As much as we loved southern Idaho, certain things were starting to drag us down. There were too many crazy kids, too many people with no respect for boundaries, too many insane drivers. For the majority of our travels, our fellow travelers have been retirees, but now we were being bombarded by families with young kids. I’d always thought that we’d meet a bunch of people on our trip, new friends who shared our sense of (tame) adventure, but we haven’t been meeting people we have anything in common with, or we’ve been moving too fast to make any connections. It just hasn’t happened.
There was that one couple, a few weeks back. We’d been camping at Mammoth campground in Yellowstone National Park and our neighbors had made a few attempts to strike up a conversation. But we weren’t buying, because in between chatting us up, they were constantly arguing. It seemed like they were sick of each other and desperate for outside company, and we weren’t in a charitable mood. Once, before we left for a visit to the hot springs, the guy called over: “Hey, you might want to secure your camp chairs a little better. It was really windy last night. Or we could sit in them until you get back!” I thanked him and awkwardly tucked the chairs under the picnic table (assuring him they could use them if they really wanted), then left. A few minutes later, I had a total diva thought: didn’t he know who we were? We’d been camping for eight months, those chairs had withstood windstorms and dust storms and thunderstorms and snowstorms. They’ve been to 30+ states. If a little wind should blow up, they could handle it. And if they didn’t, well, no worries, we’ve got our eye on some new fancy models, maybe ones with footrests.
To put it simply, I felt like we were giving off a strong anti-humanity vibe, which made it even more surprising when Casey and Molly stopped by our meager campfire and invited us over to their party spot/campsite annex. “We’ve got firewood, and beer!” they promised. Already I liked them, because they were considerate enough to have a campsite party annex to spare the family that had decided to set up camp right next to them. We put out our meager campfire, grabbed our nearly empty bottle of moonshine (really sad that we were at the end of our supplies and had nothing better to offer), and our all-purpose camp chairs, and headed over.
Earlier in the day, we’d learned that they were Packers fans. So we already knew we had that in common. Even if nothing else, we had that.
Later, after a few beers and a good campfire, we all changed into our suits and soaked in the upper hot spring. It was late, midnight, no moon, lots of stars. The Milky Way moved across the sky. Shooting stars, satellites, airplanes: all were spotted. Along the ridges, the skeletons of burned trees stood out against the sky, the few spared trees standing in sharp contrast. The water was hot enough to be uncomfortable after a few minutes of full-body submersion, but perfect to ward off the chill of the cooling mountain air. New friends, warm hot springs, clear skies, and moonshine-fueled shooting star viewing. This is what it’s all about.
We shared funny camping stories, stayed in the spring until 1am or so, and probably made way too much noise. The best thing was that they didn’t react to our trip like it was some sort of crazy, stupid, or wasteful thing, the way I’ve felt most people we’ve met along the way have reacted and the reason I don’t like to talk about it much with strangers. It was just normal, and they didn’t seem jealous or judgmental because they were both happy with their own lives and they didn’t need to pass judgment on us. We could just hang out and talk and drink like any other people meeting one another for the first time. It was incredibly refreshing (and just one more reason to love Boise). I can only hope we meet others as cool as Casey and Molly in the final few months of our trip!