Evan & Ann shared their favorite hike with us in "pay to play" Indian Garden.
#3 Palm Springs, CA (December 2013 - January 2014)

Athletes Village
Our stay in the Palm Springs area got off to a rough start. Bill had planned to offload our camper in Idyllwild, a village surrounded by forests above Palm Springs, for weeks of hiking but the 6,000' elevation and the unusually cold weather meant that it was winter there. We quickly decided to instead head for lower elevation Palm Springs to be warmer but the first night there was below freezing and it was unseasonably cool for days.

Bill selected our Palm Springs RV park for its proximity to the hiking trails shown on his Garmin maps but the RV park was annoyingly expensive. There was the $3/day extra fee for staying less than 1 month, the extra 10% "sleeping fee" if you wanted a quieter slot off the main road, and only 1 shower head between the 2 shower houses with a total of 6 showers for women delivered hot water with a useful amount of water pressure. And then there were those hiking trails. Bill went into a nosedive upon discovering that even at the reduced senior rate, we'd be paying $14/day in entrance fees every day that we hiked in the nearby Indian Garden. The operative word there was "Indian" as in reservation, as in "not public."

Grumbling about the cold and the expense of lodging and hiking, we searched harder for other hiking trails to salvage our stay. Much to our surprise, Bill soon discovered that his usually reliable Garmin maps seemed to have left off the dozens of free trails in the area. Then on our first hike, which was free, I looked down 800' to see an RV park practically at the far end of our trail. We whipped into it on our way back to our expensive park and reserved a spot. It was 'sardine-ville' with narrow slots and little public space but many of the guests were out and about and all were smiling. When I mentioned we'd spotted the place from the trail, the clerk almost dismissively said: "This place is full of hikers and bikers." "Gosh, what a pity" I thought. And then the weather improved.

Not your ordinary gym backdrop.
Indeed, it was a happy crowd at our new little RV park. Space was at a premium but that did seem to effectively squeeze out the grumpy ones. Everyone I spoke with at the park really, really wanted to be there, not just in Palm Springs, but right there. For us it was the mix of happy people, proximity to the trails, the absence of traffic noise, and 6 am access to the club house for morning exercises that made us purr. Others relished the hot tub, the pool, the price, or being in a wind-free pocket. Each had their reasons that went beyond the usual "This is the first place we came to."

And what a welcoming crowd. People came out of the woodwork to greet us while we were parking and once they knew our passions, started matching us up with 'our people.' Within the first few days of relocating, we had an armload of hiking books to peruse, a Palm Springs trail book on long term loan, and a website for bike routes. The clerk told us that organized hikes would begin in 10 days but our next door neighbor was already leading easy hikes 2 days a week. And it wasn't long until we hooked up with a couple that had similar preferences for starting time (on the late side) and distances (on the long side). One woman was quick to point out the 3 guys in a row across from us who were the go-to guys if we had mechanical problems. Wow! Suddenly we too were echoing the sentiment of a neighbor's sign "Welcome to paradise".

Ladders Canyon: they do things differently in Palm Springs.
It was a place where reciprocity flowed freely. One man was eager to learn exercises from us for his aching foot and shoulder and another kept saying he would join us to renew his own exercise regime. A neighbor a few doors down was thrilled with our treasure trove of information about hiking and biking in the Dolomites. I suspect it's not often you get a "Yes" in Palm Springs when asking "Do you have a map of the Dolomites?" And as soon as our shy neighbor mentioned that a younger couple had just completed the hardest hike around, I rushed down to talk with them. They filled us in on the upper half of the trail that we hadn't done and gave us their downloaded maps and a few tips.

One of the young Hispanic men in the maintenance crew shared that they had dubbed us the "rubber band people." Our daily exercise routine was very public in the park's rec room and was apparently all the talk though few discussed it with us. We loved the early access to the big multipurpose room with its oversized sliding glass doors that allowed us to watch the sun rise each morning, silhouetting the tall palms with a peachy backdrop. The big indoor space encouraged Bill to work harder on his headstand, to again tackle handstands, and also made it easier to use our new Bosu balance ball for one-legged standing and roaming weight lifting.

