Hey there! This is Chapter 4 of my epic tale. If you’re new, then please click here to read my story from the beginning! Enjoy!
My kith, my kin!
My dreamers with the dusty hair,
My misfits with the shining hearts!
My brothers carved by road and trail,
My sisters of the Second Sight!
Come sit with me, my kith, my kin,
And let’s share tales of where we’ve been!
-Kith and Kin, by Adam
August 28, 2015
The next day I woke up early, packed camp, and grabbed a $2 shower at Camper Services before heading out. The North Rim was only a few miles away as the raven flies, but to get there required circling around the canyon for a bit before crossing the Colorado River at Navajo Bridge. I recalled one of my neighbors at Mather Campground had vaunted Navajo Bridge and Lee’s Ferry just beyond, so I pulled off the road just south of the crossing to have a quick gander.
The 830 foot long riveted steel bridge was not beautiful, though it got the job done. 500 feet below on the silty brown Colorado River, kayakers and rafters paddled and floated like tiny water insects skating the surface. Upriver I saw some kayaks pulled onto a small sandy beach with tents set up nearby, and I smiled. No doubt they were having a grand adventure.
Someday, I thought wistfully.
After the bridge I stopped briefly at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lee’s Ferry, where I discovered my Federal Interagency Pass granted me entry here along with all other National Recreation Areas, Battlefields, Monuments, and more in the United States! Hell yeah! I had no idea the Park Service encompassed so many random places besides the National Parks themselves! The $80 pass would very soon pay for itself in saved entrance fees, and would do so again a dozen times over before it expired.
At Lee’s Ferry I came to the shore of the Colorado, the patient and unyielding sculptor of the Grand Canyon, which I had previously admired only from on high. Here the silty Paria River poured its deposits into the Colorado, turning it from deep blue to pale brown. Just upriver of the confluence, where the water was still blue, a team of rafters and guides were preparing to launch. I thought of Kira, the author who had rafted the Colorado twice. This is where she and her party had put in, with similar equipment. I watched the rafting party for a few minutes before leaving to continue my own journey.
Cruising up the highway, I made one more brief stop at some ramshackle “cliff dwellings” (a misnomer I think) where some Native Americans were selling jewelry from makeshift stalls. It looked more tourist-trap than archaeological wonder. I took a few photos before driving on past the aptly-named Vermillion Cliffs rising sharply from the desert floor, the colorful layers strongly resembling the walls of the Grand Canyon herself.
After a detour to the town of Fredonia for supplies, I got a spot at DeMotte campground, a short drive from the North Rim entrance. The camp host, an elderly, portly man, provided me with maps and some tips, describing a dirt road outside the park which had a unique and rarely seen view of the Canyon. I thanked him and bought some firewood.
While setting up camp I noticed my neighbor seemed about my age; when he passed I called out a greeting and we talked for a few minutes. There was a shyness to him that was intensely familiar to me. When I learned that Nick was in the middle of his own cross-country road trip, my eyes widened.
“Dude! Me too!” I said. “I’m gonna go check out the Canyon now, but we should kick it tonight! I’ve got a beer with your name on it.”
Excited by the prospect of connecting with Wanderer Nick that evening, I headed towards the park through forests of ghost-white quaking aspen, leaves shimmering in the breeze like a million sparkling emeralds; I passed vast golden meadows dotted with idyllic blue ponds surrounded by herds of thick, lumbering bison or small families of mule deer.
At the park entrance kiosk I flashed my pass to a smiling, ponytailed lady ranger. She’s cute, I thought, and we talked for a few minutes about the wonders of the National Parks, comparing favorites, before she checked the sky and urged me to hurry on- “Sunset is coming, and I don’t want you to miss it!” she said excitedly, her eyes dancing with the light of a true nature-lover.
I couldn’t argue with those eyes, so I went.
After a twenty minute drive through more pristine forests and meadows, I parked and made my way to the Rim proper. To my left the full moon crested a side canyon and shone with a spectral glow as the sun set, the trees becoming colorless dark silhouettes, black skeletons with a hundred arms against a pastel cyan and pink sky.
