Lawn Camping

Date: June 30 / Origin: Price Canyon, UT / Campsite: A backyard in Sawtooth National Forest, ID / Time in Westy: 6+ hours

Ah, camping. A time to be one with nature, to wake up with the sun and start your day at 6am.

That’s usually how it goes, so imagine my utter astonishment at glancing at my phone screen to see the screen flashing 10:46.

“Oh my God, Laura, it’s almost 11!”

“Oh my God.”

This is certainly a good way to get things packed up quickly. We scrapped breakfast, resolving to stop somewhere and grab something on the way. Today’s goal was to get from Price Canyon to Idaho.

Of course, as soon as we hit the road, we realized we needed to go through Salt Lake City. When would I ever be there again?

“You have to see the Mormon temple. It’s huge,” Laura told me, and it was. We drove around a few times without getting out, wondering about Mormonism and patting ourselves on the back for being inquirers.

Breakfast was a speedy stop at Starbucks before hitting the road north to Idaho.

About an hour across the Idaho border, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere and nearly out of gas.

“How bad is it?” I asked.

“I think we can make it…”

“If not, we have the bikes. One of us could bike up to the gas station.”

“Or hitchhike.”

“That too.”

Luckily, we made it the 13 miles to a gas station appropriately named “The Middle of Nowhere.” It had 2 pumps, 2 llamas, and 1 grouchy and possibly homicidal man operating the station. Laura put her credit card in and nothing happened. She went inside and emerged looking angry.

“He said, ‘Stop putting your credit card in so many times.’ I told him I put it in once. He’s restarting the pump and it should take ten minutes.”

During this time, Laura walked the dogs while I watched the pump do nothing at all. Two cars pulled up to the other side of our pump and filled up and left, with ours saying the pump had been closed.

When she got back, I suggested we wrap the other pump around and start filling our van up. This we did – until about 30 seconds into the fueling, when the attendant shut that pump down and restarted ours.

It felt like the beginning of a horror movie. The llamas watched us suspiciously from their pen.

“I’m only putting in enough for us to get to the next gas station. I’m not giving him our money,” Laura said.

I agreed. We could eat later. The next gas station was larger and warmer altogether, with a welcoming cafe and a small parking lot.

“The food here is great,” one woman told us enthusiastically as we ordered sandwiches. I wouldn’t call it great, but it was filling enough. We bought maps and firewood, and planned our journey to Sun Valley, Idaho, where it seemed like we might be able to do some fly fishing. Sawtooth National Forest was up there, and that also sounded like a cool, shady area to camp.

It was a long drive to the mountains, which were invisible until we were basically upon them. Laura wrote a song while I drove through miles of alfalfa. It was one of the many drives on our trip where I was reminded of how much open space still exists in our world, and how beautiful it is to drive for miles without seeing another human or strip mall.

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Someone’s lawn? Or a campsite?

When we rolled into Sun Valley, destined for Sawtooth Brewery, the town was beautiful, small, moutainesque, and cool. We walked the dogs and headed to the brewery, a quiet but tasty joint. The bartender said we could park the van there for the night, so we headed to a livelier pub called Leftys. It was there that Laura crashed a nearby conversation about the upcoming eclipse and Alaska. I chatted to a fly fisher who told us that a rough winter with heavy snowfall raised the rivers by 3 feet and most were blown out.

“Go up to Stanley,” she suggested. “And if you do, go to Stanley Bakery and get a cinnamon roll.”

They then invited us to join their crew and go to Cellar, a nearby bar. If we didn’t feel like drinking, we could always drive our van back to their house and camp on their lawn.

“We have an acre,” said Meredith, the girl who’d offered her lawn.

What she didn’t tell us was that the acre was part of Sawtooth National Forest. We could’ve camped anywhere, but being that late at night, we wouldn’t have been able to find a campsite. So we pulled up on her lawn and popped the top.

It was blissfully cold up there, and we fell asleep easily.

Of course, the downside to camping on someone’s lawn is waking up at 3am having to pee and hearing your new friends laughing and chatting around a campfire just a few feet from where you parked. If I were a bolder gal, I would’ve gotten out and asked to use their bathroom, but I’m not. The sleeping bags were also super warm and cozy, so that deterred me from moving.

In the morning, we marveled at the full glory of our campsite. It was stunning. Blue skies, tall pines.

We hung a brown bag full of peaches and cherries on their doorknob in thanks and headed on our way.

There was fly fishing to do, and a bakery to stop at.

 

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