Our amazing journey out west finally came to a close. It was one campsite after another, breaking down camp and setting it back up at an average of every three days. We visited South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana (all the way to Glacier NP) and Colorado. Taking nearly three weeks to explore some of the most beautiful country that we have ever seen. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives! Not without challenges and difficulties, to be sure; changing of routes, direction and of course Joe’s bum foot (he broke it right before we left). I hated to see it end, but I was ready to come home, too. And of course, showing up just in time for a new grandbaby to arrive is the icing on the cake!
We met some really cool and interesting people along the way. There was Eugene, the camp host at Meadowlark Campground in Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming, who, btw, told Joe he would “show him” how to catch fish… HA! (he was a no show, by the way).
Then there was Steve from Wisconsin traveling with his two-year-old German Shepard doing the same thing that we were doing; seeing the country he’s never seen before, headed to the Oregon coast to spend some time with his grandkids. Joe was nice enough to offer him the one and only fish he caught that evening, as he had never had Brooke trout before. He was very grateful.
And there was Ike from Germany with his wife and son, a foreign exchange student just finishing up his year in the states. Ike grew up in East Berlin, practically in prison, and he is amazed by the states. He said it was a wonderful feeling when the wall came down. I wish we had had more time to sit and talk with them, but they too were on a mission…to catch fish! Unlike Joe, they were depending on those fish for their dinner that evening, and it was getting late. It was quite entertaining watching them rush around to set up camp and hurry to catch those fish. It was 20 miles back down the mountain to get a meal if they were unsuccessful. In the end, they told us the next morning, they caught 4 fish. They were making their way all the way to Seattle, tent camping throughout national forests and parks along the way, giving away all of the camping equipment they had bought, at the end of their trip… (someone’s gonna get VERY lucky!)
Then there was Liz from New Mexico who was celebrating her 60th birthday traveling with three of her close friends venturing into new territories. I think she said she had driven 17 hours to get to where she was, and she wasn’t finished yet! (Go LIZ!) She happened to walk down the path to the lake just as the moose was grazing in the clearing. WOW!
And William, a transient from Washington who we met in Montana. He’s a member of the Rainbow church, and he told me all about hitchhiking and jumping trains. He asked me if I’d ever picked up a hitchhiker and seemed a little disappointed when I told him no. I then went on to explain how Amanda had hitchhiked in Croatia (not alone) and it had changed my thoughts about giving someone a lift the next time “we” saw someone and actually had a place to put them. Joe and I do NOT travel lightly, so there is usually no room for riders.
However…I will never look at a train the same way again. Listening to his stories about some of his adventures and the people that he had met along the way was a tale in and of itself! His shoes were worn, and when I looked closer I saw that they were actually a pair of women’s shoes, the low boot kind with the pointy toe. I was actually going to offer him a pair of Joe’s shoes but since Joe broke his foot, we only brought one of each pair. 🙁
He was in need of a shower and a cigarette. We left him a little money but weren’t sure if offering him more was an insult or a welcome relief. He seemed to not want charity and asked for nothing. He said the worst part about his way of life was feeling judged. It was a good reminder that we are all children of God and no one knows someone else’s story. (and by the way…he didn’t recommend hopping a train…EVER!…it’s a FEDERAL offense!)
Then the two local boys (I never got their names) who showed up with their dog “Buddy” for a couple of nights in Wyoming, to fish. They worked so hard to catch the ONE fish in their basket and were very proud of it (though a bit disappointed there weren’t more.) He said he didn’t even know he had a fish; he just decided to check his line and there it was! (Sounds like my kind of fishing.) They picked Joe’s brain about fishing, a seasoned “expert”. “Are you bottom fishing? Nightcrawlers? Red worms? Spinners?” I’ve grown accustomed to the questions and answers and sometimes jump in the conversation myself. One of the boys were very quiet, awkward to talk to, and the other had a slight speech impediment. They were a pleasure to meet…and they were FILTHY! Truly enjoying themselves, not caring one bit if they had a shower or clean clothes on. The task at hand was to catch fish.
We saw so many young people camping and setting up like pros. It’s really good to see that the younger generation is taking time out of their days to do this sort of thing. Two young girls alone, two young college students on break for the summer, the list goes on and on. We have actually met more young people on this trip than their parents. Wendy (originally from Costa Rica) and Jeff from Illinois are making their way to the Grand Canyon, by way of Yellowstone. Wendy was freezing in the mountains. They are planning on logging over 4500 miles. The stories are NEVER dull!
Joe caught trout after trout and I took hundreds of pictures. You simply cannot understand the beauty of the west, the Rockies, the Glaciers, and the rolling green hills, unless you witness it first hand. You may be surprised at how simple it is to live minimally, out of a tent, driving thousands of miles, all while enjoying nature and unplugging from the world, in a car. We had virtually no cell service, and no outside distractions, checking in with home base on occasion and calling to wish my dad a happy 70th birthday, was pretty much our contact with “the world”.
Other than the of one night of fellow (young) campers partying into the wee morning hours, (fun to listen to the back and forth banter, at first as they played beer pong, but tiring quickly as we tried to sleep!), it was a very relaxing, getting in touch with nature and the spirit of living, event. (Getting to go to the top of Crazy Horse Mountain was an unexpected and thrilling surprise!)
Where have you vacationed and you thought you could stay forever?