Robert Witham

Travel videographer, writer, minimalist, and perpetual traveler

Things You Find: Eyeglasses in the Desert

It’s not every day that you find a pair of eyeglasses in the desert, but I found just that one day in December. Alas, this was not a completely spontaneous discovery, but was instead part of a search operation. Still, after the run of depressing trash photos that I have shared recently, I figured it was time for something light.

My friend, Debra Dickinson, mentioned to me that she had lost her glasses outside the previous day. After looking around and finally giving up I noticed them on the ground as I was walking back to my trailer. Actually, I spotted the glasses only about half a step before I stepped right on them. Now Debra can once again see to read, and someone else is deprived of the opportunity to randomly find a pair of eyeglasses in the desert.

A Year of Travel 2016

I have been a nomad for many years. During these years, I have traveled as frequently as possible, and have even abandoned jobs to pursue an opportunity for a traveling adventure. One year ago, in December 2015, I hit the road full-time. Now, having spent a year as a full-time nomad, New Year’s Day seems like an appropriate time to reflect on a year of travel.

I visited a surprising number of places over the past year, and logged a ridiculous number of miles. I compiled a list of everywhere that I remember visiting this year, but made no attempt to calculate the mileage.

The year started with me living out of a Toyota Camry, progressed with the addition of a tent to allow me to stretch out a bit, and ended with me living out of a converted cargo trailer. (I am working on ringing in 2017 by switching vehicles once again – this time to a minivan.)

My plans for 2017 involve less travel and more time spent in each place that I visit. The rest of the winter is likely to be spent in the desert, though a trip to Wyoming is still a possibility. Spring will probably be spent somewhere between Arizona and Wyoming, while summer will likely be in the Wyoming area. Finally, there is a good chance that fall will find me in Montana or North Dakota, followed by a late fall migration back to the Arizona area. A trip to the northeast this summer or fall is also an option. Even though this itinerary will still take me across the entire country (north to south), it will probably be at a much slower and intentional pace than in 2016.

I have also given thought this year to establishing an actual home base where I spend part of each year. The only thing preventing me from doing that now is the cost. While I do not intend to stop traveling any time soon, it would still be nice to have a home base.

The list that follows is an accurate reflection of my year of travel, though it is possible that I overlooked one or more short trips. I hope this list provides an entertaining view of a year in the life of a nomad.

2016 Travel Itinerary

  1. Ehrenberg, Arizona (January 2016)
  2. Parker, Arizona (January 2016)
  3. Las Vegas, Nevada (January 2016)
  4. Gillette, Wyoming (January 2016)
  5. Sidney, Montana (January 2016)
  6. Billings, Montana (February 2016)
  7. Worden, Montana (February 2016)
  8. Columbus, Montana (February 2016)
  9. Cheyenne, Wyoming (February 2016)
  10. Billings, Montana (February – March 2016)
  11. Gillette, Wyoming (March – May 2016)
  12. Mount Rushmore, South Dakota (May 2016)
  13. Spearfish, South Dakota (May 2016)
  14. Gillette, Wyoming (May 2016)
  15. Sedona, Arizona (May 2016)
  16. Williams, Arizona (June 2016)
  17. Flagstaff, Arizona (June – July 2016)
  18. Leadville, Colorado (July 2016)
  19. Gillette, Wyoming (July 2016)
  20. Leadville, Colorado (July 2016)
  21. Gillette, Wyoming (July 2016)
  22. Leadville, Colorado (July 2016)
  23. Bellemont, Arizona (July 2016)
  24. Pahrump, Nevada (July 2016)
  25. Bellemont, Arizona (July 2016)
  26. Winslow, Arizona (July 2016)
  27. Gillette, Wyoming (July 2016)
  28. Moorcroft, Wyoming (July 2016)
  29. Worden, Montana (July 2016)
  30. Columbus, Montana (July 2016)
  31. Bellemont, Arizona (August 2016)
  32. Page, Arizona (August 2016)
  33. Flagstaff, Arizona (August 2016)
  34. Buffalo, Wyoming (August 2016)
  35. Gillette, Wyoming (August – September 2016)
  36. Denver, Colorado – x3 (September 2016)
  37. Bellemont, Arizona (September 2016)
  38. Sedona, Arizona (September – October 2016)
  39. Elgin, Oregon (October 2016)
  40. Sisters, Oregon (October 2016)
  41. Pahrump, Nevada (October – November 2016)
  42. Mayer, Arizona (November 2016)
  43. Cottonwood, Arizona (November 2016)
  44. Ehrenberg, Arizona (November 2016)
  45. Quartzsite, Arizona (December 2016)
  46. Ehrenberg, Arizona (December 2016)
  47. Quartzsite, Arizona (December 2016)
  48. Ehrenberg, Arizona (December 2016)

NB: I attempted to make a fancy map to illustrate all of this travel, but in the end decided it was too much aggravation.

Things You Find: Demolished Mobile Home

I started the weekly Things You Find series to highlight some of the funny things that I find during my exploration of the deserts and forests. At first, I had an archive of photos to depict some of these humorous finds – like a toy SUV in the forest near Leadville, Colorado.

Let’s be honest. We are all human, so we have all forgotten something while packing up at a campsite. These occasional forgetful moments can be compensated for by other campers, because many campers are responsible stewards of the land and clean up anything that they find.

Unfortunately, as I have been spending more time in the desert lately, it seems that I am finding fewer humorous finds and a lot more intentional dumping. This is reflected in the weekly Things You Find post as I can only photograph what I actually find.

Today’s photo depicts the remnants of a demolished mobile home in the desert near Ehrenberg, Arizona. Aside from being perhaps the worst pile of trash that I have ever seen on public land, this debris pile is all the worse as it was the government that made it and then left it there in the desert.

The BLM-managed desert land here in Ehrenberg is popular with snowbirds as the 14-day camping rule is not strictly enforced – unlike in nearby Quartzsite. As a result, it is not uncommon to find people staying here for longer than 14 days, and to occasionally even find people who have set up a desert homestead.

Apparently this demolished mobile home was brought into the desert by someone who was using it as a permanent dwelling. The mobile home was demolished by the government as it was an illegal dwelling on public lands, though local lore differs on whether it was BLM or La Paz County that demolished the structure as part of a “clean up” operation. For reasons that are entirely unclear, whichever government agency demolished the mobile home decided to leave the mess in the desert rather than trucking it to a landfill for proper disposal.

Distressing as this one pile of junk is, it is even more problematic because it sits near the entrance to the BLM-managed area with dispersed camping. Every visitor to this desert area drives past this pile of trash which is plainly visible from the road. It is hard to convince users of public land that dumping waste is not acceptable when the government also does so in such a blatant and visible manner.

Please take care of our public lands and do not treat them as a free dumping ground. Wilderness areas are a treasure for everyone to enjoy, not a place to conveniently dispose of junk that you no longer want or need.

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