Lessons in Adaptation
So much of life on the road is learning to adapt.
Zach Bowman has sold everything he owns, slapped a camper to his high-mileage 2003 Dodge Ram and has taken his family on the road. His clan numbers three, counting wife, Beth, and their infant daughter. They are touring America, working and discovering, and are sending The Drive periodic dispatches from the road.
So much of this life is an exercise in adaptation. Bend to the circumstances, or be broken by them; swim with the current, or drown in it. It’s the slow lesson—second by second, minute by minute, day by day—of the past two months.
After the hell hike in Seminole Canyon, we broke down and bought a new pack for kiddo. The old one was a hand-me-down from Beth’s older brother, perfect for Saturday morning jaunts to the farmer’s market or quick walks around the campground. Less so for hauling a 30-pound toddler up and down uneven terrain.
We ponied up and spent half a week’s pay on a bright green contraption with straps and pulls and storage and hydration. A sunshade. No more contending with floppy yellow sunhats or fair-skinned little girls determined to fling things off the closest canyon cliff.
We’ve had plenty of occasions to put the thing to use. Spent our days in Los Alamos hiking and climbing and exploring the wealth of public land that engulfs the town, my cousin and her husband happy to show off their oasis. And it is an oasis, a bright spot of education and appreciation for the Earth it sits on.
Not so, elsewhere in the state. There’s so much trash. Paper and bags and bottles caught in fence rows, all left there, never to rot. We’ve seen the fruits of the ignorant and the lazy all over this country, garbage strewn about otherwise pristine campsites and mountain trails, floating in crystal waters or washing up on forgotten beaches. But it’s worse here. Or at least, more visible.
The shortsighted selfishness of it stokes a rage in me. How someone can spoil a thing so perfect. That I can’t let my daughter crawl in the dirt for fear of cutting her hands on broken glass left there by some lazy asshole. That we’d rather pay an army to bomb the fuck out of a country I’ll never step foot in than employ men and women to take care of our own sprawling and beautiful lands.
We pick up what we can. Bag it, haul it off to a dumpster somewhere. It’s a small dent.
And it’s a shame, because New Mexico is beautiful. There’s something about the sky out here. More than a vastness: the clouds are different, somehow. Massive cumulous creations, flat-bottomed and floating in formation through a depthless blue sky. And the great plateaus of land run parallel to them, a respectful chasm between the two.
Wind and water have sculpted impossible scenes from the sandstone, washed and sanded away layers of sediment and soil and volcanic ash to build beautiful slot canyons 650 feet deep. The layers on the walls are a story told in eons—that of our planet’s particular brand of violence and calm. I’ve never seen anything like it, the functional definition of fantastic: hewn from fantasy.
We hiked Tent Rocks on our last day. Scrambled up the mile-and-a-half hike with six kids in tow, stood at the top of the canyon’s thin spine to behold the miracle around us, the snow peaks of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains at the far edge of the horizon. Breathing hard, my daughter on my back, the now-familiar question echoed from the back of my skull: Could we live here?
Standing with our newfound family, the answer came clear for the first time since we set off.
Yeah, maybe so.