Near the Rim was a huge building which completely obscured the view. The architects had clearly designed this place to consume anybody seeking a vista. Grumbling at the flagrant intrusion, I entered. Inside was a room with large bay windows looking out over the Canyon, couches and armchairs arrayed like seats in a movie theater. The seats were full of spectators watching the sunset from the comfort of the temperature-controlled room, sipping coffee or fiddling on their phones.
The ever-growing wild man inside me reacted with an elitist disgust- just steps away was a door to the true Rim! How could these people come to a place like this and just sit inside, content to see the Canyon confined to the borders of a windowframe, watching it through a box like some documentary on a TV screen?
Well, let them enjoy their experience as their comfort sees fit, I thought. I’m here to learn what it’s like to be a mile-deep canyon running through the desert, with all its cold and heat and danger and hard truths. I’m here to drink in the wild until I am one with it. I grinned a dark, cocky grin as I strut through the room to the door and swung it open dramatically, stepping into the cool evening air, the smells of pine and wind and cloud welcoming me. (What, never smelled a cloud? Just climb a mountain in the rain. 😉
I jogged to a short trail along the rim and followed it to an overlook jutting into the Canyon. The colors of sunset painted the rock and sky in purple and red and all was stunningly beautiful- yet the panorama was truncated compared to the vast sweeping vistas of the South Rim. Perhaps I was becoming spoiled already, but I was almost… underwhelmed by what I saw. I had a suspicion more exploration was necessary to find the soul-stirring sights I craved.
I drove back to camp when night came, and was saddened to see that Nick had already disappeared into his tent for the night. Alas, perhaps tomorrow evening, I thought. I recorded the day in my journal beside a small fire, and was soon asleep myself.
August 29, 2015
I woke with the sun and drove to the park general store where I could get wi-fi to contact friends and family. I had dubbed this Internet Day, and spent hours peeking my head back into the connected world I’d left behind less than a week ago. While Skyping with an old friend, a familiar puffy white dog waddled by. I looked up from the phone and my jaw dropped.
“KIRA!?” I said incredulously. At first my author friend from the South Rim cocked her head at me- Who the hell would know my name out here?- but soon recognition lit up her face: “Adam! How nice to see you, and what a coincidence!” I found out where she was staying, finished my call, and sought out her campsite. She shared crackers and turkey and cheese with me while I shared some of my poetry. She said it reminded her of Edgar Allen Poe’s work, to which I grinned, blushing sheepishly. We talked for an hour or so before I checked the time- almost 5pm, and I hadn’t even seen the Canyon that day. A part of me whispered that I should spend more time with Kira- the company was doing both of us good, the conversation was getting deep- but a neurotic compulsion to see everything pulled me away from her.
Who knows the next time you’ll be here? Gotta see all you can! People can wait, gotta get those photos while you can! Go go go!
I hiked a short trail along the Rim but found myself strangely laconic, empty, uninspired. It was beautiful- the sun peered through the shifting clouds, casting a languorous spotlight across the tiered temples of the Canyon- and yet something was keeping me from drinking it in.
I thought of Kira and her pup guiltily, and I thought of Nick the Early-To-Bed.
Go back! Meet Nick! my intuition whispered, but instead I again succumbed to the see everything compulsion in my head and sought out the dirt road the camp host had told me about yesterday.
Gotta get those photos! Gotta show the folks back in California that I’m doing cool stuff! Gotta validate this crazy trip with something tangible!
Leaving the park boundary, I turned right on a barely-maintained Forest Service road- the first true dirt road I’d ever encountered in my life. I eyed the way forward with suspicion- all trenches and potholes and large, sharp rocks- but this was a trip for firsts, so I pressed on with gritted teeth, praying my tires would survive the journey. I rocked and bounced for twenty miserable minutes at five miles per hour in 1st and 2nd gear, guiding the tires around or over each obstacle carefully, cursing at the occasional misjudged pothole. I passed a few people who seemed to be camping right off the gnarly road- their satellite dishes and sun shades up on their RV’s, many looked like they were in for an extended stay. This was no campground though- what where these people doing? Are you allowed to just camp off the side of dirt roads now?