Our awkward little slot in the Happy Traveler RV park was far from perfect for us but like all the others, we loved being there for the overall package. We were comfortable in our new neighborhood but we felt very uneasy anytime we left our reserve at the base of the mountains and walked, biked, or drove through town. We felt wildly out of place cruising past the miles of manicured country clubs and golf courses and twitched at the sight of so many exotic and vintage cars. "I've never seen so many Lotus's" was one of Bill's early comments. Ferrari's, Maserati's, Bentley's, and the like peppered the streets and didn't jive with our idea of sporting. We usually only pass through regions of opulent nests on our way to outdoor venues but in Palm Springs and the adjacent sprawl, one couldn't not be surrounded by them.

Like this Big Horn Sheep, we too sometimes felt like we should run away from Palm Springs.
The constant visual impact of the trappings of excess wealth was unsettling to us and we didn't feel particularly welcome or safe as cyclists on the roads, or as pedestrians or drivers for that matter. Pointless darting in and out seemed to be a common sport of drivers in urban traffic and using turn signals seemed to be very 20th-century. And like the "too much effort" of using a turn signal, turning one's head to look for others at intersections seemed just too hard for many in their 30's and 40's. Running red lights was the rule rather than the exception. Every time we ventured beyond our compound and experienced the "normal" side of Palm Springs, we came back deeply conflicted. "What are we doing here…this place is so weird…maybe we should move on….we don't belong here" came streaming out of our mouths. Our history was as travelers and we felt we should ditch the grating urban scene and hit the road--we knew we'd feel more at home in the rustic settings of national and state parks.

Every urge to run away from the Palm Springs culture had us scanning the weather for other SW destinations and every search left us feeling trapped. It was a particularly harsh winter with successive arctic blasts driving the temperatures well below normal every where we considered going. Initially the temperatures in Palm Springs were unseasonably cold but they had slowly improved. Our hiking would suffer if we left the bone-dry, warm weather and went anywhere else. So, each time we got jittery about remaining in Palm Springs, we again talked ourselves into staying.

The Palm Springs street art says it all.
"I should have brought a sweater" rolled off my lips as we biked on December 30th in Palm Springs. That simple phrase that accompanied me from childhood immediately had us laughing and again reminded us of why we were staying put in Palm Springs. The well-worn phrase from Oregon was usually uttered in July or August when the day didn't warm as much as hoped. And here it was, late December: the air felt a little cool when we resumed riding after our picnic in a park and I longed for a sweater. The temperature was in the low 70's with a light wind and indeed I was a little cool but I would have needed much more than a sweater to be comfortable anywhere else we might go.

Winter Training Camp
Making Peace with the Place
Almost daily we fidgeted and squirmed at the thought of staying in one place for weeks or months, especially in an urban RV park, and yet it was so compelling. Where else could we be within walking distance of 2 trail heads and make drives of 20 minutes or less to a dozen more? And these weren't ambles along a dry stream bed, these were hikes with 1,000-8,000' elevation gain. And being in Palm Springs meant we could make relative-rest-day bike rides to shop for food at Costco, Trader Joe's, or the regional health food store. When at almost all other venues, like the National Parks in the SW, we must dedicate a day every week to 10 days to drive to food shop, which rarely occurs at a store high on our preference list. And in those parks, like Zion and Yosemite, we felt lucky to have 3 significant hiking trails. But at Palm Springs we could head out on foot from the RV park in one direction to do our marketing and the opposite direction to go hiking.

We wrestled with our agenda and priorities over and over again. And we wondered if we were suffering from a tinge of survivor's guilt since we'd left our friends and family in the soggy NW. But the especially harsh winter had us retracting like turtles into a shell each time we thought of moving on. Finally we reframed our vision: training for the Ortisei mountain run in July was our top priority and we knew of no better place to do that in the dead of winter than Palm Springs. Labeling Palm Springs as our winter training camp gave us an uneasy peace with extending our stay from a few days to 2 months.

Caching water at the 4th of 4 points on our route.
Setting New Goals
Like at any good training camp, we were inspired by our Palm Springs peers, well, sort of peers. Our rather sedentary next-slot neighbor mentioned that the "much younger" couple from British Columbia had done the 8,000' gain hike to the upper Tram station earlier in the day and I immediately scurried down to talk with them. They'd blasted up in 5 hours though the typical time on the trail is 8 (she is a former Ironman competitor). They reassured me that the often told stories (like our neighbor had repeated) of the trail being too dangerous to follow were overblown. We'd gone up to the 4500' level twice, which sounded like got us through the worst of the crisscrossing trails.

