Deserts and I Don’t Really Get Along: Reflections on Big Bend

Big Bend is where I first learned the desert hates me.

I’d never been to a desert before, and while I knew it would be hot and dry, I was also looking forward to seeing all sorts of new plants and animals – and to its cooling down at night. I figured I’d handled hot places before, and we were going in April, far from the hottest month.

The heat isn’t what I should have been concerned about. Yes, it was hot. The temperatures got up to triple digits in the middle of the day – and oh yeah, the “middle of the day” is from about 10AM to 4PM – but beyond that it was unbelievably, inconceivably, and in my opinion entirely too dry.


I had been lucky enough to realize I had some kind of virus developing the night before we left, and I’m sure my sore throat and stuffy nose weren’t helped by the aridity but there was more to it than that. There’s something about the dryness of the desert that saps not only every ounce of moisture it can from my body, but also every thought of hiking anything resembling a slope or going for a walk longer than 15 or 20 minutes.

It was a bizarre experience for me – in my life, dry air has always been coupled with the cold. Going to school in Minnesota, temperatures on January days would peak around 8 degrees if we were lucky, and the air didn’t really carry any moisture. But hot and dry was new, and I can say unequivocally that if I were to list the earthly environments for which I was most suited, the desert would probably be second from last, beating out only the bottom of the ocean.


Which is a shame because it’s absolutely beautiful. Life is everywhere – spindly bushes with tiny leaves, little lizards that dart across rocks, roadrunners and quail, coyotes who saunter across the road at sunset, shy big-eared mule deer watching any humans from a safe distance, and cacti of every size and shape.


After awhile, you get used to being surrounded by rock-strewn dirt and low grey-green shrubs, and you lose the sense of awe at the sheer size of the sky. It feels natural to look for clumps of green that indicate the presence of a spring, and to watch your footsteps carefully to avoid any basking rattlesnakes.

The desert is beautiful, yes, but it’s harsh, and it’s not hard for me to accept that I’m simply not made to live in a desert.

A cave, on the other hand, might do quite nicely.

See you on the road!



So what’s up and where are the new videos?

Hi everyone! As most of you know we are indeed on the second leg of the trip right now. And no, we haven’t suddenly decided to stop doing videos and blog posts. For some reason reliable Internet access has been much harder to find this time around than the first leg, and no decent Internet means no videos! We do have a few videos completed and ready for you to see, and we are crossing our fingers that we’ll be able to release the first one tomorrow! Thanks for your patience!

See you on the road,

DA & Louisa

On the Road, Off the Road (and a call for questions!)

Well hello readers! It’s been awhile, and we have been readjusting to home life and taking care of stuff that piled up while we were gone. We had Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it seems like so long ago that we were on the first leg of our road trip!

Last week, we finally got to sit down and plot the second leg (a big trek through some of the Western US) and spent some time reflecting on the parks we visited in our first series. In case you need a refresher, so far we’ve seen Cuyahoga Valley, Acadia, Shenandoah, Mammoth Cave, Congaree, Everglades, Biscayne, Dry Tortugas, Great Smoky Mountains, and Hot Springs. We camped in three of the ten plus a state park during Government Shutdown Disaster Mode, stayed in a few hotels and hostels, and crashed on various friends’ and family members’ couches. We ended up driving down and back up the length of Florida twice, spending 16 anxious days wondering if the trip would continue or if we would have to pack it up and go home. We put over 6,500 miles on our car.

And it was wonderful.

On the road we met a diverse group of people: the hiker from DC who joined our climb up Precipice, the couple from out west who gave us some tips for the next leg of the trip, the fisherman who informed us that mullet are the craziest fish, the international residents of a funky hostel in Florida. We talked to passionate and informed rangers at every park and handed out business cards on busses. We stayed with a couple of branches of DA’s extended family and friends we hadn’t seen since high school or longer, and made spontaneous last-minute decisions about what to do during the shutdown.

Life off the road is pretty different. We wake up in the same place every day, we have more than our suitcases of clothes to choose from, and we have a few more responsibilities. On the road, we mostly worried about staying on budget, setting up the tent before it got too dark, and finding hotels that weren’t too sketchy. At home, we worry more about shoveling snow, watering the plants, feeding the dogs, completing grad school applications, and getting to work on time. We have more options about what to eat- after all, we don’t have to cook over a camp stove or eat foods that survive at room temperature. And we sleep in real beds, with fuzzy blankets, instead of in three layers of clothing, hats, and gloves in a sleeping bag on the hard ground, or in strange hotel beds or hostel bunks.

Much as we are creatures of comfort, we can’t help but feel restless with knowing how much more of the country we still have to explore. We look forward to touring the Pueblos at Mesa Verde, Old Faithful at Yellowstone, and finally seeing the Grand Canyon. We’ll drive a different coastline (or part of it anyway) and spend time in a much higher mountain range. We’ll snorkel in the Pacific off the Channel Islands, and spend days in desert parks for the first time.

For now, though, we have to content ourselves with planning, imagining the warm sun of summer even while bundling up against February’s frigid cold. To take our minds off the icy chill that sets in every time we go outside, we’re planning on putting together a wrap-up video about the first leg of the trip – where you’ll get to see some different (and maybe slightly less professional) footage and hear our thoughts looking back on the journey so far. We would also love to include a Q&A from some of our readers. So if you have any questions about anything (life on the road, how we planned the trip, how we took video, editing) or if you have any feedback on our last series of videos (things we could do better, content you’d like to see, etc.) leave us a comment down below or e-mail!

We hope you’re all staying comfortable during this somewhat ridiculous winter, and as always, we’ll see you on the road!

DA & Louisa

Hot Springs – the very last Fall park!


Well, here it is, we’ve arrived at the end of the road for this leg of the trip! Hot Springs was an interesting park to end on, since it seems the least park-like of any park we’ve been to (even tiny Cuyahoga had more in the way of nature and hiking paths!).

We’ll have an update within the next week to discuss our plans for the rest of the trip, and we’ll post answers to some of the questions we’ve had about the parks we’ve been to so far. If you’d like to leave a question for us in the comments below, or e-mail it to us at, we’ll be happy to dig up an answer for you!

And as always, thank you for traveling with us!

Great Smoky Mountains- more like Great FOGGY Mountains!


This week our video is from the Great Smoky Mountains! We spent a few days there when the leaves had just started turning to fall colors. It was pretty crowded from the ‘leaf-peepers,’ but we were still able to take a nice hike and a foggy stroll up Clingman’s Dome! Check back next Wednesday for another video!