Car thermometers, given time to equilibrate after sitting in the sun, are pretty accurate. When yesterday’s high hit 109 late in the afternoon, my friends and I just looked at each other and said, “Let’s find a cooler place to hang out than this desert.” I mean, it is a matter of survival. We played Scrabble in my apartment, where the swamp cooler was able to keep it below 80 and it felt incredibly refreshing. We drank about a gallon of water and Gatorade and I made the word HOLLY for 42 points, once I was able to think clearly again.
July 19, 2009
The Devil’s Garden campground, our only one in Arches National Park, is 23 miles from the nearest town. It is QUITE dark up there, by design, and makes for exceptional night sky events. Friday night I slept in my lots-of-mesh tent, and was awakened early next morning by the light of Saturn (I think) shining through the nylon fabric itself. I remembered what we were told during training: You must sleep out under the stars at least twice this summer, so just do it. So, Saturday night, I hauled my Thermarest sleeping pad and my sleeping bag and pillow out of the tent and set it in a sandy area of the campsite. Girlfriend Kathy did the same with her stuff and we laid on our backs and were rendered speechless.
The milky way spanned the entire dome of sky. Errant bits of space debris from the Perseid meteor shower (next month) regularly hit our atmosphere and flamed into oblivion, leaving us pointing and gaping. There were almost more stars than space between them. Jupiter was beginning its ascent in the east, just above a large outcropping of sandstone silhouetted in the dark. The silence was all-encompassing, and I felt miniscule in the grand scheme.
I only wish I weren’t so near-sighted. Waking in the night, I would put my glasses on just so I could once more see the gazillion points of light above me and around me. It was a Night To Remember, with the 100+ degrees at sunset turning into the perfect 70 as we slept. I will lay out my sleeping gear under the stars many, many more times.
Life is too short to be enclosed. I pity the poor people whose journeys lock them into RVs and Airstreams.