Scared and excited about the prospect of pressing well beyond our previous upper limit of around 5,000' gain, I shared my field research with Bill. It did't take long to decide to take the tram to the upper station the next day and walk about 2,000' of the way down to check out the trail. The stories about the extreme steepness of the last 1000' were consistent and previewing that segment of the trail would be very reassuring. Indeed, it was a very steep but the footing challenges were minimal. And better yet, should things go poorly and we finished in the dark, the upper trail would be easier than most to navigate by headlamp.

Given the extreme heat, as in 85 degrees by 10:45 am one day, we decided to cache water for our big event. It was when in the Grand Canyon in 2012 that hikers told us about their day hikes made for the sole purpose of caching water for an upcoming backpacking trip. We'd carry plenty of water with us when we made the big climb but relished the thought of having a couple of extra liters stashed on the trail. And caching bottled water added a fun new twist to our reconnaissance hike of the upper 1/4 of the trail. Bill made 'way marks' on his GPS unit to note where the bottles were stashed and we took pictures to help remind us of the particulars of the 2 spots we chose that day.

San Jacinto peak: the air was mighty thin the whole way to the peak.
So, 5 weeks into our 8 week stay in Palm Springs, we had a whole new training goal. The first goal ad been to increase our running time to 30 minutes, including some uphill work, and the newly added second goal was to dramatically boost our range on elevation gain. We ruled-out doing the extreme sport of tacking on another 3,000' gain and 11 miles round trip to 'summit' the peak above the tram station on the same hike. But it was only a day later after checking out the finish to our upcoming big hike that we decided to summit San Jacinto peak as a separate event. After all, the summit was usually snow covered in the winter but the terrible drought meant that the mountain was currently almost snow free.

Sharing Inspiration
Being inspired, like to do the 8,000' gain hike, was an exciting aspect of being in Palm Springs. We are always keen to be places, such as in the Dolomites, where our fellow hikers are a source of motivation and inspiration and we hardly expected to get the same boost on the trails above Palm Springs. But like in the Dolomites, there was an energizing hiking culture in Palm Springs. We were blown away one day by seeing a late middle-aged Hispanic man running up the steep trail we frequently walked. We typically walked that first segment in 45 minutes or speed hiked it in 35 minutes but he was running it in 23 minutes from the nearby car wash. We were mesmerized by his loping, quick stride. Even more startling, he was wearing his car wash uniform and carried no water at noon on a sizzling day. Talk about being inspired….

When on the upper, more flat stretches of the same trail the Hispanic man zoomed up, a middle-aged woman hiking alone with trekking poles said: "I am so inspired" when I jogged by her. And a week later we received an SMS from the couple we'd hiked with from our RV park saying: "You guys really encouraged us to try harder and weirder hikes." The day we did our short reconnaissance hike down from the upper tram station we encountered 2 lanky, scantly clad women in neon colors chattering away like Valley Girls in the thin air at about the 7000' level. Their seemingly effortless uphill climb part way through their 22 mile, 10,500' gain event dropped our jaws. Later we encountered their slower 29 year old friend that they had jettisoned and learned that these awesome women were 39 and 53 year old ultra runners--not the 20-somethings we'd assumed. And the 'youngster' in this trio commented that she hoped to be doing as well as we were when our age. What could be sweeter than a loose collection of strangers spurring each other on?

During one of our first hikes part way up the tram trail we were anxious to get to our turn-around point at about 3200' to eat lunch when a descending man clearly wanted to chat. How could we not give this 40-ish man with cerebral palsy all of the time in the world to stutter-out his story for the day. He and his companion, presumably his dad, had turned around at the 5000' point because of snow. They had planned to go farther but he felt unsafe walking in the snow-covered trail. It's a steep, rocky trail and he was doing it with a severe neurological impairment and without trekking poles--hard to top that for inspiring. We saw the duo again in a small group a few weeks later at another trailhead but didn't have a chance to reconnect. We however relived the deep sense of humility and awe he had triggered on our first meeting.

Bill and I have always been pretty well matched on the trails, until we got to Palm Springs. Wanting to do well on our July 2014 mountain run had prompted him to dig deeper and to push harder for the last several months and it was on the readily available, steep hiking trails above Palm Springs that he catapulted himself to a new level of speed and endurance. Suddenly he was literally leaving me in the dust. A hard hike that he could now complete in 2 1/2 hours took me almost 3 hours to finish. His prowess on the trails meant I'd be doing our mountain run and other hard training events alone but his new zest was inspiring. And at about the 2 hour point on one of his 2 1/2 hour speed hikes a man 10 years our junior to ask me for Bill's age. Yup, that guy was inspired by Bill's speed too.

