GWL Journals

Northern Leg – 610 Mile
Bridge of the Gods, Cascade Locks, Oregon to Rogers Pass, Montana – 2006

Wednesday–March 29, 2006

Trail Day–007

Trail Mile–16.7/0142

Location–Cascade Locks, Oregon

There are a number of hiking trails within the public areas here in the Gorge.  They climb along and around the bluffs and side ravines, generally between the many high waterfalls.  Indeed, this area I’m passing today has the highest concentration of “high” waterfalls, more than any other place in North America.  I detour from Old US30 to trek along one of the trails for a distance.

This is a very short hiking day, comparatively, only around seventeen miles, but I tire from climbing around, plus carrying a heavier pack (it rained last night and I slept through — yes, I hadn’t rigged my fly — everything I have is soaked!).

Hiking the Old US30 Highway, built back in the 20s was a memorable part of my Odyssey ’04 trek, and I find it no less enjoyable today.  If you take a moment, you can read my comments about this old road at my September 7th Journal entry for that year.

Well, it’s day seven.  I’ve been out here a week now, nearly 150 miles.  My back’s a little sore, the body a tad tired, but looks like the old legs are going to come back under me one more time.  I think this is going to prove a most memorable journey — thank you dear Lord.

The Corps didn’t reach the Cascades until April 12th 1806.  Much time was spent exploring the lower tributaries of the Columbia, notably the Multnomah (Willamettre) and the Quicksand (Sandy).  During that time they encamped above the mouth of the Washougal.  They were also concerned about provisions for their return; so hunting parties were sent out.  Natives descending the river “…complained much of the scarcity of food among them.  they informed us that the nations above them were in the same situation…” [Lewis, April 1st 1806]  “This morning we came to a resolution to remain at our present encampment or some where in this neighbourhood untill we had obtained as much dried meat as would be necessary for our voyage as far as the Chopunnish [Nez Perces].” [Lewis, April 2nd 1806]

Lots more pictures today along the Gorge.  Pilot Rock, Horsetail Falls, a hiking trail, a short walk on the Union Pacific Railroad, the Old Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway, and finally, the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks.

Thursday–March 30, 2006

Trail Day 008

Trail Mile–19.8/0162

Location–Hood River, Oregon

Cascade Locks is a five star trail town.  Everything a tired hiker could possibly need or want is within less than five minutes walking distance.  The people here are friendly, a change over the last 200 years.  They like, and cater to, long distance backpackers (the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail drops off the mountain into Cascade Locks before crossing the Bridge of the Gods on its way from Mexico to Canada).

In ’04 I stayed at the Bridge of the Gods Motel, right downtown, within the shadow of the bridge.  Stayed there again this time around too.  Great hosts, friendly folks.  Hiker trash rates.  All whiz-bang new.  Thanks Barbara and Roger, for your hospitality.

Had a long, interesting chat with Kristy, waitress at the local diner.  A slow evening, so we talked Lewis and Clark, and Native American history.  Kristy was born and raised right here by the Locks.  Her father, grandfather — all lived out their lives here.  Her family came from Canada many years ago.  Probably helped widen the ruts in the old Oregon Trail, which passed the Cascades.  Kristy talked about the many Native Americans, dear friends she went to school with (a far away glint here), and how their heritage — and hers seems now a mix.

Good to be in last night; hard rain.  But to my good fortune the good weather holds.  I’m out to a cool, cloudy morning, and by noon it fairs up and turns most pleasant.  Trekking the grinder today, I-84, all the way to Hood River.  Much heavy truck traffic.  The constant racket, rush, and confusion wear me down.  However, there’s raw, expansive beauty here in the Gorge.  So, as I keep one eye on the eighteen-wheelers, I try, with the other, to keep that beauty in focus.

A few more good pictures, I hope.  I’m in by three.

The Corps spent April 9th through the 12th 1806 below the rapids (Cascades).  The snowmelt/spring runoff was in full tilt causing the Corps much difficulty in “hawking” their perogues/canoes and portaging their gear.  The Indians were a constant annoyance, a problem that greatly angered Lewis.

“we passed several beautiful cascades which fell from a great hight over the stupendous rocks which cloles [closes?] the river on both sides nearly…the most remarkable of these casscades falls about 300 feet perpendicularly over a solid rock [Multnomah, and the high falls area discussed in my journal entry yesterday]…” [Lewis, April 9th 1806]

“…this portage is two thousand eight hundred yards along a narrow rough and slipery road…at present the whole distance is extreemly difficult of ascent…the water appears to be upwards of 20 feet higher than when we decended the river…many of the natives crouded about the bank of the river where the men were engaged in taking up the canoes; one of them had the insolence to cast stones down the bank at two of the men…three of this same tribe of villains the Wah-clel-lars, stole my dog this evening…sent three men in pursuit of the thieves with orders if they made the least resistance or difficulty in surrendering the dog to fire on them…” [Lewis, April 11th 1806]

Friday–March 31, 2006

Trail Day–009

Trail Mile–22.7/0185

Location–The Dalles, Oregon

Don’t know why I stopped by the Hood River Best Western last evening, but I did.  Best Westerns are fine top-o-the-line motels, and the Hood River facility ranks right up there with the best of them.  Anyway, at reception I told Beth and Dan my story about hiking the L&CNHT.  They both listened with sincere interest, then Beth asked what I could afford. When I told her, she didn’t frown or say a word — just went right to her computer and arranged a room for me.  One of the very finest rooms I’ve ever stayed in while trekking, bar none.  Thanks Beth and Dan, for your kindness to this old man; I had a great stay!

Another fine day in the making weather-wise.  Back to the I-84 grinder.  I’ll be on this bruiser, off and on, for a number of days yet, until I’m out of the Columbia River Gorge.  Old old US30, Old US30, and now I-84, all were paved down over the ruts of the old Oregon Trail.  At the Memaloose Rest Area near Mosier, there’s a fine Oregon Trail Interpretive Pavilion.  I stop and get a few pictures.

From the interstate today, there are many fine views into and across the Columbia River Gorge.  The current is really moving swiftly here as the river drops to the sea.  I’ve been climbing steadily since leaving Fort Clatsop.  There, and by the mouth of the Columbia River, at the Pacific Ocean, the elevation was zero.  Over the past nine days, and as I’ve been steadily climbing the Gorge, tomorrow, near Biggs Junction, the Columbia will be standing at 157 feet.

The last part of the hike today I’m back over on old US30.  Thank you, Lord!  Near The Dalles now and after climbing a couple of fences, then dashing across four lanes of I-84, I’m at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum.  The admission fee is a little steep for me, but the kind lady at reception allows me to drift the hall and get some fine pictures.

By early afternoon I’m in The (new) Dalles.  It takes another hour and change to reach The (old) Dalles.  I check into the little mom-n-pop Oregon Motor Motel, right next the post office, a little before four — just like in ’04.  It’s been a fine hiking day!

Saturday–April 1, 2006

Trail Day—010

Trail Mile–25.0/0210

Location–Rufus, Oregon

Bad electric storm last evening.  Buckets of rain accompanied by a full percussion/light show. Never before heard the likes of such thunder, as it echoed/reverberated back and forth across the walls of the Gorge.  Charmed again; sure glad I was in!

This morning I’m out to a cold and misty time of it.  But again, by late morning the clutter burns away — and gives way to another beautiful day.  Looking over my journal entries for the days through here in ’04, I daily lamented the annoying and troublesome wind.  It seemed to blow constantly, right up the Gorge, so hard at times that I literally had to lean into it to make any headway at all.  Well now, the wind’s still here — It hasn’t changed direction, but I have!  So comes help, finally, to bounce the old Nomad along.

Numerous songbirds and a wide variety of waterfowl are ever abundant now.  Ducks and geese in great numbers.  On April 17th 1806 and encamped at Dallesport, Ordway wrote: “a beautiful warm morning…the Small birds of different kinds are Singing around us.”

Ha, I got stopped by the Oregon State Police on I-84 this morning.  Was hiking with the traffic, which I almost never do.  Walking the “I-ways” out here is okay, but only if you’re going against the traffic.  Didn’t know that. The officer was most kind, and very inquisitive about my trek.  She asked if I tend to run into problems with troublemakers along the road.  She also asked if I had a hiding place for my money and credit card.  I just smiled, told her about the little prayer {A Path by the Side of the Road) that I recite each and every morning — that that took care of it!  She smiled back, acted almost apologetic for hassling me; told me to be careful — and it was okay to keep on hiking the with-traffic side.  First chance however, I hopped the center barrier anyway, to hike against the traffic, then I wave to her when she comes back the other way an hour later.

I’m getting a fair distance ahead of the Corps now (time-wise, save being 200 years late).  From April 15th 1806 and through the 18th of that year the Corps remained at Dallesport, set to the task of trading for and procuring horses for the journey across the western high plains and back over the Bitterroots.  As they continued upriver, and through the Long Narrows, they also continued bartering for and purchasing horses — with miserable success.  The whole ordeal, from the tone of the captain’s journal entries, must have been totally frustrating.  On April 20th 1806, from just above the Long Narrows (where I recently passed), Lewis wrote: “[The Teninos] are poor, dirty, proud, haughty, inhospitable, parsimonious and faithless in every rispect, nothing but our numbers I beleive prevents their attempting to murder us at the moment.  This morning I was informed that the natives had pilfered six tommahawks and a knife from the party in the course of the last night…one horse which I had purchased and paid for yesterday and which could not be found when I ordered the horses into close confinement yesterday I was now informed had been gambled away by the rascal who had sold it to me and had been taken away by a man of another nation.”  That day Clark wrote: “I could not precure a Single horse of those people, dureing this day at any price…I used every artifice decent & even false Statements to enduce those pore devils to Sell me horses.”

The following day, April 21st 1806, near the Deschutes River (passed by the Nomad today), after days of effort by all, the Corps was still unable to fully shift travel from water to land.  At that point Lewis became pretty much unhinged.  His journal entry tells it all: “Notwithstanding all the precautions I had taken with rispect to the horses one of them had broken his cord of 5 strands of Elkskin and had gone off spanseled. I sent several men in surch of the horse with orders to return at 10 A.M. with or without the horse being determined to remain no longer with these villains.  they stole another tomahawk from us this morning I surched many of them but could not find it. I ordered all the spare poles, paddles and the ballance of our canoe put on the fire as the morning was cold and also that not a particle should be left for the benefit of the indians. I detected a fellow in stealing an iron socket of a canoe pole and gave him several severe blows and mad the men kick  him out of camp. I now informed the indians that I would shoot the first of them that attempted to steal an article from us.  that we were not affraid to fight them, that I had in my power at that moment to kill them all and set fire to their houses…”

Gass was apparently so surprised by Lewis’ actions that he wrote: “While we were making preparations to start, an Indian stole some iron articles from among the men’s hands; which so irritated Captain Lewis, that he struck him; which was the first act of the kind, that had happened during the expedition.”

Sunday–April 2, 2006

Trail Day—011

Trail Mile–28.0/0238

Location–Arlington, Oregon

If you’ve been following my itinerary from day-to-day, you will have noticed the last two locations, for yesterday and today aren’t there.  That’s because I’ve decided to stay on the Oregon side of the Gorge.  I’ll not be crossing the Columbia this journey.  There’ll be plenty of time to enjoy the miles in Washington after I pass Port Kelly.

I’m out this morning to another cold, drizzly day, but again, by around eleven the day fairs up and turns warm and clear.  Off come my fleece jacket, mittens and headband.

The wind wants to come along and cause me trouble.  By noon it’s blowing every which direction, trying to zero in on me.  It gives up by one and the Columbia turns completely flat.  Of all the days I’ve hiked beside this river I’ve never seen it glass over like it has today.  If the Corps ever experienced a day like this, I know they would have enjoyed it.  By three-thirty, the wind returns.  It’s got me figured out this time and it comes straight at me from the east, pushing hard.  The last three miles of most any day are the tough ones, today especially so.

We’re back on daylight savings time again.  Yippee!  Wish we would stay on it all year.  I really like the late evening light.  I recall a number of years ago; there was a push to keep daylight savings time year-round.  One of the excuses then, at least in Missouri, was the farmers would have to do their morning milking in the dark.  Taking a lantern into the barn was a fire hazard.  So the rationale was that the cows could give milk better in the daylight, which left the rest of us in the dark come evening.

As I climb the Gorge, the climate change is striking.  Down by Portland, and beyond, it’s rain forest.  Here, there are no trees, just grass — and rocks.  Before I leave the Gorge, it will become even more arid.  Near the Dalles, on April 17th 1806, Lewis wrote: “the plain is covered with rich virdue of grass and herbs from four to nine inches high and exibits a beautiful seen particularly pleasing after having been so long imprisoned in mountains and those almost impenetrable thick forrests of the seacoast.”

Monday–April 3, 2006

Trail Day—012

Trail Mile–27.0/0265

Location–Boardman, Oregon

I’m out to another gloomy morning, cold with mist.  The sun tries burning through early morning, but not today.  The wind is back first thing.  It’s got my number now; hits me straight out of the east — blow your hat off kind of wind.  I lean into it all day, just like I did on the westbound trek.

The day remains cold, and by three the rain, mixed with sleet comes along with the wind for good measure.  It’s a hard twenty-seven; I just lean into it and go.

East of John Day Dam, and in the vicinity of Rock Creek, the Corps finally shifted their travel entirely to land.  That first night, April 24th 1806, they camped near Blalock Oregon, passed by me yesterday.

“the natives had tantalized us with an exchange of horses for our canoes in the first instance, but when they found that we had made our arrangements to travel by land they would give us nothing for them  I determined to cut them in peices sooner than leave them on those terms, Drewyer struck one of the canoes and split of a small peice with his tommahawk, they discovered us determined on this subject and offered us several strands of beads for each which were accepted.  we proceeded up the river between the hills and it’s Northern shore…most of the party complain of the soarness of their feer and legs this evening; it is no doubt caused by walking over the rough stones and deep sands…” [Lewis, April 24, 1806]

Tuesday–April 4, 2006

Trail Day—013

Trail Mile–30.0/0295

Location–Hat Rock SP, Oregon

This is going to be a fine hiking day, cool and cloudy, just a little wind coming at me.  No gloves, no headband, only an open jacket this morning.

Either the state police or local sheriff came to check me out first thing almost every morning.  It’s the sheriff’s turn today.  No ID required, just want to know what’s up, why I’m out here on the interstate — if I’m okay.  All have been kind and have shown interest in my journey.

This is a day I’ve been looking forward to; not a big deal, but to me, I guess it is — I’m off the I-ways for this hike.  Three more miles this morning and I’ve got I-84 behind me.  Been on it, on and off (but mostly on), since Portland.  There’ll be plenty more I-ways to cross over or under, or hike alongside before this trek is over, but this is the last one I’ll be on.  Don’t get me wrong, the interstate is not a bad place to be, safe enough, just so much commercial traffic plus long straight stretches disappearing to the horizon.  Tends to wear on a fellow.  Yup, glad to have I-84 in my rearview!

The Gorge is opening up now, the plateau much lower, so the I-way climbs up and out of it from time to time today.  I look behind me often, but it’s just too cloudy, too hazy to see the seventy or so miles back to Mount Hood.  Next snowcaps I’ll see will be the Rockies.

Near Irrigon, and on US730 now the plateau is covered with roundy-roundy irrigation systems.  The climate here is arid, very dry, only 8-9 inches of rainfall per year.  But the soil is loamy and good for a variety of field crops, even vineyards.  I recall wondering, while passing Irrigon in ’04, where that unusual name came from.  I remember chuckling and whispering to myself, “Don’t know, but without irrigation it’d sure be gone!”

In Umatilla I’m back on my planned route again.  Arrive here early; so after a short stop to get some Easter cards off, I head back out and hoof it on to Hat Rock State Park, some 5-6 miles up the road.  Unusual rock formation, shaped like a huge Quaker’s hat, or the one the little fellow wears for St. Patty’s Day.

“By the 27th, the party reached the country of Chief Yellept and the Wallawallas, relatives of the Nez Perce.  The chief rode up with six men and was delighted to see the white men, as they were to see him.  Yellept was chief of a village of some fifteen lodges, with perhaps 150 men, and many horses.  It was currently set up about twelve miles below the junction of the Columbia and the Snake, on the north bank.  [Stephen Ambrose, Undaunted Courage]

Wednesday–April 5, 2005

Trail Day—014

Trail Mile–22.0/0317

Location–Near Touchet, Washington

It was nearly dark when I arrived at Hat Rock SP last evening, so the nearby Good Sam Campground Store was already closed.  I hiked on over by the park water tank and pitched for the night.  Other than the freight trains running across the river, all was quiet.

This morning I beat it back to the store, which has a grill.  Here Sally, the storeowner greets me.  Oh yes, she’s in early making biscuits, and coffee’s brewed and ready — and she invites me in.  Not much going on this morning, except it’s darking over and the rain is setting in.  “Not much activity around here when it’s raining,” Sally remarks, not complaining.  She sets to fixing me a fine breakfast, complete with a freshly baked biscuit.  I try to drain her coffee.  Plenty of time to chat.  Sally tells me of her adventures, from ranching a 50-section spread in Arizona to touring Europe.  Doesn’t take long to realize, deep down, she’s just a wanderlust, like me.  Breakfast is Sally’s treat — and she sends me out with grub for the evening.  Thanks’ Sally!

By the time I hit the road, it’s raining steady.  The wind tries, but decides to back off and let the rain do the job on me today.  And a fine job it does, indeed.  No letup till dark.

I content myself with hammering on up the Gorge.  The rains, the clouds, the fog, all combines to create an eerie beauty to the place.  At two, I put Oregon behind me.  Ten more states to go.  By four, I reach US12, and leave the Columbia Gorge behind me.  I’ll follow the Touchet River, then the Walla Walla River, to Walla Walla, generally the return route followed by the Corps, and later by the Oregon Trail.

Along about here, in late April 1806, things greatly improved for the Corps, at least as to relations with the natives.  They were greeted again by Chief Yellept who, along with his villagers, had invited the Yakima to join them for an evening of festivities.

“…a little before sunset the Chymnahpos [Yakima] arrived; they were about 100 men and a few women; they joined the Wallahwollahs who were about the same number and formed a half circle around our camp where they waited very patiently to see our party dance. the fiddle was played and the men amused themselves with dancing about an hour.  we then requested the Indians to dance which they very cheerfully complied with…about 550 men women and children sung and danced at the same time.”  [Lewis, April 28th 1806]

Thursday–April 6, 2006

Trail Day—015

Trail Mile–20.0/0337

Location–Walla Walla, Washington

The wind blows here.  Perhaps you’ve picked up on that if you’re following along.  On the plateau above the Columbia River Gorge, there’s nothing to stop the wind, save perhaps five or six hundred huge wind-driven turbines.  But they don’t stop it either, they just turn with it.  All night last, from where I’d pitched in a dry gulch below the highway, I could hear the moan of the night wind as it passed the turbine props, kinda like the wind in the tall pine, but not really — more low-pitched and mournful.

The day dawns clear and cold.  I’m having a time getting the old jitney cranked and haulin’.  The damp cold is partly the cause.  Mainly my feet are so much mush from the soaking yesterday.  The feet must be broken in for both dry and wet.  The dry I’ve got; the wet I’m workin’ on.

No complaints though.  Been very fortunate this start-up.  I’ve suffered the usual shin splints, sore back, aching knees and joints, but not nearly as bad as the beginning of other treks.  I’ve been out here two weeks now, hammering 20-30 mile days.  My legs are back under me one more time.  It’s a blessing, pure and simple — it’s a blessing.  Thank you, Lord!

Not much in the little berg of Touchet (rhymes with juicy — locals say it ain’t French!).  There’s a Chevron with a Subway.  I go for the breakfast bun and doubles on coffee.  The klatch has taken up the far corner.  David, Manuel, and Gary.  They take me in.  Happy conversation about the old school days, that stuff.  Good fun.

Out of the Chevron, the gloves and headband come off.  Gentle breeze to my back.  I can see the western extent of the Rockies and many snowcaps to my east.  Be there soon.  I’m now taking (generally) the eighty-mile shortcut followed by Lewis and Clark, through Waitsburg (where I’ll be tomorrow), Dayton and Pomeroy.  When the Corps crossed the Columbia River on April 29th 1806, aided by Yellept, they had 23 horses and a Nez Perce guide to help them onward to the Snake River, west of present day Clarkston.

“…the indians informed us that there was a good road which passed from the columbia opposite to this village to the entrance of the Kooskooske on the S. side of Lewis’s river…we knew that a road in that direction if the country would permit would shorten our rout at least 80 miles…” [Lewis, April 27th 1806]

Friday–April 7, 2006

Trail Day—016

Trail Mile–21.2/0358

Location–Waitsburg, Washington

Walla Walla is a fair-sized town; hiking through takes awhile.  I’m headed for Waitsburg today, continuing on US12, up and over a portion of the western high plains.  The Corps did not pass this way.  Rather, they continued following the Touchet River, west of Walla Walla, as it curved up and around to present-day Waitsburg.

From these plains I’ll descend, as did the Corps, down to the Snake River at Clarkston/Lewiston.  But generally I’ve been, and will continue, climbing.  Where I turned from the Columbia River Gorge at Wallula Junction, the Columbia stood at 348 feet.  By the time I reach the Snake River, day after tomorrow, the river there is at 725 feet.  Yet continuing along US12, up the valleys of the Clearwater and Lochsa, I’ll climb steadily up and into the high-ranging Bitterroots.

Around Waitsburg there’s more annual rainfall than for areas just west.  In these rolling high plains, wheat is king, and during the summer it’s wheat, 360, to the horizon.

“I see very little difference between the apparent face of the country here and that of the plains of the Missouri only that these are not enlivened by the vast herds of buffaloe Elk &c which ornament the other.” [Lewis, May 1st 1806]

Upon leaving their lands, and speaking of the Wallawallas on May 2nd 1806, Lewis noted “…that they are the most hospitable, honest, and sincere people that we have met with in our voyage.”

Saturday–April 8, 2006

Trail Day—017

Trail Mile–9.8/0368

Location–Dayton, Washington

My first mail drop was in Walla Walla.  There I received cards from dear family and friends.  It’s always a morale booster — hearing from folks that are following along.  My next mail drop (scheduled) will be in Great Falls around the end of this month.  My address there will be: M. J. Eberhart,  c/o General Delivery, Great Falls, Montana 59401.  It’d be a joy to hear from y’all!  Please mark your mail “Hold for L&C NHT Hiker.”

In Waitsburg last, and as I turned by the White Stallion Restaurant and Lounge, a car pulled beside and parked.  Out came this lady — straight to me.  “There’s a purpose in what you’re doing, isn’t there?” she remarked with a beaming smile.  “My granddaughter and me, we saw you on our way to Walla Walla, then again on our return trip home.  We knew you didn’t want a ride.  You’re walking for a purpose, aren’t you?” she continued.  And so, there by that fine establishment (hers), I met Gaye and granddaughter, Hillary.  I smiled back, returning her kind greeting, then told her about my return trek — the 200th anniversary of the return of Lewis and Clark.  A broader-beaming smile then, and Hillary was beaming too!  “Did you notice the name of my place — White Stallion?  You know what it stands for, don’t you?” she asked.  Gaye continued smiling and nodding in agreement as I recalled the story of the Wallawallas and Chief Yellept, who had befriended Lewis and Clark in the fall of 1805 — then had come again to aid and assist the Corps on their return.  During that time of renewed friendship and celebration, Chief Yellept offered the Corps a “very eligant white horse” [Lewis, April 28th 1806].  And so, Gaye’s inspiration for naming her place, “White Stallion.”  Gaye invited me in as her guest.  She fed me a huge cod dinner, all the while sitting and entertaining me with friendly conversation.  Also befriending me was waitress, Tammy Jo.  Thanks, Gaye, Hillary, Tammy Jo.  Your kindness and hospitality, your generosity, they’ll remain in my memory.

With an hour remaining till dusk, I hoofed it on up to Lewis and Clark State Park, there to find a grassy spot back under the trees.

Ahh, this adventure is truly turning to one of fulfillment and reward.

The rain began around five this morning, driven by a cold wind out of the southwest.  I break camp in it, and then hasten the remaining distance to Dayton.  This has been a short day.  In Dayton, Shailesh offers the old Nomad a hiker trash deal at his fine Blue Mountain Motel.

I’m in!

“it rained, hailed, snowed & blowed with Great Violence the greater portion of the day.  it was fortunate for us that this storm was from the S.W. and of course on our backs.” [Clark, May 3rd 1806]

Sunday–April 9, 2006

Trail Day—018

Trail Mile–26.9/0394

Location–Pomeroy, Washington

An amazing “coincidence” last evening.  I had walked downtown to see the local sights and to meet a few of the local folks.  Being late, the only place open was the bar and grill.  One seat was left at the bar, between an old gent and a younger chap.  I took it.  Struck up a conversation first thing with the old gent.  In awhile, the younger fellow joined in.  He’s working the wind turbine project.  Came to find he was from Dahlonega, Georgia, the son-in-law of a dear friend there, Juddy — who’s since passed away. Bill, it was a pleasure meeting you.  When you get back home, my regards please, to Juddy’s mother, Georgia Mae, his widow, Donna, his daughter (your wife), Johanna, and all the other kids.

What a blessing, the short day yesterday, with plenty of time to rest.  It was much needed. I’m out at eight to a glorious cool, clear morning.  Folks have been telling me about the Corps’ camp of May 2nd 1806, located just outside of town.  I check my maps and find I can take a detour and pass by there.  So it’s off to the May 2nd camp I go.

I find it to be a pretty amazing place.  The camp is set entirely with iron silhouettes of all the members of the Corps, even the Indian guides, and all the horses.  I spend much time taking pictures — and cleaning the mess of catsup, mayo, mustard, and ice cream off all the plaques so I can photograph them.

The hike today is mostly along gravel roads, a shortcut across a big horseshoe loop in US12, up and onto the plateau, then down to Marengo, a little crossroads community, then back up to the plateau, to finally descend back down to catch US12 coming around.  Beautiful views all along, including many huge wind-driven turbines not here when I passed in ’04.  Along the way I meet an old chap, name of Pepper Nelson — runs Stirrup T Farms in a “little” place called Covello — which, in the early 1900s boasted a population of 107.  There are only two people living there now, Pepper and his wife!

By six, I’m entering the streets of Pomeroy.  By six, the rain is also entering the streets of Pomeroy.

On May 3rd 1806, the Corps camped by Pataha Creek, near present-day Pomeroy, here in Garfield County, Washington.  Nearing the confluence of the Snake and the Clearwater, the Corps was beginning to run into the Nez Perce again.

“we met with We-ark-koomt [Nez Perce Chief]…he is the 1st Chief of a large band of the Chopunnish nation [again, Nez Perce]…[Lewis, May 3rd 1806]

Monday–April 10, 2006

Trail Day—019

Trail Mile–31.5/0426

Location–Lewiston, Idaho

This is going to be a long grind-it-out day.  Cold rain gets me started, and then slacks off from time-to-time as the morning progresses.  But by one, and as I’m working the climb up to Alpowa, which crests just shy of 3,000 feet, the wind starts kicking, driving hail along with it.  On the top of Alpowa I see a very large gray wolf.  He’s grubbing around for field mice, totally oblivious to my presence.  When he finally sees me, he hightails it, literally, up and over the rise, and in a flash, he’s gone.

The Corps also climbed up and over Alpowa.  While on the flat, ranging crest, and on May 4th 1806, Clark wrote: “the soil is extremely fertile…it produces great quantities of the quawmash a root of which the natives are extremely fond.”

During the 200th ’04 anniversary, the Corps’ outbound journey, there were many folks following the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, in automobiles, motor homes, and on bicycles.  To my knowledge, no one else hiked the trail, although there was a lone kayaker/hiker who made the distance, by water and then by land.  His name is Norm Miller, and you can check out his amazing adventure at If you followed my journey during that year, you’ll recall it took 124 days and over 3,100 miles.  This year, it being the 200th anniversary of the Corps’ return from Fort Clatsop to St. Louis — and there being unfinished business as to my involvement with the anniversary, I decided to return to Fort Clatsop and do the return trek.  So on March 23rd, at one o’clock, 200 years to the day (hour) I began my personal return journey. This odyssey is going to be charmed.  I can tell already.  I’m seeing so many old friends, and making new ones.

Many times during the ’04 odyssey, and again this trek, folks have commented to the effect: “Well, the Corps of Discovery was a voyage by water, not a journey by land.”  And indeed, both the captains referred to the journey as a voyage from time-to-time.  They did indeed struggle for great distances, up and down many great rivers, during their “voyage.”  However, as through here, and for months, the Corps journeyed by horseback — or they simply walked.  And even when they had horses, they still walked, leading their heavily laden “pack stock” along.

If you’ve read the journals of the members of the Corps, more specifically, those of Lewis and those of Clark, you will have come to know and understand the many individual talents and interests of these two men.  Clark was the boatman, the navigator, and the cartographer.  Lewis was the naturalist, the entomologist, and the anthropologist.  While the Corps traveled by water, Clark spent most of his time as leader of the boat crews. Lewis on the other hand, took to the lands along, traveling for the greater part on foot.  He has been credited with the discovery of many species of plants and animals.

The hunters that supplied meat, the nourishment and energy that kept the Corps going, those Kentucky boys and the greatest hunter, the half-breed, Drouillard — the Lord only knows how many thousands of miles they walked hunting, ranging the plains, the valleys, and mountainsides in search for game.

Oh, but could I have lived 200 years ago.  Could I have been born and raised along the Ohio River.  I would have been one of those Kentucky boys chosen by Clark.  Oh, to have been a member of that remarkable history making/changing expedition, one of the most incredible adventures of all recorded time.  Oh, to have been there — to have been one of them.  Could my dream, my wish be made true, right here, right now where I stand, pack shouldered and ready, you’d see but a puff of smoke — and I’d be gone.  And there, in the complement of the Corps, there in their journals, those documents of time — you’d read my name.

Descending from Alpowa, I reach the upper Hells Gate section of the Snake River by four.  At six, I put the Snake River, and Washington, behind me.

On May 4th 1806, the Corps encamped on the banks of the Snake River, a short distance below present day Clarkston/Lewiston.  In his journal for that day, Lewis wrote: “we met with Te-toh, ar sky, the youngest of the two cheifs who accompanied us last fall [to] the great falls of the Columbia…these indians recommended our passing the river [Snake] at this place and ascending the Kooskooske [Clearwater] on the N.E. side…thither they promised to conduct us…”

That day in his journal, Gass wrote: “we halted at an Indian lodge, and could get nothing to eat, except some bread made of a kind of root I was unaquainted with. We had, however, a dog, which we bought from the Indians…scanty allowance for thirty odd hungry men.”

Tuesday–April 11, 2006

Trail Day—020

Trail Mile–27.6/0453

Location–Lenore, Idaho

I had somewhat dreaded this day.  Up through Clearwater River Canyon the river is squeezed hard both sides by the canyon walls, the road jammed in between the river and the bluff.  Consequently, the road has no emergency lane, either side, and the white line (road edge) is hard against the crash rails.  In ’04, I passed through this section of the lower canyon in driving rain, the wind and the eighteen-wheelers being the drivers.  However, today turns out totally different.  I’ve got more room on the upriver side, the commercial traffic is thin — and it’s a beautiful, warm and sunny day!

The Clearwater isn’t so clear this time of year.  It’s roiling and boiling, brimful with snowmelt, and whatever else it can bring down with it.  The Corps crossed the Snake River below the confluence of the Clearwater (near present-day Clarkson/Lewiston), thus putting them on the north side of the Clearwater, where a number the Nez Perce villages were located.  On the third day’s march up the Clearwater, the Corps “passed” the river to the south side on May 7th 1806.

By late afternoon, the day darks over and the rain begins, but I’m out of it as I’ve reached my destination for the day, the Nez Perce Reservation and the Thunderbird Smoke Shop.  La Verne is still here, still working evenings.  She welcomes me, and in a short while I’m again given permission to pitch behind the fireworks shed — just like in ’04.

“We proceeded up the river 4 miles to a lodge of six families…Here our guide recommended the passing of the river.  He informed us that the road was better on the south side and game more abundant…Accordingly, we unloaded our horses and prepared to pass the river, which we effected by means of one canoe in four hours.” [Lewis, May 7th 1806]

Wednesday–April 12, 2006

Trail Day—021

Trail Mile–15.8/0469

Location–Orofino, Idaho

It’ll be a steady climb today, up US12, which goes up by the Clearwater.  At Lewiston the river stood at 725 feet.  When I reach Orofino this evening, and at that place, the Clearwater stands at 982 feet.

The day starts iffy, drizzle but mild.  The rain soon relents and the day turns fair.  The highway continues by the bluff one side, the river the other, scant room for a road.  I hike outside the crash rail for a fair distance, but the going is a difficult off-camber and the rocks loose and unsafe.  I finally give it up to take my chances once more with the eighteen-wheelers.  On the outskirts of Orofino I stop for my picture by an old dugout canoe in front of a neat little craft shop.  Then it’s on to Canoe Camp, above Canyon Creek, where in 1805 the Corps took to the water for the remainder of their voyage to the sea.

In Orofino, and at the White Pine Motel, I’m greeted again by Dave, who recognizes me immediately.  The rain soon returns — and stays.  Sure glad I beat it in!

“At a distance of two miles, we passed a lodge of two fires…situated on a small branch which falls into Mosquito [Canyon] Creek.  Soon after we arrived at camp, two boys, with Willard, set out to the river near the place we made the canoes [Canoe Camp] for our saddles and a cannister of powder we buried there…” [Lewis, May 9th 1806]

Thursday–April 13, 2006

Trail Day—022

Trail Mile–22.1/0491

Location–Kamiah, Idaho

Looks like the rain is here for the duration; came down hard all night, and this morning it continues, as I don my poncho and head into it.

I’ll be hiking new territory for the first time on this trek, staying US12 to Lolo, instead of climbing to the high plains by Weippe.  Locals have told me not to go up on the mountain trail; “If the snow isn’t hip deep, then it’ll be pure mud,” they tell me.  So I’ll stay the highway and connect back at a place called Powell Ranger Station, just below Lolo Pass.

The Corps was unable to traverse the Bitterroots until the end of June.  On the highways, I’m content I’ll make it through just fine mid April.  I’m cutting across with Lewis!  Plans are to be in Great Falls by the end of this month.

The canyon stays tight with the river.  More no-shoulder road most of the day but the ruggedness of the canyon makes for breathtaking scenery.  The rain stays all day, with clouds running the canyon.  This section between Orofino and Kamiah (cam-e-eye) is spectacular.  The rain, the veil it drapes by the canyon walls, and the clouds running low with the ridges visible above; it’s just magic.  So the eighteen-wheelers that shove and push me, which totally soak me, do not dampen my joy for this day.

I’m into Kamiah by four, to the Kamiah Inn, where hiker trash is king!

I have been frustrating all day about calling my dear friends, Gene and Mollie Eastman.  They live in Weippe.  I would dearly love to see them both again, but I’m not going by way of Weippe this trek, and it’s just too far for them to come down from the prairie, into the canyon, then up to Kamiah.  So better judgment prevails — and I send them an email.

At this point, I am now one month (less 200 years) ahead of the Corps. On May 8th 1806, the Corps again met The Nez Perce Chief, Twisted Hair.  He had been the Corps’ main guide down the Columbia to Celilo Falls.  He had also cared for their horses during the winter of 1805-06.  At camp near Orofino the captains told the Nez Perce about their expedition and the new government they would be subject to.  All the while, they were collecting their horses, and on May 13th 1806, they moved on to Kamiah.  The next day they “passed” the river to the east side where they encamped.  They remained here until June 10th, waiting for the snow to melt in the Bitterroots.  The Corps did not name this camp, however, historians have called it Long Camp or Camp Chopunish, the name Lewis and Clark used for the Nez Perce.  Other than at the two winter forts, the Corps remained here longer than at any other camp.  At Camp Chopunish, Lewis soon became restless.  He wanted to get moving, to return to St Louis.

“I am pleased at finding the river rise so rapidly, it no doubt is attributeable to the melting snows of the mountains; that icy barier which separates me from my friends and Country, from all which makes life esteemable, patience, patience.” [Lewis, May 17th 1806]

Friday–April 14, 2006

Trail Day—023

Trail Mile–29.6/0521

Location–Lowell, Idaho

I’m out at seven to a cold, mushy morning.  No rain yet, but looks are, it’ll arrive soon.  Ahh, but hey, by eleven the sun breaks through, off come the gloves and jacket — and the remainder of the day turns perfect!

More steady climbing today, up and into the upper reaches of the Columbia River watershed.  At Kooskia, a little village I pass late this morning, the Clearwater River stands at 1,140 feet.  Just above here, the Clearwater comes together from the middle and south forks.  US12 follows the middle fork.  Further up, and by early evening I reach Lowell.  Here the Clearwater River has its beginning, at the confluence of the Selway and Lochsa Rivers.  The Lochsa is a formidable river in its own right, and the highway will follow it ever upward for over sixty miles, to just below Lolo Pass.

US12 is much more friendly now, as the traffic thins and the shoulders open up.  This gives me time to look around and enjoy the scenery and the wildlife — large mergansers, mallards, Canadians.  I hear turkey calling all along today.  And I hear the turkey hunters practicing their calls.  Tomorrow is the beginning of spring turkey season.

On the high ridges and peaks above the canyon, which are becoming higher and more rugged around each bend, I can see much snow.  The expedition was detained almost five weeks, waiting for the snow to melt on these high ridges above Weippe Prairie.  The parallel route I’ve chosen will prove a much safer way, and I’ll not be detained.  I am now two months ahead of the Corps — less 200 years.

I reach the fine Three Rivers Motel and Resort in Lowell by five.  Here the owners, Marie and Mike Smith, who’ve hosted guest for over three decades, greet me.  I give Marie my little two-minute Lewis and Clark trek talk, and she takes me in — special handling for the old Nomad!  It’s been a long day.  A good soaking for my tired old bones, then up with the feet; that’s the trick.  Thanks Marie and Mike for your kindness and hospitality!

“we have now been detained near five weeks in consequence of the snows; a serious loss of time at this delightfull season for traveling. I am still apprehensive that the snow and the want of food for our horses will prove a serious imbarrassment to us as at least four days journey of our rout in these mountains lies over hights and along a ledge of mountains never intirely destitute of snow.  every body seems anxious to be in motion, convinced that we have not now any time to delay if the calculation is to reach the United States this season; this I am detirmined to accomplish if within the compass of human power.” [Lewis, June 14th 1806]

Saturday–April 15, 2006

Trail Day—024

Trail Mile–30.1/0545

Location–Wilderness Gateway Camp

When I tell you this trek is charmed, it truly is.  Just when I reached Three Rivers last evening, the rain came to stay, all night, steady and hard.  And oh my — it’s still getting with it this morning.  Okay, so the trek is only half charmed!

Just before reaching Lowell last evening there was this highway warning sign: “Last diesel, last gas for 64 miles.”  Actually, that meant last pretty much everything for the next 64 miles.  The Bitterroots here, the Lochsa (say Locksaw) Wild and Scenic River, this vast, rugged section of the splendid Bitterroot Mountains, remains one of the most remote wilderness areas in all the lower 48.  I’ll force this canyon for the better part of the next three days as I work my way up the Lochsa, from Lowell to Lochsa Lodge, just below Lolo Pass.  From where I picked up the Lochsa, at Lowell, to where I’ll leave it day-after-tomorrow below Powell Ranger Station, I’ll climb over 2,000 feet up the Lochsa Canyon.

I head over first thing for a few provisions at the little Lowell Store.  Then it’s next door for a final hot meal at the Wilderness Cafe.

My poncho goes on — and stays on all day.  Not much traffic, but lots of die-hard kayakers playing in the rapids of the Lochsa, an Indian word, which means, “rough water,” an understatement for sure.  This river is almost totally whitewater, roaring and crashing as it tumbles down.  The climb is steady for the whole day.  During this climb to the Bitterroot Divide at Lolo Pass I had figured on cold, hard weather, so the relentless, biting rain this day hasn’t been a disappointment.  However, with the rain, clouds, and snowcaps, has come the opportunity, and I do believe I’ve gotten some pretty impressive photos.

The Lolo Motorway, which is a high clearance two-track road laid down pretty much over the old Indian (Nez Perce) Trail, is just above me on the ridge.  Through here in late June of 1806, joining the Corps were five young Nez Perce braves.  Two were going to visit their allies, the Salish.  The other three were headed for the Great Falls of the Missouri — and as fate would have, they were to become a Godsend to the Corps.  For, on the 27th, Lewis wrote: “We were entirely surrounded by these mountains…it would have seemed impossible ever to have escaped; in short, without the assistance of our guides [the three braves] I doubt much whether we…could find our way.”  The sight would “…damp the sperits of any except such hardy travellers as we have become.”

With the aid of the three Nez Perce guides, the Corps traversed the rugged Bitterroots in only six days, where, in the autumn of 1805, the outbound traverse cost them twelve days — and nearly their lives.

I am now two months and a few days ahead of the Corps (less 200 years), and from this point, and indeed for the remainder of this trek to Gateway Arch in St. Louis, I will have to hike hard to maintain this lead.  For, when the Corps started moving again, up, into, and across these rugged Bitterroots, they had 65 horses, enough to carry both men and baggage.  Ahh, and once over the Great Divide, the Rockies behind them, from there it was literally all downhill, by the waters of that mighty river, up which they had labored and struggled for so long and so very hard.

Easter Sunday–April 16, 2006

Trail Day—025

Trail Mile–30.0/0575

Location–Jerry Johnson Camp

Actually, I didn’t quite make it to Wilderness Gateway Camp last, but chose instead to pull up just short at the old historic ranger station.  The rain had really worked me over all day.  I was pretty much soaked and could sense the early stages of hypothermia, not a good feeling.  The rain hadn’t let up.  In fact, it had been steadily increasing in intensity with a mix of sleet.  Making camp in this sort of weather is a real problem; at least I’ve always found it to be.  I can never seem to get my pack off and open, my tent up, and me and my gear in without a thorough soaking.  The old ranger cabins have porches, the first and only sign of any kind of shelter from the storm all day — I pulled over!

The cold rain, sleet, then snow-mix continued all night.  And this morning it’s still at it.  It takes all the will I can muster just to shoulder my pack and head back out into it again.  Thankfully, my thoughts turn to the brighter side — that this day, and perhaps tomorrow, these next two days might well be the very worst I’ll have to deal with the remainder of this journey.  That thought gives me the will and determination to hit it and go.

Once out and moving, I find the old jitney very responsive, as I get right up to normal operating temperature.  It’s hit the cruise button time — I motor, looking up only long enough to dodge the eighteen-wheeler tornados.  Yes, they’re running on Easter Day!

The steady climb continues as the constant roar of the grand Lochsa fades to my subconscious.  The canyon pinches tight all the day, its gray-cold walls standing hard against the river — and the highway.  The sharp, blind curves are countless.  So too, the many harried motorists, in that instant, as they fly around to meet me hugging the rock.

By late evening I’ve hammered another thirty, having stopped only long enough for water, some needed relief, or a quick photo.

As I reach Jerry Johnson Camp, which is gated and closed for the winter (it’s still winter up here) the day darks dramatically.  The rain, which has been continuous, turns first to rain/sleet, then to rain/sleet/wet snow, then to pure snow.

Lucky for me, the Lochsa Rangers have seen fit to leave the toilet unlocked.  Oh yes indeedy, any port in a storm!  I’m in, and happy to be out of it yet again.  The sleet and rain continue all night, but I’m warm and dry on the toilet floor — stretched out in my Feathered Friends bag, on my comfy Therm-a-Rest pad.  What a blessing.  Thank you kind and thoughtful Lochsa Rangers.  And thank you, dear Lord!

“on an elevated point we halted by the request of the Indians a few minutes and smoked the pipe.  on this eminence the natives have raised a conic mound of stones of 6 or eight feet high and on it’s summit erected a pine pole of 15 feet long [The Smoking Place]…from this place we had an extensive view of these stupendous mountains principally covered with snow like that on which we stood…” [Lewis, June 27th 1806]

Monday–April 17, 2006

Trail Day—026

Trail Mile–11.3/0586

Location–Lochsa Lodge, Idaho

I’ve a very short day today, the hike on up to Lochsa Lodge, which is a grand establishment in the finest tradition.  So I’m out with a bounce in my step, into the rain and snow. No matter. The cold and dampness will not dampen my spirit.

After an hour, the sun breaks through, the roadway steams, and then dries.  Off come the poncho and the gloves for the first time in days.  What a change!

In the second hour, and as I pass the spot where the Corps climbed from the Lochsa back up to the ridge, and where I turned from the highway to climb the same ridge in ’04, the day darks over, it turns immediately cold again — and the snow returns.

In a few more miles, a yellow Idaho Highway Department truck goes by.  In minutes it passes again, the other way.  Then again in just minutes it passes the third time, then stops and turns, and returns — to pull off just ahead of me.  I’m thinking: “Oh man, now what have I done!”  As I approach the truck, comes a fellow to greet me, with a beaming smile, and a brand new blaze orange vest.  “We have some crazy drivers around here; thought you could use this.” he says — and so, I meet Ron Moss, Maintenance Supervisor at Powell.  While he’s slipping the vest over my pack I get the latest on the weather.  Hey, it’s going to fair up some, and I should have much better conditions once I’m over the pass tomorrow.  Thanks, Ron, for your thoughtfulness!

With less than a mile to the lodge, and as the road climbs yet higher, leaving the Lochsa, the snow returns once again, so hard and with such huge flakes it becomes difficult to see the road ahead.  Fortunately, I’m at the turnoff to Lochsa Lodge, and in moments I’m standing, dripping wet, by the lodge desk.  Gail, the hostess, and Ron, the lodge owner are there to greet me.

Pack off and aside, I’m seated, to have a piping hot cup of coffee placed in my hands!

Folks, it’s sure good to be back to Lochsa Lodge!

“We continued our route along the dividing ridge over knobs and deep hollows…At 12 o’clock we arrived at an untimbered hillside of a mountain with a southern aspect just above the fishery [and just above Lochsa Lodge]…we decided to remain at this place all night, having come 13 miles only.” [Clark, June 28th 1806]

Tuesday–April 18, 2006

Trail Day—027

Trail Mile–28.2/0615

Location–Beyond Lolo Hot Springs, Montana

What a grand time at Lochsa Lodge.  The place is pure class.  So too, the folks there.  Lochsa is a family business, owned and operated since 1984 by Don and Andrea Denton.  In the tavern, I met Mike, Tom and Karen who work at the lodge.  Also Ron and Lorraine, whose stalled van had left them stranded.  We spent a grand afternoon together — much fun for the socially starved Nomad!  A fine cook there also, great food.  Dang, I forget his name.  But I do know that he’s the great grandson of the famous actor, John Wayne.  Hmm, wonder if he’s a Morrison!  Wasn’t John Wayne’s given name Marion Morrison?

I am very thankful the Dentons took me in last.  The snow continued off and on all night, and there are flurries, and it’s cold this morning.  Ahh, but I was comfortable and warm.  Thanks all dear friends (one more time) at Lochsa Lodge!

