“We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us." John Steinbeck: “Travels With Charley.”
I pen this column from a peaceful boondock a mere 25 miles north of the pandemonium of Moab’s “Jeep Safari” week—a motor-head’s dream gathering but a gridlock nightmare for everyone else. So this is “Camp Finale,” the last boondock on our customary winter loop to the southernmost reaches of Arizona. To say Camp Finale is “drool-worthy” sells it short. My heart soars at a glowing vista out RV Goldie’s dusty windows—sweeping rows of red sandstone mounds, side-by-side like humungous loaves of bread. Beyond the “loaves” an army of red monoliths, anthropomorphic hoodoos with white bobble-heads marching in stark contrast to a cerulean blue skies streaked by vapor trails. Punctuating the rolling landscape between “camp” and “army,” ghastly sage and cedar lie as wounded soldiers, dying of thirst and battering winds.
I am now alone; a man and his mountain bike in a single-track paradise. Bobbie departed camp in a mad dash home to Lovely Ouray. Who could blame her after months on the road, enduring “man-smells” and cell-like confines of our “Crackerbox Palace?” Could it be Goldie’s vintage dark-bordering-on-depressing faux mahogany interior? The once-faddish (now regrettable) turquoise carpet and dining cushions, stained beyond redemption by Starbucks Coffee and Utah’s red dirt?
I can see her now, joyously stretched out on our cushy sofa, dozing peacefully to the white noise of “Madam Secretary.” If threatened, Bobbie would reluctantly admit to enjoying our long winter treks south…aimless vagabonds, hiking, biking and exploring with fellow roadies, living out a long-held dream to shorten winter by wandering all agog in the scintillating warmth and beauty of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. And now, the perfect annual epilogue: hiking and biking endless slick-rock in Eastern Utah. If Ray Bradbury was right, that “half the fun of adventure travel is the esthetic of lostness,” then I’m having a ball, honing Adventure into Art Form.
Although it helps, one doesn’t have to be retired in order to practice the art of adventure; just determined to break the chains of routine. Wilferd Peterson, author of “The Art of Living,” instructed us to “read new books, travel to new places, make new friends, take up new hobbies and adopt new viewpoints.” Note his copious use of “new,” an antonym to “routine.” In attempting new things “it’s not so much the mountain we conquer as our-selves.” Sir "Edmond" knew a little something about that.
Having just returned bloodied but alive from biking Klondike Hill’s “EKG,” I can say with some assurance that routine-busting adventures can be hazardous to one’s health. Sometimes I question the merit of such endeavors, that I should start acting my age. It doesn’t take long to re-realize the soul-deadening nature of routine. It’s like Steinbeck said in “Travels With Charley”: “All plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless.” Live. Venture out. Put a dent in "routine" (and maybe your rig) by making sure that some of your trails and roads are of the “less taken” kind…maybe even off the map. Experience the joy of solitude, the amazement of camping under stars, the mournful sound of coyotes crying in the night. Take a trip with no destination. Enjoy the summit solitude of 13ers instead of Peak-bagging parties atop14ers. Instead of “checking-in,” camp out. And for God’s sake, turn off the freaking phone.
As residents in Ouray County we are fortunate to have an inexhaustible supply of “New Adventures” in our backyard…opportunities for experiences that builds character, attitude, confidence and mental and physical fitness. Instead of waiting until mountain snows melt, grab your crampons and poles and hike now. Take backroads to places you’ve never been. It doesn’t have to be far. I’m in another world, three hours from Lovely Ouray. The true measure of wealth is health. It is a gift: to not use it is to risk losing it. Heed Jack London’s “Call of the Wild”: “He was mastered by the sheer surge of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle…everything that was not death…aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars.”
Mark Johnson is a restless soul who lives in Ouray, Colorado with his wife, Bobbie. He is happiest when explor- ing the West's nooks and crannies, hiking, climbing and mountain biking. He authors a "wanderlust" based bloog: www.Boxcanyonblog.com