At that point in time I had no concept of dispersed camping, so I dismissed them as a legally-dubious curiosity while I struggled against the torturous waterboarded road for another ten minutes before finally coming to a trailhead. Annoyed by the bumpy ride and suddenly extremely eager to get back to camp to try and catch Nick before he went to bed, I jogged down the trail, hoping the view would make it all worth it.
After a quarter mile I came to the edge of a cliff. Far away and below was a thin wispy wedge of the Grand Canyon, little more than a distant dark stripe across a dry and featureless plain.
It was the most pathetic view of the Canyon I’d ever seen in my life.
I raised my camera, grimaced, and lowered it without taking a shot. This angle wasn’t even worth the space of a single photo on my memory card, and certainly wasn’t worth the ridiculous road up here.
Get back to camp! called that voice from inside, louder now that the see everything compulsion had been shamed into silence by the dolorous vista. It may already be too late!
I ran down the trail and bounced my way back to the highway as quickly as I dared, darting more confidently than before around rocks and potholes- making the road my bitch, as it were- just waiting for the sound of an exploding tire, but somehow I made it out without incident.
Turning into DeMotte, I saw that it had filled up while I was away. A red sports car which had been idling on the side of the road followed me into the campground, sticking close to my bumper as we passed the “Campground Full” sign. I could feel his eyes on the back of my head, I could feel his intention pressing onto me like a thumb on the back of my neck.
Hoo boy, this guy’s been waiting, and his energy is intense- not necessarily positive intense, either. I bet he’ll ask to share my site as soon as I stop, and needs must I accept, in accordance with spreading light wherever I go. Turn away no one.
Driving past Nick at his bench, I knew I would need to deal with this new guy before trying to learn Nick’s story. That’s what I get for putting exploration before people, I thought with a frown.
Sure enough, once at my site the red car parked behind me and a slim, bald, fit dude in his early forties stepped out, lamenting the full campground dramatically.
“Of course you can stay, man!” I said, my face all smiles and friendship, giving no outward clue to the turmoil within. I gestured at the large patch of dirt behind my tent. “Plenty of room, set up wherever you like!”
I left to pay a visit to the commode, and upon returning my lips became a tight, thin line.
His tent was set up RIGHT next to my own, not even six inches from where I’d lay my head to sleep. I sighed heavily and looked at the empty, unused space of my site- plenty of fine, flat tent spots.
Well, it’s just for a night, I thought drearily. I really hope he doesn’t snore.
The camp host came by in a golf cart- it was an older woman with curly white hair this time, probably the other host’s wife- and she explained that there was a $5 charge for extra vehicles. As I nodded courteously, my guest jumped up without warning, veins bulging in his forehead. I arched an eyebrow.
“Five bucks?” he said as he stiffly pulled out his wallet. “That’s the Park Service for ya, it’s all about the money with them! Ridiculous.” He almost slapped the money into her hand. “Five bucks for an extra car. Christ!”
We’re in a privately-run campground, not the National Park, I thought. Wisely, I kept the thought to myself, and instead politely asked the host for two bundles of firewood.
With sudden realization, I scrambled to hand over the money before she quoted the price- I’d bought some the previous night and knew the rate- but then she said it, and I winced.
“That’ll be twelve dollars.”
Here it comes, I thought.
“TWELVE DOLLARS?” my guest roared. I could almost see the silhouette of a raging gorilla all around him, pounding its chest and hooting stupidly. “That’s robbery! We’re in a forest, there’s wood all over the place!” He indicated the trees as if it wasn’t obvious that we were in the woods.
The camp host could no longer keep silent. “Have you ever run a business, sir?” she asked with measured calm, lowering her glasses and looking up at him expectantly, unafraid. A badass old lady, hardened by the road, no doubt. Woulda been nice to befriend her, but that’s out the window now.
“Run a business? You bet I have!” He straightened, puffing out his chest. “A multi-million dollar business, in fact!” The gorilla-form jumped and pounded its fists on the ground around him with exaggerated bluster.
Dude, I thought, if you’re such a bigshot millionaire then why are you complaining about paying $12 for firewood? You’re embarrassing both of us.
