I would like to introduce myself. I am America, and I am the land of the free.
I am a landscape where the sun sets as purple as the mountain’s majesty, where the sea shines like a child’s first-time-to-the-beach eyes and, yes, I regret those amber waves of grain that have combover-ed my once great plains. I’m the foot traffic in Yosemite and the car jams in Yellowstone. I’m the memory of a thousand year old forest covered in a dying strip mall and, of course, I’m all of that city sunset which would never be possible without the smog of progress.
But, I am not lost, not nearly gone and I have never been less forgotten than in this day and age. Though many a pioneer, conquistador and mountain man have roamed, raped and reveled in my wild during days long gone, there are more humans exploring my deepest, darkest and most jaw-dropping corners these days than ever before. I am the home of decked-out vans, downtrodden trailers and a Rubix cube of RVs in between these days. I’m the climber without a rope and the flat screen TV blasting Sunday Night Football in the distant desert all at once.
So come, and find me. Be good to me. Leave me better than when you came, and respect the man with the matches as much as the guy with the generator. We’re all here for a common purpose, to recognize, respect and find ourselves resplendent in this vast majesty we call the United States.
Welcome to the National Forest
I was brought here eons ago. By the salmon swimming back upstream, guts full of ocean nutrients and sheer determination. By the winds of the Pacific and the sun’s good, constant shine. I have shared my acorns and pollen, my compost, my seeds. My shade and my darkest shadows, my summery glades and winter’s avalanche. No human has ever breathed without me, and yet here I am, a fraction of my former glory.
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Still, I’m not angry.
I’m deep and I’m shallow, however you choose. You can pay to live within me, ski my slopes, or hunt my game. You can walk through my trees, as deep as your legs will take you, your backs will hold your chosen load, and sleep two-story tent beneath my canopy or on your bare back, the smallest of my creepiest crawlers left to share the ground with you.
You can take me as I am, worship me as a god, or cut me non-existent. I won’t respond. How can I? My only recourse is, after all, extinction.
Welcome to the BLM
Some call me desert. I am empty, they say. Nothing but potential for oil, maybe ranching. Or, at my most splendid, tourism. I am prickly pear and endless sage, boondocking behind a boulder or ATV tracks into the distance. I’m teenage parties and adults doing something quite similar, with more recycling perhaps. I am here not for your enjoyment, not for some future government stronghold or cash cow, but simply because this is who I am.
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The distance. The far away. A place no one goes unless they’re trying to get to somewhere most people won’t be. And how will they treat me? Budweiser cans and cigarette butts, unattended fires gone brush wild. Someday, perhaps, forgotten again, when man has fallen far from his high horse, when he’s either extinct or the cautionary tale for the next big thing on this planet.
For now though, I am yours, and I’m here to be just that. Love me if you can, leave me be the way I am if you, perhaps, cannot.
Where Now Though, My Friend?
Whatever intentions we all may have, collectively for the good of this planet and mankind, or selfishly as individuals eager to thrust ourselves into the spec of limelight we can possibly occupy in the grand scheme of time as a whole, I wonder if you might join me in those places I still have left to prove you might fall in love?
The leaning towers of the Grand Tetons, as though they’ve spent a lifetime carrying their snowy-peaked children on their shoulders, high above the troubles of century’s gone below. The whispering glacial rivers of the Pacific Northwest, an eternal sled ride down their valleyed hugs, between firs and kingfishers, feeding towns and eventually the ocean until they haul themselves back, cloudy, to the moutaintops again. Or the kid who grabs a bug, desperately at first, but then gently, looking at whatever part of it he believes to be its eyes, its heart…and then allows the thing to go on its merry way again, unharmed.
You and I, we could be friends. I promise to treat you as such, and can only hope you might do the same for me.