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Free, Primitive Camping

My Travel Writing Scholarship 2011 entry - My Big Adventure

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 28 March 2011 | Views [685] | Comments [1] | Scholarship Entry

You never know what to expect when the sign reads "Free, Primitive Campsite," but after a week long drive (the last part of which was at the objection of a man named "Red," who happened to be mostly dressed in yellow) you really don’t care.
I'd arrived in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico early on Sunday morning with plans to explore. I learned very quickly, though, that aside from the inside of a church, I was not likely to see much of anything. I didn’t mind. After all, I was in the only city in the United States named after a television show.
It was March and I’d left Florida with a pair of shorts on, driving straight into a blizzard while crossing The Continental Divide. On this day, though, the sun was shining and I was eager to get out of my car. The morning air was sharp and refreshing; the churches opened their doors and organ music cracked through the silence as the town awoke. “Hot Pancakes” signs had me drooling, but I pressed on.
Truth or Consequences rests on the Rio Grande. It was calm that morning almost still, but with a wildness about it. There were posters on a nearby bulletin board urging people to protect the river. I could only hope to relay that message.
Nearby was a park with a small fishing pond. I sat on a bench and immediately made a friend. Red was harmless, of course, just a local who’d lived there when the name changed from Hot Springs in the 1950’s. It had grown on him, he said. He was fresh from church and eager to show me some fishing techniques.
“Oh, I really need to head out.”
“Nonsense! Stay for dinner!”
It took nearly fifty years for the new name of his hometown to grow on him, but it only took me six minutes. I was flattered, but the afternoon sun was coming on strong and my tired eyes were burning - time to find that “Free, Primitive Campsite.”
Free camping is common in National Forests. Sometimes the word “primitive” meant that you’d better leave a trail. At other times, though, a hot shower, even real, live people were never more than a short drive away. Either way, there’s something special, something rewarding, about fending for yourself, even if you do get to carry everything in your car.
There was, of course, the task of getting there. The roads through Gila National Forest were as wild as parts of The Rio Grande. Up and down and swirling in circles – the clouds cut the sunlight across the valley floor below and if you look for too long, the dizziness will get you. Besides, you have to finish going up before you can go down again, creeping around corners – looking for clues like a detective, on the hunt for on-coming cars, or an easier way out, until suddenly - “Free, Primitive Camping – Closed For Season” and so you press on.

Tags: #2011Writing, Travel Writing Scholarship 2011



Nice little piece about the part of America you can only experience on a cross-country road trip. And who can resist a place called Truth of Consequences? Too funny.
When is free camping not free camping? When it's closed!

  aro-tron Mar 28, 2011 8:40 PM

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