By: Nathan Noble
Oh, the Uninfected Places You’ll Go… Alone
When I first moved to a big city from a smaller town in southern Utah, the city exhausted and drained me, but I eventually got used to things: now, as a pandemic has swept across the nation, living in a big city is downright dangerous. Where I once took advantage of living in a hub of theatres, museums, and concert halls, and music venues, I’m now forced to reside inside—and alone. However, in this downtime, I’ve renewed my sense of self: although I do miss weekend getaways to exotic locations with my typical gaggle of friends, my post-pandemic travel plans are simpler—and far more solo—than I once envisioned. I want to hop in my car and find myself in the middle of nowhere. Big city lights are one thing, but it doesn’t at all compare to the majestic splendor that a light-pollution free sky has to offer: one of the few “upsides” to lockdown living is seeing the stars clearly again. When travel is slightly more feasible, I plan on simply heading up into the mountains for some further clarity, or down into the desert for some sunshine and solitude—and for obvious reasons, I’m going solo.
Majestic Mountains and Historic Towns
Growing up in Utah, I was used to the many tourists and skiers that would overwhelm smaller cities and towns during the winter season. In the off-season, however, these lesser-known gems still had plenty of natural riches to offer the tenacious outdoorsman: like hiking, trail-running, mountain biking, and the general culture of small-town living that allowed a body to slow down, breathe, and take in the beauty of the elevated landscape around them. In my travels along the dustiest of backroads, I’ve encountered the coolest, quirkiest, and genuinely inviting mountain villages across the entire southwest. Some of these villages are a little more “touched” by the modernity of big-city culture, but these smatterings of metro-culture don’t overpower the small-town feel; in fact, they make each activity more charming. In artistic hubs, like Breckenridge in Colorado, I’ve gone wine-tasting after finishing up a historic gold-panning tour. Although there are plenty of cabins to rent, the pandemic has hit me pretty hard in the pocketbook: to save money, I just hook up my camp trailer and make myself at home at a local national forest. Not only do I get the joy of roughing it alone, but I also get to drive into town and enjoy its luxuries. I do not recommend taking one of “Breck’s” historic ghost tours, enjoying a whiskey tasting, and then heading back to camp alone, however—trust me on that one.
Growing up in the Southwest, I have an especially acute affinity for desert flora and fauna, and I’ve always admired the tenacity and specialized adaptation of these species that somehow thrive in some of the harshest conditions on earth. My admiration for the staunchly individual people that have made these stark and rugged environments their homes has grown, too: and at no time in my life have I ever empathized with their desire for solitude more. The landscapes of salt flats, sand dunes, and rocky mountains do require a specific set of skills to live in, but humans have an amazing ability to adapt to just about anything. Without nature’s adaptations against barren landscapes and oppressive heat, however, we humans have developed tools and strategies that have made desert living possible. Whenever I plan an extensive solo desert camping trip, I make sure to keep these preparations in mind.
Water is Life
This is obvious, but it’s mandatory that I stress how important it is. When in an arid desert, we lose our body’s precious water at an exponential rate, and those levels are the difference between a fulfilling experience in the desert, or a draining and difficult one. If you’re camping near a water source, you may not need to bring along more than a few gallons—if not, then I recommend bringing a gallon a day per person at least. The key to making your water last comes down to some simple, yet effective methods. After some extensive hiking and exercise, make sure to sip your water but never chug it. Trust me, I know what it’s like to want water more than air, but your body will appreciate it if you quench your thirst over a longer period of time: if you drink too fast, you’ll risk diluting your blood, which may cause faster excretion of water by the kidneys. I’ve invested in some pricier canteens that keep my water cool during all-day hikes, and the satisfaction of hydrating with a portable oasis is worth it.
Tools of the Trade
Now that you’re prepared to camp in the middle of nowhere, you’ll need a way to get there. Your car needs its own basic essentials to make a successful desert trek, and I also recommend a toolkit, flashlight, jumper cables, toilet paper, water and food storage, and a first-aid kit. My backpack’s also stocked with food, water, and a first aid kit, as well as a multi-tool, and last-but-certainly-not-least: a journal and pen to poetically reminiscence about the distinct arid beauty of the environment. I make sure that I keep plenty of non-perishable food in my camper trailer, as well—with just a flick of a switch, I can use the trailer’s galley to whip up something warm and scrumptious: “table for one, please.”
Investing in the Future
In order to better facilitate these trips in the future, I’m taking the time to do a “deep-dive” into my finances while I’m stuck inside during the lockdown. The solitude has given me ample time to look inward and assess what I once spent—or even wasted—my money on. When the only goal to travel before had been a diversion, now I feel like continuing the thread of “inner-peace” and discovering my “purpose” are worthier endeavors. Even though online shopping at the moment can be a tempting form of entertainment, I’m going to save up, and invest in some equipment that will make escaping into the mountains or the desert as simple as hooking up a trailer, and filling up a tank with gas. Flying on a plane again, of course, will be fantastic—but for now, flying solo is every bit as exciting, and even a bit more fulfilling.