It didn't take long for our new goals to have me taking a second look at our training schedule. We'd never worried too much about taking rest days because the weather, traveling days, food shopping, and injuries had always forced more rest days on us than were welcome. But at Palm Springs we'd been pushing 6 days a week, with Day 7 being reserved for back-to-back massages. With our 8,000' gain hike now on the calendar, it was time to read about timing rest and relative rest days to maximize our fun and performance. And soon we were reading about fueling strategies used by triathletes and the like because our biggest exertion days were triggering the same indigestion that they experience. Our hard work in the heat and low humidity already had us adding lots of salt to our daily diets to keep from feeling bad and now it was time to make further adjustments for our high output days.

One is rarely out of the sight of Palm Springs on the trails.
My sodium needs were staggering in Palm Springs. Tending to keep a downward pressure on sodium intake (per the DASH diet) had nearly killed me, and us, several times, and I thought after those experiences we had become liberal enough with the salt shaker. But this winter like last, I quickly began experiencing the dizziness and headaches of low sodium shortly after arriving in the hot weather of the SW. I could hardly keep up with my new needs once we started pushing on the trails. Bill was concerned that I was having a medical issue but we soon were convinced I was indeed sweating out all of my extra dietary sodium. After a few hours of hiking, I'd have a white crusty ring of salt on my sun shirt outlining where my back pack had rested and some days I'd brush salt crystals off of my forehead. I was adding more than 1 gram of sodium, a half a teaspoon of table salt, daily to my food and water to keep going. Bill also had to increase his salt intake but mostly on an "as needed" basis on the trail.

Again picnicking 1000' above Palm Springs on our nearby fitness trail 10 days before our departure day it struck me: I had normalized to being a Palm Springs hiker. As I gazed out at the familiar view of lush green golf courses, artificial pond fountains, and palm trees in the valley below, it seemed like a perfectly normal view from a hike. "What else would you expect to see?" I laughingly said to myself. Views of Dolomite peaks and the rugged outdoor settings of the national parks were but distant memories, memories now replaced by images of well-watered, single-storied urban sprawl and manicured grounds.

A Big Horn Sheep carcass with mountain lion prints around it on our trail.
The Wild Side of Palm Springs
It was hard to escape the odd juxtaposition of the slick urban scene with the dusty trails when hiking from Palm Springs, an odd situation underscored by a conversation Bill had with a driver who stopped him for trailhead parking information near our RV park. The woman and her husband had recently been hiking on the Art Smith Trail near Palm Desert, a trail that we had done once. They split-up, with her husband exploring the lower wash trail while she continued up on the usual trail. At one point, she looked out across the narrowing canyon to see a mountain lion eyeing her husband who was below both of them. Too far away, neither heard her warning shouts. Luckily the mountain lion didn't attack. The husband was clueless to the whole episode until they reconnected sometime later.

We occasionally scan the rocks above us when hiking to watch for mountain lions but this underscored yet another issue: spotting one in advance doesn't always help. And they are notoriously difficult to fight off, with other stories swirling about a mountain that was un-phased when a woman clobbered it in the head with a rock while it was attacking fellow hiker. At least the odds of an encounter are low….

The Epic Hike
Two days before our departure from Palm Springs, we tackled the lower portion of the area's defining hike: going from the valley floor to the upper tram station. The good news/bad news was that the high pressure ridge stuck north of us for weeks that had kept the valley temperatures unseasonably in the 80's had moved on. Snow fell on the peaks and the little dogs in the RV park were sporting sweaters. The good news for us was that we wouldn't struggle with overheating during the first 2,000' of the climb; the bad news was that the forecast highs were below freezing for the last several thousand feet of the climb, which would also be in deep shade.

For weeks we'd been flirting with overheating on the trails in our hot weather outfits and suddenly we'd be dressed in our winter gear, which required a total, last minute reorganization for our finale. We decided to gamble more heavily on our cached water and start the hike with less water in our packs because of the cold. Our day packs usually weigh around 10 lbs and every additional liter of water adds 2.2 lbs, which registers as a burden when on steep climbs. Even though we were shaving weight, we tossed our mini-crampons into our packs so as not to be thwarted at the top by the recent snow. The pressure to keep moving and minimize resting would be even greater to avoid becoming chilled by our sweat-soaked clothes in the cold winds. Before the weather shifted, our attention had been focused on completing the hike; now it was on avoiding hypothermia.

