Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lessons in the Desert

Day 3 - June 28, 2008 (Exactly one year ago today)

When we woke up, the wind was still blowing, hard. Holding the door of the pop-up against the wind, I looked out over an incredible landscape. We had camped inside of Badlands National Park. Beyond the lush prairie of wildflowers lay the unique desert formations that can only be the Badlands. Wow. We’re here.

We decided that I would drop my husband, Andrew, and Gladys off at the Castle trailhead. Two hours later I would pick them up on the other side. It was so windy when I dropped them off that we could only manage to open one door of the van at a time. Yes, he was sure he wanted to go with the kids. Yes, he had water for each of them. I took pictures of them heading off, then drove back to the main road.

What do you do with a toddler in the desert on a windy day? Hmm, two hours.

I stopped at an overlook, then another. I took in the beautiful scenery. At one pull-off, I took pictures of the wildflowers. I was lying on the desert floor trying to get the best shot, when another car pulled in ahead of me. A girl jumped out of the side door and ran into the desert toward a rock formation. A split second later, an older man (in his early 70’s??) leapt from the car with a camera. I saw him run down a little hill, and then immediately disappear.

I craned my neck.

Finally, the man stood back up, brushing himself off. Not seeing anyone else in the car, I stood in my door to ask him if he was okay. He laughed.

“Yes, I’m fine, just dirtied my trousers a bit. I was trying to get a picture of her on that rock.”

He smiled broadly. I smiled and scolded.

“Well, serves you right for gallivanting through the desert like that.”

He laughed again. “My wife and I used to come through here with our kids when they were little. I’m finally able to show my granddaughter. She’s never been here.”

I looked. The girl was about seven or so. “It is a priority for us to travel with our children too, there is so much to see and learn.”

He looked over my shoulder, by now George was asleep between two empty car seats.

“My 5 and 3 year old are hiking with their dad.” He nodded approvingly.

“How old is your granddaughter?” I asked looking again at the young girl.

“Oh, my granddaughter is in the car, that’s my great-granddaughter.”

My jaw dropped so suddenly, no one could have interpreted it as anything but an honest reaction. He took it as the compliment that it was.

“I’m 88 years old,” he said with pride.

I shook my head and smiled. “I guess we should all spend more time gallivanting through the desert.”

After two hours, and still contemplating my youthfulness, I headed back to pick up my husband and kids. I knew they wouldn’t be there yet, but I would spend time at the fossil trail across the street. As I drove up, I saw a bouncy, curly-headed Gladys coming through the rocks with big brother and dad at her heels. I took George out of the car and let him walk across the desert towards them. He loved the rocks. “Mommy! Mommy!” they finally saw us “we saw all sorts of rocks, and cactuses, and a snake and, and, and . . . it was SO cool!!“

I guess we all learned something in the desert.

I wrote this last year after our vacation. I did not have a public blog at the time. I am posting this on a timer before I leave. - MIT Mommy


Anna said...

New life goal-be just like that old guy when I grow up!

Indy said...

Loved seeing the photos.

Brigette said...

Your one-year-ago self is your own guest blogger. It's like one of those innumerable time travel Star Treks. Too bad you weren't at Vasquez Rocks.

AreWeThereYet? said...

wonderful story...

Flea said...

I LOVE the photos in this post! And 88 - wow. Something to aspire to. Who knew gallivanting in the desert would do it?