The host and I rolled our eyes in tandem and I shot her an apologetic glance to say I’m sorry, my friend is just a little cranky because he missed his nap. Please don’t hate me for bringing him into your evening like this! You seem like a rad lady!
The host only looked at him in response, and he wavered in the force of that cold, hard stare. That stare dared him to continue, that stare said Say one more goddamn thing and I’ll kick you out of my campground, bitch. Perhaps he saw it too- the gorilla-form seemed to falter and cower in recognizance of its over-reactive foolishness. He stormed to the bench in silence.
I quickly paid the host and she thanked me with a grim smile before carting off without a glance at my guest.
“Can’t believe how much the Park Service charges for camping, and those entrance fees,” he grumbled as he sat. He looked up at me. “You can camp for free and gather all the firewood you want on Forest Service and BLM lands. This is Federal land too, it should belong to the people- to you and me, not them.” He gestured in the direction of the host RV, and I suppressed the urge to say This is a private campground broski!
His voice steadily grew softer until the gorilla disappeared, and then he was just a tired, stressed out man. “You can’t tell somebody they can’t gather wood for a fire, jeez,” he muttered.
Once he cooled off, he ended up being a decent guy. He told me about his Utah-Arizona road trip and the hikes he’d done, including a Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim Grand Canyon hike. He was fit enough for me to believe it. Occasionally, as we talked, he would make some subtle reference to his business successes, eyeing me with sparkling expectation, like he was just waiting for me to ask him how he made his millions.
I refused to bite. I had no interest in hearing how he had conquered the world of money, no interest in listening to more gorilla-boasting. None of that mattered out here in Nature’s great cathedrals. I kept the conversation on hikes, and we talked pleasantly for some time, poring over maps together.
Later, by the fire- to which my guest had added several sticks he’d furtively gathered nearby in bold defiance of the evil that is the National Park Service- he shared his dinner with me, some kind of rice-with-added-ingredients thing in a pouch. It was quite tasty, and hot- a good feeling against the rapidly dropping temperature. It was much colder here on the North Rim than the South. This side is 1000 feet higher due to a slant in the Colorado Plateau, producing an entirely different, colder climate.
Suddenly I remembered Nick and looked over my shoulder at his camp, just in time to see him disappear into his tent for the night. Again.
Fuck. Okay. Tomorrow, I am going over there and talking to that guy before I do ANYTHING else.
I shivered. The fire dwindled and it was getting colder by the minute. I offered my guest an extra blanket- I had brought several with me- but he waved off the suggestion.
“I’ve slept on benches in the snow before, I’ll be just fine,” he insisted.
With our tents inches from each other, it was impossible to sleep. A constant stream of tent fabric rustling, groans, and quiet curses rolled into my tent from his as he struggled in vain to get warm. On top of that, my body began feeling strangely hot- so hot that I unzipped the tent windows, stripped down to boxers and lay on top of my sleeping bag- but still I was sweating profusely, despite the frigid air temperature. What the hell is going on? I thought with mounting concern.
Then, like a rampaging heard of elephants trumpeting in calamitous terror and undirected fury, came the gas. I will not deign to describe at length the hideous, alien odors which soon filled my tent with a thick cloud of acrid pestilence. I’d not mention it at all, but alas! This putrid moldy dead-thing smell is also a part of my story, no less so than my wilderness sojourns and my more serendipitous meetings. Sorry folks.
Anyway, as I’m sure you can imagine, there was no way I could stay in the tent.
I got out and sat at the bench in only my boxers, my incredible body heat providing impenetrable armor against the icy air. The full moon shone above, illuminating the woods with a pale, ethereal light. An owl hooted into the stillness. I checked the time.
One in the morning. Great.
Behind me, the rustling continued as my guest tried in vain to wiggle the cold out of his bones. Around me still hung that awful stench as my innards roiled unceasingly, stabbing pains dancing all through my gut like the pitchforks of tiny, gleeful demons assigned to punish the gluttonous damned.
It’s that food he gave me, I realized. He put his tent right next to mine, refused my blanket offer out of a ridiculous pride and has been freezing all night making a ruckus, and he unintentionally poisoned me with some crazy backpacker food that my stomach isn’t fond of. I could have hung out with Kira longer, skipped the dirt road, and got back in time to learn about Nick’s journey. But noooooooooo! I had to see everything, and now I’m sweating in my underwear on a bench in the woods in the middle of the night in a cloud of shit-stink!