Ron and Lorraine walk with me back out to US12 and I’m on my way to Lolo Pass a little after nine.  The steady climb gets the old jitney humming right off.  In just a short distance I reach the cathedral-like stand of western red cedar known as DeVoto Grove, named for author, historian and conservationist, Bernard DeVoto. Over half a century ago he often camped in the grove while editing the journals of Lewis and Clark. His ashes are scattered here among these sky-bound sentinels.  DeVoto’s definitive work, his research and writing about the Corps of Discovery, especially as to the journals of Lewis and Clark, that work has been the hallmark on the subject for years.

I linger here.  It is quiet, peaceful, a spiritual place, like in a cathedral.  Western red cedar takes 300-400 years to mature to the likes of those.  If undisturbed, they can thrive for thousands of years.

It has been trying to fair up this morning and at times I can actually see passing patches of blue, but the dark skies rule and the snow returns often as I continue ascending.

By two, I’ve reached the pass.  The sky finally clears and the day becomes blinding-bright, as the sun bounces and reflects from the enormous drifts and mounds of snow.  I linger again, at the beautiful interpretive center.  It’s still closed, but the snowplows have been around the drive.  I take many pictures.  The scenes are remarkable.

As I turn to descend into Montana, I lose an hour; it’s a time change from Pacific to Mountain.  Continuing down, I reflect on the past few days spent here in these rugged Bitterroots.  I recall the mixed feelings experienced while passing by the Clearwater Bridge at Greer — where I crossed after descending from Weippe Prairie in ’04.  I had so wanted to go that way again, as did the Corps in 1806.  But I am content now, pleased that I’ve had the opportunity to see and experience the very best of these mountains, the rugged beauty that abounds in the Bitterroots.

I have previously passed and have seen most of the historic places along the Nez Perce Trail, those written about in the books, like Snowbank Camp, Indian Post Office, The Smoking Place, Indian Grave.  Now, having ascended the canyons of the Clearwater and the Lochsa, I know why the old Indian trail took to the high place!

I have also experienced the unexcelled beauty and grandeur, the vibrancy and mighty power, the rushing waters of those rivers that crash and tumble in pure whiteness, bound by the canyon walls.

There are many things one can experience only while walking.  Up through the canyons of the Clearwater and Lochsa, I was constantly amazed at the sheer number of tributaries, the small trickles and rivulets, the larger brooks, creeks and streams, which entered the main canyon from the side hills.  Of course, one can see them while passing swiftly by.  However, one cannot experience, let alone explain, the utter bewilderment as to the seemingly never lessened magnitude/volume of the main waters — above each confluence.  For miles, indeed, for days, I marveled as to this phenomenon.  I actually began believing their true sources to be unseen, to be infinite, their origins some other place, from another time, far above, distant, beyond the canyon walls.

So, though a sense of sadness yet lingers, I depart Idaho with a deep feeling of appreciation and accomplishment.  Appreciation for the path the Lord chose for me, straight through the bosom of Nature’s best.  Accomplishment?  It’s the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve followed in the shadows and in the footsteps of the Corps, best I could.  Too, it is the satisfaction of knowing that I truly understand, perhaps better than anyone alive today, the hardship and sacrifice of those courageous, undaunted Americans — of 200 years ago.

So long Idaho, good-bye to your remarkable lands, good-bye to your kind and generous people.

By late evening I arrive Lolo Hot Springs.  I had planned on stopping off here for the evening.  But even now, during the off-season, it’s way too touristy for me — eighty bucks for a cabin?  I don’t think so.  The Corps managed to stay free, don’t you know!

“when we descended from this ridge we bid adieu to the snow…after dining we continued our march seven miles further to the warm springs [Lolo Hot Springs]…both the men and indians amused themselves with the use of a bath this evening. I observed that the indians after remaining in the hot bath as long as they could bear it ran and plunged themselves into the creek [100 yds. or so to Lolo Creek] the water of which is now as cold as ice can make it…” [Lewis, June 29th 1806]

Wednesday–April 19, 2006

Trail Day—028

Trail Mile–27.6/0643

Location–Missoula, Montana

What a night.  I managed to keep warm, kinda.  With the clear skies this side of the Bitterroot Divide, last night the temperature plummeted to the mid 20s. I can tolerate the cold, the pain and discomfort it brings.  But, and I know I’ve said this many times before, the cold quickly turn my fingers to so many sticks.  It’s downright frustrating.  Actually, it’s scary not being able to tie my shoes, zip my zippers, pack my pack.  Somehow though, I always manage.  Thank you, Lord, for the patience you’ve given me!  I’m up and out, grudgingly — wearing every stitch of clothing I’ve got.

I pass countless thousands of perfectly shaped evergreen today, any one of which could proudly stand as our nation’s historic and traditional White House Christmas Tree.  Their stature, their perfect symmetry, their pure beauty, especially those with snow-festooned boughs, they’re truly stunning.

Just above Lolo, and as I look up (in the cold, I pretty much stay hunched over), I see a horse coming at me straight up the centerline.  There’s a parade of cars creeping along behind him.  Closer now, and as I gaze quizzically (and although the animal is trotting just like a horse), I realize it’s not a horse.  Horses don’t have antlers!  Perhaps that’s because this horse is a moose, a very large moose.  “I can’t believe this!” I whisper to myself.  “Nobody’s going to believe this — gotta get a picture.” I continue uttering under my breath.  As I reach for my camera, and as the moose spots me — and is coming toward me, finally do I realize it might be smart to skip the picture taking and head for the fence, which I promptly muster the gumption to do!  As I clear the ditch, the moose snorts my way, and then turns again to the highway centerline — and I heave a sigh of relief.  As the first motorist passes, downing his passenger window, he shouts: “How’s that for a moose sighting!”  Ahh yes, a moose sighting, indeed. Last I see, the parade continues around the bend, led ever on by the trotter!

Just shy of Lolo, I reach Travelers’ Rest State Park.  As I head over, I’m wondering how I missed this place before.  At the temporary park building, I meet Darby, Dale and Loren — to find out this park location didn’t exist in 2004.

The actual site of Travelers’ Rest wasn’t discovered until just recently.  For many years the camp was thought to be some distance from here, near where Lolo Creek enters the Bitterroot River.  However, when a coat button was found nearby, it got folks looking for clues near the present park site.  Found nearby were more than just clues.  Archeologists found conclusive physical evidence!  They found a mercury-tainted latrine (medicine given members of the Corps by the captains contained mercury).  They also found a musket ball, a blue trade bead, and in the remains of a fire ring, a puddle of melted lead (determined through isotope study to have come from a mine in Kentucky, where lead for the expedition had been procured).  These and other discoveries confirm that the Corps’ campsite locations truly rest — within Travelers’ Rest State Park.

Darby takes time to give me a personal tour.  On the way she shows me the site of the cook’s campfire, where they bedded down, and the location of the latrine.  Darby, Dale, Loren, I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with you.  Your enthusiasm is certainly contagious!

It’s still early afternoon when I turn the corner toward Lolo, so I decide to hoof it on down to Missoula.

“Descended the mountain to Travellers rest leaving those tremendious mountanes behind us — in passing of which we have experiensed Cold and hunger of which I shall ever remember.” [Clark, June 30th 1806]

“The true legacy of the people who trod this land before us is that their story is America’s story — bold, determined, courageous.  At Travelers’ Rest, that legacy continues by engaging our imaginations, our intellects, and our hearts.” [Travelers’ Rest Brochure]

Thursday–April 20, 2006

Trail Day—029

Trail Mile–26.4/0669

Location–West of Potomac, Montana

Descending from Lolo Pass, the Corps (and the old Nomad) followed Lolo Creek to Travelers’ Rest, next to the Bitterroot River at present-day Lolo.  There the Corps rested for three days, detailing and finalizing plans made during the long winter at Fort Clatsop.  Their decision: To split the Corps at Travelers’ Rest.  Lewis was to take a shortcut o’er “The Road to the Buffalo,” from present-day Missoula, across to the Great Falls of the Missouri (Great Falls).  And Clark was to return to Three Forks, generally over their outbound route, and from there cross to and descend the Yellowstone River.  They were to meet again at the mouth of the Yellowstone sometime in August.

On July 3rd 1806, Lewis and his party of nine men departed for the Great Falls of the Missouri.

It is this path taken by Lewis and his party that I am now following.

From Lolo, I proceeded along and down the Bitterroot River to its confluence with Clark Fork River at Missoula.  There I bid farewell to good old US12, which I’d been trekking for many-a-day.  In Missoula, I crossed the Clark Fork, as did Lewis, to pick up the Blackfoot River — and its canyon.  I am ascending there today, along SR200, a fine wide-shouldered highway that generally parallels Lewis’ route.  I’ll be following SR200 off and on across most of Montana.

A couple of diversions (from the din of traffic) today.  First, I see my first eagle this journey, gliding fixed-wing on the thermals above the canyon.  I’ve seen many ospreys the past number of days, but this is the first bald eagle.  And the other?  Well, seems this mutt wanted a chunk of the old Nomad.  He started growling as soon as he saw me, skidded around his fence, jumped the ditch, and shot straight at me, snarling and bearing his teeth.  I turned and deftly (been practicing) let him have it up side the head with my left hiking stick.  This immediately helped him make the right decision — to go back home.

Lewis and his men had a devil of a time with the skeeters along the river here.  For me, dicing it up with the dog today was a better and much quicker deal!

“All arrangements being now compleated for carrying into effect the several scheemes we had planed for execution on our return, we saddled our horses and set out I took leave of my worthy friend and companion Capt. Clark and the party that accompanyed him. I could not avoid feeling much concern on this occasion although I hoped this seperation was only momentary…” [Lewis, July 3rd 1806]

Friday–April 21, 2006

Trail Day—030

Trail Mile–026.3/0695

Location–Ovando, Montana

Within six miles of my destination for the evening last, I stopped for a short time at the Potomac General Store, there to be befriended by Jess, who gave me bottled water, enough for the night and the morrow.

Another cold night.  More sticks for fingers as I fumble to break camp this morning.  Patience, patience, with the coming of spring, this cold weather will surely pass.

At the Clark Fork River, the Indian guides turned from the Corps, for fear of being confronted by their enemy, the Blackfeet.  Without the guides, and finally on a well-marked road as the guides had assured, Lewis made amazingly good time across this shortcut, often covering 25-30 miles per day. They made it to the Great Falls of the Missouri in just nine days, saving over 400 miles and many weeks, compared to journeying their outbound route of 1805.  With a little luck (and a tailwind) I hope to also make the crossing in just nine days.

By eleven this morning, I’m able to pack away my jacket and gloves as the day turns perfect, warm with the least breeze (tailwind) from the northwest — perfect!

By four I arrive at the little village of Ovando.  First (and last) stop is the Blackfoot Commercial Company and Inn, established in 1897, and currently run by Howard Fly.  He’s a Lewis (without Clark) Expedition buff.  We enjoy much good conversation.  He presents me with a very fine, full-color pin depicting Lewis, his Newfoundland dog, Seaman, and in commemoration, the date: July 6, 1806, the day Lewis passed near present-day Ovando.

The inn is an old, old frontier-style wood-frame building, but with completely renovated rooms up.  Howard puts me in #1, right in the front.

The Corps having just separated, those emotions fresh — additionally, Lewis and his men were then faced with bidding farewell to their Indian guides, friends of long standing.  Excerpts from journal entries that day reveal the thoughts and feelings of the Corps, and of the Indian braves:

“it is but justice to say, that the whole nation [Nez Perce] to which they belong, are the most friendly, honest and ingenuous people that we have seen in the course of our voyage and travels.” [Gass, July 4th 1806]

“these affectionate people our guides betrayed every emmotion of unfeigned regret at separating from us.” [Lewis, July 4th 1806]

Saturday–April 22, 2006

Trail Day—031

Trail Mile–26.2/0721

Location–Lincoln, Montana

The wind came, then it turned cold the evening last.  But I remained warm and comfortable in my cozy room above the old inn.

This morning, shortly after Howard opens the store, the local klatch arrives.  Coffee’s on.  Yes!  Oh, and this is when I learn that a huge muffin comes with the room.  And there are cookies from a klatch member.  Yes, yes!  Thanks, Howard, for taking me in, for your kindness, and for your hospitality.  Ovando’s a neat little town — reminds me of the little village where I was raised in the Ozark Highlands of Missouri.

Got a twenty-six to knock out today if I want to reach Lincoln, my planned destination.  So, I’m out and trekking SR200 a little after eight.  The morning presents cool and cloudy, no wind; perfect for hammering the miles.  I tuck and go.  At three per, the hike today will take nearly nine hours.  This should put me at the door to Lincoln around five.  That’ll work — just gotta keep the hammer down and the sticks clicking.  Hey, I’m a workin’ man.  This is my job, what the heck!

The meadows, fields, and woods about Ovando are marked by “knobs,” as described by Lewis.  He actually called the area “Prairie of the Knobs,” for the rumpled landscape that’s shaped by countless oddly formed hillocks, moraines left by glacial activity some 10,000 years ago.  The landscape’s knobby appearance was formed as sediment deposited, dropped during the last glacial ice melt.  Ha, perhaps the “global warming” evidenced during that period was caused by an over population of Indians — who built way too many fires!

All along, for the better part of the morning, and off to the north, stands there a horizon-framed, uninterrupted wall of massifs, rugged snowcaps, the largest continuous wilderness area in all the lower ’48.  It begins just south of, and abuts, Glacier National Park.  It consists of the Bob Marshall (“The Bob”), the Scapegoat, and the Big Bear Wilderness areas.  This vast mountainous region, passed only by primitive roads, and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT), is home to the grizzly bear, mountain goats, wolverines, elk, moose, deer, and wolves.

Last year, and beginning on June 23rd, I had the great-good fortune to come back to Montana, here to hike the CDT, through Waterton/Glacier, and the entire wilderness complex.

As I stand here now, gazing in silence and awe at the pure white escarpment, which rises to the Heavens before me, comes to mind the old familiar expression, “been there, done that.”  Ahh, but those words are so inappropriate, so very trite.  For, at the same instant, am I am brought to tears with the realization — that of God’s Grace — priceless gifts to this old man.

By late afternoon, and as forecast, a storm front presses through, bringing cold wind and a scattering of rain.  I arrive Lincoln at five, just as planned (along with the storm), here to be greeted and welcomed by Sandy, owner/manager of the Blue Sky Motel.  After listening attentively to my two-minute pitch about hiking the Lewis (less Clark) National Historic Trail, she takes pity — and takes me in.  Oh yes, it’s a hiker trash deal for the old Nomad!

“these plains I called the prarie of the knobs from a number of knobs being irregularly scattered through it…Cottonwood and pine grow intermixed in the river bottoms mosquitoes extreemely troublesome.  we expect to meet with the Minnetares [here, the Blackfeet] and are therefore much on our guard both day and night…passed several old indian encampments…passed a creek [Arrastra Creek, passed today] on the N. side 12 yds. wide shallow and clear.” [Lewis, July 6th 1806]

Sunday–April 23, 2006

Trail Day—032

Trail Mile–30.5/0752

Location–By Dearborn River, Montana

I had a memorable time in Lincoln.  I recall coming down from the divide and re-supplying here during my CDT trek last year.  And I remember Lincoln for its hospitality and kind folks.  Sandy recommended Lambkin’s of Lincoln for a nourishing home-style supper, so that’s where I headed.  Great food, kind staff.  Thanks Rosie and Sally — and Bobbie, you’re a fine cook. Thank you too, Sandy, for your kindness to this old man!

At the Quick Stop I check with truckers coming down from the pass this morning.  Their rigs are caked and coated with ice, but all tell me the pass is being kept open.

The forecast is for an iffy day, wind and snow, especially at the higher elevations.  Tomorrow doesn’t look the least bit better, so I pick up a few supplies and decide to go for it. The morning begins sun and no clouds but quickly switches to clouds and no sun — along with southeast wind and intermittent sleet.

During the morning the wind intensifies to 20-30 mph, gusting to who knows.  It keeps coming straight at me, driving cold, cold sleet.  By the time I manage Rogers Pass, it’s two.  I had planned to spend the night somewhere near the pass, but there’s nothing up here but ice and wind-driven sleet.  Motorists are crawling and sliding through.  The roadway is pure ice for the last mile up and the first mile down. I push on and into it.  I had hoped for improved conditions once through the pass, but the wind and sleet hit me even harder as I descend.  By five I’m out of the worst of it, down and onto the high plains prairie.  There are no trees here, no protection anywhere for miles.

Late evening, the highway drops to the valley of the Dearborn River.  There’s shelter here, cottonwood and scrub, but the land is posted, both sides.  I look on up the road, at the long hill ahead that climbs back to the prairie.  I know there’ll be no place to camp up there for miles.  I’ve made a rule never to venture onto posted land, but I’m totally beat.  It’ll be getting dark soon.  The sleet continues and it’s turning very cold.  What to do?  Easy, I decide to break my rule.

Just as I’m through the gate and hooking it back, down the highway come two pickups towing stock trailers.  Both cowboys spot me.  Both keep rolling.  On the posted land now, and by the river, I’m looking for a sheltered spot where I won’t be seen.  Just at dusk I settle for a small ravine choked with alder-like brush.  It’s deep enough and far enough away from the rancher’s two-track to conceal my little tent.  I pitch and roll in.

I’m no sooner settled than I hear this old pickup pull to the gate.  “Oh, great!”  I’m thinking.  One of the cowboys that spotted me has sure enough called the owner, and he’s come to flush me out.  I settle back in my tent and wait.  In a moment I hear the old truck pass on the two-track above my camp, to continue on up the river.  In less than five minutes he returns, passing very slowly.  Back at the gate he turns off his engine.  “Oh my,” I’m thinking, “if he walks the fifty yards or so to the edge of this little ravine, he’ll spot me for sure.”  Time seems to stand still.  I try to hold my breath, to listen.  In another moment, the truck cranks, the old fellow passes the gate, closes it behind him — and is gone.

Whew!  What a frightening time.  I’ll be up and out of this place early; that’s for sure!

Lewis and his men turned from the Blackfoot River and followed Alice Creek up to near the Great Divide, a little north of Rogers Pass, then crossed at a place misnamed Lewis and Clark Pass.

“passing the dividing ridge betwen the waters of the Columbia and Missouri rivers at 1/4 of a mile.  from the gap which is low and an easy ascent on the W. side…” [Lewis, July 7th 1806]


Eastern Leg – 1,947 Miles
Dearborn River, near Rogers Pass, Montana to Silverthorne, Colorado – 2005
Silverthorne, Colorado to Pie Town, New Mexico – 2007


Tuesday–July 5
Trail Day–14
Trail Mile–29.9/277
Location–Rogers Pass/Lincoln

Today I need to get off the mountain and into town, to Lincoln, for resupply.  After lunch today I’ve got one English muffin and two spoons of peanut butter left, that’s it.
The day goes fine until I head up the mountain from Lewis and Clark Pass.  My maps are working.  My GPS is working.  My compass is working.  But my dizzy skull isn’t with it today.
The trail, what there is of it is overgrown, with poor or ripped up signage.  I get off the Divide and onto the wrong ridge.  I knew I wasn’t going the right way, heading west when I should have been going southeast, but I kept going just the same.  By four, I was clear off Jonathan’s map, nowhere near Rogers Pass, so I baled.
Down the mountain I tumbled, along abandoned logging roads, finally to reach the gravel road leading to the Ranger cabin below L&C Pass.  Figured I’d hitch to Lincoln.  No vehicles out here though.  No luck.  It was dark by the time I reached the highway to Lincoln.  No shoulder; dangerous, but I hiked on until I came by a well-lit place, Nabors Drilling, Ltd.  I headed over.  The door was open and I was invited in by Shawn, one of the drillers.  “Take off your pack and have a seat,” he said.  After exchanging the usual, he asked, “Are you hungry.”  Well, the old Yogi in me kicked right in, don’t you know!  In a moment we were in the kitchen and Shawn had a platter of hot chicken and a huge bowl of pasta sitting in front of me.  He let me pitch in the grass behind.
Ahh, so the day worked out okay.
No perfect hike anymore.  The section of the CDT between Lewis and Clark Pass and Rogers Pass will forever remain unfinished–wherever it is.
This trail has many acceptable alternate routes though; I’ll use the roadwalk into Lincoln as mine.

Wednesday–July 6, 2005
Trail Day–15
Trail Mile–26.1/303
Location–Near Granite Butte Lookout Tower

What a great time during the Lincoln diversion.
This morning, Shawn arranged a ride the remaining seven miles into town with two of his roughnecks, Jason and Ritchie–but not before I was offered a full breakfast platter by the camp cook.  Sausage, potatoes and scrambled eggs with cheese and a muffin.  Oh, and brimming cups of hot coffee.
Also had a great talk with Fraser, who’s folks live in Newfoundland.  He’s training for an ultra long-distance crosscountry race.
In town, the school is open.  They’re getting ready for fall.  Was hoping the boy’s locker room might be available so I could shower and get some grit rinsed out of my clothes.  Met two happy folks, Kathy, the superintendent, and Carla the principal.  They said yes–and provided me a towel!
What a stroke of luck–that I decided to put my hiking garb on (shorts and gaiters) rather than my town pants, because at the Welcome Gas Station a lady approached me to enquired if I were a long distance hiker–seeing me in hiking garb, pack, sticks and all.  After some reluctant (and expected) hesitation, Joni loaded me up, then drove me the seventeen miles back to the Pass.  What luck!
Got in twelve miles before sundown.

Thursday–July 7, 2005
Trail Day–16
Trail Mile–25.9/329
Location–Mullen Pass

Lots of tough climbs and descents today.  Another butt-kickin’ for the old Nomad.  There are still patches of snow along the trail at higher elevations.  I love snow cones.  This sleet-consistency snow is just like that used to make snow cones.  I break the crust away, make a snowball and then munch it until my hands get too cold to bobble it any longer.
Saw the biggest, midnight black (huge) moose. The encounter startled him more than it did me.
Got lost as usual in the high meadows.  You’d think it’d be easy enough to tell which ridge was the Divide, but it’s not.  Sure am wising up, though.
Another glorious day in the high country!

Friday–July 8, 2005
Trail Day–17
Trail Mile–7.5/337
Location–McDonald Pass/Ellison

Lots of old mines and diggings along today.  The ravines out here are called gulches.  First there’s Faith Gulch, then Hope and finally–Charity.  Interesting FS road numbers, like 1856, 1859.
Missed a turn–again.  Cost me a mile out and a mile back.
Had a problem getting a hitch to Ellison.  US8 is straight-ahead four-lane, traffic flying.  Everybody ripping along at eighty, no way to stop if they wanted.  After walking most of the five miles to town, a fellow finally locks it up and skids to the shoulder.
Not much in Ellison, Last Chance Saloon and Motel.  That’s about it.  Kind folks at the bar.  Jack buys me two burgers and fries.  The little four-room motel is booked up, so I decide to head back to the Pass.  Ed, one of the bar customers, drives me up.
Good folks in Ellison.
Another fine day along the Great Divide.

Saturday–July 9, 2005
Trail Day–18
Trail Mile–24.2/361
Location–Near Blackfoot Meadow

Slept well in the campground below the communication towers at McDonald Pass.
Kind of an iffy day again, wind and clouds, but oh what a welcome change from the heat of yesterday.  Got blisters on my hands from the sun.
Just a nice steady hike today, a few ups, a few rocks, a few downs.  Got lost a couple of times as usual, mainly in the meadows where the cow paths mingle with the CDT treadway, which is usually much less worn than the cow paths.
More mining prospects and large pits.  Also the remnants of old log buildings that made the mining camps.
Rained on me off and on, but the evening turned out fine.  Got a nice cooking and heating fire going to fix my supper and relax awhile before rolling in.

Sunday–July 10, 2005
Trail Day–19
Trail Mile–21.8/383
Location–Near Four Corners

Another fairly flat day as go the ups and downs, but plenty of rocks.  The CDT spends more time off the Divide than on today, so have no problem finding water.  When the trail keeps with the Divide, there’s no water for miles, not the case today.
Saw a heard of fifteen mule deer.  They seemed more curious than frightened, but caution finally overruled and they all fled to the timber.
Saw two folks on mountain bikes.  That was it all day.
Intermittent rain in the afternoon and evening.  Beautiful sunset.
Having a fuss of a time with my right knee.  Persistent but tolerable pain.  Have doubled up on the Osteo Bi-Flex and coated aspirin.  Been through this before.  A few more miles and it’ll all smooth out.

Monday–July 11, 2005
Trail Day–20
Trail Mile–22.2/405
Location–Anaconda, Montana

Decision made way back was to take the Anaconda cutoff, thus lopping off a big loop in the Divide around Butte.
The time off in town is so very much welcome.  This is the first motel I’ve stayed at since beginning this odyssey.  A welcome break, indeed.  A short roadwalk into town and the hike today is completed by noon.
Met Eric and Doug at the post office.  They’ve hiked from Old Faithful north.  When they finish in Canada, plans are to flip back to Old Faithful, then head south to finish their hike at the Mexican border.  Timing is such that we may meet up again.  Hope so–nice fellows.
Get a room downtown at the Marcus Daily.  Post office isn’t 100 yds. away.  Ditto for the library–but alas, it’s closed due to budget constraints.  Looks like the city fathers didn’t get their way–“Okay folks, you’ll just have to do without your library for awhile!”
Hit the jackpot with mail.  Lots of cards, my bounce box, and other well wishes from friends.
A good day to rest.  Be back on the top of the ridge again tomorrow.

Tuesday–July 12, 2005
Trail Day–21
Trail Mile–22.7/428
Location–Storm Lake

Great stay in Anaconda, first motel this trip.  Thanks to all for your cards and letters, your thoughtfulness.
Lots more pictures to send to Justin, my Webmaster.  They include some great shots of the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness areas–also the Lewis and Clark, Helena, and Deerlodge National Forests.  I’m starting to get the hang of digital photography.  It’s sure a lot easier getting the pictures off for loading on my Website, just pull the memory card and mail it, then pop in the one Justin has returned.
I’ve a roadwalk all the way up to Storm Lake, where I’ll enter the Anaconda/Pintler Wilderness tomorrow after a final climb to the Divide.
There’s a great spring at Spring Mountain, just when I’m running low on water.  Lots of folks stop to fill their water jugs.
My right knee is very troublesome; the pain is steady.  Seeing the little cinnamon/brown bear along the final pop to Storm Lake takes my mind off the knee.
Storm Lake is a natural lake, enhanced and enlarged by a dam.  It is a very lovely place.
It’s late evening when I pitch, to build a skeeter foggin’ fire. I warm the rest of my four-dollar chicken dinner from the Safeway Deli, then I’m gone for the day.

Wednesday–July 13, 2005
Trail Day–22
Trail Mile–19/447
Location–Warren Lake

Storm Lake lived up to its name this morning.  A thunderstorm came through just before dawn to wake me.  I pulled the fly down on my tent and turned right back over for another hour of sleep.  When I awoke again, the sun was up–the storm gone.
Lots of climbing today, steep stuff as the trail goes from pass to glacial valley and back to pass again–elevation changes in excess of a quarter mile each time.
My right knee continues very much a problem, slowing my pace considerably.  The downhills are excruciating.  Popping the coated aspirin helps.  2400mg gives some relief.  No way I’ll be in Wisdom Friday at this pace.
I do manage to make it to Warren Lake.  Sure hope I can do better tomorrow.

Thursday–July 14, 2005
Trail Day–23
Trail Mile–24.4/471
Location–Near Buck Ridge Meadows

Another painful and frustrating day with the right knee.  No less than 5600 feet vertical change with some of the gnarliest tread I’ve encountered in a long time.  Up or down today; that’s about it.  Glorious unspoiled scenery–and a continual fog of skeeters, right through the heat of the afternoon.  The Pintler is all mine today, no one else out here.
No way of making it to Chief Joseph Pass tomorrow, it’s just too far, even with good knees.  I set too rigorous a schedule through here.  Perhaps I can get in around noon Saturday.
Saw sixteen elk in a single herd, and lots of little fellows, like marmots and squirrel.
Another beautiful day, in spite of the constant swarm of skeeters.  A lot of soggy wood on the fire tonight–smoke ’em away.

Friday–July 15, 2005
Trail Day–24
Trail Mile–20/491
Location–Below Chief Joseph Pass

I’ve been continually blessed with perfect weather, and today the good fortune continues.  Continues also, the sore, painful right knee.  Stopping for only a moment, to take a drink or to snap a picture, and it’s back to a pathetic hobble again for another fifty yards.  Perhaps there is some improvement though, as I’ve been able to reduce my intake of coated aspirin.  Wow, have my ears ever been ringing–overdosed for sure.
The entire mountainside all around has burned, part of the ’98 fire that devastated so much of the Rockies.  Hot, dry, powder dirt–and rocks, lots of rocks.  Should I want to look around, I’ve got to stop, or risk stumbling and doing a header straight down.
A rumbling in the distance this afternoon, like a truck engine, a low-pitched grind.  But there are no roads out here within thirty miles.  What gives?  Then I see their heads moving just over the crest of the ridge.  Elk, lots and lots of elk–and they’re moving fast, single file.  I count at least forty, some with huge racks.  In a minute they’re gone.  Nothing left but a cloud of dust.
Some of the treadway the CDT follows through these Wilderness and National Forest areas is well maintained, the blowdowns cleared, signage good at intersections–but some not.  Not is the scheme today, a scramble over, under, around and through blowdowns.  I’m covered with soot and dirt.  At almost every junction I must stop and take a GPS bearing for fear of wandering off in the wrong direction.  Still manage to get lost much too often, but manage to find my way back.
A lot of the tread today is above 8,000 feet.  Snow cone time–at least the slushy part.  There’s just nothing feels better to a hot parched throat than snowfield slush, nothing!
Carried an extra day’s food just in case.  Smart move.  Another smoker fire for sure tonight, to keep the skeeter swarm circling at a distance.

Saturday–July 16, 2005
Trail Day–25
Trail Mile–5.5/497
Location–Wisdom, MT

Got off trail again late yesterday.  Went down Elk Creek drainage instead of Hogan Creek.  Everything clicked on the map, so I hadn’t taken a GPS bearing for quite awhile.  This morning I do.  What is this?  I’m nowhere near where I should be.  Too far south and east of Chief Joseph Pass.  How do I keep doing these stupid off-trails anyway!  Same thing happened the day I was to hitch to Lincoln.  What a screw up that day turned out to be.
Okay, mister great explorer, now what!  Oh, and you’re out of food, guy.
Checking the map–there’s Chief Joseph Pass.  There’s Wisdom–and according to my GPS, there’s me, right in between.  Turns out, the road leading down from Elk Creek intersects the main road to Wisdom.  Time for another one of Nimblewill’s alternate routes, seems.  Longer, of course (aren’t they always!)  Oh yeah, I head for the Wisdom highway.
A half hour wait with thumb extended and I’ve got a ride with a former BLM fellow.  Even make it to the PO before it closes to get a surprise package from dear friend, Jingle.
I hobble around town, have lunch, then check into the little local motel.
Not a bad day after all.  A time to rest and a total cleanup will sure feel good before heading back up the mountain tomorrow.

Sunday–July 17, 2005
Trail Day–26
Trail Mile–17.5/515
Location–Pioneer Creek below Big Hole Pass

Great time in Wisdom.  Met all good people–at both cafes, and especially Tina, owner and manager of the little Sandman Motel.  Tina let me make credit card calls on her personal phone.  Then this morning, she drives me the near 30 miles back up to Chief Joseph Pass and I managed to get hiking by ten.
Today, on the Divide, I step back and forth between Montana and Idaho.  Run into a scout group from Minot, North Dakota out for sixty miles of the Bitterroots.
As usual, I manage to get lost, just past the turn to one of the few springs.  The trail just disappears in a meadow.  I search for over half an hour, up and down, back and forth–no luck.  Finally bushwhack two miles to the next pass where I know the trail will be.
It’s been only a 17-mile day, but it’s nearly dark before I arrived at Big Hole Pass, and Pioneer Creek below.  Lots of elk and whitetail today.

Monday–July 18, 2005
Trail Day–27
Trail Mile–20.3/535
Location–Slag-A-Melt Lakes

More beautiful weather.  Have I been blessed with the weather!  While everyone in the rest of the country is enduring the sweltering heat, I’m up here in the cool, clear air.  Slept in, again.  Don’t get out till 8:30, not good.
Knee pain is steady, no better, no worse, but it’s really wearing on me.  Having difficulty maintaining a meager average of mile-and-a-half per hour, but I manage to keep plodding along.  Hiking like this is not fun.  I know, though, that the knee will get better with time, and I find comfort in that thought.
Experience one of the toughest pulls (climbs) ever today.  It just keeps coming; up, up, up.  Had to dig my sticks in just to maintain footing.  Total ascent of 1500 feet.
I’m in the Beaverhead National Forest, the Bitterroot Mountains.  Rugged, rugged place.  Sure hope these ups and downs taper off a little soon.
Pass lots of old prospect sites today, ruins of old cabins and building sinking into the earth.
Slag-A-Melt Lakes are high-held, glacial lakes, with the rugged saw-toothed mountain ridges their reflected backdrop.
I brave a swim in the cold water, then let the warm afternoon sun dry and warm me.

Tuesday–July 19, 2005
Trail Day–28
Trail Mile–19/554
Location–Berry Meadow

Out to a good start at eight, another big blue Montana sky.
Today it’s another bumpy ride, lots of climbing, from one glacial hanging valley with its high-held lake, back up to another pass–and on and on it goes for the day.
See three other folks today.  Stanley had just parked his quad-trac and was heading for Black Island Lake with his casting rod.  Also talked to Dallas and his son from Butte.  He’s a minister.  Said a prayer for me (for my leg, actually).
Managed to stay on trail the whole day.  Nice new treadway to begin with, then old unmaintained, overgrown tread with blowdowns every 50 yds.  Some of the ascents and descents are extreme.  Took two tumbles but none the worse for wear.  Sure could have done without the thousand-foot climb right near the end of the day.  Knee still the same.  If I stop for more than a moment I have one tough time getting going again.
Very tired.  Pitch camp.  Get a cooking and fogging fire going.  I declare, I don’t believe I’ve ever been so bothered by the pesky skeeters.  They punch right through my clothing, even my hat.

Wednesday–July 20, 2005
Trail Day–29
Trail Mile–19/571
Location–Cowbone Lake

Great day for hiking the CDT, another blue Montana sky.  Got a roadwalk all the way to Cowbone Lake.  Well, actually most of the road is for quad-tracs or other high clearance vehicles, but what a change from the last week of ups and downs.  Have a short pull toward the end of the day, but nothing like the recent climbs.
More elk today, and lots of whitetail.  Forgot to mention the huge old gray moose that crossed my trail yesterday.
Cowbone Lake is a lovely spot, get in early–by five.  Take a swim and wash some grungy clothes.
Northbound hikers, Kevin and Adrian come in around five-thirty.
Enjoyable evening, enjoyable day.

Thursday–July 21, 2005
Trail Day–30
Trail Mile–20.2/591
Location–Lemhi Pass

What a great evening last with Kevin and Adrian.  Had a good cooking and fogging fire going and we had some really fine conversation.  Oh, and Adrian doctored my knee with some natural salve she’d made herself.  Oh yes, a great evening.
Another beautiful Montana day to enjoy.  First order is to bushwhack up to the Divide from Cowbone Lake.  There is no trail.  Kevin and Adrian came down from there yesterday evening, so I’m not so apprehensive about the climb after talking to them about it.
I make it fine and am on my way again along the Continental Divide, which, here, separates Montana and Idaho.
The exciting thing today, and the occasion of which I’ve been anxiously awaiting is reaching Lemhi Pass/Sacagawea Memorial Spring, for it was August 9th last that I crossed Lemhi Pass on my hike to the Pacific, o’er the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.  I reach Lemhi Pass by seven-thirty.
No improvement in the knee today, even though the hike along the Divide was an easy day for a change.  I think it took nearly a month for my left knee to come back in ’98.  Just have to be patient and pray it heals okay.

Friday–July 22, 2005
Trail Day–31
Trail Mile–26.4/616
Location–Bannock Pass/Leadore

Sacagawea Memorial Spring is a very special place, so much meaning and importance in the history of the American Northwest–and to me, especially.  The cold, refreshing water flowing from the spring is just as I remember from the past.  I enjoyed the picnic area, cooked my supper on the grill there, then pitched back away from the Memorial area.
Today dawns cool and clear and I manage to get up, break camp and get moving by seven-thirty.  It’s a long haul from Lemhi Pass to Bannock Pass, the signs say 28 miles, my maps, 25, either way, with a little luck I’ll make it in time to hitch a ride down the 15 miles to the little village of Leadore, Idaho.
The Trail follows the Divide mostly today, more ups and downs to contend with.  The views to the east and west are to the horizon.  Legions of mountains, especially to the west.  One can only wonder as to the thoughts that occupied Captain Lewis when he saw them.  Had he previously doubted the existence of a Northwest Passage, he for sure knew as he stood in Lemhi Pass, looking at the unbroken wall of mountains to the west–there was no Northwest Passage.
I manage to make very good time in spite of my hobbling along; get off trail only once for less than ten minutes, and manage to reach Bannock Pass before seven–with thunder and lightning crashing and flashing around me.  As I wait here, I can see the gravel road coming from the east that leads over the Pass for at least a distance of five miles.  There is no movement on the road, no telltale dust to indicate a vehicle is coming.  In forty minutes, two trucks with trailers hauling loads of the slim and straight lodgepole pine go by.  No luck.  Guess their boss told them, “no riders.”  Finally, just before eight, Laura, from near Leadore, and hauling a mare in the back of her pickup from Dillon, stops for me and I’m on my way to Leadore.
A steak and baked potato at the Silver Dollar and a spot at the little four-room Leadore Inn and I’m in by nine-thirty.  It’s been a long, hard, but rewarding day.

Saturday–July 23, 2005
Trail Day–32
Trail Mile–16.4/632
Location–Water tank near Poison Creek

Friends who’ve hiked the CDT have told me about the great trail town, Leadore.  Jingle says it was her favorite.  I can certainly see why–friendly, kind, happy and generous folks all.  Aleta, owner and operator of Sandman Motel for over forty years took me in–and took time to do some heavy-duty sewing for me on her commercial machine.  Debbie, at the Sagebrush Cafe really caters to hikers; great grub (extra heapings for hikers), and free milkshake!  Marynell at the PO was very patient with me, helped me get some things boxed to send home–very kind.
Becky at the Silver Dollar Bar and Cafe greeted me when I arrived town, bright smile and a welcome, Hello!  Super steak and baked potato.  She got me set up with Aleta at the motel.
At my beckon call, Aleta drops everything and drives me the gravel road back up to Bannock Pass.  Thanks, dear friends in Leadore.  You have made my stay in your little village most memorable.
I’m on the trail again by 2:30. I’ve a roadwalk along the Great Divide.  Wide open views to the eastern prairie, the wall of massifs to the west.  Saw a big pair of pronghorns right on the Divide.  The headwaters of Missouri actually begin somewhere along here.
I’m hiking with one foot in the Salmon NF in Idaho, and the other in the Beaverhead NF in Montana.  Manage to get to the first water tank near Poison Creek.  Good water.  I find thirty-five to forty elk loitering at my campsite.  There’s an entire rick of firewood cut and stacked.  Skeeters are vicious, as usual.  My knee remains the same.  Hear the elk off and on all night.

Sunday–July 24, 2005
Trail Day–33
Trail Mile–19/651
Location–Meadow Creek

Clear, cool day.  On the Divide all morning.  Meet Porter from Montana.  He’s section hiking north.  Turns out to be a long day, short miles.  Got a pebble in my shoe late morning.  Wish I could remember who said this—I believe it was Robert Service.  I’ll paraphrase:  “It not the mountain your climbing that’ll wear you down–it’s the pebble in your shoe.”  Early afternoon, finally had to stop and dump the pebble!
What a demanding day.  Climb, climb, skid, skid.  Oh yes, another old familiar phrase, this one perhaps anonymous: “Thank you, Lord, for the level ground.  Oh thank you, Lord, for the level ground.  Yes, thank you, Lord, for the level ground–’cause everything else is up or down.”  Labored up and down to (and from) over nine thousand feet.
On the open Divide the trail disappears in the meadows.  I get lost frequently, then find my way again.  Camped at eight thousand feet.  Many more elk today.
Very tired.  Knee persists a problem.
Good water at Meadow Creek.  Perhaps this little trickle is the true headwaters of the Missouri.

Monday–July 25, 2005
Trail Day–34
Trail Mile–22.7/674
Location–South of Deadman Lake

More blue Montana (and Idaho) skies.  Still hiking the boundary between Montana and Idaho.  The trail will soon turn from generally south-southwest to east, then northeast as the Divide changes direction.  The trail follows the Divide, so I’ll go that way.
See many more elk today–and cows, lots of cows.
With the problem I’ve been having with my knee, I decide not to do the horseshoe loop around Nicholia/Deadman Pass.  Will stay with the business of the general route.  The side excursions will have to wait.
The evening cooking-turned-warming fire feels good.  Plumb tuckered, as usual.  Sleep is no problem.

Tuesday–July 26, 2005
Trail Day–35
Trail Mile–26.5/701
Location–Shineberger Creek

Been concerned and apprehensive about this day ever since reading Jonathan’s notes–about poor tread, lack of signage, confusing (or no) trail, and all the cow paths that crisscross the CDT, making it difficult to stay on track.  But turns out, I did just fine.  Oh yes, I got lost some and had to consult my GPS a few times to figure where I was, but the day went well and I was able to do the long miles.
Had an angel riding my shoulder today for sure.  Prayed for safe and sure passage–and it was there for me.
Hey, the knee did much better today.  For all your blessings–thank you, Lord!

Wednesday–July 27, 2005
Trail Day–36
Trail Mile–20.2/721
Location–Monida/Lima, MT

The bushwhack back to the Divide from Shineberger Creek is a straight pull–up.  I’m on the crest by eight.  Another bright, clear day.
The Divide here is a true rollercoaster, the only flat spots, where the ridge quickly changes from either down/up or to up/down.  Some of the pulls are stand-up dirt bitin’ steep, the downs, skidding and sliding knee busters.  Praying helps–“Please, Lord, help me up this one; please, Lord, don’t let me crash down this one.”  By noon I’ve reached the alternate route leading to I-15.  It’s downhill all the way for nearly ten miles.  I make Monida by five.
Monida’s heydays were when folks rode the train up, then changed to stagecoach for the ride across the Centennial Valley to Yellowstone.  All’s left here now is old decaying store fronts moldering into the ground, a mile of rusting junk cars, trucks and buses–and a pay phone to call the hiker friendly folks, Mike and Connie Strang, at Mountain View Motel in Lima.  I get Connie on the phone.  She sends Mike right away to fetch me the fifteen miles to Lima.
Grill your own steak at the Peat Bar and Grill.  Post Office right by.  ATM at the Exxon.  Another neat little trail town.
Pounding the gravel road didn’t help either knee today.  Ah, what a blessing to be clean again, if only for a short while.

Thursday–July 28, 2005
Trail Day–37
Trail Mile–17.7/739
Location–Near Rock Spring

Had a grand time in Lima.  The Strangs, Mike and Connie, really made me feel welcome.  “Used to bicycle around a lot,” said Mike. “I know what it’s like to be lonely, dirty and tired.  Been right where you are now.  A friendly hand, a little help along, it meant a lot to me.  Givin’ some back now.”  You sure are, Mike.
The Strangs moved out here from Nebraska a while back, to be near their daughter and son-in-law.  Son-in-law just offered a job in Connecticut.  Yup, they’re movin’.  But Mike and Connie, they’re staying in Lima.  Big Sky is their home now.
At three, I’m finally ready to return to the trail.  Mike has just returned from a Lewis and Clark meeting (the Corps of Discovery, passed through this area 200 years ago this September) and he drives me the 20 miles back to the road south of Monida.
It’s a gentle climb back toward the Divide, but I’m strugglin’, with a overloaded pack–and tummy.  This is cow and sheep country, even up on the Divide.  Lots of cow patties to dodge as I hike along.  Ha, good friend of mine, trail name, Tric, has a different take for the initials “CDT.”  He says they stand for “Cow Dung Trail.”  Sure enough the treadway here!
Doesn’t take long for the trail to start the old roller coaster again as the ridge heads for the sky–then pitches off to the next pass.  The high ground is open ridge or meadow here, offering terrific views–and tortuous rocks, round rocks, from the creek beds of a million years ago.  Gotta slow down; won’t make Rock Spring tonight, got too late a start.  That’s okay.  Find a delightful spot on the high ground to pitch and watch the sun drop behind the legions to the west.  Good fire for cookin’, skeeter foggin’ and de-chillin’.

Friday–July 29, 2005
Trail Day–38
Trail Mile–18.8/758
Location–Near spring at head of West Fork Creek

The trail today stays high, near 8,000 feet, mostly on the Divide.  The tread here is little used, woefully lacking of signage or blazing, and poorly maintained.  I spend a good part of the day thinking I’m off-trail and lost–only then to come upon an old, solitary, healed-over axe blaze, indicating I’m on trail–or perhaps no blazing, nothing for a fair distance, especially in the waist-high grassy meadows–because I am, indeed, off-trail and lost.  Under these circumstances I do well to make one mile-per-hour, oh so frustrating when I’m accustomed to averaging nearly three.  Sure makes for a long, short-mile day.  Do believe I’ve set myself too optimistic a schedule for this section, especially hobbling along as I am.
When looking out at distances of fifty to sixty miles, there’s bound to be the least haze.  I thought the day was perfectly clear until I noticed a faint jagged outline lifting and dancing on the far horizon.  “What in the world is that?” I whisper to myself.  After taking a compass bearing and figuring the approximate distance, I realize I’m looking at the Teton Range, the other side of Yellowstone.  Then, upon looking closer, I also realize that the contoured, lesser pinnacled yet lofty range I see set before the Tetons is the Yellowstone, where I’ll be hiking some four days from now.
I declare, if the skeeters haven’t followed and pestered me nearly the entire day, only to drop back and be relieved later by the horse flies.  I rub my arms and knees with crushed sage and the tender shoots from deer tongue, which helps some.
A threat of rain, then a little sleet in the late afternoon, but the evening clears nicely.
The mountains far and about are mine–no one else up here today.
When we’re nearer the stars are we closer to heaven?

