Residency is a two-part journal entry brought to you by one of our favorite creatives.
This week, the Virginia-based artist Evenings talks about the second half of his recent road trip through the states.
After we left Austin we drove up towards Dallas because James has family there. We stayed at his brother’s house for about three days before deciding that we wanted to begin to head west, and eventually land in New Mexico for a few days. In Dallas we had basically just been hanging out with their dog, Mr. Puggles, and riding bikes around the neighborhood the whole time.
We got a late start on the day we decided to leave, so our first stop was a little state park called Lake Mineral Wells about an hour and half outside Dallas. We set up camp, cooked, then went swimming in the lake.
When we woke up the next day we set a course for Palo Duro Canyon, a state park and reserve in West Texas. We planned on it being our last stop in the state. Five hours later we were there. It had been hot the whole trip, but this place was no joke. The temperature gauge in the car read 109° F. We parked the car and walked into the welcome center to get some lunch. After we ordered, some sunburnt girl ran into the building and said that her friend had passed out on a hike. The guy in charge asked if she was actually serious because the girl was giggling as if it was hilarious. He then called a few rangers to find the girl, and hydrate her immediately. We finished our food, bought a few gallons of water, and went to find a camp site.
Palo Duro was a very interesting looking place. Growing up on the East coast I’m used to a very lush landscape, filled with green things. This was much different. The landscape was a burnt umber, and reminded me of something from a Clint Eastwood movie. We chose a campsite down in the canyon, and began setting up for the night. Afterwards we decided to go hike up onto one of the ridges to see what the view looked like from up there. I brought a couple cameras, and took a few photos. At this point in the trip I really felt like I was gone.
The landscape was very different from anything I’d seen before. We went back to the camp and ate again. James had bought a travel sized chess board, so we played some chess and wondered what New Mexico would be like.
One thing that I really liked about sleeping outside was that my sleep cycle improved dramatically. I basically just slept when it was dark and woke when the sun came up. We were getting up around 6:30 a.m. every morning. We went for another hike that morning, then decided to pack up the camp and get on the road for a day of driving. We had about another five hours to go before we made it into New Mexico as Texas is a huge-ass state. It would be dope if Texas was its own country. I think they should secede. On the drive we eventually started to notice our altitude increasing, and we began to see greener looking vegetation again. We went up and up. Before long we were in the mountains of New Mexico. James was stoked. He didn’t really get down with Texas.
I didn’t really know what to expect from New Mexico. I was surprised at how beautiful it was. Eventually we came to a visitor center and stopped to ask for directions to the nearest campsite. The elderly guy working gave me a map and told me that I was in the town of Angel Fire in an area of New Mexico called the Enchanted Circle. This dude was kinda spooking me out. He let me know that the closest open camping was probably in a little town called Red River, about a half hour away. Eventually we made it into Red River and set up camp in the woods. Our plan for the next day was to head into the Taos Ski Valley and to summit Wheeler peak, the highest peak in New Mexico, in the southern Rocky Mountains.
We woke the next day, ate, filled our packs with water, food, hatchets, and a fire starter, then headed to the base of the mountain. The hike was about eight miles up hill, so we started at around 8 a.m. and planned to be back sometime that night. This hike kicked my ass. I probably drank two gallons of water before we reached the top. At around 12,000 feet we began to hear thunder, and it started to rain. It turns out being 12,000 feet about sea level in a thunderstorm is a bad idea. In all fairness, the weather forecast for the day was clear. We turned around and began our descent in order to avoid being struck by lightning. When we finally reached the bottom of the mountain I was too exhausted to speak. Something felt off. We returned to camp and I ate some noodles before passing out at around 4 p.m. I woke early in the morning, and my neck felt itchy. Mosquitos had become a very standard occurrence on this trip, especially the part of my body that was exposed when I was sleeping. So I reached over and felt the side of my collarbone. There were a large amount of itchy welts there. I slowly moved my hand down and noticed that the welts did not seem to be ending. Begrudgingly, I opened my eyes. When I unzipped my sleeping bag and looked at my torso in the morning light, I nearly fainted… My forearms, my thighs, my whole body was covered in red spots. Even my eyes were difficult to keep open. I reached down and pulled something round and green from the inside of my knee.
“is this a tick?!”
“…it doesn’t look like a tick. it’s green.”
I grabbed a shirt, a pair of shorts, unzipped the tent and walked over to where the car was parked. I examined my face in the side mirror. I looked terrifying. My eyes were swollen, and my forehead was reddish purple. I waited about a half hour, then I woke up James.
“I think I need to go to the hospital.”
He took one look at me, and didn’t ask many questions. We got in the car and drove into town. The only place nearby was a small doctor’s office. The population of Red River is 482. The office was closed until 9 a.m. so we walked around town, and went into a couple of gift shops. I felt like Frankenstein’s fucking monster. Anyway, I bought a Red River T-shirt. Not that I was ever going to forget this place. Finally 9 a.m. rolled around and I walked into the doctor’s office. The receptionist told me I had to fill out a couple forms, so I did, and then she asked me what was wrong.
“Uh. I have hives all over my body.”
She gave me a look like, “Oh shit. Yeah… You do.”
About ten minutes later I went into see the doctor. I told her about the hike, and about the green thing on the back of my knee. She pulled out a giant syringe full of steroids and stuck it in my arm. Then she gave me a prescription for a very powerful antibiotic, and let me know that the ticks closer to the West coast don’t usually carry Lyme disease, but she didn’t want to take any chances. I thanked her and then walked out into the waiting room where James was reading a book.
