessible via foot. Still, we were eager to move on, to keep increasing our car mileage and opening our eyes to new surroundings.

I wouldn’t change a thing about our trip, but I think when I go on my next USA adventure, I might pick two or three main destinations and stay there for an extended period of time– really get to know an area. For our trip, we sort of just skimmed surfaces, visiting a variety of places and comparing first impressions. Interacting with mountain men, native americans, and southern sweethearts all in one week. America 101. This is not a bad thing, it’s just a different way to go about traveling.

Enough of that. After a hearty breakfast of ..oatmeal, we said goodbye to our elderly friends that were camping out next door, and continued south. At this point of our trip, we really didn’t have a plan, so we started playing the game “let’s look at a map and pick where to go next.” When we played this particular morning, we saw that Flagstaff AZ had several major highways intersecting the town, and there were many little tents pictured, indicating camping availability. “Flagstaff” was even written in bold. It seemed like a promising place to visit.

It took us about five or six hours to reach the town, and when we saw that initial “welcome to flagstaff!” sign, I began to silently panic. I looked to my left: A Target. Grocery Store. Strip Mall. To my right: KOA Campsite filled with bikers. Another strip mall. A car dealership. I was scared that Flagstaff was nothing but a Jericho Turnpike, that our bolded (!) town was only a place to buy produce, throw pillows, and BMW’s. Luckily, I was wrong. As we kept driving, we found ourselves in a quaint, culturally rich town. We walked around for a little while and asked for camping suggestions. A friendly barista told us about a national forest about 10 miles outside of Flagstaff. A forest?! Trees! Woodland! In Arizona! We had to go.

More on that in the next post. Until then, here is the map. Unlike the last map written on the back of a receipt, this one was actually correct. So, if you just caaaan’t wait to hear all about this next camping adventure, feel free to use the map and go yourself.

>DAY 13

>Canyonlands: Flintstone Land or Surface of the Moon?

While Nicole and I took the previous day to rest up and reenergize, we soon learned that one day may not have been enough. We got up after sleeping for a modest, uh, 13 hours, and then hit the road with the map that our friendly waiter so kindly drew out for us (pictured in last post). As you can see, there is only one road–300 South–which was supposed to lead us to a back way into the national park.

Turns out that 300S was the wrong road. After many confusing twists and turns, we found ourselves at the Monticello visitor center (yeah, I wondered why there was one too) and were given proper directions.

We made it into the park and set up camp. It began to rain so we hung out in the car and read, and proceeded to fall asleep for three hours. We woke up sometime in the afternoon, and felt it was necessary to hike at least a few miles around Canyonlands, despite our definite delirium. And the rain.

We walked two trails, one that was a little over a mile, and another that was three and change. We saw some cave art, Asian tourists, and a landscape that curiously resembled the surface of the moon (see picture above). With hindsight, our surroundings were particularly enjoyable and unique. Yet, we were just too tired, too out of it. We began to believe we were situated in Bedrock, and started pointing out needles and fins in the distance and deeming them the Flintstone post-office, bank, hospital, etc. Get my drift?

When we returned back “home” to our tent, the rain started to come down harder. We found refuge back in our car and finished eating our chocolate chip cookies, which now tasted like onions (they were nestled next to each other in our cooler). Then, I took a video to capture the delirium. Unfortunately, blogspot does not want to cooperate and upload the movie, and I am not really up for “reporting the error.” Maybe it will work in the next post.


>DAY 12


In twelve days, Nic and I managed to clock somewhere around 2,500 driving miles and 50 or so hiking miles. We set up and took down camp eight times, and became terribly sick of everything peanut-butter. We had a shower at our disposal every three days or so, and soon learned that a drastic change in altitude is not something one adapts to immediately.

So when we woke up, day twelve in Moab, Utah, we were tired.

To make matters slightly more uncomfortable, it was raining. Hard. And for those that have camped when it has rained all night and into the morning, you know that it’s not particularly enjoyable. For those that haven’t, I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s not particularly enjoyable. We got out of our tent- sore, cranky, and wet- and proceeded to get our electric water heater so we could boil hot water in the car. We plugged it into our fancy-electrical-output-connection-thingy, and fail. Didn’t work. So we went outside and boiled water on our gas stove, in the rain, and ate our oatmeal in the car. Afterwards, we got out to quickly pack away our tent and guess what! One of the stakes snapped!

Rather than freaking out, Nic and I remained level-headed and made a plan. We knew we wanted to spend a few more hours in Arches before heading to Canyonlands, another National Park about an hour south. We decided we would drive around the park and sight-see from the car to save energy. Totally not lame if you’re feeling like how we were. Then we would go back into town and go to a laundromat, because yes–our clothes were still full of red dirt, and we were running out of underwear. Then, we were going to get our tent repaired at a camping goods store. Then, then(!), we were going to….book a hotel. Yes. Stay a night in Monticello, a small town near Canyonlands, so we could take showers, sleep in a bed, and refuel.

Check, check, and check. Clothes clean, tent fixed, and two girls in a $45 hotel room fully equipped with mattress and tub. We arrived at Monticello at 4pm and immediately crashed. We woke up three hours later and contemplated getting our stove from the car and making soup in our room. But at the rate we were going, why not keep “pampering” ourselves? We drove into Monticello (population 1,958), and found a place to eat. I had the most amazing bacon cheeseburger ever. I forget what Nic had, but I know it came with really delicious fries. Then our waiter drew us a map so we could easily get ourselves to Canyonlands the next morning (more on that in the next post). We left, and found ourselves back in bed, asleep by 9pm.