Saturday–July 30, 2005
Trail Day–39
Trail Mile–19.7/778
Location–Hell Roaring Creek Canyon Pass

Company today for sure.  First I hear this God-awful racket, like children hollering and carrying on, then I recognize the bleating of sheep, many hundreds of sheep.  They’re all over the mountain–and the trail before me.  I managed to dodge around the cow plops, but there’s no dodging this stuff, whew!  Looking closer at my map, I see I’m in the official U.S. Sheep Experiment Station.  Quite an experiment!  There was a faded old sign I saw back.  It did alert me to the sheep.  The sign also read, “Danger, Guard Dogs.”  Don’t see any guard dogs, just lots of sheep.  Hah, and yeah, one black one–part of the experiment, I suppose.
Been hiking these past few days in the Targhee National Forest.  I imagine each forest jurisdiction has its own superintendent, with his/her own priorities.  Some care about the CDT, and it shows in how the trail has been constructed and cared for on the lands they steward.  Others, I guess, care more about cattle and sheep.  As far as the Targhee goes–yes I know, momma said, “If you can’t say something nice, keep quiet.”  Well, okay, but anyway, as far as the Targhee goes, I’m very happy to see the sign today that reads, “Leaving Targhee National Forest.”
I’m in the Eastern Centennials now.  Very nice tread, well cared for trail.  A relief and a blessing.
I decided when preparing maps for this trek that I’d take the Macks Inn cutoff.  This route lops off a long, arching, horseshoe-like segment of the CDT.  It’s not the “official” route.  But it is the choice of most thru-hikers–and it’s the choice I made.
In order to get from the CDT and down into the little village of Macks Inn, it’s necessary to bushwhack the four-plus miles up Hell Roaring Creek Canyon and over the Divide (the CDT is down on the other side here).  Rain sure came today, not a lot, but enough to muddy up the canyon and soak everything.  By the time I’ve climbed to Hell Roaring Creek Canyon Pass, I’m as wet and dirty as I believe I’ve ever been on any trail.
I set camp and manage to get a smoldering, smoky fire going right in the saddle of the Pass.  While supper’s cookin’, I rig a drying rack for my clothing.  Things quit dripping, but they ain’t dry.
The evening chill comes on, but I’m warm and dry in my little Nomad tent.
As I drift off, I’m thinkin’, “Danged if I ain’t gettin’ the hang of beating around these mountains.”

Sunday–July 31, 2005
Trail Day–40
Trail Mile–14.1/792
Location–Macks Inn, Idaho

My maps and the notes by Jonathan indicate a faint trail leading from just north of the Pass over to cut trail from a trailhead to Sawtell Peak.  I pick up the trace on an old, washed out woods road.  I’m on my way to Macks Inn, downhill all the way.
But no fun for the knees.  Oh yes, after favoring my right knee for the past 200+ miles, my left knee is now also complaining.  The right knee is definitely getting better; the left one will quit griping soon too, I am confident, thank you, Lord.
The manicured trail leads to a wide gravel road with much traffic.  In just awhile I’m on US20–then Macks Inn where I manage a reasonable-rate room at, where else, Macks Inn!
Oh what a pleasure to shower away the mud and launder the crud from my clothes.
Oh, one more thing to talk about today.  The subject: “Getting Old.”
In this installment we’ll dwell on the topic of forgetfulness, the short-term kind.  In my case, really, really short.  Okay, episode one: I’m now on my third pair of sunglasses.  And the gone ones?  Laid them down one minute.  Walked off and left them the next.  The last brand new pair, they lasted two hours.  Forgot them the first time I took ’em off–two hours!  That was three days ago.  Been squinting into the high-mountain sun ever since.  You’d think I’d learn, wouldn’t you!
This next little deal, episode two, is more to do with dumb than with forgetful.  You see, I’ve pulled this same trick before; it’s just that I don’t remember.  Anyway, two days ago, the morning was very chilly.  Donned both my short and long-sleeved shirts.  Warmed up quick after the first hard pull, so off came the long-sleeved.  Instead of taking time to open my pack, I lashed it “securely” under my pack cinch.  Yup, next stop a couple hours later, no long-sleeved shirt–no more.  It was my favorite; you know how you have favorite things, maybe more sentimental.  It had over 10,000 miles, either on my back or in my pack. Dang, dang, dang!
Oh, but this last one–this episode takes the grand prize for forgetful.  You might guess there’s no water on the Divide (it divides the waters!).  Yesterday, after a long stretch on top I needed water, so I pitched off the mountain to a little trickle I could see way down below.  On the way back up, and shortcutting over a couple of secondary ridges, I sat down to take a bearing.  Yup, you guessed it.  Got up, put my pack on, grabbed my sticks and walked right away from my GPS.  Left it laying right there on a rock.  The blessed thing is bright yellow.  The rock was black, the grass, green–walked right off and left it.  Jeez!  Oh, but don’t you know what I’ll never forget, what I’ll always remember?  It’s the sickening, lowdown-hollow feeling in my gut three hours later when I reached back in my pack pocket for my GPS and it was gone.  I’ll remember that!
This forgetfulness, it’s getting old! I am old.

 Monday–August 1, 2005
Trail Day–41
Trail Mile–12.5/805
Location–Latham Spring

I was fortunate to get a room in Macks Inn, and at a very reasonable rate.  It’s tourist season here, campers and sightseers galore.  Had good grub at Henry’s Fork Cafe, probably the best salad bar for this whole journey.  Stuffed myself on the AYCE buffet.
The hike back up to the CDT follows paved, gravel, then tank-trapped old forest service roads.
Meet three bicyclists from Indiana on my way up and we have the most pleasant conversation.  They enjoyed a couple of my ditties–and we talked about the Lord.
Ensuing thunderstorm, which quickly overtakes me, drives me off the trail and into my tent.  Dive in just as the deluge begins.  Rain on the roof brings instant, deep sleep.

Tuesday–August 2, 2005
Trail Day–42
Trail Mile–15.9/821
Location–Summit Lake YNP

The rain ends sometime during the night and the day dawns clear and cool.
There are two or three different ways to reconnect with the CDT this side of Yellowstone.  I choose the short, direct one–that requires a half-mile bushwhack.  I’m able to work my way through the infant evergreens (this whole area burned along with the Yellowstone in ’98) and the dead, burned blowdowns, and find the trail just fine.
On the trail again, and in a short while I meet my first northbound thru-hiker, trail name Trauma, from New York State.  He’s hiked the IAT and knows Dick Anderson and many other of my friends along the IAT in Maine, New Brunswick and Quebec.  We have a grand time talking trail–and about mutual friends before heading our separate ways.  Good luck, and congratulations, Trauma.
Finally put Montana and Idaho behind me at twelve, over 800 miles in these two states.  With my tramping through on the L&C NHT last year, I’ve put in over 1,600 miles in these two states.  Two down now on the CDT, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico to go.
I’m in to Summit Lake by four, prepare my evening meal, then hike on toward Yellowstone.  The now predictable afternoon thunderstorm drives me into my tent at seven.
Knees complaining more today–but I get in the miles anyway.

Wednesday–August 3, 2005
Trail Day–43
Trail Mile–19.3/840
Location–Shoshone Lake, YNP

Rains off and on all night, but the day dawns clear again.  I’m limping down the trail by eight.  Can’t seem to get the kinks out this morning.  The knees are remarkably troublesome.  Sweet Lord, keep sending me along, you know I’m not a quitter.
Reach the first geyser basin, Biscuit Basin, by eleven.  The CDT follows the walking paths past the most spectacular of the pools and geysers.  Get the traditional shot of Old Faithful.  The trail passes right by.
Pick up supplies for three days at the YNP General Store, get my backcountry permit, some mail off, then head south.
More geyser basins at Shoshone Lake.  YNP, what an amazing place.  Never seen so many folks having a good time!  Me, too.  Knees come around in the afternoon and the hike on south to Shoshone Lake is very pleasant.
In the evening, and nearing my designated campsite, I meet Ben, one of the backcountry rangers here in Yellowstone.  It was near dusk and he was heading for Lake Shoshone, to his kayak there, and the trip down the lake to a backcountry patrol cabin tucked away in a cove.  As we stood and talked, enjoying the sights of one of the largest geyser basins in all of Yellowstone–just the two of us, Ben remarked, “Think about this when you’re enjoying the solitude of your backcountry campsite on the lake tonight. I heard on my radio a few moments ago that every hotel and lodge room, every regular campground slot in the Park, all are full tonight.”
As the lake stills and the evening turns nigh, echoes across Lake Shoshone the unmistakably shrill, eerie-hollow call of the sandhill crane.  The break of silence ushers in such a peaceful, quiet time.  Ah yes, Ben, we do enjoy the solitude!

Thursday–August 4, 2005
Trail Day–44
Trail Mile–21.9/862
Location–Heart Lake, YNP

Something struck me as interesting while in the Park, while seeing and passing all the folks out enjoying Yellowstone.  Suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but it seemed that roughly only one out of four individuals (or groups of individuals) was Caucasian.  I saw not a single black in the hundreds and hundreds of people rushing about.  Of the one in four, I heard only about half speaking English.  The world may not love we Americans, but they sure love coming here and seeing the marvels and enjoying the beauty that is our nation–and we’re happy to have them.
Heart Lake has a small but interesting geyser basin all its own.  Little bubbling/boiling pots and kettles of steam, and small volcano-coned geyser spouts, some no larger than a donut.  If hardboiled eggs suit your fancy, this place could whip you out a crate or two in no time!
The trail passes right by the Heart Lake Ranger Patrol Cabin.  The resident ranger, Richard Jones, greets me by the tool shed.  “Got your backcountry permit,” he asks with a smile.  I drop my pack on his porch and we talk about the Park and his job here.  He kindly changes my campsite to one that’s much more suitable and along my way, where I can have an open campfire to prepare my evening meal–and get in five more miles to boot.
I’m in just as the sun sets behind the rugged silhouette of Mount Sheridan.  Heart Lake, and this place of such majestic beauty–tonight it’s all mine!
Get a cooking and warming fire going in good order.  What a blessing; the skeeters have backed off.  Oh, what a blessing.  Their incessant attack can sure wear on a fellow.
Dear friends, who’ve kept me in your prayers, thank you!  I’m still poppin’ the coated aspirin and vitamin-I like candy, but I have done so much better today.  What a joy to hike without the constant knee pain.  Thank you, friends–and thank you, Lord, thank you!

Friday–August 5, 2005
Trail Day–45
Trail Mile–20.8/883
Location–The Divide, South of Fox Park

There was surprisingly little traffic on the Yellowstone backcountry trails, though they’re well marked and groomed.  I did meet a family, grandma included (carrying a ton), on their way back to Heart Lake trailhead.  They were into the climb up from the lake.  Grandma kept repeating, “My feet, oh my poor feet.”  Sure hope they made it out okay.
I’m hiking from Heart Lake by eight, to another glorious day.
I’m leaving the Park today to enter the Teton Wilderness, but not before getting off trail.  I miss a trail fork and climb too high above the Snake River and get into a literal hell of blowdowns.  There’s a trail, though, and I struggle along for nearly an hour before realizing the trail I need to be on is right next the River, nice, clear, groomed trail.  I bushwhack down and am on my way again.
Finally see “Yogi” today, while struggling in the blowdowns, so that off-trail ordeal was well worth it.  Nice sized brown bear.  He didn’t hang around long.  I tried getting my camera out, but he was up and over the ridge in no time.
In the evening, I meet some fellows doing a frog study (yes, surprisingly, there are peepers up here).
Make very good time today and get far beyond my planned destination for the evening.  Climb to the Divide, there to pitch by a high-held glacial pond.  I huddle by my little fire until the chill of the high country urges me along to my humble shelter.

Saturday–August 6, 2005
Trail Day–46
Trail Mile–40.9/924
Location–Togwotee Pass Lodge/Cowboy Village, hitch to Dubois

No, I didn’t hike forty-one miles today.  I’ve managed to pick up mileage each of the past three days, so I was able to shoot for Togwotee today.  Probably did more like 25 or 26 miles.  I’m just too lazy to split my itinerary mileage, so I just lumped it together to preserve the posted mileages I have up for the remainder of the journey.
This area is very popular for pack trips into the wild, and the trail today is like a highway.  It’s flat, and I haul.  Meet a number of pack teams, both directions, all with their weathered old cowpoke trail bosses–and the pale, red-faced “tinhorns” bouncing along behind.  Also, lots of folks heading for a party back in a remote place called Hawk’s Rest.
I follow an alternate route down to the South Fork of the Buffalo River, then over and across bridges on both the South and North Buffalo.  Glad I didn’t have to ford these two rivers.  Deep, rushing current, both.
Make the final climb to Togwotee Pass Lodge/Cowboy Village and am at the highway by a little before seven.
Homemade, another southbound thru-hiker, is standing on the road shoulder with his thumb out, hoping for a ride to Dubois.  I join him and we share pleasant conversation.
In awhile a van slows and pulls to the side.  “I’m Dave from Maine,” smiles the driver as he greets us.  I see the Appalachian National Scenic Trail decal on his back window right away, so I know we’ve got a ride to Dubois.
Great conversation on the way in.  Dave is a climber, loves the dizzying heights.  Just came down from scaling one of the Teton sharptops today, the one right next the Sentinel.  Good for you, Dave, I’m thinking.  I’ll stay on the (relatively flat) trail, thank you!
We’re in Dubois by a little before nine.  Get a room at the very nice Stagecoach Inn, then rush to the Cowboy Cafe for a steak and baked potato before they close at nine.
A long, but very rewarding day.  The knees are holding; what a blessing!

Sunday–August 7, 2005
Trail Day–47
Trail Mile–00.0/924
Location–Dubois, WY

Sunday, a day for rest, the first one for me since beginning this odyssey 47 days ago.  Picked up an extra day yesterday, so am taking it off today.
Lots to do.  Catch up on journal entries, email friends and family, sew up my ragged clothing and gear, and just rest–for a most welcome change.

Monday–August 8, 2005
Trail Day–48
Trail Mile–20.5/945
Location–Near Leeds Creek

Nice town, Dubois.  Fine Motel, Stagecoach–and everything nearby.  Shop enough food for seven nights, eight days.  This is the longest stretch without resupply, some 170 miles.
At the post office, the clerk tells me that Dubois has no police department.  The sheriff takes care of things for the city.  So there’s no reason waiting until I reach the city limits to start hitching.  Don’t remember if I mentioned that it’s illegal to hitchhike in Wyoming.  So, right outside the post office, out goes my thumb.  Bingo, not a half-dozen cars pass and this petite young lady, Elizabeth, stops and picks me up.  I can’t believe my luck.  She drops me off below Togwotee Pass, where the trail crosses.  I have skipped ten or so miles of roadwalking between Cowboy Village and the road-crossing here below the pass.  Figure I’ve paid my dues on roadwalking.  This is not a pure, continuous-linked hike by any stretch.
The trail begins on a woods road.  Somewhere, I miss a turn and get off-trail, so I decide to bushwhack (I never seem to learn).  It appeared to be a shortcut back to get me back on track.  Well, I’m off-trail for tonight, somewhere near the Divide.  I’ve completely missed Sheridan Pass, where the trail crosses.
Perhaps I’ll get straightened out in the morning–not going to worry myself about it tonight.

Tuesday–August 9, 2005
Trail Day–49
Trail Mile–20.5/945
Location–Short of Roaring Fork Bridge

I continue bushwhacking the “shortcut.”  GPS (My support crew in Missouri sent me a new one), says I’m still a half-mile from the trail.  Finally intersect it, a snowmobile route, right on top of the Divide.  It carries me along for several miles.  Oh yes, then I miss another turn, the one leading to Lake of the Woods.  I end up on an all-weather gravel road.  Can’t believe it, this is an actual shortcut!
Then I promptly miss another turn, putting me over a mile from the trail.  Another bushwhack.  Finally make it to the Highline Pack Trail, to follow it several more miles.  In the evening I end up on a quad-trac rut where I set camp under the spruce.  I think I’m off-trail–again.

Wednesday–August 10, 2005
Trail Day–50
Trail Mile–20.2/988
Location–Short of Trail Creek Park

Well, I’m not supposed to be on this quad-track trail, but it looks like it goes to Gunsight Pass, where I need to cross.  It doesn’t.  A fault of mine (one of many)–I’d rather take a lashing than turn back, so I bushwhack over the Divide–again.  Thence to crash straight down the other side.  I’m in the Winds for sure now.  They’re part of the Teton, Bridger Wilderness.  I camp short of the pull to Trail Creek Park.

Thursday–August 11, 2005
Trail Day–51
Trail Mile–18.9/1007
Location–Short of Fall Creek

Camped last night below Three Forks Park.  It’s a long, hard climb up to Vista Pass and Cubs Rock Pass this morning.  Constant rocks.  High, rough, wild country, tundra-like.
I’m hiking (stumbling along in the rocks) at 11,000 feet.  Lots of glacial lakes.  No one else on the trail.
I pull up short of my destination for the day, Fall Creek, but it’s getting dusk and I’m just too tired to continue.
The evening turns very cold.  Would you believe the skeeters are still after me!
Knees cooperating.
Where I camp, I meet Jeff and Steffey Swain from Pinedale.  They have packed in by horse and are spending a couple weeks in the high country.  What a pleasant change, having others around.

Friday–August 12, 2005
Trail Day–52
Trail Mile–18.6/1026
Location–Near East Fork River

This morning, just as I’m preparing to break camp, Jeff comes over and invites me for coffee.  What a kind thing.  I dearly miss my coffee in the morning.  I join them!
Jeff knows the area up and back and goes over potential routes to take.  He even loans me one of his maps.  I’m not out and on the trail until ten! Today I’m making good progress, though the tread is rough and rocky.  I dearly wanted to hike Cirque of the Towers, but a Forest Service employee I met today said that snow is in the forecast for areas above 9,000 feet.  The Towers are well above ten.  Not a good idea to go in with the skimpy foul weather gear I’m packing, so I opt to pass the Cirque–a disappointment.  I also skip Big Sandy Lodge, where many hikers send extra supplies.
Today, again, I’m hiking at 10,000 feet.  More rocks, lots of high-held lakes.  Still in the Bridger Wilderness.
The evening turns very cold, but no snow.  I pitch in the cover of boulders and spruce.  Didn’t make it to Temple Lake.

Saturday–August 13, 2005
Trail Day–53
Trail Mile–18.3/1044
Location–Past Temple Lake

There’s frost everywhere this morning.
Today will be remembered for the climb up and over Temple Pass, near 10,000 Feet.  At the Pass, I meet a family from Seattle, with two young children–just when I thought I was becoming the great mountain climber.  The youngsters were popping right along, bright smiles!
A storm comes in late afternoon and it turns very cold.  See more moose.
At Little Sandy Lake I lose the trail again, but I know it’s nearby and I’m sure to locate it in the morning.
Camp again in the cover of boulders and Spruce.  Very cold, windy night.

Sunday–August 14, 2005
Trail Day–54
Trail Mile–30.3/1075
Location–Lander, WY

No, I didn’t hike thirty miles today, just picked up another day.
I manage to find faint trail this morning.  The climb to the Divide is marked by small cairns, and I’m able to follow them okay.  I’m on the Pacific side of the Divide for the first time in awhile.
The trail is dropping now as I leave the Winds and the Bridger Wilderness.
Another wrong turn late in the day but I recover and reach the highway to Lander by seven.
At the road gate, a family camping nearby befriends me with a cold fruit drink and a piece of fried chicken.  On the road shoulder now, Bill, a fellow I’d talked to earlier in the day along the dusty two-track, is heading back from a day fishing the East Fork of the Sandy.  He sees me standing with my thumb out and picks me up.  What luck!  He drives me all the way to Lander.
In Lander I check into the Pronghorn Motel–and just have time to hit their cafe for the best t-bone steak and baked potato I’ve had in a long time.
Of the eight days food, I’ve got one package of beef ramen and quarter of a bag of M&Ms left.  Cut that one close!

Monday–August 15, 2005
Trail Day–55
Trail Mile–00.0/1075
A zero mile day.

I’ve caught up with Zack and Buddha, and along with Garlic Man and Andrew Knutsen (a local triple-crowner) we enjoy a fine breakfast together.
Stop by the Bureau of Land Management for information on the water sources in the Great Divide Basin, where I’ll be headed tomorrow.
Relax, catch up on email and journals.

Tuesday–August 16, 2005
Trail Day–56
Trail Mile–24.5/1100
Location–Upper Mormon Spring

My stay in Lander was most enjoyable; nice town, kind folks.
I join Zack, Buddha and Andrew at 7:30 for breakfast at the Oxbow before Andrew shuttles us back to the trail.  Zack and Buddha treat us but they’ve decided to take another zero day in Lander.
Ten o’clock and Andrew has me back on the trail at South Pass City.
I’ve been told that the middle of August is not the time to be crossing the Great Divide Basin, but looks like I might get a break today; it’s overcast and cool.
The trail out is two-track gravel.  As I crest the hill out from South Pass City, seems the whole Basin appears before me.  Not a tree or anything green anywhere in sight.  Just rocks, sand and sagebrush.  Not long and the wind starts kicking from the west-northwest bringing a noticeable drop in temperature.  I stop, put on my long-sleeved shirt over my “T” (had another one sent from home) and get my poncho out, just in case.  Not long again, the rain starts as the wind kicks harder.  On goes the poncho.  Looks like the least I’ve got to worry about is the heat.
The trail through the Basin is well marked but I still manage to make a wrong turn.  I soon see the error and am back on track.
The Basin is low, compared to the surrounding rim, but I’m still above 6,000 feet and climbing.  Been told I’ll see many pronghorn and wild horses in here.  Keeping my eye open, but none along today.
The rain keeps on steady all afternoon, and it’s uncomfortably cold.
From the information provided by the BLM office in Lander, I’ve entered the coordinates for Upper Mormon Spring.  My little GPS clicks down the miles, with the arrow pointing me right for the spring.  Late evening and the spring comes right in at the zero reading.  Good water and plenty of dead sagebrush for my evening cooking and warming fire.
The rain has finally stopped.  Oh, and hey, there’s nary a mosquito out here in the desert!

Wednesday–August 17, 2005
Trail Day–57
Trail Mile–21.7/1122
Location–Past Crooks Mountain

I’m up and out to a cool, clear day.  Shortly, behind me comes another hiker–Steve.  He’d also camped near the spring.  We hike along sharing good conversation–until the day darks over and the cold rain descends again.  We keep trudging along into it.  Thought I’d have a couple of days, at least here in the high desert, without wet feet, but it’s not going to happen.
Lots of pronghorn today–and cows and sheep–but no wild horses.
The ponds where we’d planned on getting water for the evening are disgusting, churned to a muddy froth and contaminated by hundreds of sheep.  The shepherd that tends the flock has a little camper on the ridge above.  We go there.  He’s out with the sheep.  We decide he won’t miss a little of his clear, clean water stashed in his water tanks.
The storm finally moves off to the east, leaving the evening cool and clear.  We head on up the next rise, find a couple of flat spots by a gulch and call it a day.
What a pleasant change–having someone to hike with!

Thursday–August 18, 2005
Trail Day–58
Trail Mile–28.0/1150
Location–Past A&M Reservoir

I head out a little after seven.  Steve’s feet are weary from the long miles we banged out yesterday, around thirty, so he hangs back.  His planned route will take him up from the Basin and onto the rim.  Where out paths diverge, I leave a short note for him in the sand, wishing him a safe journey.  Steve’s already done New Mexico north to the Colorado line.  He’s southbound now, as am I, from Canada, with a little over 800 miles remaining to complete his CDT thru-hike–congratulations, Steve!
Not long, the sky darks over again and the cold wind kicks anew, out of the west-northwest just as before.  The tread is very good and I make the miles.  Lots more pronghorn, maybe a hundred or more–and horses–I see a beautiful paint, a pure white, a pure black with a colt, and numerous other roan.  They hurry away.  I try for a picture, but I’m afraid they’re too far off.
At four, the rain starts, the wind comes harder, and it turns bitter cold.  Intense flashes of lightning.  Crashing thunder.  The storm and the driving rain move with me.  For the next four hours the lightning and thunder are directly overhead.  This is the most intense electric storm I’ve been in since being struck by lightning in Quebec.  I become sore afraid that this might be my time.  I pray to God for just a few moments break, so I can pitch my tent and get out of it before dark.
My prayers are answered, as the break comes just before eight-thirty, and I hasten to pitch between the scatter of thorny cactus and sagebrush.  I’m in just as the wind returns.  I must cling to the walls of my little tent for fear it will be ripped away.  It’s well after nine before the storm moves on east.  I am soaked.  My clothes are soaked.  But somehow I’ve managed to keep my sleeping bag dry.  What a blessing to climb in and finally get warm again.
Lord, oh Lord, what a day!

Friday–August 19, 2005
Trail Day–59
Trail Mile–43.5/1194
Location–Rawling, WY

I’m up and out again by a little after seven.  The sky appears very iffy.  Sure enough, by nine the rain comes in again.  But this mild storm proves short-lived as it quickly moves past and the late morning sun burns it away.
The hike today follows a pipeline cut, nearly straight, up, over and down the rolling hills of the Great Divide Basin.  The tread, a bit sandy at times, remains good and I make fair time.  Many more pronghorn, also horses.  And I see the goofy looking little horned toad today.
I’m shooting for Rawlins now–a day ahead of schedule.  So the mileage above actually reflects a two day additive.  Actually, the individual mileages for the past four days are: Tuesday-25, Wednesday-30, Friday-36, and Saturday-28, for a total of 119.
The pipeline road turns to county paved, the county paved to US281, bringing a roadwalk of some 18 miles to town.
I’m hot and weary, but I’m in by five-twenty.
This day ahead that I’ve just pulled?  Ahh yes, I’ll burn it right away for a welcome day off tomorrow!

Saturday–August 20, 2005
Trail Day–60
Trail Mile–00.0/1194
Location–Rawling, WY

A zero mile day, as I rest, sort my bounce box, and generally keep my feet up and take it easy.
Two doors down last night, lo and behold, appeared Leslie and Dave.  Met them way back in East Glacier Park, the day I got off the train two months ago.  They’ve also hiked New Mexico already.  So, they’ll finish their CDT thru-hike at the Colorado/New Mexico line around the end of September.  We shared a great time together, recounting experiences along the trail.

Sunday–August 21, 2005
Trail Day–61
Trail Mile–20.6/1215
Location–Past Lone Tree Creek

The day and one-half break was good for me, but I’m hiking out pretty much locked up this morning.  Can’t get my arms or legs moving freely.  Finally acting my age, I suppose.  Takes better part of two hours (and as many Vitamin-I) to finally work the kinks out.
The trail from of Rawlins is also a long roadwalk.  Memories of the last two hikes come back to me.  They were almost total roadwalks.  I squint to see the road as it shrinks to a point toward the horizon.
Rawlins is an oasis in the middle of this arid (say desert) high plains prairie.  It’s tucked away down in a wide, open-ended cove.  Trees grow there, but only in yards and landscaped business areas, where they receive much care through periodic watering.
Lots of frontier/old west history here.  The road I’m hiking along today, which heads me back up to the Divide, crosses the old Overland Trail.  That old wagon trail followed the Platt River up to its headwaters, then wiggled its way through Bridger Pass just west of here.  Passing through the Great Divide Basin, I hiked along the route of the old Oregon Trail and the Seminoe Cutoff branch of the old California Trail.  From 1843, and for 25 years–until the railroad came through, over half a million folks journeyed west over these old trails.
Jim Bridger left his mark on the area.  Many land features hereabouts are named after him.  I mentioned Bridger Pass.  And there’s Bridger County.  And tomorrow I’ll be hiking past Bridger Peak, located on the Divide.
All the old towns along southern Wyoming are/were railroad towns, which sprang up along the route of the Union Pacific Transcontinental Railroad.  The old Mormon Trail and the Pony Express route also came through here.
Toward evening, and as I continue climbing, I’m leaving the prairie to enter the sub-alpine mountain zone.  Here I see the first trees in the wild for better part of the past week.  There’s quaking aspen, Englemann spruce, fir, and lodgepole pine.  Oh, and there’s still plenty of sagebrush, enough old dead, stunted snags of which I’m able to get a fine cooking and warming fire going.  A kind Native American stopped to offer me water–a blessing, as I haven’t yet reached the first brook flowing from the mountains.
A beautiful sunset.  Ha, somehow the afternoon thunder busters didn’t find me today!

Monday–August 22, 2005
Trail Day–62
Trail Mile–23.2/1238
Location–Past Jim Creek

Just about got the road walked out yesterday.  For this morning I don’t go far until the trail breaks away to a two-track, then a single-track, as it climbs, taking me back up to the Divide.
Yup, doesn’t take me long to get lost.  Sure glad for my GPS and the compass rose–with coordinates–on each map.  No problem getting straightened out and back on track, but not before I manage to get up and walk away from another pair of sunglasses.  Isn’t this the fourth time I’ve pulled this stunt?  Jeez, you’d think by now I’d have come up with some way of keeping track of my sunglasses.  Sure it’s funny.  Go ahead and laugh.  I’m laughing!
Saw lots more antelope yesterday; not so many today, but up here, there’s mule deer and white tail.  Heard many coyotes last night.  What a mournful call.  Sends chills right up your spine.
Today I’m back in the rocks again.  The two track roads are littered with rocks.  The trail is a ribbon of rocks.  Appropriate name–Rocky Mountains.  Take away the rocks and the pile of dust left wouldn’t make a decent-sized hill.

Tuesday–August 23, 2005
Trail Day–63
Trail Mile–15.0/1253
Location–Encampment, WY

The trail stayed to the Divide all afternoon and evening last.  There’s no water on the Divide.  It’s the high land, no streams, no springs.  I was out of water and it was turning dusk.  What to do?  Ah, but what luck.  Just below Bridger Peak, which has its head in the sky at 10,000 feet, just off the north slope, I found two huge fields of snowpack.  And below the peak there were small wooded areas of spruce.  Wood for my evening fire and snow for water.  I pitched in the shelter of the spruce, back from the cold, harsh wind.  Got pitched, got a fine fire going, and scampered down to the snow drift for a bag of the white stuff just before dark.  What a fine evening it turned to be!  I sat by the warming fire for the longest time, watching the lights from the little communities of Encampment and Riverside flicker in the valley below.
I’ve only four miles to the highway this morning, where I hope to hitch a ride down to Encampment.  There’s a motel there, a bar, a cafe, and a small grocery store.  Maybe I’ll get there in time for a good breakfast.
I reach SR70 a little after nine.  No traffic.  I mean NO traffic.  I stand at the Pass for over half an hour.  Not a single vehicle–in either direction.  Finally, two vehicles go by–in the opposite direction.  This doesn’t look very promising.  Okay, it’s twelve miles to Encampment.  That’s four hours to hike it out.  I’m out of food.  Gotta go in.  Start walkin’ Nomad.
Four miles and an hour and twenty minutes later, the fourth vehicle going my way stops to pick me up.  Thanks, dear Lord, thanks.  The old codger drops me off right downtown Encampment.  I’m in before noon–but not for breakfast.  The two cafes are closed Mondays and Tuesdays.  The grocery store is out of business.  Ah, but the little motel is doing fine.  Get a room, a shower, then the motel owner drives me to Riverside, where I’m able to resupply for the hike on to Steamboat Springs.  Also get the best burger and fries I’ve had in ages.  As my friend, Wolfhound, would say, “Life is good.”

Wednesday–August 24, 2005
Trail Day–64
Trail Mile–19.9/1273
Location–Just Past Colorado Line

Had a fine stay in Encampment.  Neat little town, much like the farm-to-market village I grew up in.
In Encampment, everyone knows one another, helps one another–like Connie, the barmaid at Pine Lodge Cafe/Bar.  She knew I’d have a time hitching back up to the Divide this morning, so while chatting with her yesterday, she offered to drive me up.  We meet at the Cafe for breakfast, then we’re off.  She has me back on the trail by ten.  Thanks, Connie.  Oh, and thanks, Dezi, owner/innkeeper at Vacher’s Bighorn Lodge–for your hospitality and kindness.
The hike today is mainly along the smooth-flowing ridge that can be the Great Divide–when it chooses to be kind to we intrepids.  The range here is the Sierra Madre in the Medicine Bow National Forest.
Where the Divide is flat like this, it’s usually pretty much beat down.  Through here today, I’m following the old Center Sheep Driveway, kept widened by countless quadtracs.
At four-ten, I cross the border between Wyoming and Colorado.  Three states down now, over half the hike finished–two more states to go.  Thank you, Lord, for the wide, safe passage.  Guide me on and keep me in your care.

Thursday–August 25, 2005
Trail Day–65
Trail Mile–20.8/1294
Location–Just Past Middle Fork, Elk River

Finding water has been a near-constant problem for the past many miles through southwest Wyoming.  But here, this morning, that all changes.  The mountains of Colorado see plenty of rainfall, and when the trail wanders just the least bit from the crown of the Divide, there are numerous little brooks and spring seeps.  No more lugging 50-100 ounces of water–at least till I hit New Mexico.
Lots more wildlife now; mule deer whitetail, little chippies and squirrel, all kinds of birds, most with their very own song to sing.  It’s certainly a welcome change, having their company.  Many of the birds are inquisitive, flying along from evergreen to aspen to evergreen ahead of me as they chirp away.
Late morning, comes along Cactus and Bonner, northbound thru-hikers.  They hope to make it to Canada before the snow really starts flying.  We enjoy a fine chat, then I wish them success and a safe journey on.  As I turn to continue my trek, I’m thinking, “Sure glad I’m heading south, not north.”
I’ve lucked out the past two days; managed to dodge the afternoon thunder busters.  The one building today, which appears to be heading directly my way veers off to the southeast just ahead of me.  Hey, I’m actually hiking south for a change!
I hike on past my planned destination, as there’s still plenty of daylight.  Up, up and more up I go as I head for Three Island Lake.  I can see the light of evening through the trees above.  It’s the pass just above the lake.  I judge it to be perhaps an hour further on.  Two hours later, and at dusk, I judge the pass to be perhaps an hour further on!  The Rockies are so enormous.  Trying to judge distance out here can be totally bewildering, as this situation proves.  There’s no getting used to the expanse.  In my case, there seems to be no improvement in judgment–none!
I take water from the lake outfall and pitch for the evening, perhaps just a short distance (perhaps not) from Three Island Lake.

Friday–August 26, 2005
Trail Day–66
Trail Mile–20.7/1315
Location–Beyond Buffalo Pass

The lovely Three Island Lake was just above where I camped last, so I had nearly reached it.  Just as well I didn’t, as there’s no camping allowed near the lake.
All around me this morning, on the grasses, sedges and low bush, there’s frost.  And on the lake, the most remarkable steam shroud hovering there, the sun mixing and turning it in glistening shades of gold and silver.
I hike along for the first hour with my hands in my pockets, sticks tucked under my arm.  By late morning, and as I once more reach the high, open meadows on the Divide, the sun has warmed me nicely.
The trail pops along, rolling from dark green-grass seeps below to bare-rock domes above.  It’s then I see it looming ahead of me–Lost Ranger Mountain.  I know the trail goes up and over, but I can’t believe I’m going to climb up there.  But the ascent starts soon enough, gently at first, then around and through rock-strewn side spurs, across two large, sloping snowfields, to finally turn straight up.  The final 300-400 feet take all the strength left in me.  I can hear the wind howling around the last rocky spur, which until now has protected me.  As I crest the summit the force of the gale pitches me away.  It is bitter cold.  I fumble for my GPS with my stick-stiff fingers and manage to turn it on.  When the little gadget is locked on at least four satellites it will give out elevation.  Here on Lost Ranger it’s reading 13,347 feet.
The descent is a freefall, through more boulder and rock-filled tread.  If the remaining 700 miles of Colorado are anything like what I’ve just experienced, I don’t know if I’ll be up to it.
But just as I’m suffering these doubts, the trail miraculously flattens, the rocks leave, and the day warms.  I hike along with total ease for the remainder of the day.  Mulling most of the day, I finally resolve to take the oncoming mountain peaks–when and only as they come, and doubt no more.  I managed Lost Ranger.  I’ll get up and over the rest just fine.
At Buffalo Pass, as is the case in so many other places along the trail, there’s no marker on the other side of the pass.  Searching, I find a trail used by the quadtrac and motorcycle folks.  I hike it on up for better part of two miles before finding a sign indicating that I’m, in fact, on the CDT.  Seems the folks working the trail like to put up all kinds of CDT signs and markers where there’s “pretty” trail, but avoid any indication of the trail’s existence in the not-so-pretty places, like here.
Lots of quadtrac folks, bicyclists and day hikers in this last section, a change from the near-total seclusion along the trail in Wyoming.
At dusk, I take water from one of the many high-held lakes and carry it a mile or so to a sheltered evergreen copse.
The evening fire gives me a hot meal for warm innards, warms my outards, and lights the night as I set my camp.
I’ll long remember this day, the snowfield crossings, the leg-numbing climb, the bitter, howling wind–and the doubting.  Ahh, but then, too, I’ll remember the sweet satisfaction of success!

Saturday–August 27, 2005
Trail Day–67
Trail Mile–16.7/1332
Location–US40 at Rabbit Ears Pass/Steamboat Springs

I’m awake at dawn but can’t muster the nerve to roll out to the chill of the early morning.  I finally break camp and get on trail by seven-thirty.  More frost, more hands in the pockets.
The trail is most kind this morning, only nine or so miles to Rabbit Ears Pass.  I reach there by eleven.
What memories, this place.  The large boulder holding the plaque commemorating the dedication of the highway over Rabbit Ears, it’s still right here.  I was only nine or ten then, sis was maybe four.  That was nearly sixty years ago.  Dad took us on a trip through the Rockies one fall.  I remember to this day first seeing the remarkable rock formation above the Divide for which this pass is named.  The bronze plaque is still here too, badly faded now.  The narrow old highway is full of cracks, potholes and patches.  Few pass this way any more, as this old road has been given up for a new Rabbit Ears crossing further south.  I linger in the middle of the old roadway for the longest time.  It is quiet now, no traffic like back then.  Oh, if we could only go back, to relive just a few special times.  But time is our captor and we must obey.  Dad, mom, these memories, they are so precious–I miss you so.
The trail crosses the old road and leads on south.  My thumb goes out at the new pass.  The cars fly by.  Finally a fellow from Tellico Plains, back east, stops and picks me up.  I’m in Steamboat for lunch.

Sunday–August 28, 2005
Trail Day–68
Trail Mile–22.0/1354
Location–Indian Creek

Southbounders Dave and Leslie are right across the street at the Rabbit Ears Motel.  Had a good visit.  Dave brought by some goodies to boost my energy, snacks and dried veggies–thanks, Dave!
Steamboat Springs is a touristy town, with all the usual front street shops–high end designer wear, fancy jewelry, posh restaurants with menu items topping a hundred bucks, fudge and ice-cream shops, you name it.  But I liked the town, believe it or not!  Had to pay seventy bucks for a room, but it was a seventy buck/room kind of motel–a good value.  All the usual retail stores, like WalMart, Safeway, the discounts and drugs, etc., they’re located on the south side of town, away from the old downtown area.  Neat layout.  And the merchants apparently foot the bill for the free bus service all around.  Smart merchants.  Yup, neat town, Steamboat Springs.
I’m up, pack on, and out the door by nine.  Get the bus to the city limits where my thumb goes out.  Five minutes and I’ve got a ride with a fellow who’s headed for Rabbit Ears to hike the mountain with his family and friends.  He drops me off within a quarter-mile of where I hitched in yesterday.  I’d planned on skipping the roadwalk from where the new highway crosses the pass, over to CO14, but soon have second thoughts and go ahead and hike the four miles or so.
Today is mostly a roadwalk, beginning with US40, then CO14, then gravel secondary, and finally, high clearance unmaintained FS roads.
By late evening, and just before turning off CO14 comes Greg, the kind fellow who gave me the ride up earlier in the day.  “Hiked Rabbit Ears for you–a great day.  Need any water or anything?  How about a ride to the top of the hill?” he says as he jumps from his truck to greet me again.  I give him my card with the website on it and encourage him to let his daughters, Gretchen and Ann, sign my guestbook.  Thanks, Burkholders, all (and Sadie the lab, too), for your kindness!
Near dusk (and still climbing) I begin seeing folks camped all along the FS road.  Looks like hunting season is cranking up.  Primitive (bow and black powder) will be first.
It’s been a long day, back in the Routt National Forest, the Rabbit Ears Range now, but I make it to Indian Creek, there to top off my water bottles, then it’s on a little further up the mountain to a secluded spot in the spruce.  The evening fire is a most welcome old friend.

Monday–August 29, 2005
Trail Day–69
Trail Mile–20.4/1374
Location–Near Haystack Mountain

It’s a challenge to roll out and get moving early when it’s cold and the frost is on.  The longer I stay snug in my down bag the warmer it becomes outside–but I manage to get moving by seven-thirty.
The Divide along this Rabbit Ears Range is rugged and the trail tries to stay with it.  Lots of wild ups and downs, a thousand feet or more of vertical change at times.  One stretch is a razor-sharp hogback, no wider than 50-75 feet with near-vertical walls straight off either side for better part of half a mile.  It’s breathtaking scenery but unbelievably rugged–jutting boulders, loose rock, narrow off-camber tread.  Each foot placement is critical.  Gotta stop if I want to look away.
This day has been one of the most physically demanding of this entire journey; my energy is completely spent, but I must yet go down the mountain a fair distance for water if I plan to have a hot meal tonight.
At dusk, and back near the ridge again, water bottles full, I find a flat area and an old fire ring.  This is home.

Tuesday–August 30, 2005
Trail Day–70
Trail Mile–19.1/1393
Location–Past Ruby Lake

This old lumberjack’s camp I’ve pitched at is open to the east, so the sunrise brings immediate warmth to my little estate.  That gets me up and moving by seven.  Good thing, for as my map indicates, the trail crosses tight 100 foot contour lines nearly all day.  That means more near-vertical ascents and descents.  These kind of pulls and drops are a major chug up here at ten to eleven thousand feet.
My energy level has been noticeably lagging the past three days and I’ve suffered a nagging headache, maybe running a mild fever.  I know it’s futile; there’s no way of keeping any pace through this kind of tread anyway, so I slow to a stagger-on that this old worn out heart can tolerate.  Slow, slow ups, and scary don’t-bust-it downs.  Perhaps one mile an hour for much of the day.  Hard to make twenty miles like this.  “Just keep your head down and pull the mountain, old man.  There’ll be daylight through the pine–you’ll see it soon enough–at the top.”
I’d like to get into Grand Lake early tomorrow so I can find a room, get a bath and launder these smelly old clothes, so I stay the trail until dark.  I manage an extra four miles past Ruby Lake.  This sets me up for a noonish arrival in town.  I’m pleased with the day, but pooped.
Oh my, reading this entry over, it sure enough sounds like I’m miserable.  You’re probably wandering, “Why’s he out there anyway; what’s the use!”  Well, I have taken time today to find pleasure in this trail, in this hike.  I’m in the Never Summer Wilderness now, rugged but picturesque–on the Never Summer Trail.  It’s a challenge for sure, but at the same time, it’s an experience–no, it’s a blessing few could ever know or understand.
I think the problem is: I’ve just had a bad attitude since that four-hour thunder buster in the desert.
I pitch for the night at Bowen Lake.  Cold, harsh wind.  Warm fire.  I fix my sleeping pad behind me for a reflector.  Hey–no skeeters!

Wednesday–August 31, 2005
Trail Day–71
Trail Mile–15.7/1409
Location–Grand Lake, CO

The wind calms during the night, and in the pine here by the lake, encircled by lofty mountains, the morning dawns mild.
First order of the day is to climb to the ridge by that lofty mountain. I’m pleased to find my stamina and energy level much improved.  I’m able to top the ridge in less than an hour.  From here, it’s all downhill, from near 12,000 feet above Bowen, down to 8,000 feet at Grand Lake.  Memorable views from the open ridge.
It’s a bumpy rollercoaster all the way on the North Supply Trail.  Lots of loose rock plus off-camber skid plates to keep my attention.  This is definitely a don’t-bust-it morning.  But I manage good time and arrive town right at noon.
Kind folks at the Bighorn Motel cut a rate deal for the old Nomad.  I hit the library to check the progress my Webmaster, Justin, has been making in a total makeover of  Wow, is it ever impressive!  Check out the photos.  They ain’t bad, and do they ever load–whiz-pop and they’re up, full page if you like.  Thanks, Justin!  I know it’s been a difficult task, but the new look is stunning.
Ted, a local in the lumber trade, buys my evening meal, one of the best rib eyes I’ve chomped into in many a moon–a tip-off from Rhana, the morning cook at Bears Den and Paws Pub.
My tummy’s full.  My clothes’ clean.
Now all to do–hit the grocery first thing in the morning and I’m on my way to Silverthorne, where my “Support Crew,” Joyce, is coming to see this lonely old codger.

Thursday–September 1, 2005
Trail Day–72
Trail Mile–24.2/1433
Location–Near Caribou Lake

My stay in Grand Lake was most restful, much needed.
But for brief remissions, I have suffered an alarming loss in energy and stamina.  The rash on the back of my left leg, above the knee, is continuing to spread and doesn’t appear to be the usual skin irritation, as from crossing paths with numerous noxious plant such as thistle or dock.
The hike today is pretty much a cruise along and beside the picturesque Shadow Mountain Lake.  By afternoon, I’m at Monarch Lake, where the climb begins in earnest, up and along Arapaho Creek.
By the time I reach Caribou Lake, my energy and strength are totally spent.  This loss of stamina is baffling and scary, as I have always been blessed with boundless energy.
I stumble about, pitching camp, building a fire and fixing supper.
In my little tent and on my sleeping pad now, I find it difficult to settle in comfortably, due to the nagging pain caused by sores along the back of my left leg, and now up to my hip–a very restless night.

Friday–September 2, 2005
Trail Day–73
Trail Mile–18.7/1452
Location–Just over James Peak

Frost all around again this morning.  Sticks under arm and hands in pocket, I manage to get out and going a little after seven.
The High Lonesome Trail meanders along, rolling up and down through the forest of lodgepole, fir and spruce.  But the climb comes soon enough, past Devil’s Thump Park, up the ridge and into the rocks below Devil’s Thumb Pass.
At the pass, the “trail” turns to the Divide, to follow it along above 11,000 feet for the rest of the day.
My destination is James Peak, but I’ve been told not to camp on this mountain, due to the high risk from exposure and the potential for severe weather.  James Peak is a domed pile of rocks that stands well above 13,000 feet.
I struggle up through the rocks and over the top, to immediately bale off the other side.  It’s a scary descent through the jumble of boulders.  Spikes of granite rise from the precipitous slopes to reflect the harsh light of dusk.  The cold wind comes as I search the narrow chasm for a flat spot among the rocks.
This is the highest, narrowest and most exposed place I’ve ever had to pitch camp.  As the wind continues unabated I manage to get my tent up by anchoring it with rocks.  No hot meal tonight.
I am unable to sleep due to the intense pain along my left side.

