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    Gone Camping


    Photo: Getty Images/Photographer’s Choice RF/Alan Copson
    Alex De Ryan, OTR/L, classifies himself as an intermittent traveler, meaning he has accepted short-term contracts off and on for the past 10 years. There have been periods when he stayed near his home in Arizona, including owning and operating an assisted living center at one point.

    Then there were times when he succumbed to the lure of the mobile lifestyle and agreed to temporary positions — De Ryan currently partners with Supplemental Health Care, a staffing firm headquartered in Park City, Utah.

    When he does hit the road, however, the occupational therapist likes to mix things up, both geographically and in duration. De Ryan has practiced in Kansas, Washington state, Idaho, and California.

    "It all depends on what is happening in my life at the time," De Ryan says of his assignment selections. "I take some three-month contracts as well as one- or two-week jobs. I tend to go toward the shorter contracts because that means more opportunities to see and experience different places."

    Walk in the park

    Among his favorite places are national parks. "I'm uplifted by being outdoors and discovering what national parks have to offer," he says.

    As soon as De Ryan knew he would be practicing at Willow Creek Healthcare Center near Fresno, Calif., and Oakhurst Care and Rehabilitation Center in neighboring Oakhurst, he piled the camping gear into his SUV because he was already planning many trips to Yosemite. "Oakhurst is basically right next to the park's gate," he says.

    Yosemite, established in 1872, welcomes more than 3 million visitors every year, and being that De Ryan arrived in June (the beginning of tourist season), you'd think he would have had difficulties finding campsites. Not so, says the traveler.

    "I made reservations online and basically didn't have any problems. I liked High Sierra RV Park & Campground in Oakhurst the best," De Ryan says. "That particular site had all the amenities you can think of, like water, electricity, and even cable TV and Wi-Fi services. My favorite spot was along the Fresno River, which flows out of Yosemite. I would set up my tent about 20 feet from the shoreline."

    De Ryan is such an avid camper that he spent the first week of the one-month assignment commuting to the facilities from the campground. Once the workload increased, however, he acquiesced and stayed at the company-provided housing in town during the week.

    But when weekends rolled around, De Ryan went back to the wilderness. "I also camped in Yosemite or at Millerton Lake, which is about 20 miles away. Camping was very relaxing. It was a good way to end the week and prepare for the coming one," he says.

    While De Ryan appreciated the solitude of camping after a busy week caring for patients, he had the good fortune of reconnecting with friends living in the area, including a Yosemite guide who gave him the inside scoop on the park's more than 800 miles of trails. De Ryan spent much of his free time exploring some of the park's legendary sights, including a trail to the top of Vernal Falls, a 317-foot waterfall.

    De Ryan also got acquainted with the towns he served. "I really enjoyed Oakhurst. It's a small town with a touristy feel with arts and crafts vendors and mom-and-pop stores," he says. "It had a country feel that I liked."


    Anne Baye Ericksen
    Anne Baye Ericksen is a freelance writer based in Simi Valley, California.