>DAY 11 cont.

>The Beauty never ends

You would think after what felt like a never-ending climbing battles against rocks, our calves would call it quits for the day. Nah. One of the most sought-out hikes in Arches is up to Delicate Arch, which is a little over three miles round trip. After resting in the afternoon and having chocolate chip cookies and soup for dinner (?), we conveniently timed a trek to Delicate Arch just as the sun was setting.

Before we saw the arch though, we had to climb up this:

And then we saw this:

And, finally, this:

And since Delicate Arch was so beautiful, we tried to be an arch ourselves. I’d say we were pretty successful.

>DAY 11

Much More Moab
(alliterations are awesome?)

After a rather ridiculous night of listening to a group of awful hicks threatening to smash beer-bottles over their kids’ heads, Nic and I woke up at 6 am to escape from our rather unpleasant campsite and relocate to a small place down the road. For $8 a night, we had a little plot of land, picnic table, and fire pit. There was no running water per se, but we were literally steps from the Colorado river. That’s enough running water for me.

After putting up our tent (we have gotten preeeetty speedy at this), we went back to our other campsite to “check out” and take advantage of their showers for the last time. This might have also been the day we walked into a Holiday Inn next door for their free continental breakfast. I sure hope karma does not exist.

After full stomachs and clean skin, we went back to our oasis: Arches. In the park, there are a bunch of different trail heads you can drive to, so you can either do one or two longer hikes or several shorter ones. We planned on doing the latter, so we could see as much of the park as possible. We hiked a meager .8 miles towards Landscape Arch, which is pictured below. (The arch is sort of camouflaged, but look closely and you’ll see the thinned rock stretching over the landscape). Theeeeen we came across a sign for another hike, which we thought would only be a 1000m loop or so around the arch.

Turns out it was a 5 mile hike, literally climbing up rocks. Woops. I guess we should have taken the sign seriously.

While “primitive trail” was indeed difficult, Nic and I were lucky: the weather was overcast, so the sun wasn’t blaring down on us. It was also relatively cool and humid. We only had one water bottle each and no food, which is insanely stupid for anyone planning on hiking for five miles up slick rock in the desert. But our hike was impromptu, so we’re still intelligent, commonsensical world-class hikers.

So as we kept walking, and walking, not really knowing when the trail would end, we just laughed at the absurdity of it all and took in the amazing scenery. And some pictures.

Lastly, I want to mention something I learned upon hiking in the desert. What makes desert hiking different than mountain hiking is that the landscape doesn’t have to be destroyed. There is no trail-carving in the desert, no cutting down of trees, paving of passageways. Rather, cairns (man-made piles of rocks) are placed every hundred feet or so, so people know what direction to head in. This makes desert-hiking especially fun, for it’s kind of like dot-to-dot desert style: creating a trail that does not actually exist unless you go from one cairn to the next in the right order.
Here is a cairn that Nic and I especially liked. Does it remind you of anything?

>DAY 10

>Edward Abbey was talking about Arches National Park. In his memoir, he describes his life as a park ranger in what was once a barren, non-commercial park. Throughout his time spent in Arches, development occurred: roads were built, tourism exploded, and Arches was deemed a National Park. Abbey’s extreme stance against development is thought-provoking, although most definitely debatable.

Being the nerds that we are, Nicole and I would read Desert Solitaire to each other while driving across the country. I started reminiscing about the other kind of odd things we used to do in the car to pass the time, and figured I would share them with the blogosphere:
-memorize the state capitals
-name all of the U.S. states in geographical order
-listen to R.Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet” (yes, I have that on my ipod)
-look up “local” things to do in towns we plan to visit and enquire about costs (we mostly called wineries, along with the occasional hot air balloon company)
-record “music videos” on my camera when bored driving through Texas and Oklahoma (if you’re lucky you’ll see those eventually)
-talk about the first meal we’d have once we returned to NY
-figure out where we were going to sleep that night

In any case, I really want to get back to Arches. When we first arrived in Moab, we set up camp at a site with showers AND wifi (I skyped my parents from our tent that night–and you wonder why technology freaks me out?) We then immediately got back into the car and drove eagerly to the park, for we had no idea what to expect.

I was blown away.

I think what makes Arches so unique is that there is literally NOTHING on this earth that resembles this park. It’s a naturally made sculpture garden; thousands and thousands of years of erosion has created these sandstone arches and fins that seem to appear chaotically amongst a stretch of flat, red land. I understand how it can be understood as a spiritual sanctuary. It’s so peaceful, yet so bizarre. I can’t really explain it better than that, you should really go see for yourselves. In the mean time, here are some pictures that will only do Arches partial-justice:

>Abbey was right

> “This is the most beautiful place on earth.

There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary. A houseboat in Kashmir, a view down Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, a gray gothic farmhouse two stories high at the end of a red dog road in the Allegheny Mountains, a cabin on the shore of a blue lake in spruce and fir country, a greasy alley near the Hoboken waterfront, or even, possibly, for those of a less demanding sensibility, the world to be seen from a comfortable apartment high in the tender, velvety smog of Manhattan, Chicago, Paris, Tokyo, Rio, or Rome–there’s no limit to the human capacity for the homing sentiment. Theologians, sky pilots, astronauts have even felt the appeal of home calling to them from up above, in the cold black outback of intersteller space.
For myself I’ll take Moab, Utah. I don’t mean the town itself, of course, but the country which surrounds it–the canyonlands. The slickrock desert. The red dust and the burnt cliffs and the lonely sky–all that which lies beyond the end of the roads.”
-Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire 1968.