Saturday–September 3, 2005
Trail Day–74
Trail Mile–16.7/1469
Location–Off trail at Silverthorne

The morning dawns cold and the wind persists.  As soon as there is light I’m up and climbing again.  First comes Mt. Bancroft at 13,250 feet, then it’s down, up and over Parry Peak at 13,400 feet.  Next baleoff and boulder scramble takes me up and over Mt. Eva at 13,100 feet, ditto for Mt. Flora at 13,100 feet, and finally Colorado Mines Peak at 12,000 feet.
There is tread now, which I follow down to Berthoud Pass at 11,000 feet.
The climb back up to the Divide on the other side of the pass goes straight up.  My energy is in the tank.  The climb is a crawl as I dig my sticks and stagger up.  By now I realize there is no way I’ll make it to Jones Pass, only sixteen miles for the day, nor will I ever make Silverthorne tomorrow, a twenty-one mile day.
By the time I’ve struggled and pulled myself over Stanley Mtn. at 12,500 feet I am no longer able to continue.
A side trail leads down the mountain to the mines at Butler Gulch.  I take it.  Near the mine entrance I’m offered a ride to Georgetown and I-70.
Dear friends, my CDT southbound hike has come to an end, at least for this year.
For the past number of days I’ve suffered a marked loss of energy and stamina, along with a nagging headache and marginal fever.  At the time, I noticed two small sores on the back of my left leg.  I thought perhaps the irritation was from brushing the countless thistle along the trail.  The sores, however, have since spread.  I now suffer multiple, open lesions from just above the back of my left knee, up my left thigh, all the way to the small of my back.  The pain has become so intense that I have been unable to sleep.
As I compose this final journal entry, I now know that I am suffering, not from a rash, but from a disease known as herpes zoster (shingles), a dangerous, potentially chronic, and extremely painful condition.
Dwinda Joyce, my dear friend and support team, who is here to see me in Silverthorne, diagnosed the condition immediately.  She insisted, and rightfully so, that I end my hike and return to Missouri with her–to be seen and treated by her doctor.
As I write this, we are in eastern Kansas, near Topeka, heading home.
Dear friends, for you and all who’ve taken inspiration from my writings and from this adventure, I’m truly sorry I’ve let you down.  Please know that there is no one more disappointed about my quitting than me.  Quitting isn’t my nature.  The simple fact: I could no longer continue.
But I am optimistic.  There will come another day–there will be another time.

Tuesday–August 14, 2007
Trail Day–01
Trail Mile–014/1504
Location–North of Hagar Mountain

This odyssey was intended to start in Silverthorne, but, problem is, this isn’t where Odyssey 2005 ended.  That trek was planned as a southbound thru-hike, from Glacier National Park to the Mexican border.  Unfortunately it was cut short due to illness–at Henderson Mine, below Vasquez peak, some 26 miles north of Silverthorne by trail.

I really don’t want a gap in my hike o’er this CDT, so, this odyssey begins today as a northbound hike, from Silverthorne to Henderson Mine, where I bailed off the mountain in ’05.

It’s almost ten before I shoulder my pack to go.  Don’t know how I’d have managed without the kindness from Karen, the innkeeper here at 1st Interstate Inn.  She listened intently to my story Sunday, then to cut me a hiker trash deal for four nites.  Stayed Sunday evening and Monday acclimating to the high altitude.  Plans are, when I reach Henderson Mine, to hitch back here to Silverthorne Wednesday.  On Thursday I’ll hike south toward Wheeler Flats, there to take the free bus back to Silverthorne Friday evening.  Anyway, no way I’d be getting out of here without Karen’s help.  Got the room for all six days, as she’s told me to leave all my stuff in the room the entire time–thanks, Karen!

It’s a beautiful, clear morning as I climb the Ptarmigan Trail above Silverthorne.  Getting some great shots.  I think this new camera is going to work great.

The climb starts easy enough, and I’m able to handle the elevations up to 10,000 feet, but then I slow way down.  The trail rolls along fine until I reach where it’s supposed to drop off the mountain.  Can’t find the bail-off.  Look for over half an hour before deciding on a bushwhack straight down one of the gulches.  Descending toward the valley I see movement.  Ah, and so the bushwhack has been worth it, as I’m practically standing face-to-face with a huge elk.  As he looks up, I get the shot!

Plunging on through the rocks and blowdowns, I’m able at last to find the trail.

Toward evening the going gets difficult, as I am now climbing at altitudes above 12,000 feet.  Near dusk, totally exhausted, luck brings a fine spring, and a (relatively) flat, rock-free spot to pitch for the night.  My feet, back, and right hip are barking, but my legs seem to be coming back under me–one more time.  Thank you, Lord!


“This trail, it beckons ever on
This path, a way of life
And search as I must the final dawn
Through wonder, beauty–and strife.”
[Robert W. Service]


Wednesday–August 15, 2007
Trail Day–02
Trail Mile–12/1516
Location–Henderson Mine, thence to Silverthorne

The mercury really started dropping last evening, as the cold rain came in–which finally ended in sleet. I was much relieved to get my tent pitched and to warm up.

This morning my little REI thermometer is hovering just below 38 degrees. But as I break camp and get going, the day warms nicely. By early afternoon the trail has dropped over 2,000 feet to descend Bobtail Creek. From there, it’s immediately up again to 12,500 feet at Jones Pass. I seem to be adapting to the thin air at these high altitudes, but as I pass the 11,000 foot mark in the climb to Jones Pass, my legs decide they’ve had enough. From there on up, it’s steady stop and go. I give a prayer for a bit more stamina–and the least more patience! At the top I meet Chris, and daughter, Mallory, up from Evergreen for an afternoon trail ride. They become intrigued by my story as I show them where I’ve hiked today, from the ridge in the hazy beyond to the valley below.

I break off the pass to descend the road to Henderson Mine. As luck would have it, and as I arrive the trailhead, Chris and Mallory are loading their quad-track, and they offer me a ride back to Silverthorne. Along the way, we stop for ice cream, courtesy of my dear new friends.

Oh my, isn’t this odyssey shaping to be a dandy!


“Thank God! there is always a Land of Beyond
For us who are true to the trail;
A vision to seek, a beckoning peak,
A farness that never will fail;
A pride in our soul that mocks at a goal,
A manhood that irks at a bond,
And try as we will, unattainable still,
Beyond it, our Land of Beyond!”
[Robert W. Service]


Thursday–August 16, 2007
Trail Day–03
Trail Mile–20/1536
Location–Wheeler Flats/Copper, thence back to Silverthorne

Figured I’d be stiff and sore this morning, but am out from the motel and moving along fine. It’s a cool, clear morning, the mountains not seeming so distant. First it’s past the posh outlet shops, the downtown banks and real estate offices, then to cross the Blue River, where the climb begins–up and up to the beautiful homes overlooking the city. Not much traffic here on Lake View Drive today, as most homes up here are luxurious retreats for big city dwellers that come up for weekends and holidays. Fellow told me the other day that the millionaires came in a few years ago and bought out all the locals. And now the billionaires are doing the same thing to the millionaires. Looking at a copy of the Summit County (Silverthorne/Breckenridge area) Summer 2007 Real Estate Guide I can sure enough believe it–duplex in Silverthorne, a million-one, in Breck, seven mil, vacant land at Copper Mountain, a million-two-fifty. You don’t want to know what single family homes are going for. Oh, and as you might suspect–there’s no Wal-Mart in Silverthorne!

Comes soon the nice trailhead where the Wheeler/Dillon trail begins. Following the trail south I’m hiking in the Eagles Nest Wilderness, White River National Forest. Here are (almost) constant ups and downs, as the trail climbs South Willow Creek nearly 2,000 feet to Eccles Pass at Buffalo Mountain. From there the trail drops to cross North Tenmile Creek before beginning another 2,000 foot climb to Uneva Pass, at near 12,000 feet.

As I huff and wheeze my way up and along, comes back the memory of the not-so-gentle climbs I endured at the beginning of the Appalachian Trail hike in North Georgia back in ’98. I remember how folks, wearing their shiny new boots (and lugging their sixty pound packs), complained bitterly about the terrible, leg numbing climbs. Set me to wondering then and there why they were even on the trail! It was no fun listening to their constant griping. Right then I made up my mind to have a different attitude–a positive one. Came then the determination that with each mountain climbed I would become a stronger, more tolerant, and more patient person, that I would become a better man for the doing of it. So, this day, and here in these tall, rugged mountains, do I again set my mind to that good task.

Hiking along today, I get to spend some time with Mike and Jim. Come to find out Jim recently had three-fourths of his stomach removed, and no complaining from Jim. What a much better beginning–this hike. Thanks for the good example, Jim. A reminder: Set to work becoming a better, more tolerant, and more patient man!


“Adopt the pace of Nature: Her secret is patience.”
[Ralph Waldo Emerson]


Friday–August 17, 2007
Trail Day–04
Trail Mile–00/1536
Location–1st Inn at Silverthorne

Today will be what long distance hikers refer to as a zero-mile day. After the soaking yesterday coming down from Uneva Pass, plus what turned to be a long-mile day, I’ve decided to take a little more time to acclimate and to get dried out.

A free bus runs from Wheeler Flats/Copper to Frisco/Silverthorne, which I hopped last evening. Sure no problem spending another day in Silverthorne; though ritzy, it’s sure one fine trail town. Neat (very reasonable) motel. Three restaurants right next, post office half a block away, library right down the street, and the kicker is: The bus depot is right behind the motel, with free rides to shopping or to wherever else no-wheels hiker trash like me might want to go! Yup, Silverthorne’s a mighty fine trail town. So there’s really no need to hurry; it’s feet up and I’m chillin’.


“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
[Lao Tzu]


Saturday–August 18, 2007
Trail Day–05
Trail Mile–17/1553
Location–Ruins, Camp Hale, Eagle Park

After a fine night’s rest I’m greeted by another cool, clear day. At the mom-n-pop next the motel I sit the bar. Here I meet Jack from Evergreen. Jack drives a big lumber truck out of Denver, up the mountain, through the Eisenhower Tunnel, and straight back down, brakes smokin’–day-in, day-out, hauling cedar boards and beams for the million-dollar(+) retreats being built up here in Summit County.

Great conversation with Jack as we enjoy breakfast together. Find out he’s from New Jersey; been on the Appalachian Trail some around the Water Gap; been married 4 times, divorced now–again. Told me he’d read recently about a fellow who hiked from Mexico to Glacier and back again; couldn’t remember the guy’s name. Ha, probably one of my hiker trash friends, like Sly or Billygoat. Could see the wanderlust in his eye as we talked; picked up my tab as he headed for the cash register.  Oh, hey Jack, get a minute Google CW McCall Webpages and read his “Wolf Creek Pass” lyrics. Check your brakes, man–and thanks for breakfast!

Back to the motel it’s time to pack up a few more things I’m not wantin’ to lug–and send home. Then it’s good-bye to Karen as she wishes me a joyful journey and safe passage.  I’m on the bus to Frisco at 9:30. A change there, and at 9:50 I’m standing at the bus stop where I’d ended my hike on Thursday.

I’m walking the main drag through Copper Mountain Resort now. The place is a small city in its own right; a family place, for winter (and summer) fun, recreation, and relaxation. In winter, of course, it skiing. Summertime’s for golf, day hiking and mountain biking the trails cut across the slopes–or just enjoying the many eateries and upscale shops all along.

A little after ten I begin the climb up. Somehow I manage to cross the trail and end up on the slopes far above. Lucky for me a string of pack horses passes, and after asking direction, come to find they’re headed for the Colorado/Divide Trail, so I fall in behind.

At a little before one I’m on the CT/CDT heading south. In only minutes comes this fellow behind me, cranking his pedals toward Searle Pass. He stops and we chat. Christian’s his name, a member of the Colorado 14ers, a mountain climbing club here in Colorado. Like trail names, these guys and gals take on climbing names. Christian’s is “Holy S~~~!” He’s also an avid mountain biker, taking to the trail at every opportunity. Earlier today he’d already pedaled (pushed) his bike, a trailer hooked, with his four-year-old daughter aboard, up to the hut near Searle Pass. He’s been back down and is now headed up again with a load of grub for family and friends.

Not long, and in a short while, I meet a fellow intrepid, trail name Peace Pipe. He thru-hiked the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in ’05. Peace Pipe is doing a southbound o’er the Colorado Trail, from Denver to Durango. We enjoy much trail talk, about mutual friends, as we hike along together.

Above on the trail, and waiting for us, I see Christian. His wife, Amy had come up from the hut to greet him, and they’ve waited so Amy can meet the two of us and wish us a safe and enjoyable journey.

By three, Searle Pass is in my sights as I struggle through what has become a chilling rain–which soon turns to steady sleet. Oh yes, folks, sleet in the Colorado Rockies in August–in Searle Pass at 12,180 feet!

Between Searle Pass and Kokomo Pass, the trail stays the high, alpine meadow above tree line. In awhile the afternoon storm passes to reveal the most crystal-blue sky. The scenery and the “into the hazy blue” views are nothing short of breathtaking. Be sure and check the photo album here. Pictures of what I’m describing will be up soon.

At Kokomo Pass, sheep are grazing, oh yes, on Sheep Mountain. When the two sheep dogs that are herding them see me, they come running with greetings, tails wagging. Sure glad they’re friendly. Big dogs. I mean BIG dogs! The larger of the two looks me pretty much straight in the eye. Yup, sure glad they’re friendly.

Today is mushroom/toadstool day. What an amazing variety along. The high meadow wildflowers have pretty much bloomed themselves out, but with the almost daily afternoon showers, the mushrooms have taken the place over.

By six, Peace Pipe overtakes me and we enjoy each other’s company once again as we descend Cataract Creek toward Eagle Park and our final destination for the day, the ruins at old Camp Hale.

Near dusk we pitch, to get a fine cooking and warming fire going. It’s been a fine day, a mighty fine day.


“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees,
and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite…”
[E.E. Cummings]


Sunday–August 19, 2007
Trail Day–06
Trail Mile–16/1569
Location–Galena Lake

Before shouldering our packs and hitting the trail this morning, Peace Pipe and I explore the ruins of old Camp Hale. Think we pretty much figured the place out, what with the help of some pictures and a description on a kiosk. Hale was a WWI military small arms proving/training camp. The M-1 Garand Rifle was tested here, and soldiers were trained in its use. Looks like there were at least 50 individual target/firing stations, with range distances perhaps up to or exceeding 500 yards. Not much remains of the place now, some moldering old ammo bunkers and crumbling concrete foundation pilings that supported the many barracks; that’s it.

On the climb to Tennessee Pass, Peace Pipe and I share much good company. I learn of his work managing an upscale cigar store in Philly–and about the love of his life, Danielle. At the Tennessee Pass we bid farewell, as Peace Pipe has planned on hitching into Leadville, as the old Nomad treks on to Twin Lakes.

Near Tennessee Pass, both sides, folks are in the woods hunting for mushrooms. Here I learn about the delicious Boletus mushroom from two ladies, Judy and Karen. Both have shopping bags full.

There’s bike traffic on the trail again today. Nice to see others out for a change. Below Tennessee Pass I meet day hikers, Marti, Jon, and John. They’re all near my age, hiking the trail in sections–and thinking about writing a book for “old folks” interested in doing the Colorado Trail. Told them I’d be more than happy to serve as senior consultant!

The trail passes near an old abandoned mine today, and I can’t resist giving a look. Don’t know what may have been mined here, but the hand-dug mineshaft is pretty impressive. Warning signs: “Keep Out” the shaft. No trouble from the old Nomad! Later in the day the trail passes the ruins of an old log cabin, complete with its rusty, homemade barrel stove.

By four I’m entering the Holy Cross Wilderness, San Isabel National Forest. Wilderness areas such as Holy Cross have either escaped or are in the process of healing from the destructive ravages of man. Indeed, there is evidence of man’s previous presence here in Holy Cross, but nature has magic-like and mysterious ways of recovering. Time, a medium the wisest among us cannot understand, neither can they comprehend. Time. Nature’s secret–time!

Late afternoon, I find a pleasant spot (nearly level, few large rocks) to pitch for the night. As the sun sets behind the mountain, comes the chill of the evening. But now the welcome glow of my dear friend, the evening cooking and warming fire draws me near–and warms me through.

Good miles today, kind folks, pleasant company.


“The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man.”


Monday–August 20, 2007
Trail Day–07
Trail Mile–15/1584
Location–Elbert Creek, base of Mount Elbert

I’m up, break camp, and am hiking by eight. In just a short time, and while descending (when not descending, ascending is the rule!) I meet northbound CDT hikers, Maze and Miles. Miles hiked the AT in ’98 but our paths did not cross. They departed Cuba, New Mexico on June 20th bound for the Wyoming/Montana border. Perhaps if the snow flies late up there, they’ll trek as far as Glacier this year. I pray for wide, safe passage, and joy in your journey, dear new friends!

The trail today is well maintained, marked, bridges at most-near every creek crossing, making for a most welcome change–dry feet.

Majestic, blue horizon views present before me now, down onto Turquoise Lake, and from Sugarloaf Mountain does Mount Elbert loom, brushing the heavens.

A little before one I put the Holy Cross Wilderness behind me to enter The Mount Massive Wilderness. Soon I see my first pack Llamas, Lucky and Lester. They’re toting gargantuan packs for Jean and Chrystiane. They’re from Frazier, over by Berthoud Pass. They rent the animals each year to take a hike along the Great Divide. Lucky smiles at me. Lester is reclining, waiting, giving not a care. Jean, in his youth, climbed the Colorado 14ers, all 54 of them!

Near my final destination for the day, the base of Mount Elbert, I meet Rob, a member of the Colorado 14ers Initiative (CFI). He’s just topped a series of near straight-up switchbacks, lugging an enormous load. Fully stuffed shopping bags dangle from his already huge, trailer-truck backpack. Rob is doing stretching exercises as I approach. The grub he’s carrying is for members of his CFI crew working trail on Mount Massive, one of the tallest of the Colorado 14ers. We share pleasant conversation as Rob finishes stretching, thence (so it seems) to shake the ground as he presses and shoulders his pack. Dang, Rob I didn’t get your picture. Oh well, you and I know that I’m not exaggerating, don’t we. Thanks, young man, and thanks to all those with whom you crew, thanks for this trail!

I reach Elbert Creek in good order, to make camp, thence to set my evening fire–and call it a day.

As I drift to sleep, comes the memory of that night below Mount Katahdin, before that sky-high climb, and how looming and forbidding had been its presence that day. Before me now, Mount Elbert stands well above twice the height of Katahdin. Yet, for some unknown reason, and though I’ll be struggling there tomorrow (I know that being in the presence of Nature’s God–and prayer, have helped), I pass to slumber at perfect peace.


“I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature,
when, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.”


Tuesday–August 21, 2007
Trail Day–08
Trail Mile–11/1595
Location–Nordic Lodge, Twin Lakes, Colorado

At 7:35 I begin the ascent of Mount Elbert from my base camp at 10,600 feet. The Northeast Ridge Trail, which I’m ascending, though switchbacking, seems to go straight up. I struggle to 11,950 feet, reaching there by 8:50.

I thought I’d gotten out to an early start, but as I ascend, passing others working their way up, I find that some had begun as early as 4:30.

Above, the views that open, to sweep the horizon from flank to flank, are indescribable. I’ve never looked down on the earth from such a vantage, save from the passenger seat of a jetliner. Yet I’ve climbed here, my feet firmly planted the ground! At 9:30 I reach elevation 13,000 feet. The air has thinned noticeably, and everyone above and below me is but creeping, stopping often to gulp for air. In awhile, I catch up with another old chap, he too, a grandfather, struggling here on the mountain this morning. No rush, no problem, Jeff and me. We linger, chat–between long, forced, chest-expanded heavings. Jeff’s spent some time on the AT. Still at his job. Can’t wait to retire and hit the trail–like someone he’s just met!

While we’re resting here, waiting for a much-needed spurt of energy (and a cease to the constant wheezing), thence to continue ever upward, let me tell you a couple of interesting things about Mount Elbert–and my desire to climb this mountain.

One amounts to no more than a bunch of statistics. The other, the least bit emotional and heart-tugging.

First, it’s a little known fact that here in Colorado there exist 54 mountains that stand above 14,000 feet. Less known is the fact that Mount Elbert rises above them all, to stand at 14,431 feet. And I bet you’d be surprised to find that there’s just a single mountain in all the lower 48 that stands higher than Mount Elbert. That mountain is Mount Whitney in California, which rises a mere 64 feet above Mount Elbert.

And the heart-tugging, emotional bit as to my relationship with Mount Elbert? Well, let’s climb on up now and I’ll tell you the rest of the story when we summit.

As we continue climbing, and just above, are more CFI crew, wearing hard hats and wielding heavy picks. They run up this mountain every morning, from their base camp down on the Colorado Trail. First I meet Kieran, then Nicole and Joel, and Jake and Christina. I watch in amazement as they dislodge a 300 pound boulder and drag it to the trail to add yet another step to the hundreds of steps already in place. Thanks, young gals and guys for your remarkable effort, for your good work. Amazing, just amazing. We’re up here struggling just to climb another foot, and these kids are running around bustin’ rock–amazing!

In awhile come up youngsters Keagan and Madison, and behind (then passing me), their father, Patrick, and sister, Becca. I manage to watch them scamper for awhile until they disappear behind a near-vertical switchback.

At quarter-to-eleven, and collapsed by a rock cairn at 13,900 feet I meet Ashley, a lovely young lady, tired and seemingly defeated. I stop and drop my pack. Ashley raises her head–and we talk. I tell her about how, in my many years, I’ve both triumphed over difficult challenges–and how, many times, I have failed. As she listens, I explain that in rising above the really tough obstacles, have there been memories created that will remain in my conscience forever. And I explain that by prevailing over these remaining (impossible) 531 feet, will there be created within her such a like and everlasting memory, to be held and cherished–forever.

We shoulder our packs together, Ashley and the old Nomad–and we climb that 531 feet, to stand tall on the summit of Mount Elbert.  It’s 11:33.

Many have reached the summit this day, a haze-free, blue-perfect day. As I look around, comes the realization that I’m old enough to be father to all, and grandfather to most that are up here today.

And the emotional connection to Mount Elbert? Well, my father’s first name was–Elbert. Ahh yes, this one’s for you dad. Thanks for teaching me your love for Nature and the great outdoors. Thanks!

The descent is down a different path, Mount Elbert Trail. It is both long and arduous. I manage a couple of butt skids but make the downhill to the approach trail in good order. On the alternate path to Twin Lakes I meet Charlie, owner and innkeeper at Nordic Lodge. Charlie’s out running trail, his passion. Upon reaching the lodge, I rest, and Charlie returns from the trail to check me in.

What an amazing day. I’m tired, but happy and content.


“God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone,
but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars.”
[Martin Luther]


Wednesday–August 22, 2007
Trail Day–09
Trail Mile–00/1595
Location–Nordic Lodge, Twin Lakes, Colorado

This will be a zero-mile day as I rest, keep my legs up, and work journal entries here at the rustic old Nordic Lodge. The 9,500+ vertical feet of ascent and descent yesterday knocked the starch clean out of me. I’ve never in my life spent such a continuous/extended period of time climbing without interruption. Ditto for down. I struggled for over nine hours on Mount Elbert yesterday, much of it above tree line at 12,000 feet. Oh, I’m very pleased with the success of my climb, but at the same time, I’m also very relieved to have that mountain behind me.

There’ll surely be plenty more peaks ahead, both steep and tall, as the old Nomad ventures the “hazy blue” on down this trail. I’m stiff and sore–you bet, but doubling up on my coated aspirin (to 1950mg/day) is helping. I know now, though I’m older than when forced down from these mountains two years ago, that I’ve got this hike in me.


There is no land discovered,
That can’t be found anew.
So journey on intrepid,
Into the hazy blue.

And as you seek your fortune,
And near your lifelong quest,
There’ll still be countless peaks to climb,
Before your final rest.

[N. Nomad]


Thursday–August 23, 2007
Trail Day–10
Trail Mile–10/1605
Location–Clear Creek, South of Winfield

Sometimes I just can’t seem to get going. Twin Lakes and Nordic Lodge–neat little community, kind folks. So, no problem lingering here a bit longer. Thanks, Charlie (and Maddy) for your kindness and generosity.

At the general store, I meet south-bounders, John and Dawn. They’re picking up a few supplies before returning to the trail. I’m finally out and moving a little after twelve.

I’d like to keep my feet dry for just a little while, so I stay the highway out of Twin Lakes an extra mile to the pedestrian bridge, to avoid fording Lake Creek. Where this round-about-trail merges back with the one coming up from the ford, and just as I reach the junction, comes John and Dawn. What a treat having folks to hike with. We spend the afternoon together, exploring old cabins, a (zero population, but not abandoned) silver mining town (Winfield), and climbing, climbing, climbing. At the pass above Little Willis Gulch, we take our last look back down at Twin Lakes, perfectly set against Mount Elbert.

These young folks aren’t used to my pace (slow), but they have no problem shifting down. Spending time, hiking along together–through these high mountains of the Gunnison now, and on their flanks, the lush green from where rejoiceful mountain streams cascade, all have combined to make for a very enjoyable day.

In the evening, as the trail continues wending its way, we find a cool, clear little mountain brook beneath the pine to pitch for the night. A bright, cheerful cooking/warming fire caps an already perfect day.


“And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees,
books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.”


Friday–August 24, 2007
Trail Day–11
Trail Mile–21/1626
Location–Sanford Creek

It’s rained off and on during the night, but this morning it seems more as if a dream. Isn’t it wonderful when you’re just tired enough (but not too tired) to sleep peacefully? In the bosom of Nature, with her fresh scents, serenading sounds, and such perfect blending of brightness and color–when one is in accord with such, then restful, contented sleep is the “natural” order!

John and Dawn are up and ready to hit the trail a little before eight. I urge them to hike on ahead, as my slow pace, especially above tree line (and there’ll be plenty of that today) would certainly delay their progress. Before they depart we make plans to meet again Sunday evening in Salida, after hitching down from Monarch Pass.

This morning I’m hiking in the Collegiate Wilderness, San Isabel National Forest. Here stand the mountains that are named The Three Apostles. I’m able to get a stunning picture of one of them, as the day turns again to (what continues to be) blue-perfect weather, the tufted pure, white cirrus clouds adding just the right bit of contrast to the blue backdrop sky–behind the Apostle.

It’s a rock solid (no pun intended) climb from Lake Ann to Cottonwood Pass. I’ve come to appreciate that once a climb like this begins, it most always turns to a steady, uninterrupted 4×4 low-range-geared climb that’s near, or in excess of, 2,000 feet–all the way to the top. Yup, shift ‘er down and grind ‘er out old man! During the ascent I pause to look up many times. While into the climb, and now above Lake Ann, I see a faint outline of two figures standing in the notch that is Cottonwood Pass. I wave; my salute immediately returned by John and Dawn. Then, beyond Cottonwood, they quickly disappear and are gone. I struggle for nearly an hour, huffing and wheezing, before I’m standing in Cottonwood Pass.

From here is a glorious vantage out and across the Collegiate Range (and Wilderness, Huron Peak, one of Colorado’s 54 14ers). And in the distance–the Sawatches.

Descending Cottonwood Pass, the trail soon intersects the Timberline Trail. This is a multi-use trail shared by hikers, equestrians, and dirt-bikers. Not long, I meet some fellows pulled up at a junction, their dirt bikes leaning or lying about, all trying to figure direction. Here I meet Kevin, and his twin sons, Tom and Brian, and their friends, Tyler and Tyler. We have much fun talking dirt (a time honored tradition otherwise known as “bench racing”). What memories return as I reminisce those many years I raced dirt bikes, and helped an organization called the Florida Trail Riders get their start. FTR is now the largest race sanctioning body for off-road motorcycle events in Florida. We finally get the trail figured out; they crank, and in a moment, are gone.

My feet are still dry; nice, really nice for a change. So I push my luck by hiking out of my way, two miles on down, to cross the pedestrian bridge across Texas Creek. The detour pays off, for, as the day turns there’s only six or eight rock-hoppers to cross, all streams with perfectly placed stones for steps. Ah, dry feet, what a luxury. Sure, I can hike along just fine with wet feet–but why!

Near dusk, I find a delightful spot to pitch for the night. Plenty of crystal clear mountain water, along with freeze-dried lodgepole blowdowns for firewood!  Yup, mighty fine day–spent with Ma Nature and Father Time.


“…There is no meter and there is no rhyme,
Yet God’s poems always read in perfect time.”
[Astrid Alauda]


Saturday–August 25, 2007
Trail Day–12
Trail Mile–24/1650
Location–Middle Fork South Arkansas River

I’m up and out to the Timberline Trail by seven. My little REI pack thermometer reads 38 degrees. Oh yes, got my long sleeves, fleece, and mittens on this morning. Hard to believe, eh?

In a short while comes up the trail, Just Mike, old leather slouch hat, pack akimbo, broad, contagious smile. He’s trekking north on the CDT, with less than 200 miles to finish his journey along the Great Divide. Upon completion, Just Mike will add his name to that short list–to become a triple-crown member, having hiked the three major national scenic trails, the Appalachian, the Pacific Crest, and the Continental Divide. Congrats, Just Mike! Dang, didn’t get his picture.

As I continue on toward Mirror Lake I meet Dave and Randy resting by their quad-track. It’s bow season for elk and deer now, and they’re up here on the open high ground scouting the area.

Lots of motorized traffic by Mirror Lake, being Saturday–dirt bikes, four-wheelers, 4WDs, even pickup trucks. Gotta watch my front and rear as I climb toward Tin Cup Pass, another steady up, bringing constant huffing and wheezing. The crusher finally tops out at 12,150 feet.

Below Tin Cup Pass, and as I climb once more toward Tunnel Lake, comes down two fellows hard-breaking a big-wheel cart loaded with–elk! My puzzled expression gets them stopped. Here I meet Joe and Paul. Joe shot the elk with his bow and arrow. The meat’s dressed and neatly wrapped, very tidy, all four quarters and the back strap. They’re also hauling the head, as it must be tested for some sort of wasting disease common to elk.

A little further along the Timberline Trail I meet Paul and his dad (dang, why can’t I remember his father’s name?  Sorry, pop!). They’re out for deer with quivers of arrows bobbing up and down, strapped to the handlebars of their quad-track. Mostly, I think they’re just having a grand time enjoying the ride–and the day. Great photos; be sure and check the Twin Lakes Album section soon.

Toward evening, and after traversing a quite lovely above timberline segment, and while descending toward the east portal of the old Alpine Railroad Tunnel, I meet Sean, owner of Absolute Bikes in Salida, and his high school buddy, Rich. They’re up for an evening ride across the delightful, lakes-around section I’ve just described.

Once on the old rail grade, the hike downhill turns to a cruise, all the way to the old ghost town of Hancock, where it turns abruptly to climb once again, up Chalk Creek, to Chalk Creek Pass.

So, after climbing most the day, this trail ends up kicking my tired old rear end. Oh, but does it seem to take such a long time to top Chalk Creek Pass. I reach there with no time to spare, as the sun leaves the mountain and dusk descends. Gotta get down below tree line before dark. Camping above timberline is a definite no-no. Anyway, there’s not a single thing up here to build the least fire. I hurry down as fast as I can without bustin’ it. Luck’s with me, for just at last light comes this fine brook. And just off the trail below, old blowdowns, and a relatively flat place to pitch for the night.

A 24-mile day, with elevation changes in excess of 6,000 feet.

The cooking/warming fire is most inviting–but not for long.


“Nature is man’s teacher. She unfolds her treasures to his search,
unseals his eye, illumes his mind, and purifies his heart;
an influence breathes from all the sights and sounds of her existence.”
[Alfred Billings Street]


Sunday–August 26
Trail Day–13
Trail Mile–11/1661
Location–Monarch Pass, thence to Salida

Another very chilly morning; temperature again, 38 degrees. Luckily, I’m able to break camp and get moving without my fingers turning to their usual twigs.

Descending the Middle Fork South Arkansas River now, and not long after being alerted to the sight and smell of wood smoke, do I reach a woods road, hunter’s cabins beside. Being bow season, there’s plenty of activity, at least there must have been earlier this morning. Seems all about hastened away to the mountainside, the last ones leaving the cabin doors fully ajar.

Again, as yesterday evening, the trail turns abruptly to climb towards Boss and Hunt Lakes, held high beside Bald and Banana Mountains. Around the flanks of Bald, the trail climbs up past what appears a permanent cornice, following steep switchbacks to the Divide, finally topping out at 12,600 feet.

Another short climb along the Divide, here by the sheer side of Bald Mountain (at 12, 800 feet), can be seen Monarch Pass, US50, clear down the mountain to Salida.

Again, the day turns picture-perfect; cool, with just the least breeze. And picture time it is, with huge, artistic rock cairns marking the trail that follows beside rugged, boulder-strewn rockslides. And along, the most delicate alpine children, silken grasses, sedges, and the most delightfully colored wildflowers. It’s a light-footed scamper now, wind dancing through my hair, as I pass along the rooftop of America. Here is an uninterrupted trail for the better part of five miles, along the Great Divide, clean down to Monarch Pass.

I reach the Pass by three, to treat myself to an ice cold Gatorade at Monarch Crest gift shop. A friendly fellow takes a moment to snap my picture beside the Monarch Pass sign.

Thumb out now, rain threatening, comes Le, a mountain biker/hiker to load me, thence to haul me directly to the Budget Lodge, closest to old downtown Salida.

It’s good to be in town again. A warm bath, a hot meal. What a way to end this most memorable day.

In the morning I hope to reach John and Dawn, to enjoy their friendly company once again.


“Forget not that the earth delights
to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”
[Kahlil Gibrand]


Monday–August 27, 2007
Trail Day–14
Trail Mile–00/1661
Location–Budget Lodge, Salida

This will be another zero-mile day. There’ll be more, as my timing for getting through the San Juans before the snow flies is just spot on.

An email from John and Dawn awaits me this morning, and being the least concerned they’d get up and out on the town early, I called them at 6:45. They weren’t out and about quite yet. Actually, they weren’t even awake yet. That is, until I called them!

Oh well, no frowns, just two shiny-faced smiles to greet me as we meet again, in the Salida Post Office. All have mail drops here. I hit the jackpot, but not till after suffering agonizing moments–as I send the clerk back to the mailroom a second time to search for my packages. Finally, she emerges with a shopping cart loaded with boxes. Yippee! “Guess I overlooked these,” says the clerk, with just the least blush and sheepish grin.

My better Mariposa pack from Gossamer Gear, my bounce box with assorted “stuff,” including better shoes, a package from Dwinda with guide books for Southern Colorado and New Mexico by Jim Wolf, and my camera memory card from Webmaster, Linda. Oh, and the most moving and loving card from Dwinda–yup, hit the jackpot for sure.

Dawn unboxed a brand new pair of runners, beautiful, sleek, ultra-lightweight. John is rummaging around in his box. Don’t know what he was unloading. A fun time!

Old downtown Salida is neat, clean, and well maintained. John and Dawn have bikes rented from Sean at Absolute Bikes, and they’ve pretty much toured the whole place, from Wal-Mart by the far outskirts, to the core district here. We settle for an old converted gas station for breakfast (complete with operating service bay doors). Lots of fun again “bench hiking.” I stop by to see Sean at his shop. His is a thriving business. Great folks; impressive inventory–and a fine repair/modification shop. Sean takes a moment from one of his enthusiastic mountain-biking customers to come to the front entrance for a shot. He’d invited me to stop by his place when we’d met up on the mountain yesterday, and he’s genuinely pleased to see that I’ve made it down to Salida. All good success with Absolute Bikes, Sean! Check the pics out in a week or two.

A trip to the library for a quick look at Cywiz‘s (my Webmaster Linda’s trail name) good work on our Website, a stop by Safeway for five days supplies, then to take some pictures of downtown Salida and the colorful homes along 4th Street. Then it’s back to the motel–feet up for journal writing time.

In the evening I head to the local mom-n-pop for fried chicken, the works.

We’ll all be hitching back to Monarch Pass in the morning, but not before sharing more fun time, breakfast together.


“I can enjoy society in a room; but out of doors, Nature is company enough for me.”
[William Hazlitt]


Tuesday–August 28, 2007
Trail Day–15
Trail Mile–15/1676
Location–Below Triple Divide Peak (A mile before Windy Peak)

Salida, as it turned out, proved a fine trail town. A bit strung out but not really a problem. From the motel out on US50, to downtown (with post office, library, restaurants, and a Safeway), it was a walk of only ten blocks.

John and Dawn come by at 7:30 and treat me to breakfast before hitching back up to Monarch Pass. We speak of the good chance of seeing each other on down the trail, toward the finish at the Mexican border. Better to think we’ll get together again as it does soften the farewell a bit.

After a final trip downtown to the post office, I’m able to hitch a ride out to Wal-Mart where I pick up another camera memory card. From here it’s a hitch on up to Monarch Pass. Luck has it that Mike Weaver, wheelin’ his Peterbilt, hauls ‘er down and offers a ride. I climb up and in. Fun time talking with Mike. I’m on the trail by one, climbing Monarch Ridge toward the Divide. The trail remains on or near the Divide most of the day–at elevations above 11,000 feet. Where the trail drops to the Atlantic side of the Divide, I’m still in the San Isabel National Forest, on the Pacific side, the Gunnison.

It begins clouding up right away, local afternoon clutter. Rain curtains are draping across the Divide ahead at Antora Peak. The sky stays patchy all afternoon and I’m trekking along in rain off and on, especially past Marshall Pass.

I finally give it up during a break in the rain to pitch under the spruce by the last flat spot below Triple Divide Peak.

The rest in Salida has been most beneficial. The swelling in my right leg has gone down and my wind is kicking in much better on the steep ascents above 11,000 feet. No cooking/warming fire tonight.

There is rich Ute Indian history along this section today. (Chief) Ouray and Chipeta (White Singing Bird), Ouray’s wife, are predominant mountains. Of them, and over a century ago, writer Ernest Ingersall noted:

“We are only a few hundred feet from the topmost timber, yet the bald white summit [Ouray] rears its head to almost unmeasured heights above, and claims our admiration by its simple majesty.”


Wednesday–August 29, 2007
Trail Day–16
Trail Mile–19/1695
Location–Below Middle Baldy

After pitching last, the storm appeared to move on south to about where I figured John and Dawn would be. Sure enough, this morning I see their (fresh) tracks along the trail.

It’s a cool, cloud-free morning as I descend Triple Divide Peak (the waters of the Arkansas, the Colorado [Gunnison], and the Rio Grande are divided here).

Not long, I see my first sage grouse (called blue grouse here). It’s walking along the trail beside me, showing not a care. It gives a look my way, over its shoulder moment to moment to keep an eye on me, and just keeps tripping along. Watching the bird and paying no attention to my wandering, do I flush two more grouse right from under my feet. Trying to regain some composure, another one rises directly beside. Okay, I’m certainly awake now!

Where the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail share the same path, the tread is well maintained, and there’s great signage at all the intersections. To make navigating along even easier, I’ve finally broke down (cheap, cheap, cheap) and purchased Jim Wolfe’s fine trail guides. Many of the folks I hiked with during ’05 were using his guides and all highly recommended them. So, I’m finally up to speed. Shouldn’t be getting confused/lost nearly as often now–Thanks, Jim! And thank you, Jonathan, I’m still greatly relying on your fine trail maps–and my GPS.

I’m entering the Cochetopa Hills proper now, lower (just below 11,000 feet), rolling and rocky treadway. It’s trip and stumble time, seems, for the remainder of the day. Adding to the problem is my pack weight. I’m carrying five days (now four) of food to get to Spring Creek Pass (Lake City), some 96 miles by trail from Monarch. So I’m lugging around 20 pounds. Hey, not whining; my dandy little Mariposa pack provided me by Gossamer Gear (Glen Van Peski) is haulin’ the load just fine.

The sky darks over again by afternoon, bringing cold rain and finally hail. Hammers me good. Took a picture of a pile of it beside the trail. More slipping and sliding, through the rocks, roots, mud–and ice.

I finally give it up at seven, by a little trickle coming off the Divide. I find a flat spot above and pitch my tent. For the next half hour, and until nearly dark, I nurse the most cantankerous fire I’ve ever tried to build. I get it halfway going and it suddenly goes all but out–halfway going again, out–over and over; same deal. Sure, the forest is wet, the tinder is wet, and the ground is wet. But hey, I’m a fire builder, don’t ya know! Finally get the wise idea to open a box of my Uncle Bens, dump the rice in my saucepan, and use the cardboard for fire starter. Even open the seasoning pack, dump the powder on the rice and add the paper to the cardboard. Yup, we’re firin’ up great now. But hold on–as I’m breaking small sticks over my knee to help the blaze along, it happens. I lose my balance, step back to regain–and hit the saucepan with my left heel. Oh yes, up flies the pan, straight up, flipping and turning–and up flies the rice and the seasoning powder, all over me, head to toe. Most of the rice lands in my left shoe. Yup, the fire goes out again. It’s dark now, so I go for my little Micro-light, used it for the entire ’06 L&C return trek. It’s decided to quit. Looks like cheese sandwiches tonight–if I can find my bread and cheese in the dark. Mutter, mutter, mutter. Hey, know what? Onion powder makes a pretty good deodorant. Shoes smell, well, different! Ah, I think this is the cheese, feels like the cheese.  Now where’s the bread?


“If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all.
Gloom, despair, and agony on me-e-e!”
[Cast of Hee Haw]


Thursday–August 30, 2007
Trail Day–17
Trail Mile–23/1718
Location–Near Texas Creek (FS787.2A)

Away from the Divide, the landscape is beginning to look more and more like the southwest, desert-like, with mesas, cattle, and miles and miles of open range. Pass a solar well, a fenced spring, and even hike through some sage for the first time today. Cochetopa Hills are behind me now. No regrets.

Early in the day the trail follows the Divide, between the Rio Grande National Forest to the east and the Gunnison to the west. In the afternoon, through the bristlecone pine and aspen, the trail drops from the Divide. Shortly comes trail magic, twice! First, bear-proof canisters in the cold creek waters by CO114. Pop, oranges, chocolate, and homemade cookies, compliments of Mom and Dad, friends of John and Dawn. Then in a short while, two coolers loaded with cold pop, compliments of Burnt Foot.

Later in the afternoon I meet northbound CD hiker, Shera, headed for Denver.

By seven, I decide to load up on water at Texas Creek, then to hike a very short distance before finding the perfect spot (dry and flat) under the pine where I pitch for the evening. Have a cooking/warming fire going in no time. A great 23-mile day. No afternoon thunder busters for a change!


“What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.”
[Antoine de Saint-Exupery]


Friday–August 31, 2007
Trail Day–18
Trail Mile–27/1745
Location–Below San Luis Pass

I’m up and moving early, before seven. Unusual for me. More roads–FS597, then FS597.1A. This last road leads to the trail at the lower end of Cochetopa Creek Canyon. A fine morning as I head up. The climb is gentle at first but as the morning wears on the trail becomes steeper. Just before noon, and a short distance below the Eddyville Trailhead, I enter the La Garita Wilderness. As I continue up Cochetopa Creek there’s evidence of beaver everywhere. Dams, lodges, skids, tree stumps, and the hacked remains of bushes, all with that familiar stockade-pointed cut.

With each passing hour, and as the canyon continues trending and curving an arc, I finally get my first glimpse at San Luis Peak, one of the taller of the 54 Colorado 14ers.

Turning from road to trail this morning, and at that point, Cochetopa Creek was a formidable stream, with thousands of gallons of water flowing per minute. But here, finally, at the upper reaches, crossing the little brook involves no more than an easy rock-hop.

The climb, which began hours ago below 10,000 feet, turns nearly straight up now, as I struggle to gain the shoulder below San Luis Peak, altitude 12,600 feet, a continuous climb of nearly 3,000 feet.

Climbing just below the mountain spur comes the predictable afternoon clutter, hovering above, bringing the usual spatter of large raindrops. Before reaching the spur, I stop to don my poncho. Climbing on, the rain intensifies, with hail intermixing. The sky above has turned totally black now and the storm is becoming very angry, bringing much wind-driven rain and hail, and cloud-to-cloud lightning, producing that unmistakable smell of ozone. What seemed to start as the usual short afternoon squall has turned to a much more intense and strong storm–and it’s directly above me.

Beyond the mountain arm the trail stays high, totally exposed against the sheer rock as it side-slabs around a huge, open amphitheatre guarded above by grotesque volcanic sculpts. What little vegetation there is up here stands only inches high. The jumble of rock, mostly talus and scree, offers no cover. As I push against the wind, comes a literal blast of ice, hail driven like pellets from a shotgun. My head, shoulders, and arms are pelted with painful force.

Comes pure hail now, no rain. The noise is deafening as the wind drives the ice against the rock and across the trail before me. This great storm continues for a very long time, long enough for me to start feeling the early stages of hypothermia.

As I struggle along, yet again come sheets of driving rain, gully-washing and piling up the ice, creating a treadway covered with flowing white. Oh, if only I’d taken time earlier to open my pack and retrieve my mittens and fleece. Too late now. Can’t stop.

I’m having trouble gripping my trekking poles. My fingers are like so many useless sticks. Thrusting my poles under my arm I manage to get my hands inside my poncho and under my armpits. I continue stumbling and skidding along the ice-choked trail.

Finally, mercifully, the trail descends toward tree line–and cover. The hail stops and the wind and rain slacken the least bit. In the tall, canopied forest I find cover enough to remove my poncho and drop my pack. A spot just large enough for my tent miraculously appears. I fumble with my pitifully useless hands, such a frustrating and slow ordeal. Before my tent is set the rain comes again, down through the canopy, drenching my tent and pack. I work with haste, pure determination, trying not to panic. The tent finally up; in go my pack–and me. Thank you, Lord!

Out of the storm now, and with the tent interior quickly warming, I’m able to get my hands working well enough to mop water with my mittens and fleece, then to change into relatively dry clothes. Somehow, I know not how, my sleeping bag has remained dry. In another moment my sleeping pad is inflated and I’m in my dry, warm bag. This day’s done; I’m done–my camp here above 12,000 feet.

Can’t believe it, with all this trouble, I’ve still managed a 27-mile day.


“Toward the light in search of peace
This calling I’ll blunder thru
’till all the pulses within me cease
Adrift in the hazy blue.”
[Robert W. Service]


Saturday–September 1, 2007
Trail Day–19
Trail Mile–14/1759
Location–CO149, Spring Creek Pass, thence to Lake City

The cold of the night not so severe, the storm retreating, I’m able to rest in such comfort that could only have been hoped and prayed for, yet never expected.

The morning dawns to a perfect clear-calm. Solid blue above, not a cloud wisp, neither a single bough swaying. Total stillness; absolute silence. Such strange contrast to the brutal fury of yesterday. Nature! Does she not constantly wave such a fickle and mysteriously unpredictable wand? Here in the wilderness we are ever at her mercy, (and do we not choose to be) her subjects, drawn to the gentle warmth of her bosom–yet so soon to become discards, victims of her unbridled wrath.

Time for contemplation, and time for a grateful moment of prayer to Nature’s God, to the Almighty above.

A very slow, methodic process, getting out and moving. Wet pants, wet shirt, wet socks and shoes–wet everything I put on. My legs, arms, and back are mechanical, stiff and sore, victims of the harsh, cold storm of last. “Double your coated aspirin;” I murmur, “That’ll work.” as I try convincing myself to suck it up and get moving.

Got my sights set on town today, but between here and there comes the least business of climbing, over 2,000 feet of elevation change, from here on the flanks of San Luis, to Spring Creek Pass.

I manage to get going with relative ease, considering, and am striding along quite well in no time. Thank you, Lord, for the stamina, for the resilience, for the determination and resolve. Your blessings, so lavished upon me, they’re priceless gifts, that through your grace and love I might provide inspiration to others, to rise, get off their duffs and get out and moving–it truly is a blessing. Thank you, Lord, thank you!

