“There were always permissions slips!” That’s what I told Jay about my backcountry travel experience as we debated where to camp for the night near Lake Mead. We were meeting barriers to spending the night near civilization with full campgrounds, tent sites next to noisy generators, and $20 a night fees. The National Park Service office confirmed that we could actually set up our tent off of any of the back country roads around Lake Mead. With 6 gallons of water and all the supplies we could need in the car, it seemed like a perfect time to go primitive. But I was still hesitant.
I started taking outdoor adventures as a preteen with the best Girl Scout troop ever. Although my dad had been a scout and had explored the outdoors at my age, we did not take family camping trips or even hike together. Everything I learned about exploring the outdoors and remaining safe in the wild, started in that troop. I learned how to set up a tent so that the rain wouldn’t soak it. I learned about what clothing to wear to prevent blisters and hypothermia. I learned how to read a Topo map and navigate without modern technology. Through 6 years of hands on experience, I learned to travel safely and have fun in the outdoors. And I developed a love of it. But traveling with the Girl Scouts and setting out on your own expedition as an adult are two different things. I missed the security of permission slips and a leader that was seemingly all-knowing.
With some nudging from Jay, I agreed that tonight would be an ideal test drive for heading out on a back country road and finding a place to make camp. We headed back to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and were quickly drawn to an spot with colorful rock walls of oranges, reds, and browns. It was called Bowl of Fire and we turned off on a road nearby that led towards Calville Bay. I was beyond nervous, fidgeting as Jay slowly and carefully negotiated the rocky road. I could tell he was excited, stoked that we were finally actually out there, on an adventure.
And I had worried for nothing. We found a lovely camp site, cooked a tasty dinner, slept without the rain fly on to watch the stars, and woke to a beautiful sunrise. Why didn’t we live like this all of the time? It was like paradise and I was emboldened to explore the backcountry more often.
So yea…. this was the night before we entered Death Valley. The experience that made it so easy for us to decide to get off the beaten path in a park known for its dangers and extremes. The night before we experienced a serious setback. Not only for Jay and our trip, but also in my confidence in getting out away from it all.