“Let’s go to Colorado,” he said.
We got in the car and nope’d the fuck out of the “Enchanted Circle.” Peace.
After a few hours in the car my skin had started to go back to normal. We set a course for Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. It’s hard to put into words what this place is like. It’s surreal. Just look at it.
It’s an enormous set of sand dunes (the tallest in America) surrounded by an enormous set of mountains. According to Wikipedia:
The dunes were formed from sand and soil deposits of the Rio Grande and its tributaries, flowing through the San Luis Valley. Over the ages, glaciers feeding the river and the vast lake that existed upon the valley melted, and the waters evaporated. Westerly winds picked up sand particles from the lake and river flood plain. As the wind lost power before crossing the Sangre de Cristo Range, the sand was deposited on the east edge of the valley. This process continues, and the dunes are slowly growing. The wind changes the shape of the dunes daily.
We set up camp, hiked around, then went to get some food. My spots had basically faded at that point. I can’t remember what I ordered, but I remember that James ordered some type of lasagna thing. I didn’t think much about it until later that night. I woke up to the tent being violently unzipped. James ran out and immediately puked everywhere. What the hell was going on with us? I wake up looking like a Dalmatian, and James gets food poisoning all in less than 24 hours…? We spent the whole next day hanging around the camp as it rained. I popped antibiotics, and started re-reading Dune by Frank Herbert because it seemed really appropriate. James started feeling better during the afternoon so we hiked around. We probably spent a week at the Great Sand Dunes. It was such a wild looking place. But eventually we decided to move on. We got gas and headed north to Boulder.
Boulder is great. It’s a little crunchy and expensive, but people are nice, marijuana is legal, and it’s right at the base of the rocky mountains, about 45 minutes from Denver. I don’t have many crazy stories about Boulder. I really enjoyed myself there. It was relaxing. It’s a cozy little mountain town. We stayed there for a couple of days then headed into Nederland, CO before finally landing in Rocky Mountain National Park. In Nederland I became accustomed to seeing hippies dressed like wizards. Some of them even had staffs, no joke. They weren’t fucking around.
The night that we drove from Nederland into Estes Park. We sort of got lost on the way, mostly because we were (literally) really high. It was July by then and we were driving through snow on top of these 14,000 foot mountains. It was hard to get our bearings. After a few hours we came to a camp sight surrounded by elk. Some guy flashed his lights at us as we rolled up, then we almost smashed into a fucking gigantic moose standing on the side of the road. The mountains are spooky. We set up camp while these elk stared at us, then went to sleep. When we woke up the elk were still just chilling, eating grass outside the tent. We went hiking.
After a few days we decided to descend from the mountains and head into Utah.
Utah is orange. Look:
It’s also filled with mormon people who are exceedingly polite.
We rolled through Arches National Park, then got to Zion. The next day we hiked this rock formation called Angels Landing, and camped next to this group of Czech girls that were traveling cross country in the opposite direction. It was too damn hot, and we were getting tired of being in the desert so we got in the car and headed even further west the next day. Eventually we came the hellish city of Las Vegas. Neither of us had ever been so we stopped and decided to go to gamble in the Bellagio. I lost $70 in about 15 seconds playing craps. I won $30 back in black jack. James played one hand in Craps and won $76. Then we left. Everyone in those casinos is creepy as shit. We probably spent three hours in Vegas.
We camped in the middle of dessert in Nevada for one night, then started driving to Los Angeles.
Somewhere along the way we hit the Grand Canyon in Arizona and camped for a couple days. We got bored so we rented some mules to ride around for a little while. My mule’s name was Suds. He was dirty as hell.
So anyway, we eventually made it into Los Angeles. We stayed in LA for a while, basically just skating every day. We spent the majority of our time in the valley, Venice, and Rancho Cucamonga (where we were staying with our bud, Paul).
After a while I actually got tired of the beautiful weather, and wished it would fucking rain. At that point we knew it was time to head north into Yosemite. I can’t begin to explain how this place looks either. Look:
Places like this are almost frustratingly beautiful. I would stare at this impossible sight, unable to fully comprehend the magnitude of what I was seeing. Every morning I would unzip the tent and just stare at it.
We stayed in Yosemite for about a week before continuing to San Francisco and Oakland. We drove up and got a camp spot somewhere near Berkeley, and unpacked all the stuff, set up the tent, and unrolled our sleeping bags. I laid there in the foggy dark reading an Alan Watts book with a headlamp. The book was about Japanese Zen and Chinese Taoism. At times it became rather dense so I’d have to set the book down to simply think before returning to the page. I wondered if this trip had changed me at all. Either way It felt good to have barely opened my laptop in two months. I was about to go to sleep when I came to a passage that felt important in that moment:
I was sitting one night by the fire, trying to make out what was the right attitude of mind for meditation as it is practiced in Hindu and Buddhist disciplines. It seemed to me that several attitudes were possible, but as they appeared mutually exclusive and contradictory I was trying to fit them into one—all to no purpose. Finally, in sheer disgust, I decided to reject them all and to have no special attitude of mind whatsoever. In the force of throwing them away it seemed that I threw myself away as well, for quite suddenly the weight of my own body disappeared. I felt that I owned nothing, not even a self, and that nothing owned me. The whole world became as transparent and unobstructed as my own mind; the “problem of life” simply ceased to exist, and for about eighteen hours I and everything around me felt like the wind blowing across a field on an autumn day.
I set the book down and fell asleep.
Read Evenings’ first entry here.