Company along the trail today. First, James Robert Harris from New York City. He’s out here hiking the Colorado Trail. I catch him–and his 50# pack. We have a fine chat. “Been to Patagonia, the Andes, all over the world.” he remarks. “I’m well over 60 now; gotta keep movin’.” Ah, yes, James, we all gotta keep movin’! I get his picture. He takes mine.  Great meetin’ ya, old fellow!

Descending to Snow Mesa I see a dot on the trail far below. In awhile I catch up with Mike (also from New York)–and his 50# pack! Mike has stopped to filter some water by the outfall from the little tarn here on the mesa. We exchange wishes for respective safe and joyful journeys, and I’m off and trekking again.

After bailing off the mesa, and by four I’m standing on the shoulder of CO149, my thumb out waiting–and waiting, and waiting. No traffic, either direction. Not good. Two or three vehicles every fifteen minutes or so, more motorcycles than cars and trucks. Not good, not good at all.

After an hour of this futility, I turn and start looking for Mike to drop off the mountain. At five–hey, here comes Mike! He’d told me earlier that Spring Creek Pass (CO149) was his final destination, so I have my hopes up that Mike might be just a bit smarter than me, that he’d have wheels waiting over at the trailhead.

As we greet again, and as I lament my dismay with failing to get a ride during the past hour, Mike says: “That red car over there, that’s mine; let’s go!” Oh yes, Mike, I’m with you!

Mike is out here in Colorado hiking sections of the CT. He came out last year too. Liked the experience so much, he’s returned again. Managed to get a taxi to follow him clean up here from Creede so he’d have a vehicle (rental) to get himself back down off the mountain. “I’m actually going back to Creede, but I’ll run you down to Lake City.” says Mike with a smile. What luck! Thank you, Mike–thank you, Lord!  Save for Mike, I’d probably still be standing to this day–thumb out, in Spring Creek Pass.

Mike drops me off in front of Sportsman Outdoors, “downtown” Lake City. I thank him, ask him to sign my guestbook when he returns to New York, and he’d gone.

In Sportsman I meet Andy. Ask him about a motel, a place with good grub, where’s the post office, library, the usual questions. Andy just stands there, big frown on his face the whole time. “You’re not going to find a room in this town, not tonight, not this weekend.” says Andy apologetically. “What’s going on?” I ask. “It’s Labor Day Weekend–don’t you know it’s Labor Day Weekend? This is our busiest weekend of the year!” exclaims Andy, again with a “give-me-a-break” frown. “Here,” he says, “I’ll make a couple of calls for you, but I tell ya, you’re not going to find a room in this town tonight.” First call, strike one. Second call, strike two. Third call (Andy into the receiver), “Na, the guy’s a hiker; he doesn’t smoke.” His hand over the phone now, “You don’t smoke, do you?” whispers Andy. Bingo! Big smile, both of us! “Come on, I’ll run you down, their last room; they’ll hold it a minute–better get there before they rent it out to someone else.” says Andy, as we head out the door.

In a moment we’re in front of the Silver Spur Motel. As I thank him and open the door to get out, “We offer shuttle service back to the pass if you need a ride–and you’re welcome.” says Andy. Yup, I’ll sure take the shuttle! Thanks, Andy. What a kind and friendly introduction to Lake City!

The Silver Spur reception desk is bustling. “No rooms, no; we’re full up.” John on the phone. From the door, John’s wife, Venice: “Tell those folks we’re full, no rooms.”

Holy moly, what a deal. I’ve been blissfully bouncing along the Divide, not a care to my name one minute, then the next, the carnival that’s Labor Day, Lake City. What an amazing stroke of good fortune; I’m in!


“I believe in God only I spell it ‘Nature’.”
[Frank Lloyd Wright]


Sunday-Monday–September 2-3, 2007
Trail Day–20-21
Trail Mile–00-00/1759
Location–Silver Spur Motel, Lake City

Another day of rest has proven most welcome.  Been able to keep my feet up, and have received inspiration to write. Anyway, it’s been raining steady most of the day.

I’m warm, dry, and my tummy’s full. Oh happy day! I’ll hike again–tomorrow.


“I can choose to be happy now
or I can try to be happy when… or if…”
[Spencer Johnson]


Tuesday–September 4, 2007
Trail Day–22
Trail Mile–14/1773
Location–La Garita Stock Driveway, past Coney Peak, Continental Divide, camp elevation 12,843 feet

Lake City turned out to be a fine trail town. Busted my budget, though. My own fault. Forgot it was Labor Day weekend. Lucky to get a room at any price–then had to lay over the extra day (no problem) because the post office was closed Monday.

When I hit town Saturday, Mike dropped me off right in front of Sportsman Outdoors. There I met Andy, the manager. He suggested I take advantage of their shuttle service back up to Spring Creek Pass. Oh yes!

So, this morning Zack from Sportsman hauls me. Great conversation on the way. Zack is a trout-fishing guide for Sportsman. He’s working on his degree in Anthropology. Turns out he attended Mizzou in Columbia, so he’s familiar with Lake of the Ozarks, my stomping grounds. Thanks for the lift Zack!

I’m back on the trail a little before noon, climbing as usual, and in the hail (one more time). Same old afternoon thunder buster clutter, but today’s version is stubborn as it hangs around most the afternoon. Have my poncho on and off four or five times. Meet some folks on the trail for a change, Cathy and Larry, day hikers from Minnesota. Cathy can’t believe I could have what I need in my meager little pack.

I’m entering the San Juan Mountains now. Friends have told me much about the San Juans, so I’m looking with much anticipation to seeing this section of the Rockies for myself. I get my first glimpse at their lofty and rugged presence from Jarosa Mesa at 12,000 feet. From here can be seen Rio Grande Pyramid. Before me, the San Juans, and dancing on the horizon, the Grenadier Range. Looking back, Snow Mesa can be easily seen.

Ever look down on a rainbow? A quite interesting sight, created by the here-and-gone and here again afternoon storm. The San Juans are going to be all I’d hoped for, untouched expanse, pure wilderness not marred by power line cuts, highway ribbons, and all the other countless “improvements” man can make to help Nature.

In the evening, I’m hoping for a relatively dry spot under the spruce canopy, to have my little fire, but above tree line at  near 13,000 feet, there is no canopy! Cold supper tonight.


“In wilderness I sense the miracle of life,
and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia.”
[Charles Lindberg]


Wednesday–September 5, 2007
Trail Day–23
Trail Mile–22/1795
Location–Above Weminuche Trailhead, Bear Creek, Weminuche Wilderness

A cold night at such heavenly heights; 38 degrees. Though it rained hard (I know not how long) I made myself comfortable and slept very well–on my Therm-a-Rest pad, in my Feathered Friends bag and little Nomad tent.

Looking down this morning (almost everything to look at this morning is down) I see that unusual natural phenomenon I’ve talked about in both my books; a perfectly flat cloud-sea below me. It is a marvelous sight to behold. One’s imagination can literally run wild, as islands form, harbors appear–and tall ships can be easily visualized. The white cloud-sea here is not as brilliant or as expansive as the one seen on that crisp, clear early morning above Parc de la Gaspésie, but it is none-the-less baffling and remarkable.

Below Coney Peak, the CDT rises to its loftiest height in southern Colorado, 13,334 feet, and it’s turning a blue-perfect day from horizon to horizon, unobstructed views; spectacular. So clear, seems that beyond the blue fringes, there’s a door that could never be a door, yet there does it appear–to open.

In awhile the trail bails off to Carson Saddle. Here molders the remains of an old silver mine, circa 1880. The prospect was staked out by Chris Carson, son of the legendary Kit Carson. All that remain are caved in shafts, holes in the ground surrounded by tan colored tailing piles, rusting steam-driven mine equipment–and a pall so physically pressing and mentally depressing that it overwhelms. Something terrible and sad, as to create an everlasting ethereal grieving, happened here a long, long time ago. Nothing to do with wealth or fortunes lost, some other terrible tragedy. Even in the bright, warm sun of this day, indeed in all the midnight suns of yesterday, would there not be warmth or brightness enough to drive the shadows from this hell of a place. As I depart do I glance many times back, trying to puzzle some sense out of what to this day continues on…


“There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold…”
[Robert W. Service]


Men moil for silver too, I suppose. And so, I’ll just leave it at that.

As I climb back up to the Divide from Carson Saddle, are there strange, eerie-looking shapes running the ridges above me, as if clutching toward the heavens. Folks about have affectionately named these forms Hoo Doos. Sure spooky looking. Seems they’re all looking at me, until I quickly look to confront them–then they immediately turn to cold, inanimate stone. Yup, spooky.

I’ve made a decision to follow the Colorado trail for a ways today, down and around to Beartown (no town, no ghostly haunts, just the name remains). The CDT climbs up and all around Canby, nothing very on-the-ground tread-wise or very official about the trail there. So I make the decision to bypass Canby, to follow along FS roads a good bit. Right choice as I get to meet and talk to a couple of cowboys placing salt blocks, to see a high country hunting camp (complete with privy), and to meet a northbound Colorado Trail thru-hiker; dang, forget his name.

Late evening now, I enter the Weminuche Wilderness to pitch on a coin-sized flat spot under the spruce. The rain soon comes and continues off and on all night.


Thursday–September 6, 2007
Trail Day–24
Trail Mile–18/1813
Location–Below Rio Grande Pyramid (and The Window), Weminuche Wilderness

My camp, last, marked the furthest west I’ll venture during this journey. The Divide turns back east now, before finally heading south for good near Sawtooth Mountain.

The morning begins iffy weather-wise, cloudy, windy, and cold. Not long, the day clears nicely, making for fine hiking.

The trail crosses the Divide a number of times today, first thing this morning at Hunchback Pass, a climb of nearly a thousand feet. Then it’s bail-off and right back up to Nebo Pass.

A number of lovely high-held lakes today, West Ute, Middle Ute, Twin and Ute Lakes. They make for some stunning pictures.

The treadway here in the Weminuche Wilderness has been (and continues to be) brutal–heavenly sights above, pure hell below. Trails that receive heavy use, as does this CDT through the Wilderness, get eroded down to rock. Some places the tread is a pure gully, up to three feet deep, littered in the narrow vee-bottom with loose baseball-to-basketball-size rocks. Grueling. Slow and methodical is the only way through, lest I bust it.

After all these days, from way back on Snow Mesa where I first photographed Rio Grande Pyramid, I am finally standing on its flank. An unusual and interesting feature nearby is called The Window, as there’s a nearly perfect square opening in the ridgeline beside the Pyramid. Look for pictures (are better than words) soon. My camp for the night is below Rio Grande Pyramid. As the sun drops, so goes the mercury. My cooking-turned-warming fire is a fine companion.


“The fire is the main comfort of the camp, whether in summer or winter,
and is about as ample at one season as at another.
It is as well for cheerfulness as for warmth…”


Friday–September 7, 2007
Trail Day–25
Trail Mile–15/1828
Location–Squaw Creek, Weminuche Wilderness

Got down in the 30s last, clear and cold.

As it turns, today is the day to get lost. First, I’m unable to find the trail across the large, expansive meadow below Weminuche Pass. I bushwhack back and forth, hike all the way up to (and past) Weminuche Pass. No trail. Finally, nearly three hours (and four knock-about miles) later, I’m back on track, climbing, of course!

Second, I take the wrong trail at a fork and hike over two miles before realizing (actually before being told) that I’m hiking the wrong trail. Not all bad though, as I get to meet John from Connecticut. And what a very joyful occurrence–my path again crossing that of James “Jess” Harris, the fellow from New York that I first met clear back near Snow Mesa. Great meeting you, John. And what a special time, spending time again with our friend, Jess. Jess gets me going the right direction!

Rio Grande Pyramid and The Window are still in my rearview. Taking awhile getting this massive mountain behind me. Pyramid and its associated mountain system are the cause for the huge horseshoe bend in the Divide, which has taken me nearly three days to get around.

The angular light of the late evening sun striking the mountainsides is, well, striking. Gawking around, taking pictures, I miss a turn, hiking nearly a mile down, way down, the wrong trail. By the time I figure it out, and get straightened out, the day is through. I pitch on a rocky ledge just above Squaw Creek. Lots of deadwood to kindle my evening fire.

Making the miles doesn’t always make the day. Turned out, rambling about, off-trail, was not the least unpleasant, more time spent looking in rather than out, learning the fine virtue of patience.


“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown,
for going out, I found, was really going in…”


Saturday–September 8, 2007
Trail Day–26
Trail Mile–20/1848
Location–Below Piedra Peak, Weminuche Wilderness

A cold 28 degrees this morning. No moisture/condensation on my tent, just ice crystals. More sticks for fingers again as I tackle breaking camp. Proud to be out and hiking before seven. Would truly like to make the miles today, good Lord willin’.

It’s tough grinding though, as the trail hugs the jagged Divide, mostly at or above 12,000 feet. Lots of rocks. Thousands (of feet of) ups and downs. But I stay true the trail, and the miles click away as my thoughts ponder the goodness of Nature unfettered–her eternal message of truth.

A rather remarkable feature along today is called the Knife Edge. Aptly named, as the trail seems to become suspended, then abruptly end in space. The Divide at the Knife Edge is truly that, sharp, narrow, and near vertical. I keep the blinders on and creep along with absolute deliberation, lest I slip and go over.

Late evening, the trail drops down below timberline and I’m able to find a delightful campsite under the mature spruce canopy. A warmer night, but the warm fire is a welcome friend.


“One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.”
[William Wordsworth]


Sunday–September 9, 2007
Trail Day–27
Trail Mile–22/1870
Location–Wolf Creek Pass, thence to Pagosa Springs, Colorado

I’m up, daily duty done, pack on, and I’m truckin’ before seven. It’s 22 miles to Wolf Creek Pass, and if I can cut it, there’ll be steak and potatoes, and a soft, warm bed waiting me tonight. Time to haul, through the rocky road, the longest continuous trail of rocks in my memory.

By late morning, and making good time, I arrive Sawtooth Mountain, where the trail finally turns back south. Mexico here I come!

Lunch break is a stop by one of the remaining high points on the CDT above 12,000 feet. As I relax, study my maps, and munch a cheese sandwich, comes up Wizard and Dirt Boy. They southbound thru-hiked the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in 1994. Great fun recalling common memories, discovering mutual friends.

Looking to the horizon, the least wisp of haze at 35 miles (straight shot for the high-flying crow) standing tallest is San Luis Peak. By trail, it’s 125 miles!

More picturesque lakes today, Archuleta, Spotted and Rock Lakes. Rock Lake is particularly stunning, what with jagged rock walls extending near vertically from its waters, with beautiful Hope Mountain for a backdrop.

At four, I depart the Weminuche Wilderness, five full days and over 110 miles of unspoiled mountain scenery. What a memorable time. Where’s the steak and potatoes?

By five (and in the rain and hail again) I’m standing in Wolf Creek Pass (US160) with my thumb aimed at Pagosa Springs. Soon a trucker takes pity on me, stops, and I load. It’s Jeff, driving for Swift. Been with Swift only a short while, one driver of over 20,000 Swift drivers on the highway today. He gets a kick out of hearing a little of C.W. McCall’s Wolf Creek Pass. I’m in Pagosa Springs (in the rain) by a little before six. Spacious room, delicious steak.

In the evening I’m able to track down Nean (triple crowner) and his girlfriend, Heidi. They’ll be hauling me back up the mountain Tuesday morning.

Sure glad to be in town for a spell. Feet, knees, and arms dearly need a rest.


“Me and Earl was haulin’ chickens
On a flatbed outa Wiggins
And we had spent all night on the uphill side
Of thirty seven miles of hell called Wolf Crick Pass
Which was up on the great divide

Wolf Crick Pass way up on the great divide
Truckin’ on down, the other side”
[C. W. McCall]


Monday–September 10, 2007
Trail Day–28
Trail Mile–00/1870
Location–Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Rained hard off and on all during the night. Tin roof on the motel. Clatter woke me several times. Happy to be out of it for a change.

Another typical southern Colorado town, Pagosa Springs, strung out along the main highway, for miles. There is a downtown, cloistered around the hot springs. Motel, grocery store, library, and post office within easy walking distance.

I get together with Nean and Heidi, and we share more good memories, fun stories.

In the afternoon I work journal entries, stomp out my dirty duds in the tub, make a trip to the grocery store and post office, then settle back in.

Glad to have spent the past six days in the wild. Glad to be out of the wild. Will miss the wild again, soon enough!


“Have you seen God in his splendors, heard the text that nature renders?
(You’ll never hear it in the family pew).
The simple things, the true things, the silent men who do things–
Then listen to the Wild–it’s calling you.”
[Robert W. Service]


Tuesday–September 11, 2007
Trail Day–29
Trail Mile–21/1891
Location–Below Montezuma Peak, Continental Divide, campsite elevation 12,332 feet

Been taking a few pictures in the towns where I’ve sought rest. Somehow I missed snapping any while in Pagosa Springs. Don’t know why; it’s a friendly, progressive, upbeat little community.

Nean and Heidi both work in Creede, over the mountain from Pagosa Springs, and they’ve offered to shuttle me back up to Wolf Creek Pass on their way to work this morning. We share a quick breakfast together, then it’s time to roll (climb) to Wolf Creek Pass. At the kiosk atop the pass, I tripod-up my camera for a picture of the three of us. Then, too soon (but predictably), it’s that time again–more sad, heart-tugging farewells. Folks like Nean and Heidi become kin. Don’t ask me how it works, how such a blink-in-time relationship could create any sort of bond. Please, just believe me, it happens. Emotional and sad good-byes. Thanks Nean and Heidi, thanks for your kindness, for your kinship.

The climb out of Wolf Creek Pass, back to the Divide, is not the least strenuous, but it is long and steady. I’ve got my wind now; my legs are strong and responsive, and my arms have come up to the yeoman’s task of rhythmically digging my hiking sticks. Thanks once more dear Lord, for your grace and blessings upon this old man. May I be loud and boisterous–only in praising you.

I catch up with a couple of locals from Pagosa Springs this morning, Rich and Carol, out for their morning exercise climbing. Why is it we Americans must travel thousands of miles to enjoy the beauty of some other place, all the while never taking time to appreciate the beauty in our own back yard? Rich and Carol, they’ve got it figured out. They’ve found the beauty that abounds right here at home–happy smiles, both!

I’m now entering the South San Juans, a rugged and remote stretch of Rockies that extend nearly 70 miles south from here. Plans are to hike this section through in three days, but don’t know. The trail sure chops up the topo contour lines through here. That means plenty of climbing ahead.

Lots of different circumstances can slow one’s pace, some good, some not so good. Doesn’t take long this day for a not so good slow down–blowdowns. Today is shaping to become blowdown day. Trees laying across or otherwise blocking the trail can be a real problem. With all the usual tangle, they’re very hard to climb through with a pack on. So it’s almost always up and around (way up), or down and around (way down). No matter how they’re tackled, it’s a dangerous proposition. I must remind myself to slow down, be patient to a fault, and concentrate. Bustin’ it in a blowdown is not such a romantic way to end an odyssey.

By two, the local clutter (say thunder busters) arrives. Rounded up and driven by the wind, the shows come rushing through. At 12,000 feet, the thunder resounds in such a hollow, crashing tympani, reverberating all about. The lightning always seems to be cloud-to-cloud, yet when up here right in the clouds, such a light and percussion show can become the least unnerving.

My friend the wind, which has hastened the storm across, continues, bringing energy and a mysteriously audible mixture of sound. I heed its call and tune to its message as it passes. Nature speaks, if only we take time to listen.

My poncho is on more than off the remainder of the afternoon. Of course the storm must intermix some hail, but it does so just briefly as it finally moves away.

The trail continues side-slabbing. Rounding a bend I meet Steve. He’s up here from Arkansas hunting mule deer. And his trip’s been successful. He shot a four-square-racker early this morning and tracked it to where it finally dropped way, way down below. Our paths cross as he’s heading back to camp for help in quartering the mulie, getting it up the mountain, and out.

I hike on, into dusk, then into dark. Camp tonight is in/on the rocks, high in a narrow depression directly on the Divide. The night turns still, quiet–and cold. No more messages on the wind.


“Only those in tune with nature seem to pick up the energy in wind. All sorts of things get swept off in the breeze–ghosts, pieces of soul, voices unsung, thoughts repressed, love uncherished, and a thousands galore of spiritual ether. Wind is an emotional rush because emotions are rushing by.”

[Drew Sirtors]


Wednesday–September 12, 2007
Trail Day–30
Trail Mile–23/1914
Location–North of Trail Lake, South San Juan Wilderness, Continental Divide, camp elevation 12,179 feet

I awake to a very cold morning, 30 degrees with frost on both the inside and outside walls of my tent. The sun, a blazing red, is just rising over Lookout Mountain. Ah yes, it’s going to be a wonderful hiking day.

A bright, clear morning had been forming, but by ten the local weather moves in to take command. My fleece and mittens have and will remain on as the wind comes driving, immediately bringing the cold again. In just moments comes the bone-chilling rain, which quickly turns to snow. By the time I stop, unshoulder my pack and get my poncho out, the whole system moves across the mountain to the other side of the Divide.

Wildlife abounds today, from the little finches flitting about the willow scrub, a dozen or more rock ptarmigan, pairs of blue grouse, to a large herd of elk. I have heard coyotes nearly every night, and bear sign is everywhere–but no bruins.

The trail dips to near civilization at picturesque Blue Lake from where an old road winds on down the mountain. Here are the remains of an old home, the rock fireplace still intact, standing as a sentinel straight and tall. Above the hearth and large firebox, the stone there would have supported a very long and equally wide mantel. My mind’s eye pictures a warm and inviting bungalow, welcome shelter from the cold and the snow.

The trail climbs, then stays high atop the Divide for the remainder of the day. The unrelenting rocks directly on the trail are brutal punishment to tired, weary feet, making the going painstakingly slow and laborious. Amazing mountain scenery and profound wildness though, the sort of vistas seldom seen, save for that afforded the exertion, the price paid being the sweat and toil of the climb. To those so inclined do these heavenly towers reveal their beauty. Ah, such a well-earned reward.

Again I hike on into the pale light, to pitch once more on the high ground, in a small, sheltered depression atop the Continental Divide. This will be my last night, and tomorrow my last day, above 12,000 feet.


“The exquisite sight, sound, and smell of wilderness is many times more powerful if it is earned through physical achievement, if it comes at the end of a long and fatiguing trip for which vigorous good health is necessary.”

[Garrett Hardin]


Thursday–September 13, 2007
Trail Day–31
Trail Mile–21/1935
Location–Cumbres Pass, thence to Chama, New Mexico

A small patch of alpine turf proved a soft, welcome spot to lay down my tired old body last. Another clear, cold night quickly descended, but once in my little Nomad tent, it was warm (relatively), and I slept soundly.

Ice everywhere around me this morning (inside my tent). Merely brushing the sidewalls brings a cascading shower of sparkling crystals. I must move ever so cautiously to prevent becoming soaked. Carefully rolling my tent fly back reveals a haze-free, blue-perfect (but cold, 28 degrees) day. Not a cloud wisp nor the least sign of impending weather–360.

The remaining bit of climb up and along the Great Divide takes only minutes this morning, then the trail moves away to the eastern slope to gently descend toward Trail Lake. Near the lake I pause to look back toward the Great Divide, the last I’ll tread upon it here in Colorado.

The trail this morning crosses wide, undulating meadows interspersed and dotted with countless high-held lakes and ponds. To add to this (Nature’s manicured) elegance, an occasional cluster of low-bush or a rock garden is thrown in for variety. Along these high grassy spaces the trail becomes faint, disappearing entirely at times. To aid passage, rock cairns are places at intervals along, usually in sight, one to the next. But at times I’m left to fend on my own. Using Jonathan’s maps, my GPS, thence by shooting coordinates to a nearby known position I am able to find my way.

My daydreaming solitude is interrupted as I meet another intrepid this morning, Dave from Oregon, hiking sections of the South San Juans. We pause to exchange pleasant conversation before continuing our separate ways.

I’m able to get one of the most amazing pictures this morning. Being a near total haze-free day, as I look in disbelief toward the farthest, most-distant horizon, dancing up and down there faintly–can be seen The Sangre de Cristo Range and its highest summit, Blanca Peak, fourth in stature of the 14ers in Colorado. When this series of photos are up, please look ever-so-closely at shot 09/13/2007 12:43. In this photo, Blanca Peak can be seen 75 miles away!

By one-thirty I’m descending from 12,000 feet for the last time this journey. And shortly, I depart the South San Juan Wilderness.

Reflecting now, my thoughts: This hike through the San Juans has been a most rewarding and memorable time, wilderness scenery, and some pretty remarkable pictures–but I’m very relieved and glad to have the climbs and the rocks behind me. It’s been a rugged, difficult trek, but the good Lord has provided safe passage.

By five I’m passing under the Cumbres & Toltec train trestle at Cumbres Pass. There’s hardly any traffic on CO17, but as luck would have it, and in less than half an hour, Ed comes by from his cabin retreat in the South San Juans and gives me a ride down to Chama, New Mexico. Thanks, Ed!

I enter Foster’s 1881 Hotel, Restaurant & Saloon a little before six to be greeted by Alice, the owner. She’s got a room for me. After Jane gets the room heater working, it’s back down to the Saloon where Zack serves up a sizzling steak and an oven-hot baked potato.

Fine ending to a very fine day, eh!


“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth
are never alone or weary of life.”
[Rachel Carson]


Friday-Saturday–September 14-15, 2007
Trail Day–32-33
Trail Mile–00/1935
Location–Chama, New Mexico

These two days are days of much needed rest. The San Juans were rugged, lots of climbing, and rocks, an incredible jumble of rocks. I appreciate the rest. I know my barking doggies sure do.

And what finer place for a short sojourn than Alice Foster’s 1881 Hotel, Restaurant & Saloon.

In the trail register at the Chama Post Office, most all the recent northbound folks have lamented as to getting lost in northern New Mexico.

Getting lost used to alarm and frustrate me, but no more. I’ve come to appreciate that straying from the trail (where there really isn’t any trail) is just part of the blend that makes the CDT such a unique and special trail experience. No sense or need in getting in a rush along this trail. Schedules and time frames have no place here. I’ve noticed that Mother Nature works pretty hard at times, but she also takes time to rest. It’s as if she is asking me to rest too. Sounds fair to me!


“Look deep into Nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
[Albert Einstein]


Sunday–September 16, 2007
Trail Day–34
Trail Mile–16/1951
Location–Lagunitas Creek, below Brazos Ridge, Carson National Forest, New Mexico

What a fine time in Chama. Foster’s is a very old (1881) but most comfortable establishment. And Alice was a grand hostess. Yes, a fine time in Chama.

I figured I’d have one heck of a time hitching back up to Cumbres Pass, being Sunday, but as luck would have it, a kind, young family stops, takes nearly five minutes rearranging their gear (and kids) to make room for the old Nomad. Before I know it, I’m standing again in Cumbres Pass.

I could have taken the Cumbres & Toltec train to the top of the pass, but it was a bit pricey. The train ride is long and slow, a climb of five per cent all the way up, requiring two locomotives to haul the cars and passengers. The train left Chama twenty minutes before I got my ride, and I’m standing here by the tracks now, waiting another twenty minutes for it to arrive. There should be some good picture ops, so I delay my hike on south, and chat with Bill, caretaker of the facilities at the pass.

The wait was sure worth it as I’m able to get some fine pictures, first as the train approaches, then of all the people, and finally as one of the locomotives is switched out, and the train heads on down the other side of the pass.

Today is mostly a roadwalk, starting with the first couple of miles right down the old narrow gauge tracks (my choice).

In a short time, and while climbing up from Apache Canyon, three locals, David, Beverly, and Greg, come riding up on their mountain bikes. They’re out for the fresh air and the exercise, and stop a moment to chat. All take interest in my hike and ask many questions.

At one-thirty, and at a cattle guard on the gravel road, I leave Colorado and enter New Mexico. A bit of Canada and four states behind me now; one more to go–New Mexico.

It’s a grand day to be out hiking, cool and clear.

New Mexico is famous for its mesas, and it doesn’t take long at all before I’m climbing one, Osier, which takes me up to Brazos Ridge. The terrain is really changing now, from the high, rugged mountains of Colorado, to the arid mesas and plateaus of the southwest. Gone are the willow thickets, now come the sagebrush, juniper, and cactus.

The trail brushes by the Cruces Basin Wilderness, where I’m able to get a couple of pictures looking down from Brazos Ridge.

Even with such a late start, by evening I’ve manage good mileage for the day, and I’m very pleased. Camp is in the ponderosa pine. Flat and dry; plenty of firewood.


“Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
[Lao Tzu]


Monday–September 17, 2007
Trail Day–35
Trail Mile–15/1966
Location–Above headwaters, Placer Creek, just off US64

I could hear elk bugling and the coyotes “serenading” just at dusk last. It’s bow season for elk now and just at dark, two hunters passed, on their way back to their camp below.

I slept fine through the rain, which came around one, to continue off and on in waves all night. I’m bound in my tent until almost ten this morning, until the rain finally lets up enough for me to break camp.

I’m feeling the least bit apprehensive today as I’ve a long bushwhack ahead of me. It will require almost constant map reference, compass and GPS use, a thorough testing of my navigational skills. It’s hard enough staying on course under ideal conditions. With the rain, my poncho on to protect my pack (and me), it’ll be a problem getting to my maps, studying the topo lines–and keeping everything dry in the process.

The bushwhack begins with a bail-off, straight down into the canyon of Rio San Antonio. From here it’s a climb up, out, then to follow along the Tierra Amarillo Grant fence line. I stay on course and manage the six mile bushwhack without a hitch. And my maps are just the least soggy. Comes now more cold rain, which drives another hailstorm, this one not as long or as intense as others I’ve had to endure, but none-the-less exasperating.

Another bushwhack today, down Placer Creek. The storm has let up for awhile and it’s actually turning fair. The whack is through the narrow, rocky, high-walled canyon, the going slow and difficult, constant boulders and brush. Just below, and leaving the canyon, are the remains of a decaying old sluice box (placer), complete with grate and moldering box timbers.

In Rio Vallecitos Canyon now, the trail continues up and down, following more cow paths along the T-Bone Ranch fence line. Comes soon more forest service roads. Here, I’m able to get back up to speed.

Finding water, good water, is becoming more and more a problem. Fewer sources, further in-betweens. One source, supposedly reliable, Ojito Azul, a piped spring, is just a green-scum stagnant pool, not a drop of water moving. By five, I pass another piped spring, this one running at just the least trickle, but cold and clear. I take time to fill one of my bottles–and me.

Late evening now, bouncing up the rocky road in his pickup comes Perry. Just passed his very comfy, fully furnished camp a mile or so back. He stops, shuts ‘er down, and we chat. Perry and his buddy from Pennsylvania, they’re out here bow hunting for elk. All excited, Perry has to tell his story about shooting his first elk–first day out! Late evening it was. He decided to go for a short walk up the ridge, look the place over. Buddy didn’t even take his bow. Well, first thing, up pops this bull elk, nice one. Hey, wind is right, position perfect. Perry goes through the motions, shows me how he crouched down on his knees, behind a big pine blowdown, bow at the ready. Buddy commenced calling the elk in–to within arms reach away from Perry, right the other side of the blowdown. “He was licking his nose in a frenzy, wildly sniffin’ the air for any kind of scent. I’m shaking so hard I can hardly hold my bow. Wrong angle, can’t shoot; he’s standing with his chest facing me; wrong angle.” says Perry, all frustrated. His buddy kept calling until the elk finally saw him, to break and run. In a flash, Perry lets fly his arrow, and at 25 yards, down goes the bull, a perfect shot. “Just out for an evening stroll up the ridge; first night.” exclaims Perry, big ear-to-ear grin!

“What a story, what-a-story; folks’ll never believe this. I gotta get your picture.” I smile back at Perry. Down goes the tailgate; bingo, there stands Perry, proud as can be. “Look at this!” he says. Fancy equipment box–with a perfect elk silhouette hand painted there. Well, turns out Perry is a taxidermist. “This one’ll be hangin’ in my den, you betcha’.” smiles Perry. Okay Perry, you promised to send us a picture as soon as the mount is finished–you promised!

Just before dark I finally get straightened out and going the right way on US64. It’s raining and turning cold. Jack stops to see if I’m okay even though he’s traveling the opposite direction. I ask for water. He pulls off, opens his rear hatch and fills me up from his five-gallon container. Thanks, Jack! Saves me from scooping it out of the ditch.

The rain doesn’t let up. I find a flat spot where the trail leaves the highway, in a stand of ponderosa, and call it a day.

I am relieved to have this day behind me, to have met the challenge of trekking cross-country, in this wild country–alone, and to have prevailed. Thank you, Lord!


“No man should go through life without once experiencing…wilderness,
finding himself depending solely on himself
and thereby learning his true and hidden strength.”
[Jack Kerouac]


Tuesday–September 18, 2007
Trail Day–36
Trail Mile–22/1988
Location–Bushwhacking near Ojito Jarosito, below Mogote Ridge

Seems this day may be an improvement weather-wise, as the dawn comes cold and clear. More forest service roads today, along Mogote Ridge. Wide-sweeping views. Many fine pictures.

Every day the terrain looks more and more like the arid southwest and less and less like the Colorado Rockies. I think I’m heading the right direction!

After being so proud of my success, the bushwhacks yesterday, now, here today, I make a wrong turn at a road junction, then try taking a shortcut to get back on track–and then spend the next three hours trying to figure out where I’m at! There’s supposed to be a road here, right here. No road. What’s going on? Roads don’t just disappear. My shortcut route should have intersected the road long ago. Cripes! Here I am thrashing around in the blowdowns and brush, dumb. Finally, finally, I stumble out and onto a graded, well-maintained road. Map study. GPS position. Compass direction. Ah, I see. I’m way down here. The road I’m trying to get to is up there. This southbound trek should be pretty much southbound, but quite often it’s not southbound at all–I head way east, to the road I should have been on all along! Patience, old man, patience. I will study the ways of Nature more, that I might travel rightly.

Views this afternoon, here above 10,000 feet, are far-reaching, down and into the Chama River Valley, where is located Ghost Ranch Conference Center, and where I should be sometime day after tomorrow.

Beginning another bushwhack section, as I tire, and as dark begins descending, I find another of my newly-made evening friends, a huge ponderosa pine. Here beneath its protective, outstretched boughs, and on its needle-carpeted floor, I set my camp.

First a cooking, then a fine warming fire–they do comfort me.


“You will find something more in woods than in books.
Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.”
[St. Bernard]


Wednesday–September 19, 2007
Trail Day–37
Trail Mile–18/2006
Location–Below Yeso Tank (fancy name for plain old stagnant cattle pond), FR139, Mesa Montosa, elevation 8,200 feet

I’d built up expectations of reaching Ghost Ranch today, but there’s just no sense in trying to hammer 24 miles, especially with the remainder of the bushwhack this morning, and the final six miles, a descent of near 2,000 feet, over the canyon wall and down through Arroyo Yeso to reach Ghost Ranch. So I’ll take my time, take some pictures, enjoy the natural beauty here–and just hoof it in to near the cliffs of the upper canyon above Ghost Ranch, and call it a day.

I’m able to beat it on through the bushwhack below Ojito Jarosito in good time this morning. Actually, I come out about where I’m supposed to, at the forest service road leading up Mogote Ridge. I begin the bushwhack on the ridge a little before ten. This whack is easy enough, stay on the ridge and follow the fence–for awhile. Picking up FR406T2, the hike becomes a pleasant walk through the aspen.

In the evening, and nearing the cliffs below Mesa Montosa and Mesa Yeso, (and out of water again) I stop at Yeso Tank, where I take (and treat) water. A short distance beyond, there’s a park-like meadow dotted with ponderosa pine. I find a perfect spot under a particularly majestic stand and set camp for the night.

It’s been a very enjoyable (say nice weather for a change) hiking day.


“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”


Thursday–September 20, 2007
Trail Day–38
Trail Mile–06/2012
Location–Ghost Ranch Conference Center near Abiquiu, New Mexico

Well, so much for the weather. About midnight the rain returns. No wind, no waves, no hail like the past few days, just spigot on, spigot off–all night and into the morning. It’s 9:30 before I’m able to break camp. Then I must keep my poncho ever ready. For this high desert region, which receives as little as ten inches of annual rainfall, this persistent rain is strange indeed. Adding it all up the past few days, this might be it for these folks for the next twelve months!

The least anxiety returns again this day, because a good chunk of the remaining six miles to Ghost Ranch involves a bail-off into the canyon, some four miles of which is purported to be a very rugged and difficult bushwhack. When I called Ghost Ranch last week, Lee told me that John and Dawn had difficulty finding their way at times during their descent.

“Okay old man, put your pack on and let’s do it.” –a little encouragement for myself. By 10:30 I’m standing at the abyss, on the rim, looking down nearly 2,000 feet into a huge box canyon that is Arroyo Yeso. I stand here, gaping and gazing, not wanting to hesitate, not wanting to wait; let’s just do it and get it done. But I do wait and manage to stay calm, so as to identify features, landmarks below that I’ll rely on to set my course down.

As I’m making this half-hearted analysis, I simply cannot suppress my first, overpowering thought–which remains my thought now: “I gotta climb down through this place!”

Calm finally does prevail.  I gain my composure, and come up with a plan.

The guidebook says, and Jonathan’s maps show, a direct descent, down through the wall of rocks to the first level shelf, then a turn southwest toward the east-facing cliff, there to find and follow faint old wagon ruts clockwise around and down beyond the next drop-off. Gazing intently, I’m able to make it all out–and pick my route down.

So, pack cinched tight, over the rim I go. Good old Leki trekking poles. They’ve gotten me through some really tough spots, and here, again, they shine! Leki’s motto: “Two legs bad, four legs good.” Ahh, no truer words. I make sure both sticks are stuck, and I’ve one foot firmly planted before dropping on down. Every move is deliberate, requiring total concentration. A screw-up here, and I don’t get to go back and start over.

The first level seems such a dizzying distance down. But thinking about moves, stick and foot placement, and not time, I’m surprised when I find myself standing on near-level ground again.

So far, so good! “Now look at your compass, turn southwest and head for the bluff.” I utter to myself. In moments I’m standing in the old wagon road ruts. “Turn left and follow them till they disappear at the next drop-off, that’s the way.” I reassure myself.

But along the way now, following the faint path, it occurs to me that there’s only one place this old mule and wagon road could have come from–the mouth of the arroyo–and Ghost Ranch! And you know what? The faint old wagon road led where even a mountain goat would’ve been challenged, but I hung with it (perhaps not a good phrase), and in less than two hours I’m standing at the opening in the fence behind Ghost Ranch! What an adrenalin pump (for this old heart), and what an absolutely remarkable experience. Not one slip, not one misstep, not one wrong turn. Thank you, thank you, Lord!

Smiling faces at Ghost Ranch Reception. Lee, Bill and Clorinda, all are genuinely glad to see me. “I’ve figured you a deal, in the bunkhouse–for today, tomorrow, two nights, all your meals.” smiles Clorinda. Won’t tell you what she came up with, but here’s a clue about prices at Ghost Ranch. When was the last time you can remember dropping a buck on the counter, anywhere, and walking away with a 20oz Coke?

The bunkhouse is authentic adobe, the old, original bunkhouse for hands at Ghost Ranch. It’s been modernized, of course, but it still has the charm of the olden days. No locks on any of the doors. My room (and Lee as much as told me, the place was mine) has four bunks and one full-sized bed. Neat and clean. Sheets and pillowcases neatly folded; make your own bed. This is great. Bathhouse just down the covered walkway. The place has gotta have at least a 100 gallon water heater. Still plenty of hot water left a half hour later, after me and all my clothes are clean. Phone (residential, not pay) two minutes away. Four computers two minutes away. Twenty-four-hour library four minutes away. Cafeteria (all meals included, remember!) four minutes away. Yup, Ghost Ranch, this’ll sure work for a couple of days, to boost this tired old man on down the trail!


“I haven’t got any special religion this morning.
My God is the God of walkers.
If you walk hard enough, you probably don’t need any other God.”
[Bruce Chatwin]


Friday–September 21, 2007
Trail Day–39
Trail Mile–00/2012
Location–Ghost Ranch Conference Center

These extra days of rest I’ve been taking sure boost my spirit and keep me going strong. No problem relaxing another day here at Ghost Ranch. Very comfortable place, kind folks.

A couple of sorta funny things the past few days —

First, both my knees are totally skinned up. You’d probably figure (and if you’ve looked at any of the ’07 Odyssey picture albums, seen the wicked treadway, you’d sure enough bet) that I must have fallen in the ruts, boulders, rocks, roots, or mud somewhere along the trail, right? Well, you lose the bet. Here’s what actually happened: My right knee took a beating when I fell while casually walking down an incline to see the old locomotive at the train station in Chama. My left knee? Well, I slipped and fell while walking along the paved shoulder of US64 last Monday evening! Seems I can handle the boulders, the piles upon piles of rocks, the pitch-me-off side-slabs, the straight ups, straight downs, and the axle grease mud–but I’m unable to stay up straight on no-bump walkways, and flat, skid-free pavement. Go figure!

And second? Well, wouldn’t you think that sitting down to a delicious hot meal here at Ghost Ranch, after so many sorry-meal days on the trail, fork in hand ready to dive in, would have been the thought of the moment? Well, it wasn’t. Actually, the thought of the moment was–the sitting down! Yes, sitting down, in an old wooden, hard seat, hardback chair, that was the pleasant thought of the moment, the grand meal, comin’ right up thought, second. Nuts, right!

Okay, try going all day, day after day, with no place ever to sit, save the cold ground, a hard, wet rock, or a blowdown log. Remember, there are no sofas, easy chairs, couches, lounges, or recliners in the woods! Yes, it’s a really big thing–the simple pleasure of just sitting down and leaning back!

Okay, enough goofy stuff.

Got all my gear dried out–one more time. Gotta pack and get ready to head on south in the morning. The trail toward the hazy blue, it’s a’calling.


“I’ll trek the far off byways,
And wander the continents o’er.
I’ll pack and trek the trailways,
Till I walk this earth no more.”
[Robert W. Service]


Saturday–September 22, 2007
Trail Day–40
Trail Mile–22/2034
Location–Near FR170, Below Mesa del Camino

Ghost Ranch Conference Center, a very hiker-friendly place. Thanks Lee, Bill, and Clorinda!

At breakfast this morning a young fellow comes up to me and asks if I’m the Nimblewill Nomad. “With those gaiters on, I figure you must be the south-bound hiker I’ve been hearing about.” he remarks. And so, I meet Rob Foxtrot Fissel. During breakfast, we decide to hike the day together, as Foxtrot is also southbound on the CDT.

As we’re hiking out from Ghost Ranch, I’m able to see Lee and Bill for a moment, to thank them for the great hospitality extended me at Ghost Ranch.

From the Conference Center, the museum trail leads out toward the highway, to the Piedra Lumbre Museum. Once at the museum, we take our time looking around–and to enjoy some ice cream.

By the time we finally get moving again, it’s 12:30. Early afternoon we’re on forest service roads. A concrete bridge (closed to motorized traffic) gets us across the wide, fast-rushing Chama River. From there we enter Ojitos Canyon, for the climb toward Mesa del Camino and the Rio Chama Wilderness. Once on the mesa, we follow forest service roads for the remainder of the day.

We’re fortunate to find water for the evening in a little protected basin (away from the cattle) by Canada Camino.

Hiking along with Foxtrot, it’s easy enough to see how he received his trail name. This kid can move, in his wore down sandals, and I must accelerate my pace and stride in my wore out shoes (to almost a foxtrot) to stay with him.

Just before dark, we come upon a perfect campsite situated beneath the towering ponderosa, complete with fire ring, cut and split firewood no less–and (someone has left) ears of corn for roasting!

It’s been a most enjoyable day, having someone to hike with and talk with; what a welcome change.


“When you have worn out your shoes,
the strength of the shoe leather has passed into the fiber of your body.
I measure your health by the number of shoes…you have worn out.”
[Ralph Waldo Emerson]


Sunday–September 23, 2007
Trail Day–41
Trail Mile–31/2065
Location–Cuba, New Mexico

It began as a star-studded evening last. I fixed my fly but had it draped back in order to gaze at the moon and watch the stars drift by. Before I know it, and startled from deep sleep, comes cold spatters of rain. I must hasten to pull my fly down and close my tent, lest everything I have becomes soaked. The rain continues, pulsing off and on till dawn.

It’s a very iffy morning, but we’re up, packs shouldered, and trekking by 7:30. While enjoying the warming fire last, Foxtrot commented that he thought he’d try to make Cuba tomorrow, some thirty-plus miles. Having so enjoyed hiking with him, I hastened to ask if he’d mind me joining him.

You know I’m not usually on the trail so early; neither is Foxtrot I find, but in order to reach Cuba before dark, we’ve gotta haul–so 7:30, we’re haulin’.

The hike starts out well enough; some easy roadwalking. We cover the early miles in fine fashion. But as we climb and climb, the 3,000 feet to enter the San Pedro Parks Wilderness, dark clouds descend and the cold rain sets in–in earnest.

We’re on trail now, poorly marked trail–and we get lost. Finding our way (after wasting precious time) we get lost again. The wind comes up stronger driving more bitter-cold rain, now mixed with hail.

I can’t keep my maps and guide pages dry. We fumble with the GPS but are unable to fix our position. We know we’re in San Pedro Parks, and we know the trail we’re on is also in San Pedro Parks. But there are numerous trails in San Pedro Parks. There are no CDT blazes, no marked posts to guide us. More precious time lost. As we puzzle our predicament, I notice that Foxtrot‘s speech is becoming slurred; I’m having much difficulty gripping my trekking poles.

“It’s darkest before dawn.” is an old axiom that is often so prophetic. As we hike on, wandering, it seems, in desperation, comes a CDT marker. We were on the right trail all along–and the wind has relented, the rain has stopped, and the warm sun is beginning to break through.

Just at dusk, as drivers start turning their headlights on, we reach paved road and make the last turn to town. The local mom-n-pop is still open; good for a delicious hot meal–and there’s a room for us at the motel.

We’re soon in and we’re warm and dry.

I know you’ve heard me often say “There are no bad days on the trail, some just better than others.” Well, I’ll sure remember this 31 mile storm-dogged one!


“For the man sound in body and serene of mind
there is no such thing as bad weather; every day has its beauty and storms,
which whip the blood do but make it pulse more vigorously.”
[George Gissing]


Monday–September 24, 2007
Trail Day–42
Trail Mile–00/2065
Location–Cuba, New Mexico

I cranked the room heater last, and this morning things are beginning to dry out.

I plan on keeping my feet up, another day right here. Foxtrot?

A trip to the library, post office, laundromat, and supermarket, and he’s ready to head on south. Before he leaves I ask if he’d sit a spell and let me record his incredible, hair-raising story about the grizzly attack he lived through. And so he does.

