I pulled up stakes in Pagosa Springs late yesterday morning as I had to wait for my tent to dry out after Saturday night’s deluge. Fortunately the sun came out early and hot and I was on the road by noon. The drive from southern Colorado to northern New Mexico was surprisingly verdant and lush. As I wound my way through the San Juan National Forest, I breathed deeply, loving the aroma of pine needles baking in the summer sun. I could have been in Washington, everything was so green.
As this trip has progressed, I’ve been making a list of the things I am thankful for, on this trip, and in general. Of course, I’m so grateful to SugarMama and her unwavering support of my dreams. I say “of course” but we all know that sometimes we need to hear (or read) the gratitude as well as know it. So, a heartfelt and loving shout out to Nancy, the best partner a woman could have.
I didn’t plan this trip they way some of you might have. I didn’t make reservations ahead of time at any campgrounds. I didn’t have a list of stops I wanted to make a long the way. I set out with my only agenda being to get to Ghost Ranch and to have fun getting there. So, I’m very thankful that each night I found a safe place to camp, and in retrospect, each place was the right place each time. Every site had exactly what I needed that night whether it was solitude (helping me overcome my fears) or WiFi (so I could share my adventure) or laundry (so I wouldn’t smell) or showers (ditto). I had to let go of my notions about camping—what constitutes real camping vs. what is practical and smart.
I’m thankful for a hundred other things as well: my jeep (even though it sucks gas, it is reliable and FUN to drive and makes a nice makeshift place to sleep in the rain); the two tarps I bought on a whim—one has provided shade and the other a nice clean pad for my tent; the bottle of lotion I threw in at the last minute because my hands have been so dry on this trip; the lantern my brother gave me for my birthday last year—it is so cool, so compact, and so bright; my headlamp for reading in the tent; my bicycle—I debated whether or not to bring it, but it’s been awesome to have, and here at Ghost Ranch, it’s invaluable. This place is sprawling.
My sleeping bag. I realized a few nights ago that I have had this sleeping bag since I was 19. That’s 31 years! My dad bought it for me for my birthday that summer in 1982—it’s a North Face bag, and it wasn’t cheap all those years ago, but it had a tiny flaw in the fabric, easily patchable, and so he got a great deal on it. It’s down and still has its feathers and plenty of loft. It’s warm. It has a history—we have been to Europe together, to the mountains, to the beach. We’ve camped with my parents, my kids, my lovers, my wife. We’ve been to the southwest, twice now. I suppose there are more technologically advanced bags, ones that will keep me warm even if they get wet, ones that won’t leave feathers on my pjs. And maybe someday I’ll get one. But right now, I’m thankful for this sleeping bag.
Not everyone grows up camping, but I did. And for that I am thankful. My parents took me camping when I was just a baby and dragged me to the wilderness kicking and screaming when I was a teenager. We rode horses into the high country, fished in cold mountain lakes, and camped in the August mountain snow. I learned how to light a fire, how to make eggs on a camp stove, and how to set up a tent. I’ve slept in smelly pup tents surrounded by horse blankets for warmth and on straw in a huge canvas army tent with a stove in the middle. I don’t mind sleeping on the ground.
I learned not to touch the sides of the tent when it rains, how to dig a trench around the tent, and I know the importance of keeping my matches dry. I’ve also learned to pack a lighter. There’s nothing like the night sky in the pitch dark, and I’ve learned to get out my tent and look at the Milky Way.
I’ve learned the art of self-sufficiency. There’s nothing more rewarding than sitting in my campsite, in my camp chair, drinking the camp coffee I made on my camp stove, and gazing at the surrounding countryside.
And now that I’m here, I’m thankful for a safe journey, for the cooling rain (now that I’m not camping anymore), and for the adventure that lies ahead.