The predicted morning cloud cover didn't materialize on "event day" and it didn't take long until we started shedding what we could of our warmer clothing. Even though we were warmer than was ideal, it was hard not to enjoy the signature brightness of the sun our last hike in Palm Springs. It gradually cooled as we climbed higher but by then the thin air, not the temperature, was our biggest concern.

We are generally sleeping at 5,000' when we hike in the Italian Dolomites so hikes like this that take us to 8600' aren't much of an issue when in the Alps. But we paid dearly for the total lack of altitude acclimation once we hit the 5000' level on our way to the top of the Palm Springs tram station. Fortunately it wasn't long after that point that our trail took us within easy sight of the tram pylons and our destination switched from being "way over there and up" to looking almost straight up. We did our best to amplify the excitement that came from seeing the tram and the peak that had recently emerged from the high clouds. "We're doing great; we're going to make it; it's all going according to plan" were chanted over and over again to keep our spirits high, to put some fun into the hard work of struggling for more oxygen.

Yeah! Our stashed water was waiting for us at cache #1.
Short breathing-breaks became more frequent when the trail became steeper somewhere after retrieving our 3rd water stash at 6,000'. Having done the upper 2000+' of the trail before as reconnaissance and to hide water was wonderfully reassuring because it was the hardest part of the route. Even though it was so steep and breathing was such a challenge, there were no eroding thoughts like "What have we gotten ourselves into?" Instead, we precisely knew the answer to that question and delighted in saying "I remember this downed log; this is where the trail is hard to follow; the finish is just up this bank." No 'fear of the unknown'--only anticipation of triumph upon recognizing landmarks.

We were into our last hour on the route when the trail meandered to the deeply shaded, north side of the face and we encountered near freezing temperatures and snow. At first, it was a few little pancake-sized patches or strips of snow along a rock but eventually there was no going around it. The snow wasn't deep but there was enough to crunch under our feet. But having been on the trail before was comforting because we knew that it likely would be better, not worse, at the top where the soil was looser on the even steeper trail. And we were still working so hard that there was no need for warmer clothes in our wind-sheltered pocket.

We popped up over the edge of the cliff at the plateau after 7 hours on the trail and much to the surprise of a young couple standing there. "There is a trail there?" he asked. The eroded trail is barely visible and there is no sign, so we understood his disbelief. It all seemed so implausible that our one sentence answer to his question that included where the other end of the trail was didn't even register. Only after we walked on did it become clear that he'd finally gotten it.

We were thrilled to be "up" even though we had 15 more minutes to walk to the tram station. As I said to Bill "We were now "cartable": at the worst, they could send down a cart from the dining room to fetch us. But there was no need for a cart. It felt next to effortless to be at altitude but not going up. Even after 10.5 miles, we both felt like we had hours more left in our legs….as long as it didn't mean going up. We could do flat or downhill but we had no appetite for more elevation gain in our unacclimated state. Racking up 8,335' of elevation gain meant we'd done almost double our usual high elevation gain of around 4200' and that was enough for one day.

Once at the top, we identified an approachable looking couple about our age from which to hitch a ride back to our truck after riding the tram down. Like the couple at the edge of the cliff, it took them a while to process the story because everyone up there assumes that everyone rode the tram up like they did. The Calgary couple had just arrived at the top and planned to go for a little hike but their shorts reassured us that they wouldn't be long. We said we'd be happy to sit at their sunny picnic table and eat a second lunch while they did their sightseeing. It felt like a win-win: we got our ride and they were fascinated to hear more details about this "invisible" hike. The state park rangers discourage people from doing the big hike and there are no trailhead signs or other indications of anything other than easy going discovery walks on the flat terrain. And for the last time this year in Palm Springs we heard the "i" word as the Mrs blurted out: "You're so inspiring."

After more than 7 hours on the trail, we happily arrived at the upper tram station.
We were ecstatic to have made our 10.5 mile, 8,335' gain epic hike in 7:15 hours and even more delighted to feel good afterwards and the next day. We presumed our unusually good recoveries were due to only going up and not having the hammering of the usually-obligatory descent. Moderating our pace, not jogging on the trail, and having more rest days before hand probably helped too, but the up-only aspect was likely the most important piece.

