Prague, after the rain

personal journeys

My best shot For several years, my...

November 01, 1998|By SUSAN E. DREY

Prague, after the rain; My best shot For several years, my daughter Sam, now 12, and I have enjoyed two- or three-week trips to the Southwest. But in 1995, I took a two-month leave of absence from my job in Baltimore, and the two of us set out on the adventure of a lifetime. Just me and Sam, our little minivan, a cooler, a tent, sleeping gear and, of course, my camera.

When it was all said and done, we had traveled more than 7,000 miles cross-country, visited 14 national parks and monuments, and camped beneath the stars 25 nights. Along the way, we met other campers, tourists and locals, and even spent days hiking with them. But one of the most memorable times of our trip was the night we spent alone, miles from any signs of civilization, in the Bureau of Land Management lands of Utah.

This is an excerpt from my journal describing that night, after we had found out there were no campsites or motel rooms to be found in or around our original destination of Moab.

Finally out of desperation we talked to a park ranger at the visitor center in town and were given rather vague directions to a spot about seven miles out of Moab. We were told to just turn off the road onto a dirt trail and drive into the desert mountains a ways. Well, we found a small dirt turnoff, whether it was the place the ranger had described or not, I'll never know, but we found a fire pit about 100 yards in, so we could tell someone had camped there recently.

The site was perfect and so quiet and so far away from people. We quickly set up the tent before it became totally dark at about 9 p.m. An hour later, the moon rose in the east and lit up everything. It was like a giant flashlight, so strong that we could see our shadows perfectly.

We made a great fire just to ward off any wild animals, as all we ate that night were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Sam was a little frightened and concerned about being totally alone with no other people around. "I like other people nearby; I don't feel safe here," she said. But she got over it and slept very well. I sat up and enjoyed the sights and sounds and smells a while, then joined Sam in our tent. When I awoke at 2 a.m., I thought the sun was up because there was a huge, bright light coming through the walls of the tent. I got up and peered out, never realizing the moon could light the world so perfectly.

Susan E. Drey is a photographer who lives in Baltimore. A Chesapeake Bay Cruise:

Jill R. Malcolm,

Forest Hill

"We are just back from a 10-day Chesapeake Bay cruise that was the vacation of our lives! Aboard our 30-foot Catalina sailboat, 'Carol Ann,' my husband, John, and I sailed south with our two children, Peter, 4, and Tori, 2. We challenged ourselves with the art of navigation and sailing, while showing our children the beauty in their own backyard."


Mary and Paul Nelson,


"We just returned from two weeks in Ireland. Besides seeing the main sights, we recommend picking a few smaller ones as they're generally less crowded and touristy. We particularly enjoyed the ruins of Fore Abbey. If you're in Bantry, try O'Connors Restaurant; the mussels are caught fresh in Bantry Bay. Finally, do drive yourself; the freedom is worth a few nerves!"

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