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The Stylus

The Stylus

Dotting i’s and crossing state lines 

Killip beach camping, photo provided

For the month of September, I was able to embark on a journey I’ve been dreaming about for years. Narrative journalism has always been a passion of mine—there’s just something about telling the stories of others that absolutely captivates me. But one small aspect has been missing from the journalistic pieces I’ve created over the years. Me.   

To complete my master’s in English I’ll need to produce a thesis, a large collection of creative prose. With my hopes to one day work as a photojournalist for an outdoor publication, I decided to use this undertaking as an opportunity to gain first-hand experience in the field…literally. So, I full-sent and traveled across the country for 28 days in a four-door Jeep Wrangler with my summer savings and a notebook. Oh, and a few rolls of 35mm film, of course.  

I kept a rough blog of my daily occurrences on the Stylus website while I was away, and I wanted to highlight a few of my favorite moments. 

Day 1 – August 30, 2022 

Odometer: 91,450 

Destination: Indiana Dunes State Park 

Waiting for the internet to work through my phone hotspot is like being constipated. We have about a 9.5-hour drive for this first stretch—sponsored by the first pumpkin spice lattes of the season. Indiana Dunes State Park was just a random location to try and get further west, but what a gem it was. Lake Michigan’s newest fan right here. Watching the waves bury my toes further down into the pebbly bottom while my footprints wash away from the caramel shore… I’m loving every moment we spend running away from the setting sun. 

Day 3 – September 1, 2022 

Destination: Badlands National Park  

The corn has quickly turned to hay. What struck me the most along this stretch through South Dakota were the billboards. Here are some of my favorites. Note: these are the words being sold to people who pass by, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. 

“Exercise makes you look better naked. So does tequila. Your choice.” 

“Mexican food is so good, Donald Trump would build a wall around it.” 

“We’re like a cult with better Kool-aide.” 

“Beef, it’s what’s for dinner.” 

P.S. Badlands were absolutely amazing– I could say so many things about them. Walking on Mars was something special.  

Day 4 – September 2, 2022 

Destination: Somewhere in Wyoming? 

Cody, Wyoming– this little town on our way to Yellowstone was right up my alley. If I say the vibes were the same as Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” music video maybe that’ll help paint the picture. Very small town, good ole boy feels. I have this dream of owning a house with land and a barn on the water, and we drove by mountain side mansions in Cody, which were just that. We didn’t have a set sleeping spot for the night and ended up pulling off into a first come first serve campground by the water. Beautiful. 

Day 6 – September 4, 2022 

Destination: Grand Teton National Park 

The Colter Bay campground showers are where it’s at. Best five dollars I’ve ever spent. No time limit, amazing pressure and they were clean. Chef kiss to you, Colter Bay. 

I’m falling in love with living out of a duffel, and I’m falling in love with Wyoming. Days are so minimalistic, and the Tetons don’t get old. We hiked an eight-mile loop around Jenny Lake– took about four hours due to stops for photos and snacks. My only wish is that I could drop everything and go off grid.  

Day 13 – September 11, 2022 

Destination: Our deserted “island” campsite 

Scooted over to Marshall, California and rented a tandem kayak that we’d be stuffing with a tent, sleeping bag, bear canister, firewood and a couple dry bags later in the day. Chicken Beach Ranch was the departure site, Marshall Beach (on Tomales Bay) the destination. Set off a little later than expected (who’s surprised?) and paddled through some pretty big waves for two hours. 

I like the way the salt splashes my forehead. I like how it gets caught in the strands of my hair; how it dries– leaving a crusted residue on my scalp. I like the taste of the droplets that fall to my lips. It’s a taste I want more of. 

Day 16 – September 14, 2022 

Destination: Santa Cruz, Carmel by the Sea 

Instead of reflections from the west, it’s infections from the west. Woke up with my eye swollen and itchy… gross, I know. Not sure what the deal is. But hey, we got to shower this morning. We had eight quarters. The showers were a quarter per minute. The showers ate two of our quarters. So, three minutes each, woohoo! It’s the little things. 

Went through Santa Cruz and hung out with some sea lions by the boardwalk. I’m working on my impersonations. 

Day 28 – September 26, 2022  

Destination: Home 

Odometer: 98,836 

After 7,000 miles, I’m a different journalist than I was before. For the first time, I was given the opportunity to create my own story, one that is still being written, and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds. There’s a lot from this trip I’m still processing, so many moments and memories reduced to pages in a notebook that still need to be worked through and perhaps, relived. The experience lies somewhere in between journalistic facts and creative nonfiction, between the vast lands of Wyoming and the busy streets of San Francisco. I’m not quite sure yet what words will form, but I know one thing for certain: it takes two girls 23 days to go through one tube of Arm and Hammer toothpaste.  

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