Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I don't do downtime that well. My restlessness gets the best of me. And it is such a contrast from the busyness I surround myself with. But I know this about myself and can talk my way out of a funk quicker than you can say, "Where's my pimiento?"

This is my last full week at Huntley. I've been on staff (with an orange-colored ID and attendance at staff meetings and institutes to prove it) since March, but tutoring and teaching two life skills classes is not enough to fill my day. Luckily, I have a paper to research and write for my literature class. Dr. Gomez-Vega offered an incomplete, so I took it. Even though there's no rush, I want to finish it so I can get the grade and diploma in hand. I find out tomorrow whether or not I passed my semantics class, but I have a strong feeling I did.

But just what does this slam bang, action-packed Tuesday hold in store for me?


get oil changed in truck

water plants

do research

Read more of There Are No Children Here

go for a long walk

I may cram in a trip to Loves Park to assemble the canoe rack on my truck, but there's no big hurry. I just want to finish it by the end of the week. A week from tomorrow trail friend Christine and I head north to Boundary Waters. I haven't seen her in four years, since the PCT. She had to cut short a trans-European bike trip because of numbness in her hands, but says she's rarin' to hit the water. As am I. Woke up this gray morning to a dream or memory of a northern lake shore, loon cry across the water, morning mist, still and quiet.

Last week I got the McKenzie maps for all of Boundary Waters. They are very detailed (2 inches = 1 mile, 1:31,680), large and cumbersome. The reason I chose McKenzie Maps over the more infamous Fisher maps (1 1/2 inches = 1 mile) is the slightly greater detail and shading in the elevation profiles. From what I've read in journals of other Boundary Waters travelers and know from experience, portages can be difficult to see from the water. Between good maps, compass, GPS, and, most important, horse sense, portages shouldn't be so hard to find this trip.

This trip, like all wilderness travel, will be rugged and no doubt filled with challenges. But I've been into camping and backpacking for 10 years now and can say without the tiniest bit of braggadocio that I'm pretty darn good at it. Many people look at what I do with a sense of awe and wonder, memories of failed expeditions framing their incredulity. Most people's idea of an outdoors vacation involves RVs, campgrounds, and waiting in line at theme parks.

I will bridge those two worlds later this summer when my dad and I travel out west together to see Mt. Rushmore, the badlands, and Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. We plan to sleep outside each night and will save money by camping for free on National Forest land outside National Parks. This also helps us avoid crowds. And it's still car camping. So, this is my little word to the wise for summer travelling on the cheap:

Camp at undesignated spots in National Forest lands.

The official rule is that you can't stay in one spot for more than two weeks. Our federal lands are woefully understaffed and underfunded. I haven't met a ranger in National Forest land since camping, for FREE!!!!, on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Mining and timber interests do far more harm to our public lands than car campers, despite the occasional doofus who can't control his or her fire.

Forget RV campgrounds and Jellystone corporate third world tenements that charge up to $30 a night for the privilege of listening to drunken yahoos, crying children, and teeming hordes of raccoons, robber jays, and bears all night long.

1. Get a DeLorme or other atlas that shows public lands.
2. Drive to public lands.
3. Look for obscure side roads and take one.
4. Drive slowly and look for a cool camp spot.

How come nobody does this? IT'S FREE!!!!!

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