|Woodsmoke and morning coffee in the Manzanos--5 by 7 watercolor, 300 # d'Arches,|
Smelling the aroma of a pinon fire the other night on my back porch made me realize how long it has been since I was camping.
The answer is too long...actually March of 2012 at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. Alone, after visiting my uncle Mike in Santa Fe. My sleeping bag was good to almost 0 degrees. I still almost froze to death, but the time alone was medicine.
"I need to go camping," I said to myself the other night. That's what's missing. Yes, I'm too old to sleep on the ground anymore, and camping is often uncomfortable, but there's something essential missing if you don't endure it.
|Camping in Chaco Canyon|
I started thinking about all the places I've camped. It's a long list, and the memories are filled with family, friends, loved ones. The times that stand out most tend to be when not everything went perfectly, and of special places visited.
One of the best memories of camping there or anywhere is having to roll out of the sleeping bag in the cold morning, see your breath fogging in the air, shiver, fire up the Coleman stove to start coffee, and try to stir last night's campfire into life for warmth.
Where is your campsite? Your favorite? The memories?
|My brother and an "Army" cot in the Manzanos, 1955|
|Mom and our tent at the Grand Canyon, 1954|
My two favorites are in New Mexico--several times at Chaco Canyon and Jack's Creek in the Pecos Wilderness. Chaco because its 25 miles off a paved road, because the Anasazi still inhabit the 1,000-year-old ruins. I've been there alone and with family. It's traveling back in time, human and geological, and your imagination runs wild. You can see time here--in the stars wheeling overhead, or the yip of coyotes in the early morning, or in the shadows climbing the sandstone cliffs early or late in the days. Mostly it's quiet.
Jack's Creek is at the end of the road above 9,000 feet, near the headwaters of the Pecos River. There are aspen and fir, and a trailhead into the Pecos Wilderness. My family and I camped there several times, either in a tent, or in a Coleman popup tent trailer we had.
Where else have I camped? Many of my memories involve that pop-up trailer and cherished family memories, but not all.
- New Mexico--near Cloudcroft, in a pouring rain storm. Chama, near the tracks of the Cumbres and Toltec steam locomotive. Conchas Lake. Story Lake. Coyote Creek. In Taos canyon. At Tesuque Creek campground, above 10,000 feet near Santa Fe. In the Manzano mountains.
- Texas--Big Bend National Park, where we were afraid the wind would blow away our popup trailer. And outside Amarillo, downwind from a feedlot.
- Alone in the Arkansas Ozarks.
- One windy campground in western Kansas.
- Wyoming--in the Wind River Mountains, in Yellowstone, and in the Tetons, where our van was broken into, and they stole our medicine bag, thinking it was my wife's purse.
- Utah, in the Wasatch mountains.
- Montana, on the Canadian border--third favorite spot, and it would be first if it were more frequent and closer--Glacier National Park, with family, and also, the last time, with son Trav.
- Pennsylvania, just 20 miles from Gettysburg.
- Maine--near Portland.
- Vermont, on the banks of the Connecticut River, where we found a graveyard with dates back in the 1600s.
- Oh, Oklahoma? Not much. Maybe at Waurika Lake. Definitely with the pop-up trailer on a sand bar southwest of Waurika on the Red River with men friends, running trot lines and having a good time, just a few feet from the south shore, which is Texas.
Or more recently, with best friend Mark Hanebutt at the now extinct (sold and bulldozed for an expensive cookie-cutter housing development} at Melo's, a small private lake and campground on OKC's far nw-side...an evening of sparse food and drink, laughter around a fire, woodsmoke , and sleeping in a tent, no matter the glow of metro lights to the southeast. Precious, connection with what matters.
It's past time to go camping.