Alone in Vast Spaces

Published: July 3rd 2015
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Monument ValleyMonument ValleyMonument Valley

As seen through my bug-splattered windshield. This entry will have photos primarily taken from this vantage point.
Nine years ago, since I first caught the travel bug, I’ve traveled almost exclusively alone, and almost always in foreign countries. But, I’ve never really been alone. I’ve relied on people for language help, for food, shelter, and directions. I’ve been jammed against people in public transportation and hitched rides in cars full of strangers. People have always been an integral part of any trip. This trip is different.

I drive alone in my car. I cook alone on my camp stove. I sleep alone in my tent. It’s definitely different, but I can’t say that I’m lonely. For the moment, I’m rather enjoying the solitude.

In fact, when given the choice between setting my tent up at a campground full of people or finding a dispersed camping site somewhere out on public land, I’ll invariably choose the latter. I enjoy the quiet. And I enjoy rocking out knowing that no one is looking (although not much would keep me from rocking out even if someone was looking).

I’m also choosing to travel by unfrequented scenic byways, such as Nevada’s Highway 50, known as “The Loneliest Road”. True to its moniker, there were only a handful
Ancient Petroglyphs, Grimes Point, NevadaAncient Petroglyphs, Grimes Point, NevadaAncient Petroglyphs, Grimes Point, Nevada

I stopped for a quick potty break by the side of Highway 50 and stumbled upon a boulder field of ancient petroglyphs. The rock art at Grimes Point dates between 5000 BC and 1500 AD.
of other cars I passed during the seven hours I spent driving down it. Whenever I saw something that I found exceptionally beautiful, I would, at first, carefully pull over to the side of the road to take a picture. As soon as I realized the degree of my solitude, I’d just stop right in the middle of the highway and take a picture through my window.

Taking byways has also made me appreciate how enormously vast the United States are. After 2,500 miles of highway driving, I can count the number of towns I’ve driven through on my two hands. On The Loneliest Road, these towns can easily have 100 miles between them. They are self-described living ghost towns, the deserted remnants of once-great silver mining towns and major stops for the Pony Express. I was lucky if they had a working gas station.

Much of the area I’ve traveled through has been largely unexplored throughout history. Utah’s Highway 12 follows the exact route of Major John Powell’s 1871 expedition through the unchartered territory of southern Utah. It took his team four years to fill in what had been the last blank spot on the map of
Sleeping Alone at King CreekSleeping Alone at King CreekSleeping Alone at King Creek

Dixie National Forest, Utah
the continental United States.

There may not be any people here, but it’s hardly empty – and it’s beautiful beyond measure. There are mountain ranges, high plateaus, desert valleys and basins. There are unexpected pine forests, rivers, and creeks. There are bighorn sheep, deer, jackrabbits, and reptiles of all kinds. So, even if I’m the only human around for miles, I’m not really alone.

Additional photos below
Photos: 30, Displayed: 23


Highway 50, NevadaHighway 50, Nevada
Highway 50, Nevada

A field of bentonite clay on the Loneliest Road.
Hell's Backbone BridgeHell's Backbone Bridge
Hell's Backbone Bridge

Hell's Backbone Road is a gravel road running through the Box-Death Hollow Wilderness (how about that for a name?) and connecting Escalante and Boulder, Utah. The road is not for the faint of heart.

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