Seizing the Moment

“A whole month of camping! How do you stay clean?” This is a question I often get asked. There are a couple of answers I could give: “I don’t” or “let me tell you…” I have gone for a week without a shower, but that is pretty much my max. I find ways, maybe not to stay clean, but to get clean from time to time, when opportunity affords it.  Most National Parks in the West do not have shower facilities, unless it’s a largely popular National Park, then you might find a coin shower, like in Bryce Canyon or Yellowstone. There’s a zero chance of finding a shower in a National Forest facility, as their standard is just a vault toilet and maybe, if you are lucky, a sink. Last year, when I was camping in Sequoia National Park, I counted a swim in a river enough of a bathe for me, but you should never bring soap or shampoo into a river. It can be harmful to creatures who inhabit the waters.

When no park shower facility is available I get creative. Often times I resort to getting a day pass to a gym and taking full advantage of the shower in the locker room. Gold’s Gym’s are popular throughout the West, and a day pass is well worth it. For Moab, I had to do a bit of prior investigation, but I did had a shower planned in my itinerary. Online I had found Moab’s Recreation and Fitness Center. They expect visitors and charge solely for shower use, but they also offer a day pass to the gym. It has become my practice that If I’m going to shower at a gym, I’m going to get a good workout in too. As someone who is tall and lanky, with a fast metabolism, days on end of hiking, causes me to lose muscle weight. I try to salvage some muscle by tearing it up in the gym and making sure I follow up with enough protein and nutrients to repair.

Moab’s Recreation and Fitness facility  was tucked away in the neighborhood in a very residential part of town. It was insightful to gain another perspective of Moab, apart from the Main Street of tourist shops and restaurants. The neighborhood was clean, quiet, and simple. I parked alongside the road and went in to workout and get cleaned up. The facility was sleek and looked very new. The receptionist was very friendly.

When I workout in the gym, typically I target one or two specific muscle groups. Since this was my first gym workout in a while, and would be the only one for days to come, I decided to work a little bit of everything.

When I’m back in Kentucky on normal time, I value lifting and working out in the gym for a multitude of reasons. One of them is that it keeps me physically fit to have these adventures. Pulling myself up and over rocks, climbing up steep slopes, hauling around large and heavy backpacks for miles, and the rare occurrence of holding onto a cliff edge for my life, requires that I have exceptional upper body strength. Also the self discipline developed in the gym, allows me to keep pressing forward when things get difficult.

After my workout, I was off to the shower. It felt absolutely amazing, as the salty sweat, layers of sunscreen, and desert dust was washed away from my face. I took in the comforting sensation of  warm water relaxing my back, which had become so accustomed to carrying a backpack.

Coming out of the shower, there were others moving in and out of the locker room, having just finished their own workouts. There were also kids having just finished swimming lessons going about in all directions. Wrapped in a towel, I laid my sitch bag on the counter next to the faucet and pulled out my shaving cream, razors, toothbrush, dental floss, and mouthwash. I had lots of personal maintenance work to be done. I felt rather awkward shaving in the midst of a bustling locker room. I remember when I lived in Houston, Texas, people would shave in the locker rooms, but that was in a major city. Much more is acceptable in big cities than in small towns. I didn’t know if this was socially acceptable here, but I went with it anyway. Even if people were to have passed silent judgement on me, it didn’t matter. They didn’t understand how valuable this opportunity was for me, and, plus, I was truly a stranger. I was here one day, but would be gone the next. I would make sure I cleaned up after myself, so what difference did it make?

When I left the recreation center, I felt clean and refreshed. Evening was approaching. The sky was clear and the air was hot but dry. The harshness of the sun had resided. An overwhelming sense of peace met me in this moment. There is a certain sense of accomplishment obtained from being able to live out of a car and travel wherever you want and still keep healthy and get clean. I remember returning to my car parked alongside the road and just feeling very pleased with life and myself. I felt good about my body having just cleaned, worked out, and shaved. I felt healthy and ready. I had some amazing things planned and adventures to be had. I pulled from my food supply a Muscle Milk and a protein packed crispy rice bar. I was relaxed yet ready for the evening ahead of me.

Before heading to my campground, I needed to run a few errands. I stopped by Walker Drug Company, which was a very impressive general store. It had a little bit of everything carefully and purposefully stocked- food, clothes, camping gear, souvenirs. In the East, the general store is pretty much nonexistent, except for the chain, Dollar General. In the West, the general store is still alive. I bought one of my dietary staples, Greek yogurt, to get some additional protein after working out, and I purchased a dual prong USB charger for the car. I was impressed because I had never seen a dual prong USB charger. Later this would prove to be a nemesis, blowing a fuse in my car.

From the general store, I went to City Market, Kroger rebranded for Utah. I was feeling sick of eating Clif Bars, jerky, and dried berries. I wanted some fresh food, So I bought some apples, oranges, bananas, and peppers, as well as stocked up on the usual. After loading the groceries in my car, I was feeling hungry and also wanted to find some Wifi to share the photo of myself by Delicate Arch. I stopped by a McDonalds. I got an Egg McMuffin (taking advantage of McDonald’s new all day breakfast menu) and an iced coffee. I pulled out my Chromebook, inserted my SD card, and began searching for the photo of me next to the arch. This was a tedious task, as the machine was very slow, with it’s memory at near full capacity, housing all my photos from last summer’s adventure.  While I was fumbling through the machine in search of the photo, a young man with hiking boots that were plastered with dusty Utah soil, and a McDonalds tray in hand, took a seat right next to me. I looked over to see if he was going to say anything, but he said nothing. I found this very peculiar, because the McDonald’s was very spacious, and numerous tables were open all over the place, but he chose to sit right next to me, our shoulders nearly touching. I could tell by his attire of cargo shorts, nylon t-shirt, and dusty boots that he had been out hiking. For a moment, I thought about striking up conversation, but I was waiting for him to do so. After all, he is the one who rather awkwardly sat next to me, right inside my personal bubble.

My great fault of not taking initiative in meeting new people was on prime display here. I wanted to strike up conversation and hear his story. Was he another solo hiker by himself? What did we share in common? He didn’t seem like he intentionally wanted to make me feel uncomfortable. He didn’t seem very confident himself. It was as if he and I shared a lot in common. I imagine he had mustered up enough confidence to sit down next to a stranger, but not enough to engage in step two: initiating a conversation. The social complex between us was very complicated. I felt that he innocently and sincerely saw himself in me and wanted to start a connection, but both of our social insecurities got the best of us. I just tucked my face away in my Chromebook and neither of us said anything.

Whenever I recall my experiences in Utah, this comes to mind. If I had struck up conversation with him, I wonder what would have become of the conversation. Would I have made a new friend. How much did we truly share in common? As someone who lives a rather solitary life, the prospect of finding a new friend is exciting to me, and forming a connection with anyone is very valuable and a rare occurrence to me. People sometimes misunderstand me and my solo adventures, thinking that I just want to be alone. Although I do enjoy some moments by myself, the reason why I adventure so often by myself is because there is no one else to share adventure with.  Coming across another person who shares the same adventurous spirit, no matter who they are, is exciting to me. This young man in McDonald’s could have been a valuable connection to share adventures stories with.

I can only conclude that this was a missed opportunity, and although I do believe everything happens for a reason, I think the takeaway from this is a lesson learned. From here on out I promised that If such an opportune situation for a social interaction comes my way I seize the moment, and not let the opportunity pass.

Read the next entry “Camping in Strange Woods,” here:

Read the previous entry “Trouble at Arches National Park,” here:



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