“It’s like we branded each other.”

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Photo by Author

She stepped up into the campervan, the original seats from 1988 creaking as she buckled the seatbelt and checked the mirrors. The dreamcatcher dangling from the rearview mirror was swaying slightly from the rocking of the van.

I watched all of this from outside the closed passenger door, the last time I’d see my traveling companion saddle up to ride. This time without me, in our Ford Econoline, tattooed with stickers and painted in a now faded red, white, and blue. …

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The Badlands, ND — Photo by Author

Golden sunset to the west, icy orange fingers of a snowstorm to the north, extending southward in a spectacle of color. Racing against the setting sun, I was eastbound on I-94 questioning whether this was Montana or North Dakota. For miles, the badlands had flirted in between farms and prairies, and I was eager to get to a campsite — there was no way of knowing what the storm had to offer.

Topping a rise I saw it, glimmering in all its glory: “Welcome to North Dakota. Be Legendary.” A slogan properly said with a raspy cowboy accent.

Lessons Learned on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

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Volcano Peak, UT — Photo by Author

Off Interstate 80 on the western edge of Utah lay the Bonneville Salt Flats, a vast swath of bright white land lined by towers and islands of brown rock. The layers of time all around the flats vary in shades of tan and brown, telling the story of the Great Basin. A drama of epochs, ages, and eras in the making; that shaped the area centered in Nevada and reaching into the neighboring states of California, Oregon, Utah, and Idaho.

The Great Basin was coined by John C. Fremont on an 1843 expedition upon which he recognized that the landform’s…

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Smoke Plume over Susanville, CA. Photo by Author.

Northern California, August 2020.

Wildfire smoke was a daily part of life by now, and for 300 miles in every direction, there was no escaping it. What a time to go camping.

Yet it wasn’t just camping, I’d converted my Jeep into a camper and set out on an open-ended quest. There was no choice but to endure the smoke as I hightailed it from Lake Tahoe up U.S. 395, past blackened land and into the small hamlet of Susanville, CA. Everything tinged with an orange hue, passing firefighters battling blazes on both sides of the highway. …

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Joshua Tree National Park — Photo by Author

The headlights died as I clicked the engine off. Leaning forward, confirming the darkness, a whole slurry of doubt came flooding into my mind. Alone? In the wilderness, that is absolutely crazy. My friends’ responses now making sense: Why? How are you going to pass your time? What if something goes wrong?

Why did this trip have to start at night? After driving four hours into the middle of the desert, I still found myself hesitant to get out of the car. …

I’ve had a oner or a two-er.

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Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

I found myself in a coffee shop trying to put words to a page when I heard two hip young women discussing their ‘bad trips’ on psychedelic mushrooms.

It was a sort of bragging, one-upping while talking over each other. Making sure everyone could hear how cool they were for ‘opening their souls’ and losing their egos, “It was like, so terrible, but I’m a better person for it”.

I was suddenly taken back a few months to my own horrid affair.

It was supposed to be a meditative trip, calming music and closed eyes with the intent to be…

A letter from an optimist.

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Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

Dearest friend,

You are reading this because you have just made an adjustment, a shift into a new paradigm in your life. Wow, I know. Isn’t that super cool?

Like if this was a movie you would be in the opening scene…or if this was a book perhaps this would be the third chapter and we’re meeting the main character after a lengthy backstory…well excuse my ramble, take it however you want, the key here is that you are currently sitting on top of the world. You can do anything, be anyone, this is the beginning of a new identity…

Middle school is a terrible place.

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Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

It certainly didn’t help that I was nearly as round as I was tall, my chubbiness emphasized by the big blonde mushroom on top of my head. For whatever reason, until I hit puberty my hair color looked as if I had bleached it, combined with that, my affinity for white T-shirts quickly gained me the moniker ‘snowball’ — a gold mine for the bully community of my school.

It only got worse from there, while changing in the locker room they called me ‘Tons of fun’ and would slap my stomach before yelling…

and why you should never get one.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

I awoke with a clatter, an incessant beeping sound distorting the Christmas music. As the fog broke, I heard the scared voice of my wife and found the steering wheel in my hand.

My last memory was a karaoke rendition of “A Long December” by Counting Crows; Stepping out of the car I knew that song would take on a different meaning for me.

The sight of my wife crying with red and blue light flickering on her face is forever burned into my memory.

It was just around the corner from our apartment where I veered into four parked…

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Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Today I walked through a neighborhood where the monthly price of a studio apartment shares the number of this very year we live in.

As every luxury vehicle ever made passed by, I couldn’t help noticing the frowns on all the drivers. Then I heard a man singing.

Out of an alcove shuffled a homeless man, continuing his minstrel while dancing a mild jig.

Just as the smell hit me, I noticed his pants were loaded. Full on bombs away, with his pleasant demeanor there’s no way it was an accident.

I couldn’t help but envy him.

That is a…

Scott Carnahan

Cameras by trade, writer by plight. A story obsessed thunderstorm junkie armed with a journal and fueled by music. | Denver, CO ⛈🏜🏔✨ scottjcarnahan.com

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