My Cross Country Trip~
The year was 1986. I was 25 years old, madly in love, and ready to leave Pennsylvania. I had been there since 1979; four years of college and three years working. I was feeling that itch to "go". I thought that this would be a good time to live my dream - a cross country trip hiking and camping in every National Park in the US.
I quit my job, sold everything I owned including my 650 Yamaha motorcycle, and found a home for my beloved Golden Retriever, Brandy. My boyfriend decided to join me at some point in this process much to my relief and delight. We headed out in mid-August in his Volkswagon Golf, packed to the gills with camping equipment, food, and books.
It was not too far into the trip -- the Badlands to be exact -- that something went horribly awry.
I wish I could give you details or even adequately explain what happened. But, I can't. I don't know what happened that night in the Badlands under a full moon. I only know that when we woke up the next morning, our relationship had changed significantly. He wouldn't touch me.
Did I say I was madly in love? Good. Then anyone reading this can imagine what it was like to be on the road for three months with someone who can not tell you why or what has just happened. My dream of a lifetime had become a nightmare. -- imagine camping in a teeny, tiny tent, driving in a little car, and hiking for hours and hours in some of the most majestic, beautiful parks in this county with someone who won't touch you, or talk about it.
The amazing part of this story is that we had an unbelievable time. Somehow, we were both able to come to a place of peace. I think the sense of awe, the stillness that pervades all your senses when you are hiking in Nature, and just 'being' in the moment somehow eased the pain. We witnessed so many incredible sights -- surprising a grizzly bear at Glacier Park, a mother moose and her two babies at the Grand Tetons, the singing of the elk, who later pissed on our tent while we were sleeping, (And, yes, that was perhaps the most terrifying event of the trip), 100,000 bats flying over our heads at Carlsbad Caverns, and the overwhelming silence and lushness of the Hoh rain forest.
It was an adventure. A chapter of my life I will never forget and one that I will relive vicariously through my sister who is about to make a similar trip. It will be the first time in her life that she will be alone -- time to explore both the outer beauty of this country, and her inner world as she traverses the secondary roads. I hope she finds the same sense of peace.