En Route East

As the season in Moab came to a close, it was time to trek across America again, this time east-bound via New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, a few quick detours into Mississippi and Alabama, and countless Native American nations. By the time March comes around and I head back west, I will have driven across the country three times in nine months, which by any sane person’s definition is absolutely absurd. Not only is it a lot of time to spend in a car, but to me, it epitomizes American consumerism and wastefulness, putting a lot of miles on my car and using up a ridiculous amount of fossil fuels (and money spent on fossil fuel).

Despite feeling guilty about consuming lots of gasoline and fast food and expelling lots of carbon emissions into our precious atmosphere, these journeys have provided a wonderful insight into the country that I live in and has given me a unique opportunity to see different states and the way the land changes from west to east and vice versa. I feel a lot more connected to the land, and will treasure these memories for many years to come.

This time my friend Zak and I traveled from Moab to Santa Fe, where we bought on-sale socks at REI and ate a delicious dinner at a Mexican restaurant recommended by a local Santa Féan (I think I just made that word up) before traveling on to Santa Rosa, NM where we found a state park to camp in for the night.

Zak checks the temperature of the fountain water in Hot Springs

The next day we trekked across the rest of New Mexico, through Amarillo and the rest of the Texas Panhandle (if I ever tell you I’m going to move there, promptly remind me not to). We continued on through Oklahoma, where we stopped at a Steak and Shake in Oklahoma City for lunch. Oklahoma was definitely not as flat as I thought it would be and people sure must like to gamble there because every other billboard advertises a casino. Even though we didn’t get to see much of them, it was neat to get to drive through the nations of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Kickapoo and many other native peoples. Late that night we crashed at my cousin’s house in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

steaming waterfall in Hot Springs, AR

 

One of the old bathhouses

 

 

In Memphis, we visited the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel, which is the site of MLK’s 1968 assassination. Even though part of the museum was closed for renovation, the part we did get to see was fascinating and eye-opening. We also had the privilege of Couch Surfing with a truple (a three person relationship), which is apparently an up and coming trend in the gay community. These guys were super awesome and made us a delicious dinner, let us play with all their cool cats and dogs and took us out for drinks at some of their favorite local watering holes.

Lorraine Motel

the balcony outside room 306

 

 

We drove through Mississippi, where the most notable thing we did was buy gas for $2.95 a gallon. We followed the Natchez Trace Parkway through a tiny corner of Alabama and back up into Tennessee, where we headed to Chattanooga after a quick detour back into Alabama on a mad late-night search for camping. The breakfast we had in Chattanooga was my favorite breakfast, a veggie hash with tofu and the best biscuits we ate all trip.

 

 

 

Mississippi Sunset

In Asheville, NC, we were lucky enough to stay at a place that was a ten minute walk to downtown, props to our friend Steve from Moab. We enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Noodle Shop, a delicious and cheap Chinese restaurant. While walking around after dinner, we stumbled upon the best used bookstore ever. I was surprised it was open at nine pm, but turns out it was also a bar, and you could sit down in one of their little nooks, order a beer or a glass of wine and read for awhile. It was one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a Friday evening.

 

BIke tools in available in downtown Chattanooga

The old powerhouse after Hellhole Rapid on the Ocoee

We had planned to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way up to Nellysford, VA, where my parents have a mountain house. However, after going 80 miles in a two hours and a few nears misses with crazy deer, we decided to get off and take the interstate the rest of the way.We spent two nights there, enjoying a whole day without getting into the car before up to DC for the last stop of our trip before I headed home.

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Cataract Canyon Internship Photos

view from the Doll’s House

view of the river from the loop hike

petrified log

Remember that internship I did on my course in October? Here are some pictures from that incredible experience

hiking up to the Doll’s House

field staff discuss an activity during a hike
field staff discuss an activity during a hike to the Doll’s House

The students pose for a picture at the Doll’s House

field staff: Zak, me, Steve, Kristen

Students on top of a rock during a hike.

raft flotilla at sunrise

Enjoying Retirement on Westwater

Westwater Canyon

The day after Pumpkin Chuckin’, a group of about 15 of us headed about an hour away from Moab to run a section of the Colorado River called Westwater Canyon to celebrate our friend Anne’s birthday. That morning was a bit of a struggle for a couple people who had stayed out too late the previous night, but most of us felt just fine.

It was a gorgeous fall day and we launched on the river around two pm. We had four oar rigs heading down the river. The original plan was to run all of the rapids that day, camp below them and have a lazy float out to the take out the next morning. In typical Outward Bound fashion, nothing ever goes according to plan, and we ended up only running the first couple of rapids that day and camping above the meat of the rapids.

We enjoyed a delicious and relaxing dinner of chili, cornbread and beer, followed by birthday brownies around a campfire. We enjoyed telling stories and jokes and laughing until our abs hurt. We slept well and launched on the river the next morning before 10 am. The water was cold and the morning air was crisp, but we suited up in wetsuits and dry tops, long underwear and lots of layers to stay warm.