I glanced to Nick’s camp, and heard the distinctive flick of a lighter from his tent.
He’s up? My eyes widened with realization. And he’s toking in there! We could be bros for sure!
Alas, we’d never get the chance to partake together. He quickly and quietly packed up his tent by moonlight, loaded his car, and drove off into the night towards some awesome destination or another.
Wherever he’ s going, I’ll never know, I thought with a bitter glance at my guest’s tent. My gut grunted painfully in agreement.
I sat still for a while, fuming(heh). Eventually, the commode down the road sang its siren song, glowing like an angel in the pale moonlight, and I went to it with all the reverence of a pious devotee coming to the end of his sacred pilgrimage.
Returning to the bench some time later, I finally felt the cold air piercing my skin, and I donned my sweats and sweatshirt. My gut was now empty, calm, serene as an alpine lake. Now the smells around me were wet pine needles and that icy, earthy, almost fae scent of cold forest air. Thank God, I thought, breathing deeply for the first time in hours. Still, my guest was squirming in his tent making a ruckus. My stomach felt fine now, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep until my guest was as still as my guts, so I pulled out my journal, desperate to get something out of this miserable situation. There had to be a reason for this trying night, and if I could find a gem in here somewhere, then I knew my anger and frustration would fade quickly.
Before I could put pen to paper, I heard my guest unzip his tent. He crawled out and stumbled past me, sleeping bag dragging in the dirt behind him, muttering “Too cold in the tent, gonna sleep in the car.”
He opened the door, got in, slammed it shut. Finally, maybe I can sleep! I closed my journal and began to stand.
Then, he turned on his engine, setting the heater to full blast.
I froze, horrified. The stillness of the night exploded into an industrial din, the sound of the idling sports car’s engine echoing through the trees, enveloping the entire campground with its heavy thrum. I imagined two dozen campers waking with a start and wondering who the asshole was.
It was now two-thirty in the morning.
You’ve GOT to be kidding me. I sat back down with a heavy sigh. No sleep for me tonight, I thought with resignation, opening my journal again.
Hmm, I wrote, first frustration with a person I’ve met on the road. Interesting. Thinking… today… the lesson. The lesson. I paused, pen at my lip, and continued.
The social connections are more important than the scenery. Bright Angel Point was a little dull, I could have hung out with Kira some more… and if I didn’t chase the mediocre view at East Rim Point, woulda got back to camp earlier, been able to talk to Nick. But as I sat here annoyed by [my guest] and his weird NPS negativity, Nick woke up, packed, and left. And I heard him take a hit! GAAAAAA. The miracle moment… gone.
How interesting. I looked up at the moonlit trees silhouetted against glowing clouds.
So, I wrote with an air of finality, follow your gut, dude. If you meet someone special, make THEM the priority over your silly hikes and photo collection.
All anger left me in an instant as I wrote those words, and suddenly all was right in the Universe. A deeper voice had urged me towards the social path earlier, but I’d ignored it, and lost my chance. By following a frenetic thought-cloud in lieu of my intuition, I’d chosen this noisy, smelly, uncomfortable path.
Never again, I thought with satisfaction, suddenly amused by my situation. As if in response to the thought, my guest turned off his car, and as the metal echoes faded the forest returned to its natural peaceful stillness, mirroring my internal experience. The forest was serene. My gut was serene. My mind and my heart were serene, and my guest was as serene as he would ever be. The owl hooted again.
Thanks, Universe. A lesson hard-earned, but I’ll concede it was worth it, crippling stomach pain and all.
I crawled back into my tent and blissfully wrapped myself in sleeping bags and blankets and extra sheets, warm and cozy as a baby bat wrapped in a towel, and finally, finally, fell asleep.
August 30, 2015
By the time I got up the next morning, my guest was gone. On the bench, anchored beneath a rock, were a dozen laminated topographic map printouts of Zion and Bryce and Grand Canyon- a parting gift from my guest, perhaps partially in apology for the previous night. I gathered up the maps with a smile. It’s cool, man, I forgive you, and I say thank ya. I’m feeling pretty good about that whole situation by this point. Safe travels, and keep calm, brother.
