Well, got back this afternoon from four (well, really two and two halves) days in the desert. And I must say, anyone who thinks that going to the desert in July is crazy, is crazy!
We had one of the best little vacations ever. It was relaxing, allowed us to focus on the here and now and just forget everything else. Because let me tell you, when you’re hiking along a cliff with nothing but aluminum poles to keep you steady, you had better not have another damn thing on your mind.
The drive out there was great. We rocked out to 80′s power pop and The Eagles (BEST music when you’re in the high desert, it just suddenly makes sense). We saw the lush green of the Cascades give way to the yellow and green-gray that was to be our scenery for the weekend.
I was amazed at how people lived in this area. There was hardly a parcel of land off highway 26 that didn’t have some signs of ownership, yet the houses were so spread out they could easily have been as far apart as Beaverton and downtown PDX. I wonder how they make a living, and how they stay fed out here where there is just nothing.
We passed through a few small towns that hardly seemed alive. Besides cars on the road, Madras and Warm Springs could have been ghost towns. Prineville really wasn’t much different. It seemed so depressed… nearly every other property appeared to be shut down, abandoned or for sale.
We were happy to at least give a little back to the local economy.
When we got to the campsite, we had about an hour and a half of light left. And immediately upon unpacking the tent, we noticed a problem. One of those this-will-end-our-vacation problems. But little did V-man know that me and McGyver are like BFFs. And stuff. Because thanks to my pocket knife and Duct tape, I was able to turn a completely destroyed tent pole into a functional piece! Voila!
Our tent is only a few inches larger than our bed. This is ok with us.. we don’t need much room. As you can see, ‘all our gear’ doesn’t amount to much. We have a double-thickness air mattress, and it was WONDERFUL. We slept amazingly well the whole time. And that’s really what it’s all about, no? We got wonderful sleeping bags which were comfortable in all temperatures.
We got plenty of activity in. I was amazed at how effortlessly we fell into routine; we awoke, started breakfast (he cooked and I prepared), washed all of the dishes (he washed, I dried), cleaned up the campsite, changed and packed our packs and headed out. There was a very natural synergy in the simplicity of our actions there. We had little, and so had little to worry about. Very basic and simple. We ate when we were hungry, drank whether we were thirsty or not. We rested in the shade and played in the sun. We got dirty, we got clean, we ate dinner and we slept. Our world was reduced to just a few simple options and it felt right. There was no stress there.
What truly amazed me, though, was the sharp contrast between us and the other campers there (not all of them, I’m sure, but certainly the ones within earshot). I came to think of them as Suburban Barbarians. They fought, stressed, preened and complained, used up everything, and threw out the rest. Life was like some giant disposable playset to them. It was honestly disgusting to see how much of their stress they packed with them, and then just let it all out under the guise of ‘family fun’. Each day I would see them hauling kitchen trash bags full of disposable life, lighting fires that they didn’t tend, and going inside their deluxe RVs to nuke their ‘roughin’ it’ food. I mean, really, are microwave meals and fruit loops really ‘relaxing’ foods? Vic and I couldn’t even fill one plastic grocery bag with trash before we left. Half the reason there was anything in it at all was because we had eggshells and coffee grounds to deal with. Seeing the actions of all of these Burbarians made us realize just how green our lifestyle is. Truly amazing. And even we know we could be greener.
What I did see played out before me is the careful dance of consumerism. All of our comforts are conveniently distributed in disposable containers. Buy more disposable things, waste less of your precious time! Never mind the impact – if it doesn’t impact you, there is no impact, right?
And no, it’s not like we’re not consumers either. But we as consumers have a great choice. Vic and I choose to buy re-usable items – things that may need replacing after years of use, but with care will last us through many seasons. Plastic plates and washcloths instead of paper plates and paper towels. We choose foods and products that have less packaging, less waste. Bulk bags of trail mix and eggs in recyclable paper cartons; a five-gallon water jug instead of two cases of bottles. It doesn’t cost us any less, and in some cases it may cost a little more. But that five-gallon jug, at $8, may last us ten years. The trail mix will last a week, with only one bag to show for it. It’s all the little things, and they add up. It just makes sense to be green, to be good stewards of our earth. And considering that we were in the desert in July to be closer to nature, we made the rash assumption that others might share that viewpoint. As it turns out, no one seems to be able to step outside their stressful, angsty little comfort zone and get a litte more mileage out of their effort. No, ‘vacation’ must mean a chance to bring it all with you but let someone else clean up your mess. It’s just sad. But Vic and I will continue to be as green as we can be, in hopes that we might make up a little for the actions of others.
This little foray into the desert showed me many things. One may look at the desert and think it to be devoid of life. Dead. But no – it is alive. So fully alive that it’s almost unbelievable. All of these things survive with less. Less water, less shelter, fewer food sources. But they thrive. Why? Because they have adapted to living with less. Why can’t we do the same?