That evening, forgotten stories of other people's monster hikes tantalized us. We declined the invitation to join a group of men doing the 8000'+ assault on Mt Lemmon, AZ 2 years ago because it was unproven performance territory for us. And Ann and Evan that took us to Indian Canyons had done Mt Whitney several times, which summits even higher. The last couple of years we'd succeeded in extending our range out by doing longer and longer hikes and now we'd just extended our range up. It was time to re-examine our possibilities as day hikers.

The next day we felt even luckier for having completed our big hike when clouds shrouded the peaks and left fresh snow in their wake. It was our little taste of the series of storms that dumped snow and freezing rain on the Portland metropolitan area and we were lucky to have missed them both.

RV Park Etiquette
Palm Springs was only our second long-stay location as snowbirds, with the first being a little less than 2 years ago at nearby Joshua Tree National Monument when I injured my knee. The people at that RV park were cordial but interactions with them didn't extend much beyond the pleasantries of daily greetings. But at Palm Springs, we were drawn into the circle a layer deeper and like children, were slowly taught snowbird etiquette, or at least the local rituals.

Rather than exchange gifts this Christmas, we had an origami session.
Our Christmas Day potluck conversations with a middle-aged gay couple at our table included me saying I'd love to have a tour of their Freightliner brand RV, which intrigued me both because they were rare and seemed wildly overbuilt for the job. We waved at them as we headed out of the RV park on our bikes a few days later and I reminded them that I wanted a tour. The smiling response was "Sure, drop by any time the door is open." "Ah, code for the welcome mat being out in RV-land" I thought and silently thanked him for the lesson about the open door.

Living so publicly on bikes for 10 years of cyclotouring, we're not too attached to privacy anymore but quickly learned that others were. We snickered to ourselves upon discovering that other couples in RV's 50' away from each other normally communicated by texting. The comment was made "We haven't seen them for a couple of weeks but we've been texting." It struck me as so odd and yet for those of us in very small rigs, one's whole world is exposed when we open our door. I realized that others had respected that by knocking on our door which is about 1/2 glass and then stepping off to the side so as to be out of the way of the door and no longer the line of sight of the entire interior of the camper. I noticed that when returning a book on 2 occasions that my knock on the door was met by one in the couple stepping outside the rig and the other coming to the door. Even though the conversations were congenial, I wasn't invited in and out of the cold on either occasion.

One day Bill left a note on another couple's door (because we didn't have their phone number) about rendezvousing that afternoon as they had requested to discuss traveling to the Dolomites. When the couple returned and read the note, the husband walked down to our rig to see if our bikes visible which would indicate that we were in, returned to his rig, then called us on the phone. He apparently considered it too intrusive to knock on our door at 3:30 in the afternoon while at our site even though we were expecting to hear from him.

I wrestled with the notion of having some little reversible sign that said something like "We are in and receiving guests" on one side and "Gone fishing" on the other to signal our receptivity to drop-in guests. The 'open front door code' didn't work for our rig because our only door is on the back end of the camper which was practically plastered against the cinder block back wall of our slot. That meant that visitors had to intrude into our entire space just to knock, something only 1 person had done. The other problem was that generally when we were at home it was too cool outside to have the door open because we were usually out hiking or biking during the warmth of the day. And of course the downside of having a sign indicating that we might be away was that it would be an invitation to thieves, though most of the theft by the nearby homeless encampment was of unlocked bikes.

Tearing Ourselves Away
Ironically, after feeling so out of place for most of our stay, we left Palm Springs kicking and screaming: we wanted to stay longer but our little "Happy Traveler RV Resort" was fully booked. We'd managed to squeeze more weeks out of them than we were told was possible when we arrived and we made reservations for next year to prevent a future problem.

With the weeks-long heat wave behind us, we were going to need more than sweaters to keep warm. Life had been comfy with our out-the-door hiking trails, large indoor workout space, cable TV, and ready access to our favorite groceries. And the urban-grade cell phone and internet service had been invaluable while we spent hours untangling problems with our new health insurance and pharmacy orders and organized our taxes. But it was time to make our camper road worthy and armor ourselves for being travelers again. Bill softened the blow by finding a county park in the same valley from which we could hike another segment of the same mountains effectively buying a little more time to figure out where to go.