I spent the day taking long and lovely drives to several viewpoints in the Park. Unlike the South Rim, where services and shuttles and trails run in a continuous line along the Canyon’s edge, here you have to drive through miles of forests up winding roads to the scattered points jutting out into the Canyon if you wanted to see more than the view from the lodge.
At Roosevelt Point was a placard with Teddy’s badass mustachioed face emblazoned upon it, along with some of my favorite words in the world, from the Bear himself. My eyes teared up as I read, hearing it in Roosevelt’s voice:
Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.
Fuck yeah, Teddy.
By the time I reached Imperial Point the cloudy weather had turned to rain. Unfazed, I pulled out my umbrella and hiked the trail to Angel’s Window, a sandstone arch on the edge of the canyon.
In the Canyon, just off the point, a monstrous thunderhead loomed ominously. The hairs on my arm stood on end, and I gasped when the world suddenly turned white. A huge fork of tongued lightning flashed down through the incredible cloud, and in less than a second I shirked involuntarily at the booming thunder echoing through the Canyon and into my very bones like the furious roar of some eldritch god awoken prematurely from his dark slumber.
“Holy fuck!” I screamed against the black cacophony of sound.
Nearby, a middle-aged couple was similarly agape, unbothered by my profanity- or perhaps my voice had disappeared in the thunder. I checked the wind, and realized with excitement that the thunderhead was coming straight for us. I watched the cloud as it crept ominously over the stone temples of the Canyon towards me. Lightning flashed again, and again. The Canyon roared, echoed, roared.
You don’t want to be holding an umbrella on the rim of the Grand Canyon with lightning like that nearby. I’m a bold man when it comes to the warnings of rangers, and I’d laugh with derision at any lesser storm- but this roiling thunderhead had a presence to it, a thickness, that even I wouldn’t challenge.
Giggling with a perverse and maniacal glee at the sense of impending dooooom in the air, I dashed nimbly away from the ledge, pausing only to warn the couple about the wind’s direction. The rain picked up as the sound of thunder chased me down the trail to the parking lot.
It felt like I was in one of those Mario levels where the screen is moving behind you- where if you stop to catch a breath, then you die.
I kept just ahead of the storm and made it to the car, slamming the door just as the thunderhead passed over, dumping a thick, opaque sheet of rain. The hollow metallic sound of its drum on the roof was the only perceivable thing in the world, and I could see nothing beyond the waterfalls cascading down my windows.
I sat in my car and waited, grinning like an idiot.
The storm passed, and I made my way to the North Kaibab trailhead- the sister trailhead to the South Kaibab, which I had ventured down a few days ago on the South Rim. Still not ready to go all the way down to the river and back, I resolved to again hike down to the deep red Supai layer in search of the ominous-sounding Supai Cave.
Here, finally, I was completely overtaken by the beauty of my sweet Canyon. I hiked down through the now-gentle rain to Coconino Overlook with an umbrella on my shoulder, shallow mud squelching beneath my shoes. The sign there had been damaged, reading “Coconino Overloo”, which made me giggle like a child. Even today as I write this- a full year after the fact- whenever I need a pick-me-up I think of good ol’ Coconino Overloo and cannot help but grin. Maybe you needed to be there, but it’s one of my favorite memories of this journey so far, because at heart I’m just a big goofball kid.
I continued down among a chorus of thunder and reached Supai Cave, which wasn’t impressive in itself- no more than a short tunnel through the red stone of the Supai formation- but the view there was sublime. The canyon walls rising up all around, painted with dark streaks of evaporative residue from thousands of years of water, an endless stream of clouds flowing down the South Rim in the distance. I sat there for a long time, watching the dreamy drifts of cloud and the ever-striking lightning. Looking down, I could see the trail working its way towards the Colorado, and I spied some tiny hikers making the journey.
