When the Going Gets Rough, Keep on Going - Steph FigPope

A couple of weeks ago, I started off on a trip that I’ve been looking forward to for a while. Not that I had it planned really - I just was finally hitting places that I’ve been dying to see in person, and I also finally worked my nerves up to level up my camping game and to try dispersed camping. I set off from the Bay Area with such high hopes. My husband, Andrew, and I spent the majority of the first few hours talking about how excited we were, what we hoped to see and take photos of, and wondering where we were going to be sleeping for the next few days.

12 hours later, I was freaking out on the side of the road.

After spending the night sleeping in a parking lot next to Movie Road in Alabama Hills, looking forward to waking up to a sight I’ve been dreaming of since before I even became an adventure photographer... I woke up to a flat tire. I cried and I screamed, I mourned all the photos I wasn’t able to take during golden hour. I’m sure all the tourists who drove past us were entertained by this girl freaking out and yelling at a tire.

But, that was only the beginning of the trip.

Because of that setback, we ended up staying in Alabama Hills a little longer on the planned day of departure, hoping that we would be able to find a spot in Death Valley to disperse camp at before it got too dark. Going with the “winging it” mantra of this trip, it turned out that because of our punctured tire, we couldn’t go on the roads normally used for dispersed camping. We ended up going on our first backpacking trip that night - and by backpacking, I mean we lugged a giant queen-sized sleeping bag, and several backpacks filled with food and stuff, a few miles into Mesquite Sand Dunes. That was the only place we could see on the map that we could easily get to, and where we could set up camp before the sun set.

We couldn’t sleep that night, due to the coyotes that kept on howling (and because we were terrified they were howling at us). We also heard people near our tent, something we weren’t expecting at all since the park ranger told us nobody honestly thought of camping out there (after a few hours, we realized it was just a family enjoying some sand sledding in complete darkness).

We spent Thanksgiving there, eating salt and vinegar chips and jerky, laughing at how crazy this supposedly “easy” trip ended up being. We were such fools! But, we were, at least, well-prepared fools because although our trip did not go according to plan (AT ALL), we were still safe. We had enough water and food, our car was still working.

I guess the big life lessons learned on this trip are the following:

• You’ll figure it out

• Everything will turn out fine

• Remember that when shit hits the fan, all that means is that you’ve now got a great story to tell others about

• As long as your safe, that’s what matters

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