When you think about car camping in Colorado, you think big mountains and crazy rocks. Yes, I experienced mountains when I put thousands of miles on my 2018 Subaru Forester in Colorado, but one of the most memorable places I experienced was in the grasslands.
Pawnee National Grasslands was one of the first places I visited while on my journey. I drove through miles of dirt road surrounded by surreal and depthless grasslands until I started seeing places to pull off and relax for the night. This was my first time on a road trip, and I was alone, so the possibilities were endless as to what would happen. I pulled up to the perfect pull-off and marked my area for the night.
I realized it was windy, windier than I’ve ever experienced, and as I watched two people off in the distance try to pitch a tent, fighting the blows of Mother Nature, I beamed with gratitude towards my car camper platform for keeping me safe and comfortable.
I stood listening to the wind howl before I got to work trying to situate myself in the best manner that I could. I found out the hard way that organization and trying to be clean is like a paradox on a road trip. Figuring out where to put trash, my cooler, book bag, and other loose miscellaneous items was a display of nonstop effort, but I didn’t mind, not for the peace of mind.
After my car was situated and as “put together” as possible, I relaxed. I sat in the back of my SUV and looked out into the Pawnee Buttes, which were placed directly in front of me, maybe about a mile out. I was (and still am) convinced that I had the best camping spot, with the most breathtaking view to wake up to, and an exhilarating hike planned for the morning to get my day started with movement and views that my eyes have never seen before.
Cows roam free on this land, and a group of about twenty watched me play music for about an hour, using my ukulele and voice. They were migrating towards a water source, and went on their merry way as the sun started to set in the west, with a beautiful backdrop of orange and pink skies. I couldn’t look away, as the cows walked in a line, some running, some walking, some playing along to the tune of life. It made me feel so connected to everything that was around me.
In the morning, I went on a hike. The view of the Pawnee Buttes did no justice from afar, I felt as though every 50 yards closer I got, the more intense the perspective got. It was so large, so convoluted, crumbly to the touch and to explore it put me into my child-like sense of wonder. I saw sand toads, antelope, and a baby bird resting on the walkway. My fascination grew with every step I took. It looked as though I was walking through the passageway of streams that had existed thousands of years in the past, and I could turn in any which way with it.
Touching base with my car after a long hike was always rewarding, allowing the foam mattress pad to swallow me whole as I rested. I continued to pull out all of the things I needed to make oatmeal and had a well deserved breakfast of grains and fruit. During this time, I felt one with the life around me, amazed by even the smallest cactus (we don’t have those in Pennsylvania).
Pawnee National Grasslands allowed me to feel free and safe; I felt completely comfortable, even as a woman sleeping alone out in nature. My sleeping situation also allowed me to feel safe and secure. At times, figuring out a curtain situation got a little overwhelming, and like I stated earlier there was a lot of maintaining cleanliness, but overall sleeping in my car and not a tent created such ease for my first road trip. There was no hassle of putting up and taking down a tent, I could lock myself in my vehicle, and with proper coverings (which were at times a bit hard to attain) I was completely sheltered from another person’s sight.
Anyone with a drive for exploration and rapid change, but can also go with the flow and be at ease, should go car camping if it is attainable. To be able to change climates from humidity to dryness, from drought to rainforest, from chilliness to warmth, can only be done through traveling and seeing the world for yourself. Anyone who enjoys slight (and appropriate) discomfort for growth would thrive in a car camper.
If the idea of car camping has a grip on your mind, and you feel called to create such spontaneous memories that will last forever, car camping is for you. What you will see during and afterward is a blossoming of growth, created by the exposure to the world you have blessed yourself with.