In time I made my way back up the trail, down the road, out the park, and back to camp. I was welcomed to DeMotte by a mule deer which watched me attentively as I passed, and in the sky shone a glorious rainbow. Today had been wonderful and I felt light as the clouds, as if the Universe was rewarding me for making it through the fires of gut pain and frustration the previous night, rewarding me for taking another step towards my ultimate Self, that ever-coalescing Me whose boundaries I still cannot comprehend.
I cracked open a beer and lay back in my reclining camp chair, reveling in the soreness in my legs and the peaceful forest. I eyed the vacant site next to mine critically, where Nick had departed from the previous night.
If anybody chill shows up there this evening, I am inviting them over immediately. I will not make the same mistake again.
I prepared a fire, ready to light it at a moment’s notice to enhance the cozy draw of my camp to any newcomers.
Sure enough, a car with Washington plates pulled in, and a college-age couple got out to set up their tent. I put my palms together and rapped my fingers against each other like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.
Eeeexcellent, I thought with a wry grin. I lit the fire, and placed a six-pack of Newcastles on the bench. The trap is set.
In time the guy walked by my camp, and I shouted a boisterous invitation for him and his companion to join me for beers around the campfire. He seemed unsure, but friendly, and he gave a polite, noncommittal answer before carrying on.
Yesssssss, that’s it, my pretty, I thought in a raspy, hag-like voice, think on it with yonder companion, yessss. I’ll not pressure you young one, for in time the fire will bring you into my nest, I know- I knooow! Keehehehehehehehehee!
Reclining with Kira’s book, I watched them talking from the corner of my eye after their camp was set. Then, they started walking towards me.
VICTORY! I thought, elated. I stood for introductions, a welcoming smile on my face- but unlike yesterday’s smile for my tailgating guest, this smile was genuine, unmarred by a day full of failures to heed my intuition.
At first I sensed some trepidation on their part, but those walls couldn’t hold in the face of my benevolent wanderer’s heart, and we soon got along famously, talking long into the night of our adventures. The dude was Sean, the girl was Mac, and they were two of the coolest cats I have ever had the pleasure of acquainting. Fresh out of college, they were seasoned Pacific Northwest backpackers on the tail end of a National Park Road Trip of their own to celebrate graduation, and were now making their way north back home where they hoped to enter the working world. Sean was an academic genius on the path to medical school, shining with a calm and strong light, while Mac was a bubbly ecstatic mountain spirit. I fell in love with them both very quickly.
Emboldened by alcohol, I started rambling about strange and magical things- the will of the Universe and the subtle voices of wind and tree and mountain- and they totally jived with it. Soul-brother! Soul-sister! They were so bright and clever, so open and free, and so freaking adorable together that if they don’t get married some day I might have to raise a clamor.
We soon discovered that the next day, all of us were planning to go to Zion.
Oh my God, I thought with cautious exultation, a brilliant plan spinning itself together in my head.
“Guys, guys,” I said, “what do you think about this: you guys take your time tomorrow to explore the North Rim before heading to Zion. I’ve seen all I need to here, so I’ll head over there first thing in the morning and grab a spot at the campground early. They fill quickly in the summer, and if you don’t arrive before noon you’ll never find a site. Then you show up whenever you like, and you find me, and we’ll camp together! I’ll take you on a tour of the legendary Narrows hike through the Virgin River the next day!” The Narrows was one of my favorite hikes in the world, and I wanted nothing more than to share the experience with Virgin River virgins, to see it anew through their eyes.
They looked at each other, commiserating with their eyes while I squirmed. Then they turned to me and smiled. “Yes! That’s perfect!” they said. The campfire lit up all three of our grins with a playful orange glow- there was magic in the air, and all present knew it.
Later that night, after Mac and Sean had returned to their site, I pulled out my journal and wrote:
Every day is fucking wonderful beyond words. Two new lifelong pals met today I think, all because I said hi and invited them over for a beer. Thank you Jon. Thank you Mikey. Thank you Lydia. Thank you Universe, thank you so much. Please continue to teach and inspire me as I travel. Fill me with the light, the power, and the glory, and I will do all I can to share it with others and be a shining light unto this world. Namaste, peace, and love to this world and all the people in it.
Smiling a sleepy and satisfied smile, I wrote one more word.
Share the adventure!