Travel, PhotoBailey Tann

Boondocking at Moab

Travel, PhotoBailey Tann
Boondocking at Moab

The lush greens of northern Utah faded into red as we travelled east on I-70. It takes me back to that very first trip west years ago, when I saw red rocks rise around us heading into Arizona— for the first time ever. I could almost retrieve that feeling as the red rocks of Utah rose around us— of excitement and joy and awe of the world. Of seeing something with your own eyes, so close and new and unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Only this time we had, many times before. But the red rocks take me back to my first glimpse of freedom, and fuel the fire that has burned inside me since. They almost feel like home.

We headed straight to Moab, popping into a couple of thrift shops before grabbing ice cream at a diner and washing the van. It had become a daily ritual for us— promising ourselves ice cream after a long drive. I sucked down my cookies and cream shake as we headed back towards Arches National Park. We checked the Campendium app and scouted out our options for free boon-docking that evening and decided on an area just a few miles north of the park entrance, off of a dirt road with plenty of room for us and everyone else, no need to reserve a spot. The area was just north of ‘Under Canvas Moab’, a resort I saw pop up online a few years before. A stay is around $200 a night for the same view we had that evening— for free. And we still had running water. (lady dancing emoji)

We headed back to Arches as the sky clouded over and a storm approached. As we drove through the park we could see rain and lightening miles away and we pulled over to watch the storm inch across the sky. The air smelled like wet stone and soil— Petrichor, google just informed me. The colors of the desert became deeper and more saturated with the moisture and cloud cover. The shadows disappeared. The sky was blue-violet and the rocks an even deeper burnt orange. We opened up the van door and stopped to take in the vastness of the desert. Arches is my favorite kind of national park; winding roads with plenty of pull-offs between trail heads or look-out-points. There isn’t a bad view and there is plenty of room for everyone to spread out.

As the storm continued to roll through the sky, we changed our hiking plans and headed back to spend the evening at camp, skipping the infamous ‘Delicate Arch’ and saving it for a.. not so rainy day.

There were more boon-dockers when we returned, mostly large sprinter vans and a few tents. This year we saw more sprinter vans than we have ever before on these trips. On the road, driving through parks, camping, at gas stations. They were everywhere. And as a person who spent months searching the internet for vans, I am all too aware how much one of those babies can cost. I bought Lucy for $2800 and have put around $3000-$4000 fixing brakes, transmission, AC, belts, etc etc etc. Still doesn't touch the price of even an empty sprinter van. Let’s just say I hate/love them. I look at them with envy and also size them up behind the wheel of my 35 year old van. Its a fun time.

We found a spot in an open area and began the our daily routine of settling. Constantly moving, we had to transition into a settling period every day. Settling consisted of changing clothes/shoes, covering all of the windows in the van, cleaning the cabin so we could rest, planning dinner, cooking dinner, and relaxing before beginning our night routines. On this particular night, it stopped raining and we decided to sit on the porch(roof) before settling in that evening. After thirty minutes and a photoshoot for our upcoming album, (jokes) we climbed down, and spent the remainder of the evening inside the dimly lit van. Had my camera been accessible, I would have taken pictures of these evenings in order to accurately capture #vanlife. (I kept it safely stowed in a place that the bed made impossible to reach) These evenings are the majority of what our ‘rest’ time looked like. Not glamorous. Not terrible either. It just looks like self-entertaining inside a small space. Sometimes we played music or read aloud. Sometimes we laid and scrolled on our phones, looking up/at everything we had thought about that day. Or laughed and talked with light coming through the cracks in the windows. Then we set the alarms and waited for sleep.

The next morning we slept through our alarms but still rose early enough to get to the trail before all of the parking spots were filled. We decided to hike Devils Garden Loop Trail, wanting to take on a longer trail to really explore the park. We hiked 7.5 miles, often losing the trail but always finding it again. (like life do you get it? Trail is life) The weather was a cool 70F, never creeping to 80F and we took our time, resting at different arches, snacking, and meeting other hikers. We finally finished before noon and could have napped in the parking lot for hours. Instead, we decided to use what energy we had left to make it to Colorado. Why stop when we have a home on wheels that can take us anywhere? On the road again.

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Photographer on the road