My friends, Molly, Amy, Zak and I rode on a raft we dubbed the Orange Crush. We joked about being unemployed, or as we prefer to say, retired and spent the day relentlessly teasing each other. Zak was nice enough to let me practice my rowing skills through most of the rapids. He took over in Skull, the biggest and most consequential rapid on Westwater and rowed the rest of the way down. I had good lines through the rapids, but it was really only because I pushed and pulled on the oars when he told me too. Molly, Amy and I sat in the front of the boat for Skull and the rest of the rapids and thus ended up mostly soaking wet and a bit chilly.

Rafting, beer, party mix, the epitome of retirement as a 20-something.

 

 

After the rapids, we grouped up with the other boats and formed a flotilla so we could all hang out together and eat lunch. The trip was a lot of fun and a great way to spend the first two days of unemployment (or retirement, whatever way you want to look at it).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Photo Credit goes to Kate O’Donnell)

Chuckin’ Pumpkins

Each fall, Moab celebrates Halloween in a way I have never seen in a town so small before. One of the non-profits in town hosts the Pumpkin Chuckin’ Festival, a grand event featuring pumpkin chucking contests, pie-eating contests, wiener dog races, and a mini-chuck for kids. People come from all over Utah and Colorado and every shows up decked out in their Halloween finest.

Outward Bound runs a booth each year where we host a mini-chuck for kids. We set up targets out in the field and build sling shots for kids to shoot small pumpkins and gourds at the targets. This year, there weren’t any mini pumpkins available, so I spent the majority of my last day at work filling up water balloons as replacements. The highlight of the slingshot was definitely when it would backfire and the water balloon would explode on the kid who was trying to sling it. It was really fun to see everyone’s costumes and the kids were stoked to be able to chuck their own ‘pumpkins’ and not just have to watch the adults do it.

Amy at our booth.

Zak helps some kids launch ping-pong balls at some targets.

Of course, the highlight of the festival, and where it gets its name is a contest to see who’s contraption can launch pumpkins the furthest out into the field. People work all year to build trebuchets, air cannons and other contraptions that they think will win them the gold. The pumpkins shoot out so fast that you can’t see them exit the cannons, you just have to keep your eyes peeled to watch them explode on the ground, and if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of it mid-air.Spectators observe the air cannons as they launch pumpkins.

The entire festival gets shut down by five pm and several hours later, people fill up the few bars in town in their nighttime costumes to dance and drink the night away. We headed to one bar to dance, and it was a blast. It surely was a Halloween to remember, and I’m excited to experience many more like it here.

Amy at our booth.

This Intern Does Not Make Copies

This fall, I had one of the most incredible opportunities yet working for Outward Bound. I was offered a chance to go down Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River as an intern on that section of the course I was working. Obviously, I was psyched to get out of the warehouse and spend some time on the river withe students and see what all the Outward Bound magic is really all about.

Working as an LC means that you don’t always get to experience those magical moments on course where students’ lives are changed, and every so often while doing something at the warehouse like cleaning the shower or counting first aid items, you forget that those moments are what the organization is really all about. Luckily, I experienced a lot of those moments on course, so I have many stored away for those days when I need a little inspiration.

During the few days before the river, the students had to ration two days worth of food into three days, due to an unexpected itinerary change. An instructor who was sectional staff on the river and I motored the boats down the river and met the group who had hiked in from their canyon section. We had a Canadian Thanksgiving feast the first night, to fill their starving bellies and celebrate, not only their arrival to the river, but also the holiday itself, as two of our students were Canadian.

The students seemed excited to have a break from backpacking and to experience all that the river had to offer. At times during the week, I felt a lot like a student, as it was also my first multi-day river trip, so I was a little out of my element. The five days flew by, filled with teaching the students how to paddle captain, running rapids, learning how to row an oar rig myself, doing side hikes, laughing and listening to engaging conversations and intensely traumatic life stories. I learned not to put sunscreen on my forehead when I’m wearing a hat, how to put on a wetsuit without loosing my balance, how to take off a dry top without getting my head stuck, and I’m still mastering the delicate art of peeing off the back of the boat when the water is too cold to get in it.

It was quite the week, and I had a lot of learning experiences regarding multi-day river trips, how to teach lessons to students, logistical improvements for courses, and a lot about myself and my limits. I feel fortunate to work for an organization in which I am granted opportunities such as this one for many reasons. I bonded a lot more with the staff and was able to connect with the students in a way that is impossible when you see them two or three times throughout a course for no more than 24 hours.

I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my first season working for Outward Bound. I’m leaving the season feeling inspired by people and nature alike. I feel connected and passionate about my new home in the middle of the desert and I can’t wait to start working again in March.

 

*For various reasons, I don’t yet have access to the photos I took during this week, once I have them, I’ll be sure to share them*