when i last left off, i was seeking out swimming holes in the southeast. that trip was actually a slow descent toward Cullowhee, NC where j. and i had enrolled in a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification course with Landmark Learning.
the course lasted 9 days. the theory behind WFR certification is that it prepares you for medical emergencies in the back-country when an ambulance/hospital/MD is an hour or more away. the skills are helpful, but not intended for, medical emergencies in urban environments. it was super interesting. despite being a very common certification and low-level (as far as complexity) i found it to be very in-depth. they really taught us some useful stuff.
we lived in the van at the Landmark Learning facility out in the NC mountains. the weather was fine; very cool and often rainy. as students we had 24-hour access to a student lounge which had wifi, a kitchen, bathrooms, and hot showers. if you're interested in Wilderness Medicine (WFR, Wilderness EMT, Wilderness Life Guard, etc) I definitely recommend checking out Landmark Learning. the teachers are top-notch. they really have their shit together (and at a much more affordable tuiton cost than other wilderness medicine schools).
as soon as we passed the final exam and packed up, we drove north to Knoxville. it was miserably hot and swampy there. we connected with the interstate and began the long westward trek for Arizona. the pictures ABOVE and BELOW this paragraph are of rest-stops we stayed at. the rest-stops along I-70 in the midwest can be really charming. look at that little pavilion we fixed our dinner at. it had a covered eating area, a charcoal stove, and a water pump. there was a dump station around the corner, and free WIFI in the air. and all for free. thats a better deal than many state/national campgrounds.
ive lost track of the whole sequence of days. but we inched through the midwest. we slept at many rest-stops, and some walmarts; we went to the movies. we stopped at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Kansas, and also did some birdwatching. then we hit Colorado and the Rockies. neither of us had seen the Rockies before. what can i say? theyre big and beautiful, very inspiring. unfortunately the towns along I-70 were vomitously touristy, and geared to the winter sports crowd (which i dont relate to).
we stopped off at Colorado National Monument for some camping/hiking. CNM is on the western edge of Colorado, not far from the Utah border. the picture ABOVE is me hiking in one of the canyons. it was very hot. and very beautiful. there were many lizards, and we saw a snake, too.
because of the heat, we set up my tent and slept in it rather than the van. it was a relief not to be crammed shoulder-to-shoulder on the van mattress. and i enjoyed seeing the stars through the screen-top of the tent. the picture ABOVE is a long exposure of the Grand Junction cityscape as seen from our campsite.