Camping in Strange Woods

The sun had set, but there was still enough light  for me to barely see some of the wildlife around me. I passed nearly a dozen deer alongside the road. I was driving slowly, ascending an unknown mountain. An eerie unsettling sense of skepticism crept in. I was 60 miles removed from the bustle of Moab and just south of Canyonlands National Park. I had no framework to understand exactly where I was heading. I had a campsite reserved somewhere out here and had the coordinates entered in my GPS.

“You have reached your destination,” my GPS cordially sounded. There was nothing there, so I continued on. After a few miles later up the mountain, I decided I better head back down and have another look.  Sure enough, the second time I noticed my destination. There was a road. It was hard to see, and the entry onto it was through a cattle guard that had been nearly hidden with vegetation. Grass was growing up in the middle of it, and vines were wrapping around it. Furthermore, the branches of the trees hung low, and my vehicle would likely brush up against them. I eyed the thing for a moment. There was a sign “Buckboard Campground.” This was it. The grate of the cattle guard was very wide. Will my wheels get stuck on that, I thought. There’s only one way to find out. My car shook violently as it crossed the guard and shimmied through the tunnel of overgrowth. Then I was in.

There is no point in trying to recollect and recount my camping experience that night in the mountain, because in the intensity of the moment, I documented just what was going on:

Let it be documented that if there is ever a night I go strangely missing, it is tonight.

I am at Buckboard Campground in Utah. I found it impossible to find a campsite in Moab, so I’m sixty miles south in Manti Lasal National Forest.

To arrive, I entered into the middle of nowhere and ascended thousands of feet into a thickly wooded forest of some sort of non-pine tree with a white trunk. I think they are aspen. I have never been in a white forest before. I’m sure in the morning light it is beautiful, but at night the unfamiliarity is eerie. The moon is super bright and it makes the trees look as if they are glowing.

Because this type of forest is new to me, I don’t know what dwells in these woods. Are there bears? I just bought a ton of produce, being sick of granola bars, dried nuts and berries, and jerky, and my sleeping bag smells like Subway. I bet my feet smell delicious too.

And I’m all alone. No one else is up here at this campground. So it is the perfect place to be kidnapped or snatched by Sasquatch, or Scarfinger, or the aliens in the petroglyphs I’ve seen today and yesterday. They may come to abduct me.

There are so many possibilities for my demise and disappearance. I’m trying to make light of the situation, but in all sincerity there is uneasiness and concern. I am completely isolated and alone in a strange place.

I quickly built a fire and turned on five flashlights, establishing my neck of the woods. And I tried to bear proof my car, but I’m simply carrying too much food. I am looking forward to sunrise. Please come soon.

Despite my trivial panic, I survived. To calm myself and make myself feel more at home, I broke open my new book about the West and I became intrigued and lost in it’s great story. I occasionally kicked the sides of my tent to create noise and scare off intruders, whenever I heard leaves ruffling. Despite my initial fear,  I slept very well.

I awoke the next morning in an absolutely beautiful aspen forest, and two deer nonchalantly walked right in front of my tent. I opened my tent window and talked to the deers for a moment. Tree trunks were vibrantly white and the leaves of the aspen created a glowing green canopy just above me. I fell in love with the aspen forest. I’ve been a huge fan of the aspen ever since.


Read the next entry, “Canyonlands and Dead Horses,” here:

Read the previous entry “Seizing the Moment,” here:



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