Day 8: Austin to White Sands National Monument.

To infinity, and beyond!!

 

Those are the words that come to mind when thinking about this journey that my dog and I have embarked on.  The phrase is suiting, but lacks originality.  Hopefully, by the end of this trip, something more perfect will come to mind.

 

I guess that’s what this trip is about, though.  Finding something that I’m not looking for.  Granted, there is a lot that I am looking for.

 

There is a lot that I am expecting to find.  

 

Although I have set my mind to expect certain things, I’m hoping by the end of it all, no expectations exist.  Rather, I’m hoping to simply lose the need to have expectations.  If there are no expectations, there are no disappointments.  Right?

 

Today, Thursday, June 19th, marks the 8th day of our journey.  We’ve covered a little over 1.8k miles.  We’ve seen a wealth of landscapes and people.  

 

It was last Tuesday when we finally left Austin.  Preparing for the leave was exciting, but also overwhelming.


Will I need this? That? All of these?  Yes.  Well, until I tried to fit them into my compact car.

I'm so ready.

Bro, I'm ready!!

I began to load up around noon, and shortly after that, my car was packed to the brim, holding about two-thirds of my things.  I went back through, tossing out silly things that I had a difficult time justifying the second time around.  Finally, everything fit.  There was just enough room for Sid and I.

 

We made a couple final stops to fly the GoPro around downtown a few times before taking off.  In the two years we spent in Austin, this city has transformed immensely.  I’m looking forward to seeing what Austin develops into while I am gone.

It was nearing sunset when we finally hit the road.  Our first stop was about three hours outside of Austin.  A nice opportunity to stretch our legs, pee on fence posts, and chase our favorite blue ball.

 

The goal was to make it to the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis.  The GPS had us scheduled to arrive around 3:00 AM.  That’s what we get for a late start.  

 

While sorting the items to take on this trip in the week prior, I was optimistic that there would be enough room for everything as well as room to sprawl out in the back if we needed to stop and nap.  Of course that wasn't the case, and once 1:00 AM rolled around, I was ready for a siesta.

 

Tossing and turning in the driver’s seat of my parked car, I tried to find a position comfortable enough for a few hours of rest.  No luck.  I googled campsites nearby, and one 15 minutes from the observatory popped up.  It was two hours away.  I took a shot of gas station coffee and powered forward.  

 

The failed attempt at sleep wasted caused us to arrive around 4:00 AM.  Thankfully, we were the only ones there.  I quickly pitched the tent, and instantly began to saw logs.

This wasn’t exactly the way I saw this adventure going.  We weren’t off to a great start.  The last thing you want on a long trip like this is to be tired and uncomfortable.  Though the long drive did put us in a great position geographically.

We were just a few hours from White Sands National Monument.  It was a place I had seen in photos, a place I had wanted to visit, but it was always an “if I have time” stop, rather than a destination.  

 

We arrived at White Sands around 6:30 PM on Wednesday night.  It just so happened that this night was also a full moon.  The ranger informed me that there were a lot of people who were going to be at the park for the Full Moon Walk.  Something the park does every full moon.  “Damn, tourist city,” I thought.

It was three dollars for admittance, and three dollars for camping.  The only camping option was primitive camping, about a mile and a half hike.  Of course I was only prepared for car camping, so this was going to be tough.

 

A seven mile drive into the park was where the parking sites were.  There were families everywhere.  All preparing for the Full Moon Walk.  Fortunately, it was nowhere near where I was camping.  

 

As I pulled in I was scrambling to get some photos before the sun disappeared over the horizon,  all the while knowing I needed to eat and prepare my things before hiking the mile and half to the primitive camp spots.

 

I began rushing, in fear that I would be forced to set up in the dark.  The primitive camping area was poorly marked.  I walked for over a mile before I realized I had no idea where I was going.  Nothing but sand dunes, and they all looked alike.  On my back I toted a 25lb bag with camera gear, a backpack with water, camping equipment, an oversized sleeping bag, and a folding chair.  The temperature was in the low 80’s, but beads of sweat still dripped from my head.  

I gave up trying to find the site.  I hadn’t seen anyone on my hike.  In the distance I could hear the faint sound of the Full Moon Walk tour guide spouting out inaudible instructions through her megaphone.

 

“Whatever!” I said, as I began to get the feeling that primitive campsite #3 did not actually exist.  I looked for the highest dune I could find and set up my tent there.  

 

The sun finally disappeared, moments after I set up my site.  The weather was perfect, there was a nice warm breeze and and not another person in sight.  Sid was having a blast exploring what appeared to be an endless land of white sand.

 

I sat in my chair, taking in the moment.  

 

It was perfect.  

 

Everything was perfect.

 

It was in this moment that I realized how much solitude was around me.  There was literally no noise.  There was no light pollution.  There was nothing.  

 

And it was perfect.

 

Shortly after this realization, I decided to become one with nature.  Living the way nature intended!! I stripped down to my birthday suit and began to aimlessly wander this immaculate and seemingly infinited land.  

 

It was before midnight that my head finally hit the pillow, a great night’s rest awaited me.  I was awakened by the heat of the morning sun.  I packed up my things and headed back to my car.

 

Camping at White Sands was one of the greatest experiences of my life.  It has set the tone for the trip thus far.  The stress of the previous night was followed by the most tranquil camping experience anyone could ask for.  It was almost as if the universe was balancing itself out.  

 

What is even more amazing, is that I slept, and I slept well.  While living and working in Austin, I spent countless hours staring at my monitor, my computer screen, my iPad and my iPhone.  From dawn ‘till dusk,  I would lay down to sleep at midnight, and often times it would be 3:00 AM to 5:00 AM before I would fall asleep.  Just two days in nature and my clock had been reset.  

 

We are fresh into our journey, but I’m highly optimistic.  My goal is to become less reliant on my own expectations, and more open to going with the flow.

 

I’m looking forward to sharing my adventures with anyone who wants to hear about them!

 

Until then, to infinity and beyond!! (until I come up with something better….) :)