Laura Fortune

All the Lights

Laura FortuneComment

August 6

This morning I woke up in a Wal-Mart parking lot for my last time on this trip. 

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Today I drove to Las Vegas.

I’ve never had much of a desire to experience Vegas, but there has always been one spot I have been interested to see. 

I reserved myself a ticket to the Neon Museum.  It is an outdoor museum that houses old hand-painted and handmade neon signs from the old Las Vegas stripe.  It was everything I imagined.   

Seeing all of these national parks and natural beauty has been epic and inspiring, but as my inspiration for my artwork, I am drawn to grime and grit of man-made objects.  To color and humor and shapes and decay, and boy, did this place have it. 

I chose a guided tour that had the sun setting mid-tour, and it was perfect to see the signs in the daylight, twilight, and dark, as the lights came on the signs.

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By 8:30pm, I had done all that I wanted to do in Vegas, so it left the evening open to however it rolled out.  I wanted to find some old dives and crusty ladies glued to the slot machines and some kitschy Americana and a nasty buffet.  I can say I made the most of it.  I found a BINGO hall and a rooftop view.  The crusty old ladies and kitsch Americana were part of simply existing in Vegas.     

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Zion to Grand Canyon

Laura FortuneComment

August 5

I was up early and off to Zion National Park.  Zion wasn’t on my radar of places to visit and it was added onto my trip a couple days ago.  It is absolutely mind-boggling beautiful.  It is a spectacular sight and the best way to see it is by hiking.

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The night before I stopped into the Chili’s across the street from the Wal-Mart lot I was staying in, and the waitress saw my NY License and asked if I was touring the National Parks.  I told her about my day in Bryce and how Zion was next.  I was looking up hikes at that moment.  She suggested the two I was reading about, and one of them is called Angels Landing, with a steep climb and narrow walking cliffs that drop-off on each side and you need to hold onto chains for.  I thought this would be the most epic hike to end this solo and unpredictable journey.  It is not for children or people with a fear of heights.

I never thought I had a fear of heights until one trip to Yosemite with my brother.  He took me on a secret hike and there was one part where you walk out on a ledge about 3 feet wide.  I followed my brother anywhere, I trusted him and he always encouraged this bravery.  But when I got out to the ledge, I froze.  It’s dizzying and one wind gust or loss of balance felt like I would blow off the side like a piece of paper.  I couldn’t move back towards the place we started, he had to coach me back, and when I was off the ledge, I was paralyzed for the next hour. 

I hiked up to Angels Landing with this knowledge.  It felt like a fear I wanted to conquer, much like sleeping in a tent alone, or hiking in bear areas alone, or driving around this massive country by myself.  I wanted to end this epic National Park tour with a crazy hike, solo. 

I made it to top of the mountain and began up the chain portion. I stopped and thought about it, and decided to give it a try, I didn’t want to regret not finishing the hike. My sneakers had no grip, and I was slipping as the sloping steps created by redstone sediment were covered with sand.  I didn’t take another step, and said to the person behind me, “I’m sorry, I’m having second thoughts.”  I felt alone.  I felt the fear and my body beginning to freeze up.  I didn’t have my brother or anyone with me to coach me or for me to follow and trust.  As I turned around to go down the first set of chains I had climbed up, my sneakers slid more and I lost total balance and began sliding down, my hands and knees slowing me to a stop.  I heard gasps and a stranger holding the chains reached out his hand for me to take and helped me up to grab the chain.  I was done. 

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I hiked down the mountain and couldn’t hike any longer, because I had improper shoes.  It was such a defeating feeling.  To be in the most beautiful park, and to not be able to experience it the way I would like, with hours and hours of daylight left.  

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I took a look at my map, and began the plan-dance.  The Grand Canyon was no longer in my plans, but I looked again.  Within two hours, I had found a shower at a nearby RV park and began the drive to the Grand Canyon to arrive a couple of hours before sunset. 

It was perfect.  As I entered Grand Canyon National Park, the first sight was a herd of Bison.  This immediately made my detour worth doing.

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I entered at the North Rim, a less populated view of the canyon, and I found the most perfect spot to sit and watch as the sun set on my final stop on this National Park frenzy.  What a time of my life.

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Bryce

Laura Fortune1 Comment

August 4

I drove over to Bryce Canyon National Park for a day of hiking.  I hiked up and down the canyon and experienced four different trails.  The colors are just incredible, and the weather was gorgeous.  Huge thunderclouds rolled in, but it never did more than sprinkle.

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This trip was rolling so well for the past week that it was today when I was hiking all day that it really occurred to me that I left Tallahassee on July 1st, and absolutely did not pack for this type of trip.  I didn’t pack my hiking boots, a hiking backpack, hiking clothes, or a even a pillow.  I suppose if I knew I would have been on this type of trip I would have packed more than I needed.  I have been fine, but I really wish I had my boots.

I took a shower at the camp store, and returned to the canyon as the rain began.  I sat in my van for a bit waiting for it to pass, and I looked up to see three young girls running for the canyon view.  There was a huge rainbow over Bryce Canyon.  I sat and watched the sunset and thought, how I just couldn’t believe what I had done.  I couldn’t believe where I was.

 

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Passing Through

Laura Fortune1 Comment

August 3

I packed up and began to drive down the rest of Yellowstone.  What a strange place.  Geysers and smells of sulphur and crowded roads and families everywhere and Old Faithful and I’m glad I did it.  It’s a sight to see, but I was good to move on.

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The strangest part is that the separation between Yellowstone from Grand Teton National Park is subtle as a state line.  These parks are completely different.  Yellowstone seems other-worldly and Grand Teton is picturesque mountains and lakes. I drove toward Lake Jenny and the crowds were apparent, and it was very clear that I had missed any opportunity to find a campsite in this park.  I drove through, walked around Lake Jenny for a bit, stopped for a pizza and ice cream at the suggestion of a good friend who lived in Jackson, Wyoming, and decided today I would continue to drive as far as I could. 

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I passed through Wyoming in the light hours and saw the real Wild West.  This land has wild horses and ranches and land for days and days.

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Once I made it to Utah, it was dark.  This was the first time on this trip that I drove at night.  It’s a surprising idea to me, that I have been able to avoid nighttime driving.  

 

I made it to Cedar City to a Wal-Mart parking lot, plotted out my plans for the next 4 days, and had a great nights sleep there.  It was clear that tent camping and car camping take some getting used to, but once I got past the noises and fear, it’s actually really cozy spot to be.  Just like Matt Foley, in a van down by the river.

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Weirdo Yellowstone

Laura FortuneComment

 

August 2

 I left Bozeman at 6am and headed down to Yellowstone National Park.  These summer months, it can be tough to secure a campsite within the park unless you are there first thing in the mornings, but I was determined. 

My campsite was set-up at Indian Creek campground in Yellowstone by 9am, and then I took a nap.  When I woke up, I saw that a guy about my age had set up his site across the way, and he was camping alone, too.  I’m curious about people that are alone amongst these places were family camping abound, but I’m the same looking freakshow.

I headed to Boiling River Hot Springs.  A small hike to the point where the Gardner River and Boiling River meet, the ice cold water meets boiling hot water and creates a strong current hot springs along the river.  I soaked for a long while.

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In the afternoon I hiked up Mount Washburn, a steady climb with a great views, but this is major bear area.  Hiking alone with a dull pocket knife and pepper spray feels inadaquet, but I’m glad I went because it was big horn goats I came across, no bears.

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This evening I had my first campfire and a good night’s sleep. 

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