First, let me tell you a little about this young man, Rob Foxtrot Fissel. During all my hiking years, I’ve met many folks that I’d consider to be “hiker trash” (an identity affectionately placed), but none I’ve ever met more deserve that tag–than Foxtrot. Rob is 31. He still calls Orrtanna, Pennsylvania home (his folk’s place), and he spends time there (holidays for sure) when he’s not in Alaska. He’s single, a graduate of Gettysburg High, has no vehicle (ever). To support himself (and his trekking about), he works three months out of the year as a cod fisherman in Alaska. The other nine he shoulders his backpack, and he’s gone–usually for weeks, on bushwhacks into the Brooks Range in Alaska. He’s hiked the AT, the PCT, and is now nearing the completion of his southbound CDT trek. Remarks Foxtrot, “I’m not hiking this trail to become a triple-crowner; that’s not the reason or purpose. I’ll probably get off in Deming; that’ll make my CDT hike incomplete.”

As for bear sightings–since Foxtrot first started beating down the wilds of Alaska, he’s seen 74 bears, one of them up way too close and personal!

During a 60-day traverse of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, and on August 1, 2005, while preparing to ford the Sagavanirktok River, Foxtrot was attacked by a grizzly. Here, I’ll let him tell it:

“I was working my way upstream looking for a place to cross. In another day at the most, I’d be at the pipeline, and from there, back to Fairbanks.

“While working my way upstream I flushed a ptarmigan. He exploded out of the bushes. Totally scared me; I screamed like a little girl. Realizing what it was, I began laughing. As I’m laughing I hear this arrrRRRR-arrrRRR!  From this 15 foot diameter patch of willow some 100 feet away, probably startled by the ptarmigan and my laughter, explodes this bear, growling and snapping its teeth, charging. It comes so close I could literally have touched it on its nose.

“Instead of having my pepper spray in a hip holster, it was in my water bottle holder of my backpack, not ordinarily a big deal–it’d take only a second to reach around and grab it. I knew what to do: Break eye contact, drop the head, call ‘hey bear, hey bear.’ I reach around for my pepper spray, and I’m not getting it. The bear passes, keeps going, goes out about 30 feet and comes back a second time, straight towards me. Oh crap, it’s not going to stop!  I still hadn’t grabbed my pepper spray. I put my hands over my head. I don’t know if he just ran into me, but he hit my pack, and I went backwards, my legs out in front of me.

“The bear still doesn’t stop. It circles and comes back a third time. All I had time to do was to pull my legs in, in a sitting position. Again the bear doesn’t stop. As it’s running by, it takes one snap at me. [Rob gets up and shows me his leg scars] This one was actually about an inch deep. These are the canine. And these, the teeth in between. This one was up against my shinbone.

“To begin with, I was totally freaked out. When the bear bit me, it finally snapped me out of it–this is actually serious, I gotta stop foolin’ around!  And you know, it was that easy; I just reached around and grabbed my pepper spray like it was nothing. The bear came back the fourth time and I shot him in the face, point blank, at about 15 feet. As soon as the pepper spray made contact with that bear, he made a 180-degree turn and went the other way. I stayed down on the ground three or four seconds, thinking he’d come back.

“When I realized the bear wasn’t coming back, I staggered to my feet; my legs held me–I didn’t know how bad my leg was then. I could see there were holes in it and that I was bleeding.  My whole body was jelly. I crossed the river and went about half an hour before I even stopped to look at my leg.  I started laughing again; it was the most euphoric feeling.

“It took me about 17 hours to get to Pipeline Road. I got picked up, taken to the Pipeline Truckstop, got first-aided up, and then I was given a ride on a tour bus to Fairbanks.

“How big was the grizzly? I can’t honestly say how much his size was, with what was going on, and what was his actual size–he seemed pretty big!”

Wow, what an incredible story–to live to tell! Foxtrot, I wish you much joy and safe passage for the remainder of your CDT journey, and I hope our paths cross again sometime. It was great hiking and just spending time with you.


“If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.”


Tuesday–September 25, 2007
Trail Day–43
Trail Mile–26/2091
Location–Below Cerros Colorados

Pack up and I’m moving (sluggishly–way too big a breakfast) a little before nine. On the roadwalk out I turn to snap a shot of the main drag, looking back at Cuba.

Turning from the highway in just awhile, I’m treated to well marked and maintained trail, through the pinõn/juniper/sagebrush, as I climb to Mesa Portales. Where the trail ventures to the cliffs, which mark the rim of the mesa, I’m afforded great views down and into Chama Valley. Not much moving out here, a snake sporting desert camo and my first jackrabbit sighting this trip out; that’s it.

Comes now the scramble straight over the cliffs, down into Jones Canyon and Jones Canyon Spring. This spring is a classic oasis in the truest sense–a green, invitingly cool, shady retreat, plunked down as if by magic right in the middle of this barren, sun parched land. From the looks of the old stone ruins right by, someone (A hermit named Jones, could have been!) made the place home, perhaps during the frontier times of long ago. Now-a-days it’s just another (of the few) watering holes for cattle roaming about–and the occasional hiker who ventures by.

This section I’m hiking today, and for the next couple of days, is called Piedra Lumbre (shining stones). I think you’ll find that I’ve managed some pretty fine pictures all along. Check back; they’ll be posted soon.

In the evening, and descending a small notch, I come to a fine campsite just below Cerros Colorados. As I make camp, do I see the evening fade of brilliant desert paint rebound, across the cloud-veiled horizon, in such a fitting and final tribute to the day–a thrust of fire cast by the setting sun.


“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm,
but to add color to my sunset sky.”
[Rabindranath Tagore]


Wednesday–September 26, 2007
Trail Day–44
Trail Mile–31/2122
Location–Mesa Chivato (Ignacio Chavez Land Grant Wilderness Study Area)

This cruise is smoothin’ out. The desert nights turn cold enough, but not as cold as those nights already endured above 12,000 feet in Colorado. And the trail? The trail can yet prove the least gnarly at times (ups, downs, rocks, roots), but I know it won’t at all compare to the unbelievable obstacles dealt with through the San Juan Wilderness and the South San Juans. Sure, I’ll get lost plenty more times, and there’ll likely be more challenging and trying times ahead. But day by day I’m nearing the end of this remarkable journey. Thank you Lord, for the courage, for the resolve and determination. And thanks for the strength and good health–and for the will to stick with it. Rewards do await the one who stands the final task and prevails–thanks! I pray now that Your bountiful Grace continues to me, that I might have sure and safe passage to the end.

I’m up and on the trail early, well before eight. Water sources are becoming few and far between, so the trick is to cover ground, take less time, stretch what water I find. The days have remained cool, well into the afternoons, an absolute blessing.

I’m greeted by a cool, clear morning. The trail is a roadwalk for most of the day today, first past Cerro Colorado Tank, another disgusting stock pond. Passing Cabezon and Cabezon Peak, and beside a pull off, there are two spigots, Cabezon Community Water Utility. I drink until I can drink no more, a full 32oz container of fresh, clear, water. Then to top-off both my bottles. It will probably be tomorrow before I have such good fortune again. I slosh on up the road!

I had hoped to see the old, restored mission at Cabezon, but come to find it (and the entire village of Cabezon) is owned by one Benny Lucero. I meet his son as he’s locking the gate to Cabezon after passing through. No, I can’t go down to the mission. And no, I can’t take pictures.

The gravel road climbs the valley below Mesa San Luis, to finally turn sharply south, descending to Rio Perco. I cross on a high, single-lane bridge.

From the silt-veined river, the road climbs over 2,000 feet, past Bears Mouth, an unusual formation, to eventually top out on Mesa Chevato. The entire mesa is a wilderness study area (except for the cattle), part of the Ignacio Chavez Land Grant. There are numerous “tanks” on the mesa, Ned, Seco, Ranger, all holding putrid, disgusting looking “water.” I’m rationing what water I have in order to get through the night tonight. I’ll get water for tomorrow at a dependable (fence enclosed) spring.

No one else up here this evening, just me and the coyotes. I’m too tired to start and tend an evening fire.


“If I could not walk far and fast, I think I should just explode and perish.”
[Charles Dickens]


Thursday–September 27, 2007
Trail Day–45
Trail Mile–28/2150
Location–Head of American Canyon, below Mt. Taylor

First thing this morning, and down from the trail, I descend to Los Indios Spring. Another tree-shaded oasis, this one with two very large concrete water tanks, both running cool, clear water–“Dan can you see that big green tree, where the water’s running free, and it’s waiting there for me and you…water, water, cool, clear water.” [Sons of the Pioneers]

A little past one in the afternoon presents the first unobstructed view of Mt. Taylor, the last mountain to stand above (and my last climb above) 11,000 feet on this CDT.

Late evening, and after a very long day on the (dirt) roads, I bushwhack up American Canyon, past American Tank (yup, more muddy water). Near the head of the canyon, and along a road, do I discover a fine campsite, complete with a perfect fire ring. I’ve enough water left from Los Indios to prepare a hot meal. Fine evening, warm fire, familiar friend. I pitch with my tent fly back, to view the heaven full of stars.


“Ah, such is the life of the carefree
The dreamer roaming afar
The end of the day; the end of a way;
To the lure of a far-reaching star.”
[Robert W. Service]


Friday–September 28, 2007
Trail Day–46
Trail Mile–30/2180
Location–Grants, New Mexico

Yesterday was another hammer-it-out day, with long, grudging miles. I rise at dawn again, to study my maps and guide, thence to break camp, shoulder my pack. I’m on the trail by seven.

The climb up Mt.Taylor is a steady 2,000-foot increase in elevation. On the summit the wind is whipping. I tarry but a few moments, for shots of the far, hazy-blue mountains, and the landscape below.

A slow-go, rock-strewn trail, (Trail #77) switchbacks off the other side. I’ll be scuffing away some 5,000 vertical feet between here and Grants. Down a ways I stop and turn, for a final look at Mt. Taylor–fasten your seat belts; here we go!

A little before seven I reach the main intersection in downtown Grants.

The trail turns right on Santa Fe. Yup, motels are to the left–over half a mile distant. Late evening now I check into the Sands Motel. What joy to find Foxtrot in a room just down the walkway from me. We get together for a fine dinner and much welcome conversation.


“Climb up on some hill at sunrise.
Everybody needs perspective once in a while, and you’ll find it there.”
[Robb Sagendorph]


Saturday–September 29, 2007
Trail Day–47
Trail Mile–00/2180
Location–Grants, New Mexico

After four long-mile days, a day of rest is most welcome. Foxtrot and I have breakfast together before heading downtown to the post office. After bouncing some provisions on to Hot Springs, he shoulders his pack–and he’s gone.

Back in my room, I work getting caught up on journal entries. Then in the evening, I’m invited to dinner with Tom and Donna Bombaci, who live here near Grants. Tom is active in the Continental Divide Trail Society. We all love the mountains, thus are able to share much joyful conversation. Before returning me to my room, they drive me to Wal-Mart for a few needed things, like some food for the next four days–and a bandanna to keep the hot desert sun off my neck.


“Truly it may be said that the outside of a mountain is good for the inside of man.”
[George Wherry]


Sunday–September 30, 2007
Trail Day–48
Trail Mile–23/2203
Location–Zuni-Acoma Trailhead, El Malpais National Monument

My stay in Grants was most pleasant. From accounts I’d heard concerning Grants, none were all that glowing. The place has had its ups and downs, what with the uranium discovery, other booms and busts. For sure, the town is strung out, with the trail passing along its byways for the better part of three miles. One of the few grocery stores comes on the way in, a long walk back from any of the motels, should resupply not be done right then and there, a chore we all prefer to put off. And the motels? Well, not a single one is even close to the three-mile route, the nearest being a half-mile in the opposite direction down Santa Fe (the main drag). But tell you what: I had a grand time in Grants! Nayan and Archand at the neat, old Sands Motel, lovingly kept and maintained since the boom days of historic Route 66–“I get my kicks on Route 66.”–cut the old Nomad the kindest hiker trash deal, for two nights. The Grants Cafe is right next, featuring the most remarkable Route 66 nostalgia (and great food) that I can recall seeing anywhere along the old historic highway (and I’ve hiked a good ways down it). And in Grants, here are the finest of trail angels anywhere, Tom and Donna. They came by and picked me up Saturday evening, took me out and treated me to a mighty fine steak dinner, then shuttled me by Wal-Mart for a few provisions before dropping me back off at the Sands. Yup, Grants is right up there on my list of great trail towns. Thanks all!

I’ve a mile or better along Santa Fe Avenue this morning, then it’s up and across I-40 to get out of town. Whittlin’ away on the “I”-ways again. One more to go, I-10, and they’re done.

Before crossing the interstate, I stop a moment to chat with Tony Martinez. Tony’s 83 now. Been peddling apples from the back of his truck along Santa Fe since the 30s. He sure remembers the boom days of Route 66. Great talkin’ with you, Tony. Apples never seem to go out, do they!

The trail today is pretty much a roadwalk, first up Zuni Canyon (a dusty ordeal) into the Cibola National Forest, then up Bonita Canyon on a two-track.

Just after turning into Bonita Canyon, come two fellows in a pickup. They stop to chat, and I meet Roland and his son, Josh, from Grants. They’re into geo-caching and have come out to investigate a report that someone had taken a shotgun to one of their canisters, a plastic gallon coffee can. They show it to me. What did it in was an inquisitive coyote, puncture marks all over the can–amazing! Josh tops off my water bottle before they head on down to Grants. Thanks fellas!

As I near NM53 and the Zuni-Acoma Trail, the hike on down Bonita Canyon turns beautiful and park-like–the glowing green meadow, the mature ponderosa directing my gaze toward the red-rocked mountain, all presenting in peaceful harmony–below an azure sky.

I pitch for the night at the edge of the first lava field. A short but good mileage hiking day.


“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy,
if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you,
if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand,
rejoice, for your soul is alive.”
[Eleonora Duse]


Monday–October 1, 2007
Trail Day–49
Trail Mile–37/2240
Location–York Ranch Road, near Wild Horse, north of Pie Town

Traffic was running steady on NM53 well into the night, but the highway noise did not deter me from contented sleep.

This morning I awake to the most brilliant red sunrise that I’ve witnessed in ages. The whole eastern horizon is ablaze. “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.” Yup, by nine, as I’m stumbling through the jagged and jumbled piles of lava rock that form El Malpais (The Badlands), the sky begins darkening over. By eleven, as I’m working my way toward trail’s end, the rain begins, just a drizzle at first, as I stop to chat with Ralph and Joan. They’re from Albuquerque, out to hike a section of the lava fields.

Leaving El Malpais the hike turns now to NM117, a paved highway with moderate traffic. Through the “Narrows,” a squeeze play between the Los Pilares cliffs and the McCarthy lava flow, and as the highway wiggles between, comes cold rain, intermixed with (oh yes) my old companion, hail.

Along, I manage decent pictures of two unique sandstone formations: First, La Vieja (the Old Lady), then La Ventana Natural Arch (the Window).

Since departing Grants yesterday I’ve been unable to replenish my water. The ranchers have moved their cattle, so the tail-guides on all the windmills are pulled back; no water in any of the tanks. I’m now down to my remaining 32oz bottle. Approaching this interesting highway warning sign, which declares “Watch for Water” (oh yes, I’m sure watching!) approaches this auto from behind. It slows, then stops right in the middle of the road.  Down goes the driver’s window–and a kind voice asks if I need any water!

Folks, please, there’s no way I can make this stuff up! Honest, the guy hands me a fresh, unopened bottle of water. “Sorry, it’s a little warm.” he remarks with a smile as he pulls away. I just stand here–in the middle of the road, in the rain, looking first at the sign, then at the bottle of water I’m now holding, then back at the sign, then the bottle, the sign, the … Thank you, Lord!

As I arrive the trail turn-off, from NM117 to a mud rut, and with the rain continuing steady now for some six odd hours, I decide to keep hoofing it on down the pavement. This is one of those situations where the trail zealots can’t stand having the trail on the pavement, so they run it helter-skelter, thither and yon, no rhyme or reason, through the canyons, across the arroyos, up the gulches, down the rutted two-tracks, to ultimately return to the highway–on down. I go the highway–on down!

The cold rain persists, not the least pause or letup as I turn onto York Ranch Road, a gravel road that leads generally south some thirty-plus miles, eventually ending at US60 in Pie Town.

York Ranch has cattle, lots and lots of cattle, and they’ve stomped down most everything about, including the road. Mud, mud, and more mud. As dark descends, I look anxiously for a place to pitch for the night–any place. As if I could actually stop and pitch anyway. No way–without an absolute thorough soaking. The cold rain continues, hammering me steady. The mud seems to surround me, much as a sea, and the gloom descends to engulf me. A lady slides by, her car weaving side-to-side in the mud. She manages a free hand, and waves. I nod. I can follow her taillights only a moment as they disappear in the shroud. The black mud, the black sky, the black night. I slip and slide on.

Surely this nightmare will soon end; eight o’clock, nine o’clock, ten o’clock. I stare intently, first left, then right, trying to find the least glimmer of light showing the road, the way. I’m in the ditch, on the road, in the ditch. Dear Lord, I know this must end.

Ten-thirty, the rain gives. I’m climbing now. The road soon turns from mud to sand, hard pack. I see dark forms beside me–trees! I stumble across the ditch, get my poncho off, drop my pack. Seems hopeless, fumbling with my useless cold sticks-for-fingers, trying to get my pack open and retrieve my flashlight.

Finally, I manage to pitch on a bed of pine needles, then roll in, in haste as the cold rain returns. With care, I shed my wet clothing and shoes, mop up, and get in my dry, warm Feathered Friends bag–on my dry, warm Therm-a-Rest pad. Thank you, dear Lord, thank you!

I know I’ll not believe the miles traversed this day, when I add them up in the morning.


“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”
[J.R.R. Tolkien]


Tuesday–October 2, 2007
Trail Day–50
Trail Mile–19/2259
Location–Pie Town, New Mexico, thence to Magdalena, New Mexico

A package of tuna, a cheese and bagel sandwich, some Oreos and I was out like a light last night.

First (and second) light this morning’s not so bright, as the clutter and gloom of yesterday lingers. Wet clothing, wet socks, wet shoes, not the greatest beginning for this day. But I am cheered as I remind myself that there are no bad days on the trail, that some are just the least bit better. I’m out, pack up and truckin’ before seven.

Figure I did a 37 yesterday.  That should leave somewhere between 18-20 today, on down to Pie Town. I keep my soggy poncho handy but it isn’t needed. By ten, the warming sun burns off what’s left of yesterday’s storm; what a joy. And the road just keeps getting wider–and dryer.

There’s still no water to be had anywhere along the road. Referenced water sources, those noted in my guide and on my maps, are long dead and gone. By one, I’m down to less than five ounces, and the sun is doing its job on my weary head.

At the turnoff, three miles from Pie Town, three fellows, a survey crew, are working by the road. As I approach we exchange greetings. Then, as casually as I can, I ask if they might spare some water. Comes a smile, the usual questions–and a full bottle of water, followed by a Coke!

Their work finished, and as they pass me, headed for town, they stop and offer still more water.

In Pie Town now, I beat it to the post office, there to hit the jackpot, cards and letters from family and friends, and my bounce box. At The Daily Pie, one of Pie Town’s two famous restaurants, and on the way to the post office, I’d noticed the survey fellows had stopped for lunch, so I head there for a bite myself, and to thank them once more.

A week or so ago, Dwinda, my girlfriend, had called the High Country Lodge in Magdalena, some 50 miles to the east, to enquire if I might stay a night or two. I had pulled off there on my way through during my transcontinental trek in ’02.  Sure enough, they’re anxious to see me again.

In The Daily Pie now, the survey guys are just leaving. I chance to ask, might they be heading east, perhaps as far as Magdalena. Hey, hey, this is my day!

No pie for this guy today, but a ride all the way to Magdalena! What a genuine stroke of good fortune.

I finally introduce myself (as Gene and Pete clear out some room for me in their truck). We load, and in a flash, we’re headed down the road to Magdalena!

At High Country Lodge, I’m greeted most enthusiastically by Kathleen. “The room is yours; you’re our guest while here in Magdalena!” she beams.

Just a few short hours. Oh yes, what a difference a day makes. And hasn’t this one been a real dandy!


“The Lord is wonderfully good to those who wait for him and seek him.”
[Lamentations 3:25]


Southern Leg – 652 Miles
Pie Town, New Mexico to Campo, California – 2002


Monday–October 7, 2002
Trail Day–126
Trail Mile–2820
Location–US60, Pie Town, New Mexico, pitched at Pie-O-Neer Restaurant.

The Datil Cafe is open this morning and I treat myself to a full breakfast and plenty of coffee.  I piddle in Datil (say daddle), not getting out and moving till after nine, but not to worry, this will be a relatively short hiking day of only twenty miles into Pie Town.

It’s climb, climb, climb again as I near the continental divide just this side of Pie Town.  I’m standing on the divide a little after three–at nearly 8,000 feet.  From here to the coast now it should be all downhill!

At the Pie-O-Neer Restaurant in Pie Town, I meet Chris Bennett.  Chris is from New Zealand.  He’s biking the Continental Divide Trail and has stopped to work his journal entries and to have some–pie!  While we’re chatting, the rain that had been threatening all day, finally comes in.  Chris laments about the incessant wind, and about how on days when it’s steady coming at him, he can make no more than six miles per hour.  It brings a smile to his face when I comment to him, “That’s still twice as fast as I’m ever moving!”

We both tarry at the Pie-O-Neer till seven, closing time.  The rain has finally let up.  Chris bikes to the campground, the little red tail light on his back blinking away.  I sneak over to the shadowy corner of the Pie-O-Neer front porch and roll out my sleeping bag for the night.  The restaurant is closed tomorrow, and I’ll be out of here at daybreak.  Anyway, I just don’t feel like pitching on the cold, wet ground tonight.

Tuesday–October 8, 2002
Trail Day–127
Trail Mile–2842
Location–US60, Quemado, New Mexico, Allison Motel

The hunters are out and moving before daybreak.  It’s black powder season out here on elk and antelope, and there are lots of folks–many are families–heading for the mountains (elk) and the open range (antelope).  Some of their rigs are hilarious.  Old, beat up 4WD pickups dragging two trailers behind full of gear and ORVs are common.  For most, I suspect, the hunt is more an excuse to just get away from the daily hum-drum and enjoy nature and the great outdoors–more that than the actual hunt.

I’m up and off the restaurant porch at first light.  It’s a crispy-cold morning.  First time for my winter gear: gloves, headband, and fleece jacket–feels good.

Folks run up and down the highway out here, constantly.  I don’t have the foggiest idea where they’re going; it’s fifty miles from here to anywhere (nowhere).  Many who have come to recognize me stop to offer assistance and to enquire as to my walkabout.

Two interesting distinctions about the Pie Town area (every place has got to be famous for something): This county is the second largest but has the least population of any county in the US.  Here, also, stands the tallest mountain in the lower forty-eight that’s still in private ownership (it’s over 11,000 feet tall).  Well, like I said, “every place has got to be famous for something (even if it’s just good pie)!”  So much for the continental divide, and Pie Town.

On the twenty-two mile stretch today from Pie Town to Quemado, there’s a little dot on the map called Omega.  This metropolis consists of a fallen-down, boarded up gas station, a burned out house trailer, a junkyard (a guy’s house with lots of cars and trucks on blocks for spare parts), and a kennel (same guy’s house–lots and lots of dogs).

Quemado is fifty miles from no place.  Quemado could also be called “no place,” too.  From Quemado, it’s fifty miles to Springerville–the next place that’s fifty miles from no place.  Folks, hiking this far-off, no-man’s land is starting to get to me.  Out here is just “no place” to be walking around.  Certainly you’ve heard the old saying, “You can’t get there from here.”  Well, this is “there!”  Say, maybe the folks that are constantly driving up and down the highway out here are just trying to get–“there.”

I pull into Quemado at two-thirty–to: two cafes (one closed), one bar (closed), and a motel (open), whoo-hee!  This is it–I’m in.  Sure hope I can keep getting “there” from here in the morning!

Wednesday–October 9, 2002
Trail Day–128
Trail mile–2876
Location–US60, one mile east of New Mexico/Arizona border, pitched by dry gulch under Pinon Pine.

I gave Quemado a bum rap in my last journal entry–said it “…could be called ‘no place’.”  Well, Quemado is really fine, a neat trail town.  There are three motels and at least as many cafes.  The motel I stayed at was okay.  The food at the little cafe, El Sarape, was great, and there’s a grocery, of sorts.  In keeping with the “gotta be famous for something” concept out here, Quemado was home many years ago to a grand entourage of rodeo cowboys that roamed about with the western shows.  They called a nearby canyon home.  Don’t know their names. The word, quemado, is Spanish for burned.  That makes sense.  Everything around here is brown.

Going out of town this morning, I pass a sign that says Quemado sits on the site of what was an extinct volcano.  That sets me wondering, isn’t it still extinct?

The next place for any services–that means water–is fifty miles west, so I’m toting a ton of water, which wasn’t needed.  But better safe than sorry.  At twenty-four miles comes the crossroads of Red Hill, where there’s a realty office.  And although they’re closed, there’s an outside spigot that works.  I fill up again and head for the Arizona border some eleven miles west.  Dusk beats me though, so I pull off and pitch, just one mile short.  This will be my last night in New Mexico.

Getting across this state has taken a very long time, and it has been a long, long walk.

Thursday–October 10, 2002
Trail Day–129
Trail Mile–2892
Location–US60, Springerville, Arizona, White Mountain Motel

As soon as the sun drops behind the mountain, the temperature drops right along with it now.  I’d sure rather bury way down in my Feathered Friends bag, though, and have cold nights, than have the sun drilling me like it was through Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.  These recent days have been great for hiking, cool and clear, with just the least breeze.  I’m out and off to another perfect one today.

Just as the sun comes up, I reach the border between New Mexico and Arizona.  Here is the zero mile marker for New Mexico, and mile marker 401 for Arizona.  Numbers like 401 don’t deter me anymore though, because I know I’ll get the miles whittled away.  And when I cross into California, there’ll be only half that distance, a little over 200 miles remaining.

To my delight, when I reach Springerville, I’ve picket up another hour.  Arizona ignores daylight savings time, so they’re in the same time zone as California part of the year.  So I’m in at eleven-thirty!  And this is a neat trail town.  Restaurants and the post office right near White Mountain Motel, a very clean, reasonably priced place.  I’ve done 50 miles in the last two days, and I’m in before noon.  That’ll work!

Another famous and historic western town, Springerville, Arizona.  Coronado passed through here.  In 1910, the “Ocean to Ocean” auto tour road was built through here, and to support it–and remaining to this day–the oldest Ford dealership west of the Mississippi!

Friday–October 11, 2002
Trail Day–130
Trail Mile–2921
Location–US60, pitched under Pinon Pine by road west of Vernon, Arizona

Heading out of Springerville this morning, and across from the post office where I bounce my box along to Blythe, California, stands another beautiful statue of “Madonna of the Trail.”  This likeness of a pioneer woman with long dress, sun bonnet, and a smiling child on her hip is even larger and more striking than the one in Council Grove, Kansas.  I don’t suppose there’ve been many who’ve walked through Springerville from such a far distance since those days depicted by the Madonna.  This statue certainly reminds me that many then surely suffered and endured in their passing of these incredibly long, open spaces–as have I.

Also near the west end of town is the old movie theatre.  It has been modernized, the old adobe walls plastered over, but it is still the same building where silent movies were first shown in Springerville.  The original popcorn machine has survived all the “flicks” since those bygone times, and is still happily popping away!

By quarter to five, I’m at the neat little Midway Store near Vernon.  This gives me fifteen minutes to look around, get a couple burritos warmed up in the microwave, and pick up some chips and a pop.  There’s a payphone on the wall outside and an old wood stump to sit on while calling family back in Florida.

As the owner walks by with the cash tray, to his home right next, he wishes me well on the remainder of my trek.

I manage three more miles west before the sun sets on me.  As dark descends, I clear the scatter of volcanic rock from under a Pinon Pine, set my tent, and call it a day.

Saturday–October 12, 2002
Trail Day–131
Trail Mile–2948
Location–SR260, Linden, Arizona, thence to home of Don and Jeanette Gullett, Pinetop, Arizona

I’m up and on the road early, with childlike anticipation, for this evening I’ve been invited to the home of Don and Jeanette Gullett.  Don and I were classmates during our time in professional school in Memphis, Tennessee.  The last time we saw each other was on graduation day in 1966.  That was thirty-six years ago!

I arrive just before noon at Dr. Gullett’s office.  His receptionist looks at me with puzzled amusement when I tell her that Don and I are friends, and that he is expecting me.

Don has done very well in the thirty-six years since I saw him last (put on a little weight, though).
He’s got his own modern office right on the main drag–called “Deuce of Clubs.”  The name of the town and many of the streets, well, that’s another story.  We spend good time in his lounge before I head back out again to chalk up a few more miles before dark.

Don comes to fetch me at four, then whisks me away to his lovely old home in Pinetop.  Here I see Jeanette again.  We sit and enjoy a great time–and a great steak dinner!  What a great day!

Sunday–October 13, 2002
Trail Day–132
Trail Mile–2978
Location–SR260, Heber, Arizona, Canyon View Motel

I had a great time with my old friends, the Gulletts, in Pinetop.  It’s amazing what one can accumulate from day-to-day over thirty-six years.  Their house–plus sheds and a garage–are packed with all sorts of it.  For example, Don still has his first automobile, a 34 Ford five window coupe.  It’s stored in the garage, with lots and lots of other stuff.  A 34 Ford, folks, amazing!

Now, let me tell you about Show Low and the origin of this town with the peculiar name.  Seems as though, back in the mid to late eighteen-hundreds, there were two families cooperatively ranching 100,000 acres of range in Arizona.  They soon realized the land could not support two families, so they decided that one of them needed to go.  Problem was, neither wanted to buy the other out.  They finally decided to settle the matter over a game of poker known as seven-up.  In this card game, seven cards are dealt to each player.  Each then turns a card up.  The high card takes the point.  And so the game goes to the last card.  In this game, each of the gentlemen had won three  points.  So, the winner was to be determined by the turn of the last card.  Clark, one of the gentlemen, knew that his odds of winning with a three, his last card were slim to none.  So, he said to Cooley, the other gentlemen, “show low” and you win.  Cooley turned up the lowly deuce of clubs.  By winning the last point, Cooley retained his 50,000 acres, and became the sole owner of the entire ranch, including Clark’s 50,000 acres.  The ranch became known as Show Low Ranch.  Clark lost the card game–and his land, but managed to keep something much more valuable, his friendship with Cooley.  They became partners in land development, creating a town in Arizona now known as Show Low.  Oh, and the main drag is called Deuce of Clubs!

Don and Jeanette have me back on the road by six-thirty, on a cool, clear day.  I hike it on into Heber for the evening and pull off at Canyon View Motel.

Thanks, Don and Jeanette, for your kindness and hospitality!

Monday–October 14, 2002
Trail Day–133
Trail Mile–3007
Location–SR260, west of Mogollon Rim, thence to Budget Inn, Payson, Arizona

Another day of great excitement and anticipation, for today I’ll see my very dear friend, Dan “Sheltowee” Rogers.  Dan’s true “hiker trash” from way back.  With thousands of trail miles behind him, he began an incredible hiker’s hiker odyssey in 2001.  Coming out of his home in Stubenville, Ohio, he headed southwest, through every state, clear to Arizona.  Here, last April, he interrupted his transcontinental hike in Payson, the little town just ahead of me here in Arizona.  For the past few weeks, we’ve been in touch and have made plans to link our individual odysseys in Payson, then continue west together to the Pacific Ocean at San Diego.  I’ve been hoping on hope that all would work out, that we would be able to get together as planned.

Well, Dan will be picking me up at the end of this day, on SR260, just below the Mogollon Rim, here, east of Payson, thence to shuttle me on into Payson!  Tomorrow morning, he’ll bring me back out, to complete the remaining 25 miles or so into Payson, then, Wednesday morning we’ll head for the Pacific together!

The terrain changes drastically today.  I see the last of the grand, majestic Ponderosa Pine as I drop down, down, down, off the Mogollon Rim.  In the midst of extensive highway construction on SR260, and right on cue, Dan comes to fetch me.  Oh, what a great day, seeing my old friend again–out here in what seems the middle of nowhere.

Tuesday–October 15, 2002
Trail Day–134
Trail Mile–3030
Location–SR260, Payson, Arizona, Budget Inn.

Dan and I had a great time last, catching up on everything in our respective lives since we last hiked together way back on the Appalachian Trail.

I’m out again to the dust and dirt at the construction site on SR260 before eight as Dan drops me off, waves and heads back to Payson.  This is the day I’ve been waiting for, as I’ll finally catch up with Sheltowee in Payson today.

The nice, fully-paved shoulder gives way and the traffic is heavy and flying.  By mid-afternoon, and as I’m hypnotically plodding along, I hear, “Nomad, hey Nomad.”  I stop and turn to see Sheltowee standing in front of the local American Legion.  Arm and arm, in we go, to laugh and have a few cold ones.  Then it’s back to the hike as I hammer the remaining mile to the motel.

In the evening, it’s a great steak and baked potato–in the company of a great friend!  Ah yes, life is good!

Wednesday–October 15, 2002
Trail Day–135
Trail Mile–3052
Location–Bull Spring, Mazantzal Wilderness, Tonto National Forest, Arizona

This morning Sheltowee and I are out together, heading west into the Mazatzal Wilderness, a vast tract of rugged mountainous terrain that ranges in altitude from 1,300 to over 11,000 feet, smack in the middle of the 3,000,000 acre Tonto National Forest.

The pavement is quickly behind us as we climb the rutted, boulder-strewn road, up, up, up.  It’s so good to have company again, to be hiking with a seasoned, veteran hiker, my friend, Sheltowee.  Loneliness can become such a daunting, clenching, crushing foe.  In awhile we reach a locked gate that controls vehicle access to the wilderness.  There are still a couple of sprawling ranches totally within the forest.  First comes Doll Baby Ranch, then LF Ranch.  Doll Baby seems remote enough, way back at what we thought was the end of the “road.”  But, miles beyond, and as we struggle up, down, around and through rocks, deep powder dirt, and yawning washouts that would swallow a tank–and as we near LF Ranch, we hear a vehicle approaching.  To our disbelief, comes lumbering an old two-ton stake truck, two cowboys–and a cow, all lurching wildly.

What luck, as we’re already in a quandary as to our location.  The happy-go-lucky fellow driving gives us good directions–along with a frowning comment as to what we were about to head into.

Oh yes, throw the mileage measuring gauges out–might as well just throw the maps away, too, for little did we know the weird time warp we were about to enter.  Our first trail junction looks to be about two miles out.  We climb, climb, and climb some more.  We’re above the ranches now, above all the low-lying ridges–one hour, two hours–no junction.  Surely we’ve missed our turn, but at the top of the climb, and in this gap, we finally reach our first turn, hours after we should have been here.  We had planned on reaching the Verde River by nightfall.  As we look at the map, to our dismay, we find we’ve barely covered any of the distance to the river.  “It’s closer to forty miles out there; it’ll take you days to reach the river,” echo now the words of the rancher.  Not near as smug, the gravity of his words begin to sink in.  “He doesn’t know the kind of miles we can cover,” I remember thinking.  Now I’m thinking, “We better start covering some miles if we’re gonna get out of here; we’ve got two days of food, that’s all!”

By late evening we’re both out of water.  We’re in the true high desert now, for earlier we passed the first saguaro cactus, the tall human-looking cactus with arms.  The map shows a spring ahead.  It’s ahead all right, way ahead.  We’re in luck, the spring has stopped running, but there are tadpoles at home, swimming the water in both tanks.  Sheltowee pumps the green haze out of quarts and quarts of it.  Our thirst finally slaked, we pitch for the night above the dry gulch next the spring.  We’re already rationing food in anticipation of an extended stay, much longer than two days, in these heavenly heaved-up crags of the Mazatzal Wilderness.

Thursday–October 16, 2002
Trail Day–136
Trail Mile–3069
Location–FR18/Verde River, Mazatzal Wilderness, Tonto National Forest, Arizona

I pitched last night, tent fly on but rolled back.  About three, and with haste,  I scurried out to pull it down as a heavy electric storm lumbered through.  Okay, so apparently it does rain in the desert.

By seven the storm moves on east and the sky clears, revealing that remarkable haze-free blue that’s typical of the desert, clear, clear to the horizon.  We’re out and moving before eight, bound for the Verde River.  Hopefully, we’ll get there today–where we’d hoped to be yesterday.  Mid-morning, our first stop is Cow Trap Spring, a little trickle next an old line shack.  Here, we water-up and have a bite to eat–a cheese sandwich each.

As we venture further into the wilderness, and at seemingly every turn and rise, is revealed more and varyied species of cactus–tall, skinny ones, stumpy, barrel-shaped ones, spindly branched ones, puffy, cuddly-looking ones, each with its unmistakable needles, darts and quills.  One particularly natty fellow comes on in unavoidable abundance–as the day also comes on.  It’s called “jumping cholla,” for it seems to literally jump to impale with its ball of spikes.  We’ve named it “holy jumping hollow-points,” for once the spikes penetrate the skin they seem to literally explode, making them painful and almost impossible to extract, worse than an augered-in tick!

By early afternoon, we finally reach the Verde River, but we’re unable to find the trail crossing.  The Verde is a formidable river, wide and rolling.  We look upstream, downstream, reluctantly settling on an area of rapids.  We both make the ford safely, but the going is slow and scary.  Once on the far side, we’re unable to find a trace of trail or the road leading west.  Our maps show a forest road within a few-hundred yards of the river, but as we climb a ridge nearest for vantage, there is no road to be found within miles.  Something is wrong, badly wrong.  Time to keep cool heads, to make right decisions.  Flashes through my mind now the rancher’s heedful words of warning, “People have perished in the Mazatzal.”  We wisely decide to turn back.  Once more, reluctantly, we ford the fast-rushing Verde.  By the time we return to the trail junction high on the ridge east of the Verde it’s mid-afternoon.  Studying the maps, we decide to continue hiking south, following the trail along the Verde River canyon.  At least we’ll have water nearby should our journey here turn even more protracted.

By late evening, the trail leads us once again to the Verde River.  Across the river, high on the river bluff is another corral, another line shack.  The river here is wide and shallow, so we decide to ford again, to spend the night at the line shack.  Thunderheads have been building full around all day, and as the evening settles, they unify their strength, bringing down a crashing crescendo of thunder and lightning.  We fill our water bottles, then make haste to the shelter of the rusty tin building.  We’re no sooner in than the wind drives through in a rage–but there comes no rain, not a drop.  Supper today is another cheese sandwich apiece.

We think we are at Sheep Bridge.  We know we are on the Verde River.  Tomorrow we will find that we’re half right–but out here half right isn’t good, not good at all.

Friday–October 17, 2002
Trail Day–137
Trail Mile–3092
Location–Horseshoe Dam, Tonto National Forest, Arizona

Thinking we’re at Sheep Bridge and looking at our maps, shows a forest service road leading further south beside the winding Verde, all the way to Horseshoe Reservoir at Humboldt Mountain.  So, we ford the Verde once again to search for the road–no road, not a trace of a road anywhere. Decision time again.  Again we decide to stick to the Verde and continue south on a rugged bushwhack, in hopes of intersecting the road at some point.

Here, the river goes to meandering, as rivers often do, into incredible oxbows and wide sweeping bends.  The canyon is deep, with sheer cliffs towering nearly a thousand feet.  The canyon rim becomes interrupted now, much as is the canyon of the far-off Restigouche in Canada.  Gulches cut deep, carving out their own canyons, with their individual overhanging bluffs, to reach far inland of the river.  Putting these rim gaps behind us is incredibly slow.  We must scramble through loose rock, shale and the ubiquitous cactus, for what seems like mile after painfully dangerous mile before returning to the main canyon wall.  Time and again we search our maps for some hint of order to this incredible jumble.  The mountains, the cliffs, the canyons, they’re so massive, so magnificent and majestic–but there seems no rhyme or reason.  We are lost.  We’re right next the Verde River alright, but we’re sure as hell lost!

Finally, claiming yet another steep cactus choked ridge, happens a faint trail.  We jump on it.  Hey, it’s going where we want to go.  It’s getting more defined, there’s cairns now.  This is a trail!  In awhile, we reach a fence, a gate.  The sign reads, “Mazatzal Wilderness, Tonto National Forest.”  We’re out of the wilderness now, but where are we?  Finally, the puzzle pieces together as Sheltowee heaves a sigh of relief, followed by, “Oh, no!”

Well folks, the reason nothing has made sense on the maps is because we’re nowhere near as far along as we thought.  Two seasoned backpackers–we should have known, or at least suspected as much.  Where we had expected to be on our first night in the wilderness had taken us two full hiking days to reach.

At two in the afternoon we finally reach Sheep Bridge, a beautiful pedestrian (sheep) bridge over the long, sweeping Verde.  Here we meet folks out on their quad-tracs for the day, Bob and Bev Wright and Bob Dill.  They load us up with all the food they’ve brought for the day.  From here, we hike on down the road we were looking for all morning, to the reservoir at Horseshoe Lake.  Here we pitch for the night by the dam outfall to hastily down the MRE given us by the Wrights.  Tomorrow we’ll finally complete our “two day” hike through the Mazatzal Wildernes.

Saturday–October 18, 2002
Trail Day–138
Trail Mile–3117
Location–Cave Creek Road/Scottsdale Road, Carefree, Arizona, thence to Motel 6, Phoenix

The excitement, the adrenaline-pump of chancing through the wilderness is behind us now.  We’re up, break camp and are on our way toward Carefree by eight.  Ahead of us today is a road walk, a good bit uphill as we pull away from the Verde River canyon.  Beginning the climb at the reservoir, we’re at 2,120 feet, reaching 3,740 feet at the gap by Humboldt Mountain.

Gaining the pass, we turn for one more look back at Squaw Butte, Cactus Ridge, and the grand, towering massif of Mazatzal.  Before us and on the southern horizon loom the mysterious Superstitions and Weaver’s Needle.

As we head on down the mountain I’m thinking, much as when the hike was all downhill toward the conclusion of “Odyssey 2000-01”–the excitement of it will add spice to life’s great memories, but at the same time, I’m definitely ready for the ending.  We’ll be in California in just another week.

In Carefree, there are few commercial businesses despite a population of nearly 5,000.  The place is Ritz beyond description.  Even the main power, where usually there’s clutter after clutter of poles, is all underground.  There are no signs, even on the municipal buildings.  At the main intersection, there’s a lone forty year old Shell station–and it looks like they’ll be pushed out soon.

After three nights and four days in the wilderness, we’re ready for a shower, a good meal and a bed, so we call a cab and head for Phoenix.

Sunday–October 19, 2002
Trail Day–139
Trail Mile–3117
Location–Carefree/Phoenix, Arizona, Motel 6

We have decided to burn a day and rest our bones.  I haven’t taken any time from the hike since coming back on at Santa Fe.  I get caught up on journal entries and email while Sheltowee enjoys the football game.
In the evening, we are picked up by Sheri “Second Chance” Guida, who I met on the Appalachian Trail during “Odyssey ’98.”  Sheri lives nearby in Peoria, Arizona.  First, we run by REI to get new Leki tips for Dan’s hiking sticks, then it’s to Sheri’s lovely home for a sensational pasta dinner.

Monday–October 21, 2002
Trail Day–140
Trail Mile–3141
Location–SR74, Lake Pleasant Aqueduct, Arizona

Second Chance comes for us at seven to shuttle us back to Carefree.  Along, we stop at a Good Egg, a local breakfast place for some more hiker fuel.  It’s great to chat and spend some time with Second Chance again.  We met, then said good-bye, by chance, at The Place in Damascus, Virginia, in ’98.  Second Chance had used up her “second chance” and was leaving the Appalachian Trail, and I was on my northbound AMT/ECT jaunt at the time.  In my book, “Ten Million Steps,” I recall commenting, with much sadness, about the reality–the likelihood of never seeing may of these new friends, ever again, folks that had sought shelter that rainy night under the old tin roof at The Place.  So, indeed, it is a joy to see Second Chance again, clear out here in Phoenix, Arizona.  Thanks, Second Chance, thanks for your help, for your kindness.

We’ve got just one turn to make today, off Scottsdale Road onto Carefree Highway.  Plodding, we walk right past it.  Sheltowee says, “I think that’s our turn,” then with heads down, we both walk right through it–for a mile and a half.  After awhile, we finally turn around, adding the additional three miles to the twenty-four for the day.  “In the morning after blues, with my head down to my shoes–Carefree Highway, let me slip away–slip away on you.”  Don’t know if Gordon Lightfoot ever tripped down Carefree Highway, but he sure pegged it for Sheltowee and me, we both had our heads down to our shoes this morning.

It’s another blue-perfect day in the desert, what else!  Guess that’s what attracts the hob-nobs and retirees to this barren desolation of boulders, rocks–and cactus and mounds of sand and dirt.  Through the bluntly naked starkness of it, there does present a forbidding-yet-seductive sort of raw beauty all about.  The jagged horizon for 360 does little to soften the edges, but the wide, powder-blue dome above goes far to tone down and burnish the harsh, hard, brass of it.  I could never get used to living out here.  Give me a soft, green meadow, back dropped by that warm, purple mountain majesty, a gently rolling river through–and close down this incredible ocean of sky; there’s my place, my home.

It’s a long day of pounding to reach the only water in miles, the Lake Pleasant Aqueduct leading to Phoenix.  Sheltowee boosts me up and over the chain-link fence where I pump water for the evening and for all of tomorrow.

What a glorious night under the desert sky, stars and satellites, and a near-full moon–but, oh yes, never far away, the eighteen-wheelers jake-braking the hill down.

Tuesday–October 22, 2002
Trail Day–141
Trail Mile–3172
Location–US60, Wickenburg, Arizona, AmericInn

Dan slept under the stars on his Therm-a-Rest.  I had my little Nomad up, without the fly.
It’s full no-seeum, all four panels, just like under the stars.  I like being away from the creepy-crawlies, all my things where I can find them next morning.

We’re up and out a little after six as we’ve got a thirty into Wickenburg.  That’s the next water source along our route.  We no sooner get crankin’ than both of us bail off by the rocks and creosote bushes to tend our daily duty.  Dan comes back on the road wild-eyed.  Seems that where he squatted was also the home for one of the locals–a sidewinder.  A few not-so-friendly rattles had let Dan know he wasn’t welcome.

Only a mile or so further we chance upon our first tarantula.  Danged if these aren’t bigspiders!  Then, just a little further along, Dan breaks the monotony, the noise of our clicking poles, as he opines that he’ll probably pitch his tent, too, from now on!

The road to Wickenburg is straight and long, clear to the wide, unreachable horizon.  We plod toward it, each in our separate hypnotic trance.  Distances out here absolutely defy measure.  Wheels hack at the miles faster, but roads that lift in a mirage to the sky testeven the most patient.  Walking that path, well, that’s another matter entirely.  Indeed,
to walk these barren landscapes leads one onto, then down the endless treadmill of time–I
see Sheltowee moving, he can certainly see me moving, but the roadway, the mountainsalong, everything seems to be making the journey with us.  Ahh, but it’s just another of those days, I suppose, one more day in the woof and warp that bends and weaves the fabric of everything.

We arrive Wickenburg late evening.  Once again the sun has beat us in.  We’re both very tired, ready for an oasis.  We find it in the form of AmericInn, where we pull off andcall it a day.

Wednesday–October 23, 2002
Trail Day–142
Trail Mile–3172
Location–US60, Wickenburg, Arizona, AmericInn

The road west will be there tomorrow.  This is a day for much needed rest.

Thursday–October 24, 2002
Trail Day–143
Trail Mile–3199
Location–US60, Aguila, Arizona, Burro Jim Motel

What a great stay at the AmericInn of Wickenburg, first class all the way.  The people,
the service, the best.  Thanks Marilu and Bill, and Betty Sheri, Louie, Cheryl, Courtney,
Debbie, Carolyn, Brandon and Anthony.

We’re out a little before seven to hike the remainder of Wickenburg.  But first, it’s a stop at McDonalds for breakfast, then to the food mart for a few snacks for the day.  Then we’re bound for the little village of Aguilla, some 27 miles to the west on another cool, clear day.

More wide open spaces, and more long, straight highway.  The traffic is light, however, and there’s a fully paved shoulder.  Conditions just couldn’t be much better.  And we break below the 100 mile mark for Arizona today.  Less than 100 miles to the last stateline…California!

By late afternoon, we’ve done the miles to pull in to the Burro Jim Motel.  It’s been a good hiking day.

Friday–October 25, 2002
Trail Day–144
Trail Mile–3228
Location–US60, Salome, Arizona, Sheffler’s Motel

Great stay at the Burro Jim Motel–and the next door bar with all the gang, Sandra, Sandra, Topaz, Debbie, and Jimmy.

We’re out to another fine day, although a long one, 29 miles, and no water.  Dan’s been having some breakin with his feet again, but he’s a trooper, taking off full tilt, pushing all the way through.

It’s another wide and seemingly endless valley-walk on the highlands of Arizona, mountains looming both sides the entire distance.  One interesting mountain is named Eagle Eye Peak.  Near the summit sits a huge rock, which, with the light reflecting from it, appears the mountain has a hole clear through it, thus the interesting name, as it shines likes an eagle’s eye.

Before sunset, we arrive at the little town of Salome–to a motel and cafe right by.  This has been a fine day.

Saturday–October 26, 2002
Trail Day–145
Trail Mile–3250
Location–US60, Brenda, Arizona, Black Rock Motel

A storm has slammed the coast of Mexico, moving across south into Texas leaving the weather very unsettled north and west of us.  I’m up at six and head over to the food mart for coffee.  On the way back to the motel room the rain begins, so Sheltowee and I sit back and enjoy our coffee before making a dash for the cafe for breakfast.

By the time we’re out and hiking at eight, the skies have cleared to the west, bringing a cool, wind free morning.  US60 follows a long, expansive valley with majestic sawtooth mountains looming on both sides.  We climbed into this high valley Thursday coming out of Wickenburg and have been in it ever since.  Looks like we’ll continue for at least another day.  More dust devils to entertain us, high, near-perfect columns of dirt whipped and swirled upward toward the sky for hundreds of feet.

I finally must hike awhile in the rain, as the clouds come across the mountain draped with curtains of gray.  We don our foul weather gear for just awhile, until the rain moves on past.  This is the first I’ve hiked in the rain since western Missouri.

Lots of quail today–and bigger birds, fighters flying maneuvers up and down the valley.

Fourteen more days to the sea.  One more night in Arizona.  We’ll cross into California day after tomorrow.  It’s great having company; Sheltowee and me, we’re having a grand time.

Sunday–October 27, 2002
Trail Day–146
Trail Mile–3268
Location–I-10, Quartzite, Arizona, pitched in dry wash across from McDonalds

The storm of yesterday is way east of us now, but it’s still visible on the eastern horizon.  We’re off to another cool, clear morn as we hike our last full day in Arizona.  401 miles is a very long distance to watch the mile markers slowly tick down.

Four miles into the hike today we run out of US60, a wide-shouldered friend that has treated us very kind.  I-10 has buried the western extent of this great highway, as there is no room through the passes for both.  At ten we hike down the on ramp to I-10.  Within minutes, we see the flashing lights of a patrol car coming toward us.  Seems it hasn’t taken long to face the music.  But just as it appears we’ve had it, the officer pulls a motorist over right in front of us.  As we continue, we must pass the patrolman.  He greets us with a hello and a smile.  After four or five minutes of conversation, he gets around to explaining that pedestrian traffic is not permitted on the interstate.  The lady in the auto gets fidgety.  Finally, she comes out of her vehicle and walks back toward us.  The officer motions her back, telling her to be patient, that he’ll be with her shortly.  Shortly lasts another five minutes as officer Parker becomes intrigued with our respective odysseys.  In awhile, he nods his head and motions us on west–along I-10.

The truckers have quite the diversion today, two hikers walking the interstate shoulder. Most all give us the high sign, and many pull the air horn chain.  The traffic is rolling hard and steady, but it’s great fun–a diversion for us, too.

In the evening, we take the exit to Quartzite to look for a room for the night.  There are two motels within a block of each other.  Seems they’re in cahoots.  Both are dumps.  Both want fifty bucks for a room.  Neither one has phones.  We opt to pitch for the night, a good decision.  The evening is cool, and we find the perfect spot, a dry wash less than a block from McDonalds.

Monday–October 28, 2002
Trail Day–147
Trail Mile–3293
Location–I-10, Blythe, California, Royal Pacific Inn

Another day of excited anticipation.  Today, I will cross the final state line on this transcontinental odyssey–California!  By seven-fifteen, we’re back to the grind of I-10.  There’s seventeen miles of Arizona remaining, all interstate.  By twelve-fifteen, we’ve knocked them out.  We’re at the Colorado River, the state line between Arizona and California.  What a moment for me.  North Carolina is behind me, Virginia is behind me, so, too, for DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, the Oklahoma Panhandle, the northwest corner of Texas, New Mexico and now Arizona, over thirty-two hundred miles.  California and the desert is all that lies between me and the Pacific Ocean.  This odyssey is within two weeks of becoming history.  Yes, this is a special time–standing here on the Colorado River bridge.  Getting here’s been a long, long haul.

From the river, it’s a short hike along a little-used road into Blythe.  Crossing the Colorado has put us in the Pacific Time zone, so we pick up another hour.  First stop is the post office where I retrieve my bounce box.  Oh, and lots of mail!  Sheltowee has picked up an add booklet with motel coupons.  After a little review we beat it to the best deal, Royal Pacific Inn right downtown.

Tuesday–October 29, 2002
Trail Day–148
Trail Mile–3310
Location–SR78, Palo Verde, California, Lagoon Lodge

As we hike out from Blythe, I try to remember, but there is no way I can remember all the great friends I’ve seen along this hike.  Like, just this past Sunday entering Quartzite–a car pulled to the curb; the driver waved with much jubilation, passed, then turned and returned.  As soon as I saw the guy, I told Sheltowee, “This fellow and me, we’ve met before.”  Sure enough, it’s old Billy Goat.  We me at the ALDHA Gathering a number of years ago.  He was present at my first Gathering presentation that year.  Billy Goat has hiked the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail, the three trails collectively and commonly known among hiking circles as “The Triple Crown.”  Billy Goat is a true hiking veteran.  We had a grand time talking trail at a local watering hole in Quartzite.

The hike today zigs and zags along SR78, through the lush hay fields along the Valley of the Colorado.  Desert soil is fertile soil.  Lack of water is the reason things don’t grow out here, but where there’s water, as here in the valley, the miles and miles of flats can be irrigated.  And that’s just what they do.  It seems incredible, but it is true that the hay farmers hereabouts get seventeen cuts a year from their irrigated fields, one every three weeks.  So, passing through today, we’re thinking it’s harvest time, what with the mowers, rakes, and balers running, and the eighteen wheelers hauling, but what we see is just business as usual.  Here, they’ve even got forklifts that are tagged and run the highways at sixty plus!

So along we go, following the irrigation canals, first south, then west, then back south again, along the perfectly squared sections of land.  Shortly comes a car and pulls to the shoulder, and we’re joyfully greeted by Cindy, the kind barmaid we’d met yesterday at the American Legion in Blythe.  She’s headed to work and stops to wish us well on the remainder of our journey.  By two-thirty, we’re in Palo Verde, a short, wide spot in the road.  Here’s a post office, two bars, a restaurant and motel (four rooms), a Laundromat and food mart, all within a two block area.  Palo Verde is a trail town!

We check into the Lagoon Lodge, then hit the Lagoon Saloon for supper, a few cold ones–and a friendly game of pool.  It’s been a fine day, for sure.

Wednesday–October 30, 2002
Trail Day–149
Trail Mile–3334
Location–SR78, pitched behind Border Patrol Station near Buzzards Peak, California

We had a really great stay last at Lagoon Lodge…and a great breakfast this morning at Lagoon Saloon.  Dan ordered ham with his eggs and taters.  Dang, tell you what, I’ve never seen such a serving of ham!  Two half-inch slices from the top of the hock, a full eight inches in diameter.  Dan tried, but he just couldn’t put it away.  I ordered bacon with my eggs and had the waitress pack the bacon in a Ziploc to stoke me later.

A block down, heading west out of town is a local grocery store.  I load up for the next three days we’ll spend crossing (more of) the desert–burritos, plenty of cheese, crackers, and, oh yes, sugar candy.  Palo Verde is one great little trail town–add this little place in the southwestern desert to the list of great trail towns!  The gals at Lagoon Saloon even remembered Swamp Eagle, my dear hiking friend from Florida, who passed through on his transcontinental horseback trek a few years ago.

Dan heads out ahead of me.  The day is another perfect one, cool and wind-free.  We just couldn’t have timed our hike across the desert any better.  What a wonderful payoff for all we’ve endured–the rain, the cold, the relentless, pressing, blistering heat, the constant wind, and all the dismal days of just grinding the miles along this disappearing road to the endless horizon.

We continue passing square miles of irrigated alfalfa fields, the tractors working their perennial crop.  Past the last irrigation canal, we climb away to the west again, toward Palo Verde Peak.

The passing hay trucks, the drivers who’ve come to know us–and who wonk-wonk as they pass, offer some diversion to the desert left and desert right.  By late evening, we’ve banged out another 24, to pull into the Border Patrol Station.  The place is shut down, has been for awhile.  We pitch behind, to spend the evening scanning the crystal clear, star-filled desert sky…a great way to spend the first day of my 64th year on this earth.

Thursday–October 31, 2002
Trail Day–150
Trail Mile–3359
Location–SR78, pitches in desert west of Algodones Dunes, Chocolate Mountains, California

Dan made a sweep through the desert a few weeks ago while waiting for me to catch up with him in Payson, Arizona.  Along the way, he cached a few gallons of water at strategic points.  What a joy yesterday and again this morning to arrive at the little oasis spots he’d placed for us.

Our hike today takes us further southwest, past old gold mines right and left, remains of the diggings still evident.  I just don’t know how the old sourdoughs survived out here, hacking at the dirt and rocks, no water within fifty miles, but it’s apparent they did.  There’s commercial mining here now, with piles of tailings that look like mountains themselves–and miles and miles of six-foot high chain link fence with razor wire on top, presumably to “protect” the few turtles that somehow manage to survive in this God-forsaken place.  Fences with razor wire to protect turtles.  No fences, whatsoever, to protect us, to keep us out of the vast naval aerial gunnery and bombing range all along the road–weird.  But then, we are in California now.

By early afternoon, we’ve reached the “beach,” named for the Imperial sand dunes–but there’s no water, a minor oversight.  Officially, the 200+ square miles of pure, uninterrupted, undulating waves of sands are known as Imperial Dunes Recreation Area.  Dune buggies, quad tracs, motorcycles and cool-looking jeeps are everywhere.  The two, big weekends of the year are upcoming.  Estimates are for over 100,000 people to show for great fun.  The whacko (socialistic) element of the environmental movement, they’ve been here, too, oh yes.  Predictably, and true to form, they’ve managed to come up with something labeled “endangered”–a little clump of “rare” grass that supposedly grows nowhere else but here in these dunes.  They’ve managed to shut down part of the area.  Of course, they could care less about eliminating this multi-billion dollar industry that helps support the southern California economy–that shrouded agenda being their true objective.  It’s sad, it really is, because what damage is being done to the dunes, if indeed there is any, will be quickly erased by the next good windstorm that comes driving through–along with the little clumps of rare grass.

Hiking up and over the dunes is near a spiritual experience.  The heaped-up mounds, the uninterrupted, undulating waves of sand stretching to and beyond the horizon, it’s baffling.  There is no number that man could possibly conceive let alone ever comprehend, to get a handle on the individual and infinite number of grains of sand that make up this little corner God’s vast creation.

Hundreds and hundreds of vehicles towing campers and trailers loaded with ORVs pass us as we hike on west.  At dusk we pull off to stealth camp on the road fringe next the bombing range

Friday–November 1, 2002
Trail Day–151
Trail Mile–3383
Location–SR78, Brawley, Califoria, Townhouse Lodge

Yesterday was a great hiking day.  Late afternoon, as Sheltowee and I shared the joy of it, and at that very moment did the hike turn even better.  A SUV pulled to the shoulder, with both driver and passenger bailing out to greet us with beaming smiles.  There we met Kelly and Dick, two weekend sand rats.  Lots of questions, but not before the hatch door came open, the cooler lid went up–and Sheltowee and me both had an ice cold Coors shoved in our hands!  Yes, it was one fine day.

We hit the road early this morning. No sooner do we get cranking than we arrive at Sheltowee’s last water cache.  Perfect planning, Sheltowee! We load, then hook the empty container to my pack.  We’re graced with yet another cool, clear day for trekking west.  By mid-morning we drop off East Mesa into the lush Imperial Valley.  We’ve been hiking the high elevations, with low desert humidity for many, many days, but in less than an hour, we’re dropping below sea level–zero, minus 100, minus 200, and we’re still dropping, as the humidity climbs.  I’m not used to this moisture, and my shirt and hiking shorts soon become soaked with perspiration.  But no complaints, no complaints at all.

The mountains are behind us for awhile now, the hazy horizon that is characteristic of California before us.  No more rugged, sawteeth’s looming, which we’ve become accustomed to seeing at the edge, converging with the blue across the wide, bold Arizona and California expanse of desert.  Our destination today is the town of Brawley.  As we continue west, does the line of campers and truck-drawn ORV trailers continue east to the “beach.”  It’s really quite remarkable, the numbers that pass us.  Off-road riding the sand is obviously great sport for both individuals and families.

By late morning we’re in Brawley to check into the Townhouse Lodge.  It’s steak and baked potato for supper.  Late evening, just as Sheltowee and I try guessing the location of his good friend, Dodger, comes a knock on our door–it’s Dodger!  Dennis Ham, trail name, Dodger, has hiked along with Sheltowee off and on since he left his home in Ohio to trek around this grand country.  Sheltowee had called him weeks ago and invited him to  come west to spend the remaining few days with us and shuttle us around.  Dodger and me, we’re friends, too, and it’s great to see him again.  Another great day.  Got to make the best of these remaining days west, not many left till we reach Old Point Loma Lighthouse, at the ocean, San Diego.

Saturday–November 2, 2002
Trail Day–152
Trail Mile–3404
Location–SR,S80 Seeley, California, thence to Coronado Motel, El Centro

The hike today takes us further south toward El Centro, the road following along the New River with canals feeding the lush valley hay and vegetable fields.  Dodger checks on us from time to time.  The traffic is light along Austin Road and we’re at El Centro, making the turn west by noon.  Another six miles to the little village of Seeley and we call it a day.  Dodger shuttles us back to El Centro where I Yogi a hiker trash deal at the Coronado Motel.  Prime rib and baked potato.  Another tough day!

Sunday–November 3, 2002
Trail Day–153
Trail Mile–3404
Location–Coronado Motel, El Centro, California

Sheltowee and I cranked in some slack as we worked  our tentative final-days itinerary a couple of weeks ago.  Today being Sunday, and being on schedule as we are, decision is to burn a day.  El Centro has all the conveniences–and we got wheels, so we’ll stick here till tomorrow.  Stock car racing, football–yup, another tough day!

Monday–November 4, 2002
Trail Day–154
Trail Mile–3425
Location–SR-S80/I-8, Ocotillo, California, Ocotillo Motel

Coffee and glazed donuts, and we’re in the van and heading back to Seeley.  Dodger has us trekking west before seven.  Oh yes, another blue-perfect day in the California desert.  By eight-thirty, we reach the little berg of Dixieland.  Just west of the city limits stands this bar, just east of the city limits stands this bar–same bar, the Desert Fox Saloon, owned and operated by Mike DeSoto.  The old codger’s got Playboy magazines on the bar, autographed pinups gracing the walls full around.  Mike pops us a couple-a frosty longnecks, then tells us all about this desert valley.  “We’re at minus sixty feet sealevel here,” he says, “and the New River which runs north from Mexicali, loaded with sewage, insecticide and salt, runs north right through here to evaporate slowly at 380 feet below sea level in the Salton Sea.

Coming into Dixieland, I noticed a number of buildings with little more than tarpaper roofs, some were occupied residences, bare plywood showing.  That set me to wondering–and I asked Mike, “When was the last good rain y’all got around here?”  Mike thought a moment, then replied, “Nineteen…uh, nineteen-hundred seventy-six, I believe!”  Roofs seem to be more important for shade than for protection from wet weather.

Desert hiking is slow and ponderous.  The miles are long, and they’re all the same–sand and dirt.  What few plants there are that have somehow survived out here are, without exception, various shades of brown–not making for the most exciting or joyful experience.

I’m glad to end this day, and it is a great ending, at Ocotillo.  Here’s the Lazy Lizard Bar and the Ocotillo Inn.  Dan, Dodger, and me, we’ve lucked into another great trail town!

Tuesday–November 5, 2002
Trail Day–155
Trail Mile–3449
Location–SR94, Manzanita/Boulevard, California, thence to Jacumba, Jacumba Hot Springs Spa and Cabana Club

Dodger blazed us an interesting route out and around to the interstate interchange (I-8) west of Ocotillo yesterday.  Following his directions late evening, we hiked a deadend road west, beat our way through a typical, desert rock garden, then, up and over railroad tracks to the off ramp for I-8–where it comes down off Jacumba Mountain.

This morning, Dodger has us out and headed up the mountain before seven.  We’re back on yet another interstate, not the sort of place most hikers would prefer to hike–but here we go, for the better part of this day.  Thankfully, the traffic is light and the shoulder wide and clear.

We could see the mountain wall that is Jacumba Mountain for the better part of yesterday, and we couldn’t help but wonder where the road would go to get through it, for there appeared no way, the wall being impenetrable.  And today we find out, as the road before us climbs and climbs.  It takes three hours to break over the top, nearly ten miles, up, up, up.  The jumble of rock that forms the face and features of the gulches and lesser knobs totally numbs my visual sense.  The desert sun is so incredibly intense, creating a brilliant, reflected blaze of brightness in myriad shades of burnished brown and glazed steel gray.  Rocks are  balanced on rocks the size of boxcars.  Boulders that have not budged from their precarious perches for countless centuries appear to be flowing down above us.  And through this all, we run the main gulch that yields a wedge, a chink in the seemingly solid armor of this mountain.  Below us, then above, appears the remains of the old highway built over seventy years ago, when the pavement needed be little more than six or eight feet wide.  Along this old road, which we climb along for a short distance, are there still the remains of old steel beer cans, their “church key” puncture wounds still evident.

We had been concerned about being stopped along the way today, pedestrian traffic being prohibited on interstates, but the single patrolman we see waves, hits his siren for a short blast, and flies right on by.

The day goes quickly and we’re soon in Manzanita, our destination for the day.  Dodger brought us lunch, then cold drinks later–that helped.  Tough hike, eh!

Wednesday–November 6, 2002
Trail Day–156
Trail Mile–3472
Location–SR 94, Petrero, California, thence to —Park, Petrero

Cold morning. Hiking along SR 94 built in 1932.  Many old live oak, moderate traffic.  Lunch at Campo.  Southern terminus, PCT.  Lots of Border Patrol.  Holes in wall.  Paths everywhere.  Dodger came with cold beer before Petrero.  Went to border at Tecate for Subway.  Then to Petrero library to write postcards.  Less than sixty miles to the sea.  Pitched in —- Park.


Western Leg – 2,154 Miles
Campo, California to Bridge of the Gods, Cascade Locks, Oregon – 2008


Wednesday–April 23, 2008

Trail Day–001

Trail Mile–21

Location–Lake Morena Campground, Morena Village, California

Let the adventure begin!

Dan, Gordon, and I are up and moving at seven. A dear mutual hiking friend, Kevin Slider Reardon, from Berlin, Connecticut, flew into San Diego, has joined us and will be heading north with us this morning. Gordon gets us loaded and we reach the monument at eight–the beginning of the PCT, at the Mexican border. Other northbounders are here, along with dear friends and well-wishers, WeatherCarrot, Yogi and Squatch. Picture-taking time over, packs finally shouldered, by 8:30, Dan, Kevin, and I are on our way. Southern California, where we’ll be hiking the next number of days is pretty much desert–bare rock, dusty sand, sagebrush, other assorted scrub and grass (all sporting their individual puncture hardware).

At 2.2 miles the trail crosses SR94, where “X” marks the spot. Here, my path of 2002, “From Sea to Shining Sea” meets my path now. My odyssey paths will cross one more time, clear up in the Columbia Gorge, where I hiked east/west, 2004, and west/east 2006, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, at Bridge of the Gods, Cascade Locks, Oregon. Gordon is here and in his glory, big smile, “Want a cold Gatorade!” exclaims Gordon. This hike is going to be a different hike, not like the long, lonely days on the CDT, or the equally long noisy days on the open road.  I’m pretty sure there’ll be considerably more elaboration concerning this topic as we journey north.

The hike today will remain a particularly memorable one, what with the sendoff at the border, and now towards day’s end, who should come hiking down the trail to meet me other than Honey and Bear. We’re in to finish the day at Lake Morena Campgrounds early evening.


“The only certain freedom’s is departure.”

[Robert Frost]


Thursday–April 24, 2008

Trail Day–002

Trail Mile–12.6/0034

Location–Fred Canyon Road/Cibbets Flat, thence to Lake Morena Campground


This is gonna be hard getting used to–bacon and eggs, coffee with refills for breakfast. Lunch at mid-day trail crossing, water spigot (five gallon can in van) for afternoon recharge, then hot two- or three-course evening meal. We’ll not have these luxuries each and every day, but for most of the way through California it’ll be the daily routine–in addition to the 

20-25 mile days on the trail.

Today we meet a number of southbound hikers. They’ve all skipped north to hike back to Lake Morena Campground, location of this year’s ADZPCTKO, an acronym for Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kickoff, which takes place this weekend. Having support, we can keep trekking on north, then return this evening (and tomorrow evening) to meet fellow thru-hikers and enjoy the fellowship of the festival. We’ll actually be taking a day off, a zero-mile day (already) to spend Saturday at ADZPCTKO.

So far we’ve met fellow hikers JB, Freefall, Coyote, Ben, Sauerkraut, Miss Sunshine, Heasy, Potential 178, Montana, Brit, Hiking Cowboy, Eddy, Mattress, Tomato, A-Train, Nafta, Teatree, Hiking Bear, Ducky, Panama, Whoda his son, and Whoda‘s friend, Anime, and Neighbor Dave. As we trek on north, Morena Lake backed by Morena Butte are at a distance and behind us now, but they’re still the predominant features in my camera format screen.

Early evening we arrive Fred Canyon Road from where we descend to Cibbets Flat Campground. There, Gordon is waiting to whisk us back to Lake Morena Campground.


“Finite to fail, but infinite to venture.”

[Emily Dickinson]


Friday–April 25, 2008

Trail Day–003

Trail Mile–19.6/0053

Location–Pioneer Mail Trailhead, thence to Lake Morena Campground

Folks are beginning to arive Lake Morena Campground for ADZPCTKO. Honey and Bear have invited us into their campsite, as the campground is totally packed. The evening last was noisy to begin, but settled down nicely. I was pretty much pooped and was off to slumberland in no time.

Well, Dan’s feet have really come around; no more pain, the blisters hardening quite nicely. My feet are fine, but I am suffering the least discomfort from shin splints, an almost-always, common malady when beginning a new journey. Kevin was rocking along nicely until mid-day, when he experienced a “blowout.” Blisters at the ball of both big toes and both heels. Time for Doctor Kill Me Quicker to take over again. Slider‘s blisters popped, disinfected, and taped, we’re off again.

The hike today takes us up, and up some more, to 5,000 feet, then to over 6,000. The climb is gentle, however, and the treadway the most forgiving I’ve hiked on in recent memory.

As we climb, the trail ventures to the very edge of the eastern crest escarpment, providing breathtaking, panoramic vistas–to the desert floor 4,000 feet below, then beyond to the Salton Sea, dancing on the far horizon.

At 5,000 feet we have left (for the time being) the desert harshness, to enter the most cool, shady canopy of longleaf pine. We remain near 6,000 feet for the trek on into Pioneer Mail, where Gordon awaits, and we’re soon on our way back down the mountain to Lake Morena Campground.

It’s been a very satisfying day for us; we’re all happily content.


“To begin, begin.”

[William Wordsworth]


Saturday–April 26, 2008

Trail Day–004

Trail Mile–00/0053

Location–Lake Morena Campground

Another night (and a day) at the campground. ADZPCTKO is in full swing; the campground a blaze of color–tents everywhere. We’ll take the day off and enjoy the company of old friends, and make many new.

Pulling in last evening, first dear friends–Jolene JojoSmiley Koby/Burly and her husband, Frank Nomad ’98 Burley. Honey and Bear, Rascal, Sly, Troll and son Oblivious, Billy Goat, Yogi, Sam I Am are here. And vendors, Gossamer Gear (Glen Van Peski), LEKI USA (Dan Ducey of Elevation Sales Group), Six Moon Designs (Ron Moat), Blackwater Press/PCT Atlas (Erik Erik The Black Asorson).

It’s such a joy, really a blessing seeing Glen from Gossamer Gear again. He has a new pack for me, a prototype Murmur that he’s stitched up himself. After he closes down this evening, the pack’s mine. And an amazing piece of gear it is, full harness with shoulder straps and hip belt, 2200+c.i. carrying capacity–seven ounces; yes folks, seven ounces!

In the evening, Honey and Bear prepare a sendoff feast for us. It’s a grand affair. Then, as always, and too-soon, the inevitable time comes–time for the hugs, for the sad good-byes.

We’ve got a 24 to knock out tomorrow and it’s nearly an hour’s drive back up the mountain to Pioneer Mail Trailhead, so we’ve got to get back there tonight and get camp set in preparation for an early departure tomorrow.

Oh my, it’s sure been a grand time at ADZPCTKO. Thanks all, to you who’ve worked so diligently to make it all happen, to make it a grand, memorable affair.


“Ask for the ancient paths where the good way is; and walk in it and find rest for your soul”

[Jeremiah 6:16]


Sunday–April 27, 2008

Trail Day–005

Trail Mile–24.9/0078

Location–Scissors Crossing

We break camp and manage to get going a bit before seven. The trail trends generally north today along and just below the ridge. Wind generated by the rising desert heat knocks us around all morning, but the buffeting is well worth it–breathtaking views down the eastern slope, to the Colorado Desert floor some 4,000 feet below. Yesterday, at near 6,000 feet the trail wound around Stephenson, Monument, and Garnet Peaks. It’s interesting how the rain shadow, a wall in the sky created by these towering Laguna Mountains, prevents the earth-enriching water-laden clouds from passing. All along today, as the trail continues by this eastern escarpment is this stark contrast so evident.

Gordon is waiting for us at six miles out where the trail winds back to meet the road. I drag an old wool blanket out of the chaparral, the last of countless blankets left behind by illegals flooding across the border from Mexico–a souvenir from the desert segment of this trail. At the van, we make sandwiches, then water-up for the remainder of the day.

There’s a water tank at around mid-afternoon, where we meet Running Feather who’s also headed north. I’ve enough water to make it in so I hike on by, and down to Scissors Crossing, our destination for the day. Along the way I pass Bebop from Georgia, and Gil and Ziv from Israel. Also, in a short while I meet Ace. He’s down here from Alaska taking in some of the best the lower 48 has to offer.

Both Dan and Kevin are having doggie problems, all caused by the sand, heat, and these early long miles. Fortunately, I’ve managed to avoid the usual hike start-up issues, save my minor shin splints, which are no better today, but no worse.

It’s been a long, hot hiking day. Great to see Gordon and the van. Cheeseburgers and pasta for supper, prepared by Chef Dan and Chef Kevin. Ummm-umm!


“Happiness has to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing.”

[George Sheehan]


Monday–April 28, 2008

Trail Day–006

Trail Mile–23.8/0101

Location–Barrel Spring

A difficult night at Scissors Crossing. Traffic all night, heavy trucks hissing their air brakes at the stop sign. The campsite was fine enough, under a dying old cottonwood at least seven feet in diameter. Plenty of sand (say dirt) to go around. The filth and grit gets into everything. Goes right through shoes and socks. Feet turn completely black, what with a little sweat added to the mix.

My back is a little stiff, legs and feet the least heavy and burdened, but don’t you know–this old jitney will soon be up to speed and clanking right along.

I’ve long heard about the drastic temperature swings in the desert; now I’m a believer. 29 degrees in my tent this morning, and before the day’s over, the mercury soars to over 97 degrees.

At lower elevations, below 3-4,000 feet, the desert is totally a-bloom, bright, lush tints, every shade of Roy G. Biv. Yellows and whites predominate, dabs of green now and again are intermixed–grasses always struggling to make a show.

I’m the last one out this morning. The trail leads straight into switchbacks. Up and up we go. As the trail winds out and back, ever climbing, does the desert vegetation also change. Now comes barrel, ocotillo, and prickly pear cactus, all in bloom, and many other varieties, their names I know not. Dainty little wildflowers, so small and fragile, happy and prospering in this harshness. It’s a miracle, no other explanation, just a miracle to behold. Ah, and I am here to see, to wonder at it all.

Another long, hot day. Much climbing again, and the rocky downs–and the heat. What a treat and what a surprise to find water running, filling the tank at Barrel Spring.

Gordon is waiting at the road, by the gate. I help him set camp then head for the spring tank for a cool splashdown. Another long, hot day. No barking doggies, but they’re sure growling.


“People see God every day, they just don’t recognize him.”

[Pearl Bailey]


Tuesday–April 29, 2008

Trail–Day 007

Trail Mile–9.2/0111

Location–Warner Springs, Warner Springs Ranch

A short day, the trail bops along, no big pulls or downs. At lower elevations now, the small stream, San Ysidro Creek, actually has water in it.

Many more wildflowers, countless varieties line the trail today. I stop often to marvel at their childlike happiness, share their joy, and take their picture.

The feature for today is Eagle Rock, an interesting, monument-like natural formation, shaped like an eagle with wings outstretched, as in just landing or preparing for takeoff. Great photo ops here on another perfectly clear day in the southwest desert.

For the past number of days, Dan’s been telling us, quite emphatically might I add, that there’s a Burger King just around the corner. Ha, late morning, here comes Steve, local trail angel, loaded down with bags and a cooler. “You guys like a cheeseburger and fries–some sweet tea?” asks Steve, big grin. I’m not believing this; Slider‘s not believing this. “Burger King, right?” asks Dan. “Burger King,” says Steve. I look at Slider.  Slider looks back at me–bewildered–and shrugs. Time for burgers and fries–from Burger King, compliments of Steve. Friends, there’s just no way I could make this stuff up; thanks Steve! Seems Dan knew you were on your way, he just didn’t know when you’d get here!

It’s a short hike on down to Warner Springs. We’re in by one. The trail skirts around, but we cut through town, and on the way, take an overnight at the grand Warner Springs Ranch.

In the evening, oh yes, steak and baked potato at the ranch restaurant.

Fine ending to a memorable day.


“Come forth into the light of things.  Let Nature be your teacher.”

[William Wordsworth]


Wednesday–April 30, 2008

Trail Day–008

Trail Mile–15.6/0126

Location–Chihuahua Valley Road, “Mike’s Retreat-on-the-Hill” Bunkhouse

A grand stay at Warner Springs Ranch; very accommodating folks, old place but neat and clean. Super supper–steak and baked potato, pure, high octane hiker jet fuel.

We’d hiked the road in yesterday, a little longer route than the official trail around, so this morning it’s the roadwalk on around and back out to where the trail crosses again, about a mile. Gordon is here to make sure we don’t trek on past, as the crossing is somewhat obscure.

Ever since hiking together, our respective transcontinental treks in 2002, Sheltowee and I have had an ongoing contest as to who could pick up the most change along the road shoulders. We both got skunked this road-around, but I did pick up a stainless steel round-head Phillips sheetmetal screw–another souvenir for the mantle at home.

Yesterday I’d received a somewhat urgent email from my Webmaster, Cywiz. Her concern: “California wildfires … broke out Saturday in the Angeles Forest (#6 location on the Forestry PCT Trail map). The area of evacuation right now seems to be in and around the foothills of Sierra Madre. There is much talk about the pollution of the air being vast in its outreach, and you, Slider and Sheltowee will be walking through the Angeles Forrest very soon.” We have, indeed, heard about the fires and can see the far away cloud-haze they are creating. We’re in no danger now but wouldn’t be the least surprised to find the trail closed north of us.

Out a short distance, and in just moments I meet Big, and we hike together on up to a trailside camp. Here I wait for Sheltowee and Slider. We hike most the remainder of the day together, making good time, considering. Both continue to have day-to-day feet issues, healing blisters and tenderness. At Agua Caliente we have the first challenge, as to keeping our feet dry. The crossing appears to be, but is a not so easy rock-hop. Dan has to stop and wring out his right sock. Ha, yesterday he washed his shoes and spent 45 minutes tending them at the dryer in Warner Springs.

The trail climbs on up the canyon, presenting many more rock-hops, each crossing being a little narrower. Here in this ribbon oasis, Agua Caliente Canyon, does there present such remarkable contrast–this lush, green coolness, to the arid, sunburned brown of the surrounding desert. Dainty little flowers, tall grasses, gallant, century-old oak–just a remarkable pathway up and through. Ah, but with an occasional prickly pear cactus intermixed to remind us we’re not far from the desert.

As we hike along, do we meet and pass other northbounders trekking out of Warner Springs, first Christina, then Vanity Fair, and her daughter, Wind Breaker.

We stop for lunch near Lost Valley Spring, elevation 4,450 feet. Also relaxing here for lunch are Grandpa Kilt and Spike.

Out from lunch, descending, do we enter the most intense desert burnover. This fire occurred years ago, but the barren desolation remains, exposed boulders and rock, pumice-like dusty sand, charred, blackened snags. The entire scene is depressing, forbidding, certainly not designed to gladden the heart.

Later we climb again to meet up with Spider and E.T. (Energetic Turtle). Now, late afternoon we arrive the little oasis, a weekend retreat in the desert, up on the mountain, called Mike’s. Mike isn’t here, but he’s left a sign on the gate welcoming PCT thru-hikers. What a blessing to get in, as the wind has come up, has turned hard and steady, and it’s becoming very cold.

Many other northbounders have congregated on Mike’s screened-in porch. Sheltowee, Slider, and I look around and find the bunkhouse. It’s unoccupied, complete with three bunks and a cot–and a door that closes snugly. We carry the Coleman lantern down from the van and in no time we’re comfortable and secure for the night.


“Let me enjoy the earth no less because the all-enacting light

that fashioned forth its loveliness had other aims than my delight.”

[Thomas Hardy]


Thursday–May 1, 2008

Trail Day–009

Trail Mile–24.2/0150

Location–SR74, Pines to Palms Highway, thence to Idyllwild

A very comfortable night at Mike’s. Got down to 42 degrees this morning, but we slept just fine in Mike’s bunkhouse. Thanks Mike, whomever and wherever you are.

Today is a long bop-it-along 24 mile day. Lots of side-slabbing around many lesser knobs and crowns. Where the trail follows the south-and/or west-facing slopes, the treadway is hot-hot sand and rock, requiring much concentration–and slow, frustrated churning. We stop often to cool our trail-weary doggies.

Along, we meet some new folks, Hardcore and Latecomer, and Brian and Tangent, Later we pass Christina, Alien March, Grandma Kilt, Spider and ET, and Big.

In some of these long stretches where there’s no water anywhere, the PCT folks have established water caches, jugs of water stored in the bushes or in small, open sheds to keep the sun away. Most welcome today is the well-stocked cache at 13 miles out. Here, we pull up for lunch, then water-up before heading on north.  Sign on the shed reads, “PCT Class of 2008.” Thanks, Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA)!

Earlier in the day, Gordon had left a message for both Slider and Sheltowee concerning new fires that will be causing trail closure just to the north. Apache Peak is on fire, around which the trail passes. As we approach the Pines to Palms Highway, our destination for the day, below we see the green U.S. Forest Service truck leaving the trail crossing. The forest ranger had just posted a hand-written cardboard sign on the kiosk there announcing trail closure for the next 50 miles north.

Gordon is here, as is Meadow Mary. Gordon to pick us up, and Meadow Mary to stock the water cache just inside the gate.

We waste no time heading down to Paradise Cafe–for their grand Jose burger. After, we return to the trailhead to pick up Alien march, who’d asked for a ride on up to Idyllwild, where Dan, Kevin, and I’ll hole-up for a day’s rest. We all dearly need a good hot bath–and a day off.


“There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.”

[Sylvia Plath]


Friday–May 2, 2008

Trail Day–010

Trail Mile–00/0150

Location–San Jacinto State Park Campground, thence to Idyllwild

Idyllwild was full up last, so we pitched at the San Jacinto State Park Campground. A cool night with no wind. Quiet and comfortable–and baths in the bath house!

This morning we manage a room at the Idyllwild Inn. Kind, sweet smile from owner, Emily. “Bring your dirty clothes in, we’ll wash ’em.” beams Emily. She puts us in #7, a quaint, rustic cabin, complete with fireplace and ricked firewood, clean and neat. Delicious breakfast at the Red Kettle. Nice, friendly trailtown. Not heaven though–at least one old curmudgeon. Boldly written (on the banner below “Welcome 2008 PCT Hikers”), appears, “And thanks for starting the forest fires!” Mention of the mischief to John, postal clerk, has him concerned and the least upset. Ditto for the sweet lady at the pharmacy. Idyllwild likes and very much appreciates PCT hikers.

The remainder of the day is spent updating journals, soaking tired, tender feet in hot Epsom salts, enjoying a fine pizza–oh, and a couple tallneck Sams.


“The sovereign invigorator of the body is exercise, and of all the exercises walking is the best.”

[Thomas Jefferson]


Saturday–May 3, 2008

Trail Day–011

Trail Mile–13/0163

Location–Hike from Falls Creek Road/Snow Creek Canyon to Whitewater Preserve (The Wildlands Conservancy Fish Hatchery) Whitewater Canyon Road

Due to the fire on Apache Peak, which has caused trail closure affecting over 50 miles of trail, we’ve had to move on north today, skipping the San Jacinto Mountains.

We’ve had a very much needed rest in Idyllwild, the stay most enjoyable. Idyllwild is definitely a hiker friendly trailtown.

Gordon finally gets us collected and loaded up around ten. Dan has already gone through a pair of shoes on his hike from Point Loma, and needs to stop at the General Store for some Super Glue to attach his gaiters to the new GoLites he’s just purchased. It’s a long winding climb up and then down to I-10 and Cabazon–thence to Palm Springs. We’re finally on the trail north, north of I-10, around noon.


Looking behind us now we can see Fuller Ridge, the northern-most (snow-covered) mountain we’ve had to bypass. A report received this morning indicates the fire to be 70 per cent contained, and that the trail may be open again by the 7th or 8th. From our starting point here at Falls Creek Road, we’ll hike on north for the next few days, allowing time for the trail to reopen and for the high-mountain snow to melt.

The trail today soon takes us under I-10. In the cool shade of the underpass, Trail Gorillas Don and John (local members of the PCTA) have cached an ice-filled cooler of pop for PCT thru hikers. Over 20 have already signed the cache register (no pun intended) today.

By noon we’ve climbed from the desert floor, up to  Mesa Wind Park, where hundreds of the three-prop wind-powered turbines are cranking in the wind. At the park office, and at the invitation of the Mesa Wind Park folks, we take our lunch break. An air conditioned conference room, a table to sit, and a fridge stocked with ice cold bottle water–really roughing it, eh!

By a little before five we’ve descended into Whitewater Canyon, and in short order we’re at the Wildlands Conservancy Fish Hatchery where Gordon’s already reserved a campsite for us. In the campground are Brian and Lisa, who’ve come out from San Diego to offer some special trail magic. They’re set up for grilling burgers, are stocked with cold pop–and watermelon for desert. Hey, we’re invited! Thanks Brian and Lisa!

Lots of hot sand, little shade, and plenty of climbing today. A tough but rewarding day.


“Hark to it calling, calling clear,

Calling until you cannot stay

From dearer things than your own most dear

Over the hills and far away.”

[William Ernest Henley]


Sunday–May 4, 2008

Trail Day–012

Trail Mile–20.7/0184

Location–Mission Creek Trail Camp

Our stay here at the Conservancy facility has been grand. The whole place whizbang new, with spacious campsites, nearby restrooms, and very competitive rates–free!

A cool, clear morning, we’re out and hiking a little after seven, the earliest hit-the-trail time for us so far.

The PCT leads out and up Whitewater River Canyon, from where it proceeds to climb the East Fork, Mission Creek, a distance today of twenty-plus, almost entirely up, from elevation 2,450 to 7,950, a vertical climb in excess of one mile.

I hike some today with Alien March, Sauerkraut, and Tyler. Late morning, Slider has another blowout, but this one not involving the feet as has been the problem previously. Suffice to say he’s slowed way down and has started moving really funny. Well, anyway, just go to my poetry page and dig around till you find the ditty, Hiker’s Scourge. That’ll explain it!

The scene presented today is not one of beauty, rather one of scorched, barren earth. A raging fire swept up and through here in the recent past, burning everything in its path, so it seems did the earth burn too. Near the upper canyon we cross from the San Gorgonio Wilderness into the San Bernardino National Forest. Spared by the fire, the transition here is abrupt, from one of stark desolation to that of forested beauty.

Late evening and still climbing, Sheltowee, Slider, and I reach our camp for the night. Gordon has arrived and is waiting, to tell us of his adventure for the day–up the steep, rutted road to Mission Creek Trail Camp. Seems he had a few brush-ins, what with his low-clearance running boards–and a few not so low rocks. The rocks won. He was unable to open the right-side door until a bunch of hikers jumped up and down, bending the running board back down to where it belonged–a bit battered and still bent, yet functional.

A very cold evening, but we’ve a fine hot meal, prepared by Slider and Sheltowee. This has been the most demanding hiking day so far.


“Short is the little time which remains to you of life. Live as on a mountain.”

[Marcus Aurelius]


Monday–May 5, 2008

Trail Day–013

Trail Mile–15.7/0200

Location–Broom Flat Road, thence to Big Bear Lake, Big Bear Frontier Resort

The night started cold, then got colder. This morning my Suunto Core ABC wristop reads 25 degrees, brrr! Slow getting up and going. Lots of hot coffee, to warm my innards and my sticks-for-fingers hands.

The hike today will not compare to that of yesterday, much shorter and flatter. I wait to see Gordon off and wish him well on getting out. In a short distance, the trail and the road meet. I can hear the music, the great songs about the trail, recorded by Jim Walkin’ Jim Stoltz. Then I see Gordon again, standing, looking toward the trail, lost to the trail, totally content. He’s got all the van doors open, all the speakers crankin’. It’s a very emotional time as I cross the road. What’s going on here is a mutual feeling of love and respect–and shared understanding. No need to speak, just a solid hug, and a nod, that does it.

Today we near Big Bear Lake, and close-up civilization. The trail winds and works around, but below and along are many road, power lines, and dwellings.

Gordon has dropped down from the main paved road and has worked his way a mile or so over another runningboard bender to where the trail crosses, there to pick us up for the evening. We’ve 200 miles behind us now–o’er the PCT.


“I owe it all to the salt of the earth,

and the friends along the way.”

[Jim Walkin’ Jim Stoltz]


Tuesday–May 6, 2008

Trail Day–014

Trail Mile–19/0219

Location–Van Dusen Canyon Road, thence to Frontier Lodge, Big Bear Lake

We’ve found great lodging in Big Bear Lake at Frontier Lodge. We’ll return here tonight and again tomorrow night, as we hike the huge horseshoe around Big Bear Lake.

Gordon has us back on trail a little after eight. He’ll be seeing us at lunch, at ten miles out where the trail crosses CA18. We’re all hoping Slider can make the ten, and continue the remaining nine for the day, as he is suffering much pain from a very large blister on the ball of his right foot. Dr. Kill Me Quicker waved his magic wand over it last evening and again this morning–but we’ll see.

A short way into the hike this morning the trail drops down into Arrastre Creek Canyon. The canyon is lush, the creek running the coolest clear water. Here in this canyon reside the most magnificent evergreen, perhaps even more majestic than the virgin stand of hemlock in Stover Creek near Springer Mountain, Georgia. I recall being in total awe when I first saw the huge hemlock there. Here in Arrastre are ancient Ponderosa pine and white fir. My reaction is the same. I stand and gaze in silence. It is as if there are grand sky-hinged cathedral doors opening before me, as if I am entering Nature’s very own place of worship. The trail weaves back and forth among these towering giants. Pictures cannot begin to describe their majesty. You must come here and experience their presence for yourself.

Where the trail crosses CA18, Gordon is waiting–time for lunch. While relaxing and enjoying our respite, up drives Erik the Black. Erik lives in Big Bear and comes up often to meet and greet PCT hikers. He’s up today to place a small sign by the trail announcing the availability of his new PCT Atlas. If you’ve looked at this year’s list of sponsors, you know that Erik is supporting the old Nomad. I’ve been test driving his new guide to help us up the trail, and it has proven to be most helpful; thanks Erik!

A good climb to end the day, through jumbles of baseball-size rocks. Been a tough day, but I make it fine–so does Slider!


“It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,

It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.”

[Robert W. Service]


Wednesday–May 7, 2008

Trail Day–015

Trail Mile–18.2/0237

Location–Crab Flats, Thence to Frontier Lodge, Big Bear Lake

Another grand night at the frontier. We need an early start as there’s a long roadwalk today, but despite our best efforts we’re not on the trail until after eight. Within the hour our paths cross with that of the Pearl Girls. They are One Step, Blue Butterfly and Guardian Angel. I linger and chat with Blue Butterfly. A good exchange of energy.

As we work our way around Big Bear, the trail climbs, offering sweeping views down and across Big Bear Lake–to the snow-capped peaks beyond. Finding the perfect spot, I take a panoramic shot with my little Canon.

Just ahead of us an intense forest fire swept clean thousands of acres last September, closing the trail, and so the roadwalk re-route.

We’re hiking into another cool, clear day, helped along by the gentle breeze, making the roadwalk a most pleasant experience. Gordon is right here on the road with us, bumpy though it is, and he pulls on ahead every hour or so to await our arrival. Toward day’s end the road bails off the mountain, down to Holcomb Creek. Gordon is here and we call it a day.

What we thought would be a shortcut back to Big Bear turns out a round-about scenic tour, which includes a five minute close-up of logs being loaded on a timber truck. We’re the captive audience (loader and truck are blocking the road). We finally arrive back at Big Bear early evening.


“Above me spreads the hot, blue mid-day sky,

Far down the hillside lies the sleeping lake

Lazily reflecting back the sun.”

[Amy Lowell]


Thursday–May 8, 2008

Trail Day–016

Trail Mile–11.5/0249

Location–Deep Creek Canyon near Deep Creek Hot Springs

Getting out of town days are always chaotic. Today is the day to check out of Frontier Lodge, but before loading and leaving we make a trip to K-Mart for a few things–a large pan for cooking our beans and pasta, and some bins to organize our kitchen and personal items. Back at the lodge now–dang, seems we’ve taken up residence here. Load after load of “stuff” must be collected and organized (into the new bins), then hauled to the van. The van was (I say: WAS) Gordon’s home. Slowly but surely he’s become pretty much displaced. “Who shoved all that stuff up in there yesterday?” Gordon asks. “One end of my bed is pushed up so far I don’t have room to lay down anymore.” Oh boy, sorry, Gordon!

The drive back to the trail takes two solid hours, over rough, two-track ruts in some places. The custom running boards on the van are totally shredded, the braces busted loose, the once very nice aluminum diamond-plate bent and fractured beyond repair. To have had Gordon come in to support us at this nearly inaccessible place was a very bad decision. Gordon’s always game though, and we’ve taken advantage of him. That’s got to stop. In the past, when his sister, Sue, was still alive, they had a rule not to venture off paved roads–a good rule. We must consider returning to that rule, before we wreck Gordon’s van entirely.

We’re finally back on the PCT a little before three. Easy enough hiking. The trail leads on down Holcomb Creek, then climbs the canyon wall to cross up and over into Deep Creek. Deep Creek Canyon is properly named, as the narrow, near-vertical walls add effect to the sheer depth.  Along, the trail has been carved from the canyon face, crossing cliffs of solid rock in some places. As dusk approaches, and as we become the least apprehensive about finding a place to set camp for the night, the most remarkable once-in-a-lifetime (trail lifetime) experience happens. I’m hiking a few paces ahead of Sheltowee, who is ahead of Slider a step or three. We’re happily clacking along, each in our own little world, when Sheltowee shouts, then abruptly pulls up. In the time span of no more than a second or two, and between us, a snake rolls down the bluff wall to plop in the middle of the trail right. It’s coiled in a ball, its body wrapped around a mole. No concern for us, just the task of squeezing the life out of the mole, which it’s apparently just bit hold of. We huddle around in disbelief. I grab my camera. Sheltwee and Slider both go for theirs. During the next three or four minutes we each shoot the coiling, recoiling scene–and the futile effort made by the mole to escape. Oh yes, the snake wins! Please remember to check out my photo album in a week or so–amazing video, absolutely amazing.

Just before sunset the canyon opens the least bit, to allow a small knoll, where upon we quickly ascend to pitch on the small flat-spot crown for the night. A short but very eventful day.


“The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.”

[Oscar Wilde]


Friday–May 9, 2008

Trail Day–017

Trail Mile–25.5/0275

Location–Lake Silverwood State Recreation Area

A cool but very relaxing, quiet night, the first, believe it or not, that we’ve camped unsupported. Another glorious day; we break camp and get going a little before seven.

We’re all excited this morning, anticipating our arrival at Deep Creek Hot Springs. We tried to make it in last night but ran out of daylight. Short hike this morning; we’re at the springs before nine. No disappointment here. Lovely, pristine geothermals. The locals know they’re here, but have kept them clean. Two great hot pools, one directly next the creek. The three of us go for that one. A dare sets me to diving into the frigid creek, from there to swim back to the hot pool. Invigorating is the word to describe the experience. A double dare puts both Sheltowee and Slider into it. We all whoop and holler–it’s definitely a hoot!

The hike today is segmented, a very nice change of pace. It’ll turn an impressive mileage day too, the fun diversions keeping it short.

Next diversion: The road crossing at CA173. Trail angels Marlene and Meadow Mary are both waiting–and of course, Gordon. Many hikers trekking along today, and many stop for refreshments and a break from the heat.

We’re away by one, and away to the next diversion: a short hike then a roadwalk along CA173, where Gordon meets us with cold Gatorade.

Then it’s the final diversion, a climb from the arid desert floor, up then around Lake Silverwood, a shaded, crystalline, high-held impoundment of Cleghorn River.

At dusk we’re approaching the lake campground where we’d planned to stay the night, but being the start of the weekend, the place is full. We do squeeze in, however, next the trail, at an equestrian site.


“As the weary traveler sees

In desert or prairie vast,

Blue Lakes, overhung with trees

That a pleasant shadow casts.”

[Henry Wadsworth Longfellow]


Saturday–May 10, 2008

Trail Day–018

Trail Mile–13.1/0288

Location–I-15 Trail Crossing, Cajon Pass, thence to Best Western Motel

Cools down quickly in the desert. Dropped to 39 degrees last night. Warm and comfy in my new Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 bag, though. Great night’s sleep.

We’ve a short climb first thing, up and out of Cleghorn Canyon, then down and out of Lil Horsethief Canyon. A final climb takes us over to Crowder Creek. There we descend to Cajon Pass, a busy crossing for commerce; crushing commercial traffic both directions on I-10, and B&N and UPAC hauling both ways, seven diesel locomotives pulling the grade through the pass.

We’re in a little before one. Trail marker says .4 to McDonalds. Oh yes, double cheeseburger(s) and biggie fries here I come.

Dan’s cut a deal at Best Western. Much needed rest for all of us.


“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.”

[Langston Hughes]


Sunday–May 11, 2008

Trail Day–019

Trail Mile–13.3/0301

Location–Swarthout Road, thence to Snow Canyon above/by I-10, and finally, to our camp below Fuller Ridge

The afternoon and evening last at Best Western, Cajon Pass, was much needed. This morning I clear out their muffins and coffee.

Another glorious day in the desert: a million-mile-deep, blue-perfect sky, and a cool breeze–perfect!

Where we broke out of Crowder Creek Canyon yesterday, to reach I-15, and where the old roadway (and even older wagonway) of nearly a century ago followed down–here we begin our trek anew this morning by an old monument long since passed by. Inscribed on its cracked, sun-bleached surface are the words, “To the Santa Fe and Salt Lake Trail of 1849, in honor of the brave pioneers of California.”

First out this morning, an interesting hike, through a 200 yard tunnel/drainage under I-15. Dan’s able to maintain cell phone contact the whole way. The cell folks, indeed, have the interstates covered, above and below.

This will prove Slider‘s day for snakes. I’m right with him for two, the first, a respectable rattler. The final one he confronts later in the day is directly on the trail, and Slider doesn’t see him till he’s taken that can’t-come-back step. Sheltowee and I are above on a switchback, maybe 50 yards distant, and we can both hear Slider‘s expletives-deleted!

Through the I-15 tunnel, we still have the BN&SF and the UPAC tracks to get over. Just above the tracks presents the perfect spot to photograph the colorful team-coupled locomotives hauling the freight through. Dan and I both stop to get a shot of one passing through.

Our hike today will be segmented, a short five miler up the ridge from I-15 to Swarthout Canyon Road. It’s an invigorating climb up, around, then down. Gordon is waiting at the road.

Here we load and head back to Snow Canyon Road at I-10, the northern end of the trail segment we’d skipped earlier due to the fire on Apache Peak. We’ll hike this 55 mile section north to south in hopes the trail might again be open through the burned section.

Gordon has us with packs up and climbing a little after three. Above us now are snow-capped peaks and ridges. We’re climbing steady, from 2,500 feet, to top out (hopefully tomorrow) at over 9,000 feet.

It’s up and up, toward Fuller Ridge.

By dusk we’ve managed to reach a small saddle at elevation 4,200 feet. Setting camp for the night is difficult, what with the 25-30 mph wind. I get my tent pitched, slap together a cheese sandwich, roll in, then call it a day.


“Over every mountain there is a path, Although it may not be seen from the valley.”

[Theodore Roethke]


Monday–May 12, 2008

Trail Day–020

Trail Mile–19.4/0321

Location–Saddle Junction

We’re all up early, a little after five, trying to break camp in the relentless wind. Last night my fly blew completely off my tent. Never suffered such a problem before, over countless nights in the wilds.

The climb of last evening continues. Shleltowee stops at the first stack of boulders, away from the wind where he tends to his tender feet. Below, I can see Slider still struggling with his tent.

By nine I’ve broken across the lower end of Fuller Ridge at 7,000 feet. I’m above the clouds, well above the clouds, which engulf the entire I-10 corridor below, to Palm Springs and beyond. By eleven I’m into the final pull on up to 9,000 feet, near the shoulder of San Jacinto Mountain. Here I rest, and wait for Sheltowee and Slider to complete their ascent. They wake me around one and we hike together through lingering snow drifts, on down to Saddle Junction.

Our camp tonight is at 8,100 feet. The cold, harsh wind, often resident of these high places has come to spend the night with us. In the topmost of the pine does it shout forth its passing gladness. Pitched now in the lee of an enormous longleaf, I need place rocks over my fully driven stakes to hold my tent down. Another cheese sandwich and this day is done.


“Wind of the East, Wind of the West, wandering to and fro,

Chant your songs in our topmost boughs, that the sons of men may know

The peerless pine was the first to come, and the pine will be last to go!”

[Robert W. Service]


Tuesday–May 13, 2008

Trail Day–021

Trail Mile–22.5/0343

Location–CA74, thence back to Best Western, Cajon Pass

I am so thankful to be blessed with such amazing endurance and stamina at near age 70. To be blister free, to have my knees and feet not ache, to have my back lifting, carrying effortlessly, to find my legs once again under me, strong and responsive–though I’m again a year older, it’s a blessing, a true blessing.

The wind has mostly passed on through, leaving the temperature here above the clouds at 39 degrees. I work with haste to break camp before my fingers turn to useless sticks.

Here at Saddle Junction we had hoped to find the trail open down and through the recently burned area. But alas, the sign placed by the USFS tells us we must use the detour–down Devil’s Slide, through Idyllwild, and from there, a roadwalk back to the trail crossing at CA74. This we’d hoped to avoid by hiking on north for a number of days, giving time for the fire to be fully extinguished. A good plan; just didn’t work.

So this morning we turn from the PCT, to the trail down to Idyllwild, and the long roadwalk.

Down now, in downtown Idyllwild, time for breakfast. Ah, and we pass right by the Red Kettle. Oh yes, in we go. Coffee, corn beef hash, eggs and pan-fried taters. High octane jet fuel–a little more coffee, ma’am!

By four, we’ve knocked out the roadwalk. Lots of fun looking for tossed coins. Dan finds the first, a penny. By day’s end I’ve found two cents. It has turned hot and the tarmac is worrying the old doggies. A mile or so from the end, both Dan and Kevin stop and make repairs to their road-weary feet.

It’s a long, congested drive back through San Bernardino, then on to Cajon Pass, near where we’ll continue our journey north.


“And He–He followed–close behind–

I felt His Silver Heel

Upon my Ankle–Then my Shoes

Would overflow with Pearl.”

[Emily Dickinson]


Wednesday–May 14, 2008

Trail Day–022

Trail Mile–00/0343

Location–Blue Ridge Campground

We’ve decided to take a zero-mile day today, to rest a little from the big pull up on Monday and the roadwalk yesterday. Staying the night again at Best Western was a no-brainer (Dan  managed another deal for us).  Great place, spacious room (three double beds no less), good folks.

Checkout is eleven; we manage to get loaded and rolling by twelve. It’s a short drive to Wrightwood where we stock up on groceries for the next three or four days.

Slider has broken the tip on one of his hiking sticks, so I head for the hardware store to use their vice to replace it while he’s grocery shopping.  I have the broken tip banged off and a new one driven back on in no time. Dan’s finally getting a cell signal here in town, so he’s busy with scout business.

By the time we get out of Wrightwood it’s mid-afternoon. Our stay will be at Blue Ridge Campground tonight, a freebie, no hookups, no water, but a fine spot, Gordon informs us. Map shows a paved road leading up (to the campground at 7,600 feet) but there are more potholes than pavement–slow going for the three mile climb. Finally arriving, we find we’ve got the place to ourselves. By now, we’ve reduced camp setup to a science. Out comes the little folding table, our cook stove, cooler, kitchen bin, water can, folding chairs–and the coffee.

I’ve a fire going in the fire ring in no time (it’s cold at 7,600 feet!). Coffee’s on, feet are up, supper’s cookin’. Well now, this is really roughing it!

Relaxing here by the fire, content, tummy topped off, the horizon framed by the ever deepening shadows across far mountains, I think of this day, a day of such ease, and I think of so many other days on the trail, days that try a man’s soul–and so, should I not be thankful. Thank you, Lord, thank you for all these blessings.


“…trying to understand how you must feel to embark on such a journey, how exhausting and yet exhilarating it must be, and how there are days that you are able to walk a steady gait with such energy and purpose, and days that you must labor and slow down to overcome the difficulties of the trail, the joys, the frustrations, but in every day feeling the overwhelming awe of being surrounded by, and a part of, God’s creation.”

[Linda CyWiz Stolte]


Thursday–May 15, 2008

Trail Day–023

Trail Mile–20/0363

Location–Start at Blue Ridge Campground, end at Swart Canyon Road,

thence return to Blue Ridge Campground

We’ve got a 20 to hammer out, so we’re up and out by seven. The hike today will be from north to south, from the campground back to Swart Canyon Road where we ended our northerly progress on the 11th–from where we returned to fill in the bypassed trail section to the south.

The day starts with a steady climb, on up to 8,100 feet at Sheep Pass.  All along are sweeping views down into the San Bernardino Valley on one side, and Cajon Pass on the other.

Trekking south as we are today, do we meet many northbound thru hikers.  First is Lucky, then Brandon and Laurie,  Next, Princess of Darkness, Disco, Brian, Christina, Carbo, Jellybean, Blacksnake, and Southern Man.  Then comes Sly, Sarong and his brother, Hans, then Grandpa Kilt, Hiking Bare and Truant, Chase, Gopher, Prison Rob, Just Ben, Vanity Fair and her daughter, Breaking Wind.  Later in the day comes Jenny, Ken, Delray, Boomer, Medicare Pastor, and White Buffalo.  Whew, what a busy trail!

We’ve been hiking the extremes today, from the high elevation snowpack, exposed to the cold, howling wind, thence down to the scorching heat and blistering sun of the desert.  Are such times not made for memories–such blessed days in these mountains!


“…however weary, should one faint by the way who gains the blessings of one mountain day;

whatever his fate, long life, short life, stormy or calm, he is rich forever.”



Friday–May 16, 2008

Trail Day–024

Trail Mile–18.7/0382

Location–Islip Saddle, thence to Buckhorn Campground

Another cool, incredibly beautiful day. 24 unbelievable days of sunshine so far. We’ve been hiking in the San Bernardino National Forest.  Today we’ll enter the Angeles National Forest. And this will be Dan’s day. We’ll be climbing Mt. Baden-Powell, named in honor of the man who started the Boy Scout movement in England way back in 1908. Dan’s an Eagle Scout, runs Camp Daniel Boone near Asheville, North Carolina, so he’s very excited.

Our climb begins where CA2 is closed due to rock slides–at 6,550 feet. Climbing, we’re soon in the snow, small patches at first, then large drifts, which make upward progress slow and very laborious. My GPS shows it’s a little over a mile to the summit, but we have over four miles of trail to cover. We’re able to follow the trail for awhile, mostly up snowbanked switchbacks. After getting lost numerous times we finally give up and turn to the mountain to stomp steps in the snowpack and work our way straight up. Early afternoon we finally reach the summit, which stands at a little over 9,000 feet.

Other thru-hikers have made it up with us this morning. We linger, to take in the incredible 360, and to watch with interest as Dan reverently creates, then video tapes a short narrative about Baden-Powell and the creation of the Boy Scouts. He then ends the clip with a motivational pep talk to his camp staff–some 300+.

With CA2 closed due to rock slides, Gordon must drive 85 miles around to link back up with us on the other end. He makes it and is waiting for us at Three Points, on the other end of CA2. From Three Points we hike a few more miles then call it a day.


“The scout training is effected by encouraging the boy through his own enthusiasm to develop himself as an efficient citizen.  To create his own character and his individual self discipline from within.  This is education.”

[Robert Baden-Powell, July 4, 1916]


Saturday–May 17, 2008

Trail Day–025

Trail Mile–21.5/0404

Location–5N04 near Sulphur Spring Camp

Gordon has us back on the trail at Islip Saddle at 7:30. At the highway the trail leaves the trailhead to climb and roll up, then around, back and down to the highway–like a ball of gum rattling around the spiral in the old gumball machine. Back at the highway, across, up, around, and down we go again–the old gumball getting a workout today. Back at the highway once again, we’ve a roadwalk due to trail closure. Something to do with a frog, the endangered yellow-legged frog.  Seems the frog has precedent over the PCT white-legged trekker, a not yet endangered species.

On the roadwalk, are there many snow drifts next the road. We need ice for the cooler, so reaching Gordon, who’s waiting near the campground, he and I load and return to the snow–to shovel the cooler full!

Being a Saturday, many day hikers are out on this (yet another) cool, beautiful day. Along we meet Boy Scout Troop #1 from West Los Angeles. Sheltowee captivates them with a short lesson on telling time by the sun.  Dan is a master at motivational speaking.  He has the knack of lifting all to whom he speaks to their highest level, to appreciate their true potential. It’s always fun watching him weave his magic spell–much the same, I suppose, as did Baden-Powell as he encouraged young lads to seek and enjoy nature–and the height of their own potential.


“Now I see the secret of making the best person:

it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”

[Walt Whitman]


Sunday–May 18, 2008

Trail Day–026

Trail Mile–23.2/0427

Location–3N17, Santa Clara Divide, Messenger Flats Campground

Great time last at Newcomb Lodge. Gordon drove us down. Hot burgers, cool frosties. Perfect ending for the day.

This morning, we’re not back on the trail till 8:30 (Gordon drove us back down to the lodge for breakfast). A segmented day, what with a stop for Gatorade (Gordon’s at the six-mile road-crossing) and then lunch at 14, where Nell’s friend, Phyllis does trail magic for all.  So, even with this relatively long-mile day, we’re in way before dark.

We arrive Messenger Flats to find the campground closed. “Won’t be open till next week.” says the Ms. Lady Ranger as she lets herself out the campground, locks the gate and drives away. From the gate to the campground is 500 yards, give or take. I jump the gate and walk over to take a look. Nothing’s been done to get the place ready, least I can tell. Place remains pretty much as winter’s left it. Someone (like a thirsty hiker who was told they’d find water here) has turned the faucet on–no water. Seems strange, but then again, maybe not so strange. Gotta remember, the USFS is in charge here. The campground will be open when they say it’ll be open. Hey, what’s it to ’em if hundreds of PCT thru-hikers are passing by. Yup, “…be open next week.” Yippee!

We move on down the road (by the trail) a few hundred yards and set up camp on a small sandy knoll. All hikers coming through behind us skip the campground and call it a day next the knoll. Nell’s friends have brought water in; thank goodness. Of course, we’ve got water, but many who are camping here tonight came in dry.

We get our efficient little camp set. Slider fixes hot dogs, mac-n-cheese, and green beans. Way too much food. Moon Pie and Gypsy Lulu end up helping us finish it.

Come to find, our camp location is much better than that at the campground, what with the great view down into the valley below Moody Canyon.


“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect

before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”

[John Quincy Adams]


Tuesday–May 19, 2008

Trail Day–027

Trail Mile–23.7/0451

Location–Agua Dulce, thence to Hiker Heaven, Jeff and Donna Saufley’s home

The hike today is mostly down (except for the long ups) to Agua Dulce. It’s another cool, clear morning, but that changes as we descend once again to the desert floor.

More gumball machine trail as the path winds in and out of every little side canyon. There’s still much color in the desert, bright reds, brilliant oranges, dayglow yellows, and large patches of pure white. Oh, and now with the desert really coming on, are there many varying hues of brown, from light cinnamon/camos to deep, rich chocolates. All bring attention to the otherwise barren landscape.

Gordon is waiting at the six-mile mark with cold drinks for all; a welcome respite on this cool-turned-hot day. We’ve another break near mile 14. It’s really heating up now. We’d planned on lunch at this crossing, but it’s just too hot to eat. Another cold Gatorade and I head across the tracks and back up the mountain. Nothing out here taller than my knees, not a single tree, not even a respectable bush, hardly a living thing. The desert is cooking now, the unmistakable pungence of sage all along. The thermometer on my Suunto wristop reads 105. But (Thank you, Lord!) with the humidity here being nearly non-existent, the least breeze feels cool and refreshing.

This last segment for the day passes oh-so-slowly, much climbing in the loose sand, no shade, stifling heat. I sing and whistle along (as best I can with parched throat). There’s a welcome diversion toward day’s end at Vasquez Rocks, an amazing geological formation. Walking in their shadow helps for the final mile or so.

Agua Dulce is a small community, few services. No problem though, what with the van to shuttle us about, and Hiker Heaven, a pretty remarkable home- yard-grown hostel. At the gated compound, I’m welcomed with grand smiles by Donna L-Rod, and husband, Jeff J-Rod Saufley. Wow, neat place. I’ll tell you more about it tomorrow.

Time now for a shower, thence to get my dirty, sand clogged clothes in L-Rod‘s clothes basket–and head back downtown for supper.


“Have you wandered in the wilderness, the sagebrush desolation,

The bunch-grass levels where the cattle graze?

Have you whistled bits of rag-time at the end of all creation,

And learned to know the desert’s little ways?”

[Robert W. Service]


Tuesday–May 20, 2008

Trail Day–028

Trail Mile–11.2/0462

Location–Agua Dulce, thence to Hiker Heaven, Donna L-Rod and Jeff J-Rod Saufley

We wanted to get in some miles today yet stay another night at Hiker Heaven, so we did a short eleven to Bouquet Canyon Road, where Gordon loaded us at 11.30–to haul us right back to Agua Dulce.

And why would we want to stay another night in Agua Dulce? Well, duh–Hiker Heaven is located in Agua Dulce! Oh yes, and let me tell you a little about Hiker Heaven:


Jeff and Donna Saufley are hikers, maybe not hiker trash hikers like yours truly, but they’ve packed far enough down the trail to know us and to truly understand the culture that is long distance backpacking.

In May 1997 Donna and Jeff opened Hiker Heaven, giving up (at that point) any possibility for privacy in their personal lives.  Since then the Saufleys have hosted over 2,300 PCT thru-hikers. This year they expect over 300, nearly the entire “Class of 2008.” Tonight alone they are hosting 60 of us.

Hiker Heaven is truly a remarkable place. The Saufley’s backyard has been totally displaced with (transformed into) hiker oriented conveniences–like a mobile home complete with full kitchen, bath, lounge area (computer/internet, telephone, T.V.), and bedrooms down the hall, and tents, big tents, all over the yard, complete with bunks.  Put your name on the bathroom door to get in line for a shower.

Jeff’s thing is mechanical engineering, electrical engineering to be exact–residential, commercial, industrial.  But certainly he’s right at home when it comes to plumbing as well.  Absolute wizardry is the only way to describe how he keeps hot water running in the shower 24/7–and it is 24/7 with 60 cruddy hikers passing through.  We can totally drain a hot water heater, believe me!  Wizardry, the only plausible explanation.

Finally, Donna’s trail name L-Rod stands for “lightning rod.” Standing alone but not necessarily above the fray, she’s taken more than a few strikes. Seems she’s had the audacity to boycott the ADZPCTKO. And why? Well, because she and Jeff know better than anyone about the “hiker wave” (a term coined by her) that is created annually when hundreds of hikers begin their northbound PCT thru-hike at the same time (right after ADZPCTKO), thence, and in awhile, to converge on and overwhelm Hiker Heaven.

Anyway, nuff of this–just want to say thank you, Jeff and Donna, for your kindness and generosity. Especially, thank you for your friendship.

I know that hundreds and hundreds have passed your door. I know, too, that in the future countless more that pass your way will receive your loving care. And yet–I know–through all times that your friendship to this old man will remain.

Oh, and yes, I’ll see to it that you receive signed copies of both my books, for your great library.


“The making of friends, who are real friends,

is the best token we have of a man’s success in life.”

[Edward Everett Hale]


Wednesday–May 21, 2008

Trail Day–029

Trail Mile–13.0/0475

Location–San Francisquito Rd., thence to Casa De Luna, “Andersons,” Joe and Terry Anderson, Green Valley

Another cool, glorious day. Days now should be really hot, the afternoons here in this desert climate nearly unbearable to hike through, but we’ve been blessed beyond what we may ever have hoped or prayed for.

Much climbing now, as the trail continues trending generally east/west, the mountains and their major canyons, generally trending north/south. So, more gumball machine roll-arounds, up and over the ridges, in and out of the side canyons; and so the trail goes, and so does it work us today.

By early afternoon we’ve managed to reach San Francisquito Road, where Gordon awaits to carry us down to Green Valley, and Anderson Hostel.

We no more arrive, get our tents set in their backyard, than we’re informed by Terry that a fire is sweeping up the canyon toward us, and that we needed to prepare for evacuation. Down comes my tent. Ditto for Sheltowee and Slider. We load all our stuff back in the van–and wait for the order.

Smoke’s coming over the mountain now, chopper hovering above the valley rim, spotter plane whizzing around. Hard to kill time, times like these, but we manage.

A block or so over, when we were coming up to the hostel, I’d noticed what looked like a really neat chop shop. Dan and I saunter down now to take a look. Kind folks, Cindy and Phil. Both busy, but they take time to greet us and invite us over. Cool stuff; an old Chevy pickup, chopped top, old blue-flame, stovebolt six, split manifold–really neat. And a full metal (not a fiberglass replica) ’30 bucket roadster (pics will be up soon). You gotta see this stuff.

Well, the evac order never comes–fire’s been contained. So we unload and set up all over–just in time for the grand taco salad supper, for 20 plus hungry hikers, prepared by the Andersons.

Showered up, full tummy, and now a bit of the old Laurel and Hardy style humor–a little skit performed by the Andersons, and it’s time to call it a day. And what an event-filled day. Blessings. Oh yes, true blessings!


“The most beautiful adventures are not those we go to seek.”

[Robert Louis Stevenson]


Thursday–May 22, 2008

Trail Day–030

Trail Mile–18.2/0493

Location–7N23A, Burnt Peak Road

We’re up and moving early. Loaded and rolling, we make a stop at Heart and Soul, a little mom-n-pop cafe/convenience just off Spunky Canyon Road. Great breakfast burrito.

First off, a climb up the ridge above Lake Hughes for our first view into the Mojave. A strange sight, rain clouds–and rain in the desert. We’ve had 30 days with no rain, and now it appears we may be in for it the next day or so–in the desert!

As usual, Slider has left us in the dust, yet, by day’s end, Dan and I beat him in. Gotta confess, we did some blue-blazing. That being, taking a route other than the marked and designated trail. Truth is, we had both tired of the up-and-around and the down-and-abouts the trail had been taking, so we jumped over to a forest service road that ended in the same place, and hiked it in from there.

Great evening meal prepared by Slider, behind the van at one of the few flat spots suitable for camp setup–right in front of a “Do not Block” gate.


“What do you suppose will satisfy the soul, except to walk free and owe no superior?

[Walt Whitman]


Friday–May 23, 2008

Trail Day–031

Trail Mile–21.6/0515

Location–CA138, Hiker Town Hostel

I was able to pitch out of the wind last, in a small sheltered spot under some trees (Yes, we’re hiking for a short time through trees again!). During the night sometime, it began, just a drop or two on my tent fly at first. Then, as time passed, and as the trees became laden with moisture, down came the rain.

I tarry the longest time this morning, after looking out my tent flap and seeing nothing in the cold, wet gloom, except cold, wet gloom. Slider finally rousts me. Not easy rolling out from a dry, warm bag, to the cold, wet ground. Oh yes, I’ve got my tent down and packed in no time. No breakfast this morning, no coffee, no morning duty–yet. It’s just too cold and wet to bother. We hastily load everything back in the van that we’d failed to put away last evening, shoulder out packs, and set out into it. Gordon’s up too, and sends us off with his usual “Have a good one.” But his encouragement seems to do little for our dampened enthusiasm.

First comes a long, steady climb, pretty much as usual, but this climb brings some surprises: more rain (we’re in the clouds), then sleet, then small, pellet-sized hail. The wind comes up and really gets to whipping. The temperature drops, and the day begins making for one of those “never a bad day” days (but not the best).

We’ve been hiking off and on the past week or so with a young chap, Tyler Lion Heart Wagstaff. Our paths crossed again when he came into camp late yesterday. He wasn’t looking or feeling so hot. Come to find this morning, he’d made several trips outside his tent last night. On the trail this morning, Dan and I soon catch and pass him–unusual.

The initial climb tends to be rather tough, what with the wind, the cold sleet, and the wet trail. Near the ridgetop, Dan and I decide to stop and wait around to make sure Lion Heart is okay. In awhile he comes along. He’ moving fine now, so we hike most the remainder of the day together.

The clouds persist in their rushing by, driving the sleet at us, creating a tiring, not the most fun hike. I stop and try getting a video of the clouds in which we’re suspended. Bailing off the mountain, and at much lower elevation, we finally emerge from the shroud of gloom and from the cold rain and sleet. At a road crossing, near 14 miles for the day, Gordon is waiting. Window cracked–“Get in the van and warm up.” he orders. Don’t have to tell me twice, Gordon!

After the warmup, which gets my sticks-for-fingers working again, we’ve seven miles of (more gumball) trail to finish the day at CA138, West Antelope Valley–and Hiker Town, a weekend retreat-turned-hiker-hostel. At the little office, near the main compound dwelling, we meet Bob, the caretaker. We’re informed by Bob that the bunkhouse is full to overflowing (remember the hiker wave?), but their are a couple of bungalow-like buildings for rent. Dan and I take a quick look, then settle on a deal–for the four of us, including Lion Heart (Gordon always stays in the van).

In the evening now, Slider prepares dinner (Bob’s let us bring our Coleman cook stove in), we relax and enjoy much good company. I have found Lion Heart to be a very interesting young lad–take a minute and check out his blog.


“Wander a whole summer if you can.

Thousands of God’s blessings will search you and soak you

…and the big days will go by uncounted.”



Saturday–May 24, 2008

Trail Day–032

Trail Mile–16.5/0534

Location–Near Cottonwood Bridge, L. A. Aqueduct

Wish I was able to tell you more about Hiker Town, where we stayed last, but I don’t know much. I do know it’s a weekend retreat owned by a movie director from Los Angeles. Apparently he has a soft spot for long distance backpackers.

By the time Dan has breakfast cooked (He’s the breakfast cook, Kevin does dinner!) and we get the van loaded, it’s after nine. Only a 17 to do today, so no rush. We’re finally on the trail by 9:30.

The hike today will be like no other, along the Los Angeles Aqueduct. We’ll trek ever so slightly up, as the aqueduct channels water from the mountains, the Sierras, down to the coast, and we’ll be hiking toward the mountains. Pretty uneventful day, that is until Sheltowee and I decide to blue-blaze a section, where the PCT leaves the aqueduct. Looked like it would be a shortcut, but by the time we get through with the ups, down, and arounds, we’ve added at least another three.

Gordon is waiting at the aqueduct bridge at Cottonwood Creek. Slider gets in first. Sheltowee and I, then Lion Heart finally make it. A pleasant day, as we’ve been blessed once more with cool, cloudy weather. Oh yes, we’re blessed, no question about it.


“Father, thank You that in the average, normal day

we can see the hand of an all-powerful and all-knowing God. 

In the deserts of life, You appear in the flame of Your presence.”

[Franklin Graham]


Sunday–May 25, 2008

Trail Day–033

Trail Mile–23.4/0558

Location–Tehach/Willow Road

Our camp last was in the Joshua trees–and the sand.  I thought we’d be out of the wind there, but the wind is never far away, and it came to join us again just after sunset. I did manage to pitch in the lee for a pleasant night.

Dan’s been excited for days about seeing his high school chum, Doug, again. You’ll recall that Doug lives near Los Angeles, and he was able to come up last evening to spend a little time, and to hike awhile with us this morning.

We’re all out and moving around 8:30. A respectable climb first thing. Doug’s in shape, so we’re able to move right along–and up. Seven miles or so, he bids us good hiking and farewell, then turns to return, back down the mountain.

We soon enter an area of intense burnover. Nothing left but ash–and sand. The treadway has been almost totally obliterated, which makes for slow, dangerous going, as the trail through is mostly a sideslab. Don’t want to skid off the side of this place, ’cause it’s a long way down.

Later in the day, just to add to the mix, we get into an area overrun by dirt bikes–churned up trail going every which way. Slider has moved out way ahead and he keeps us on track by making directional stick marks in the sand. We’re able to follow his lead and get through the worst of it.

Late afternoon we enter Terra Gen Operating Company land, the beginning of (guess what) a wind farm. Here are located hundreds and hundreds of wind-driven turbines–and they’re all crankin’.

We’d been concerned for the longest time about the heat through this desert section, but the opposite conditions have prevailed–cold wind, sleet, and hail. My hands haven’t warmed up or worked right all day.

Gordon’s right here waiting for us at day’s end. We pile in and head for Mojave just a short distance down the valley. Best Western, that’s the place. We’re all in, showered, then over to KFC for the biggest bucket (actually two) they make–plus mashed taters, gravy, green beans, and biscuits.

I’ve a bunion-like knot developing on my next-to-little toe, right foot, and today it’s really been complaining. I know I’m old, just don’t want to feel it. Anyway, sure not unhappy to have this day done and in the journal.


“An aged man is but a paltry thing,

A tattered coat upon a stick,

Unless soul clap its hands and sing,

And louder sing for every tatter in its mortal dress.”

[William Butler Yeats]


Monday–May 26, Memorial Day 2008

Trail Day–034

Trail Mile–8.7/0567

Location–Cameron Road and US58

Being out of the wind and cold–much enjoyed. A very good continental breakfast. I’m rested and ready to hike again today, a short eight miles.

Back up the mountain, we find the cold wind waiting. Jacket on, pack up, I’m out behind Dan, Kevin, and Tyler.

Tyler’s doing so much better now. He’s eating well; his strength returning–great attitude.

The trail leads up immediately, along the high ground, where stand the wind turbines, all running full tilt.

With such exposure, there’s nothing to deter the wind–20, 30, 40 mph, gusting above 50. And it’s bitter cold. The trail stays the high ground for such a long time, so it seems. My hands turn numb. Can’t hold my sticks. We’re in the clouds now, an eerie sight and sound, the grind and groan of the turbines standing so close, yet invisible in the shroud. I try to get a video, don’t know–much difficulty keeping the camera even half steady.

We’re off the mountain before noon. Gordon needs new tires, so we head for Lancaster, and Super Wal*Mart, some 25 miles south.

It’s late afternoon before we’re back to Mojave, and another night at Best Western. Much foot pain today.


“A narrow wind complains all day

How some one treated him;

Nature, like us, is sometimes caught

Without her diadem.”

[Emily Dickinson]


Tuesday–May 27, 2008

Trail Day–035

Trail Mile–00/0567

Location–Best Western, Mojave

The democratic way–we took a vote; it was unanimous: Burn a day in Mojave. So here we are again, for the third night at Best Western, Mojave. We first came cruisin’ in here Sunday evening after completing the 23 mile not-so-memorable trudge up and through the burnover. We were all tired, needed a bath and a good hot meal. The 28 piece bucket from KFC did the trick.


Yesterday, after the short-but-tough hike up past the wind turbines, we returned to Mojave again for another pleasant evening.  Great town, fine folks, neat motel (with pool hot tub). Oh yes, no great debate about another night here.

Zero days aren’t leisure days. There’s always plenty to do, like washing the uniform shade of brown out our clothing–and shoes. Desert sand and dirt have a way of penetrating and sticking to everything. Gordon drives me to Tehachapi, to K-Mart for a couple more camera memory cards. I’m shooting more videos now, and they really eat up the memory (should make a great addition to the website). Gotta work the post office in, plus a dip in the pool, and a bit of (Oh, no) leisure in the hot tub.


“A few days ago I rode into the red rocks and sandy desert again and it was like coming home again.”

[Everett Ruess]


Wednesday–May 28, 2008

Trail Day–036

Trail Mile–25.6/0593

Location–Cow Pasture Camp (Meadow near Jawbone Canyon)

Waffles and coffee from the breakfast bar get me going. Gordon has us back to the overpass/trail, US78, and we’re hiking by 7:30.

Here is the official beginning of the Sierras. We’ve now completed Southern California (and that edition of the PCT Atlas compiled and published by Erik Asorson).

We’re faced right off with a steady climb of over 2,000 feet back to the crest at 6,000 feet. We’re still in the desert. Though the sun can be searing, we’re blessed again with a cool breeze. It seems the winds of all the planet are being spawned here–with most remaining. There’s not a respectable ridge along today that isn’t adorned with countless wind turbines. How their builders were able to  construct service roads to some of the sites up here is nothing short of miraculous.

A day off should have helped my foot problem, but the pain is intense, sending zingers clear up my right leg as I stumble along and through the off-camber sideslab trail. Popping coated aspirin every hour provides some relief, knocking the pain the least bit.

In the afternoon, and from a piped spring I fill my 32 oz belt-pouch bottle, then add two liters more in my Platypus, which will be needed for supper tonight and tomorrow morning. With food, and now much water, my packweight has doubled–doubling the weight on my hapless right foot.

Slider and Sheltowee have moved way ahead; I can’t keep up. As I hike the final climb for the day the treadway turns into a pile of rocks, setting my right doggie to barking nearly every step. Reaching this higher elevation the trail changes, from a sandy desert of Joshua to a loamy forest of oak and pine. Here the soft duff of the trail is such a blessing. I am very tired by the time I reach the cool, green meadow where Slider and Sheltowee are setting camp for the night.


“There is room in the halls of pleasure

For a long and lordly train,

But one by one we must all file on

Through the narrow aisles of pain.”

[Ella Wheeler Wilcox]


Thursday–May 29, 2008

Trail Day–037

Trail Mile–23.4/0616

Location–Kelso Valley Road

What a nice campsite last, fire ring, lots of firewood, and cows. No water but plenty of wind to go around–and back around, even though toward the end of the day last the wind turbines gave out.

Slider gets going around 6:40, I’m right behind. With the cold morning (41 degrees), our camp was in the clouds. I find out later that Sheltowee lingered in his tent until almost 7:30. The morning remains cold, and we hike in the sullen shroud until well past 10:30.

Our first water is at a lovely place called Robin Bird Spring, ten miles out. Slider and I get there mid morning.

I’m suffering severe foot pain again today. Taking coated aspirin, one per hour, helps. The trail works its way between open stretches of sand to much-welcome shade (and blessed soft tread) in the Jeffrey pine, live oak, and black oak. I have hope–and faith, that my foot will get better, that the pain will soon subside.

Water for the afternoon is at Cottonwood Creek. So far we’ve seen no other hikers. Late afternoon now, the final section is a down, tough, very painful and tough. Slider and I are in by 4:00–along with the wind. Together we pitch camp near the road crossing, only to find the wind too bothersome. Sheltowee comes in and we then break camp, load everything back in the van and move on down the mountain out of the incessant wind.


“Hope is the thing with feathers–

That perches in the soul–

And sings the tune without the words–

And never stops–at all.”

[Emily Dickinson]


Friday–May 30, 2008

Trail Day–038

Trail Mile–22.2/0638

Location–Flat ridge crown just past trail to Lower Yellow Jacket Spring

There was so much wind at Kelso Valley Road that we had to break camp and move down from the pass last evening. We found a relatively flat, sheltered area out of the wind about a quarter-mile below.

It’s a chilly 44 degrees at sunrise this morning. This cold beginning will soon give way to another blessed cool day, a continuation of the absolutely ideal weather we’ve had for hiking the PCT.

We’re out just after eight, first Slider, then Sheltowee, then me. I try keeping up but immediately suffer again with much pain in my right foot. I’ve taped my fourth toe off to the third in hopes of isolating it, to relieve friction and pressure, but it’s not working. Much disappointment, causing not a good attitude–the day soon becoming another head-down, grind-it-out day.

We’ve more gumball machine trail. No memorable features or views, just sand, and the trail winding and wandering through it.

Nearly out of water, Dan and I go down to Yellow Jacket Spring, off trail nearly a mile. A strange place. Hundreds of gallons of water rushing by through knee-high grass, but the run no more than a quarter-inch deep. We search down and around to finally find a small dropoff where we’re able to channel water into our bottles and bladders using a chunk of tree bark.

The trail continues its never-ending sideslab with not a single, halfway-flat spot to pitch anywhere along. The ridge above finally drops as the trail continues its contour. Seeing sky just above, we break from the trail and climb up to a small crown, and a perfect campsite, save a few ants and scorpions.


“I sought the trails of South and North,

I wandered East and West;

But pride and passion drove me forth

And would not let me rest.

And still I seek, and still I roam,

A snug roof overhead;

Four walls, my own; a quiet home…

‘You’ll have it when you’re dead’.”

[Robert Service]


Saturday–May 31, 2008

Trail Day–039

Trail Mile–12.8/0651

Location–CA178, Walker Pass, Walker Pass Campground

Great campsite last, right on a little crown just above the trail. Rocks tall enough and situated just right for seats to cook our evening meal, next the perfect spot for a warming fire. Oh, and what was so amazing–no wind!

We’re out a little before six-thirty to a cool (41 degree) morning, sunny and wind-free.

We’re hiking now at near 7,000 feet. From here we’ll bop along, to finally scrub off 2,000 feet as we drop to Walker Pass Campground.

Early afternoon we round one of the (gumball machine) turns, to an open clearing. Looking northerly, we get out first glimpse of the High Sierras and Mt. Whitney–snow-covered in the far-distant haze. We’ll be hiking up there in those lofty places the next three or four weeks. Ah, and we may soon be out of the desert–but I wouldn’t bet on it.

The trail down to Walker Pass is the perfect grade, just made for Nomad‘s Neutral.  Slider and I let ‘er go, cruising at four per. We’re in, in no time. Gordon’s here. Here, also, are trail angels, Meadow Ed, Meadow Mary, Swithback, Jackalope and husband, Eagle Eye, and Katy (the ranger) Warner. Also here are my dear friends, JoJo and husband, Nomad ’98, and Rascal.

Less foot pain, a blessing for sure. I’m not feeling so old today.


“As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.”



Sunday–June 1, 2008

Trail Day–040

Trail Mile–29.9/0680

Location–Canebrake Road, thence to Best Western, Ridgecrest

The decision is to hike it on through from Walker Pass to Canebrake Road, a long day with much climbing. We grab a quick breakfast provided by the many trail angels here at the campground, then bid a hasty farewell to all and hit the trail. We begin climbing immediately–a little past seven.

JoJo and Rascal have hiked out ahead of us, so we’re hoping to see them today. It’s a short distance from the campground to the pass, where Nomad ’98 is working on his pickup. His serpentine belt has jumped track and he’s bent over the radiator trying to route it back on.

Crossing CA178, the climb continues as we head for the saddle between Morris Mountain and Jenkins Mountain. Soon we see hikers on the trail above. Overtaking them, we meet Curtis and Chris, both from Ridgecrest. They’re long-distance runners. However, today they’re out just to hike and enjoy the mountain. As we pass, they hasten their pace and we continue along together, sharing much good conversation and company.

At the campground I managed some repair to my painful right foot, and it is doing much better as the morning progresses.

Up and over Morris/Jenkins, we drop, only to climb a great distance back up to the saddle between Jenkins Mountain and Owens Mountain. In the Sierras now, and at these higher elevations are the vistas most grand, across to the rugged ridge leading to Mt. Owens, and a particularly jagged sculpt of sheer rock known as Five Fingers. Curtis and Chris are familiar with this area, these mountains, and it’s most enjoyable listening as they enthusiastically identify the many different features.

We miss JoJo and Rascal, a disappointment, as they’ve gone down to Joshua Tree Spring, a quarter-mile off trail. Curtis ran down for us, took our water bottles to fill, and saw and met them there.

The final climb of the day takes us up and over the saddle between Jenkins Mountain and Owens Mountain, a very long, steep ascent. All in all, and before we complete our trek this day we will have climbed no less than a vertical mile.

The descent from Jenkins/Owens is most gentle, another blessing, as my right foot has again become very painful–downhills can be pure murder on tired, sore feet.

We reach Canebrake Road in good order, Curtis, Slider, Sheltowee, and me. Gordon and Nomad ’98 are here (Nomad got his belt back on). Chris has taken a slower pace and will not be finishing until near dark, so Curtis loads with us to return to his vehicle at Walker Pass, from there to return and fetch Chris.

It’s sure been a fun and interesting day hiking with these two locals. Thanks fellows!

Not a pain-free day, but my foot is much improved. Oh, joy!


“Run the race with endurance, the course that has been laid out for you.”

[Hebrews 12:1]


Monday–June 2, 2008

Trail Day–041

Trail Mile–00/0680

Location–Best Western, Ridgecrest

Seems there’s never a spare minute when hiking the trail. A day “off” now and then is needed to get caught up on loose ends, like talking to loved ones and friends, getting a bath, washing clothes, having a good hot meal or two–and maybe getting caught up on journal entries.

So, another day in Ridgecrest will go far in attending the neglected.


Perhaps a day of rest might help my tired aching foot.


“No speed of wind or water rushing by

But you have speed far greater.”

[Robert Frost]


Tuesday–June 3, 2008.

Trail Day–042

Trail Mile–21.5/0702

Location–Sherman Pass Road, thence to Kennedy Meadows Campground

What a climb from Ridgecrest back up to Canebrake Road. Takes Gordon near an hour to shuttle us, his van shifting constantly from second to low, a climb of over 2,500 feet. And are we loaded–water, grub, if you can think of it, we’ve got it. Lightweight backpacking? Ah-hmmm!

We’re not back on trail until 8:30. More climbing first thing, from a little over 5,000 feet on up to over seven.

The trail passes through more burnover, sand and ash, typical churn. The joy is in finally reaching actual timber, pine and hardwood. It’s a pleasant change–for a change.

Lunchtime our paths cross that of Yeti and Manimal, locals from Ridgecrest out for a few days.

Water is becoming more abundant now. Numerous spring-fed brooks, then snowmelt rushing down the South Fork of the Kern River. We intersect the river, then hike up its canyon the remainder of the afternoon, to Kennedy Meadows. Gordon is waiting at the road crossing above the little community–and the Kennedy Meadows General Store. The usual trail design and layout. It’s a mile from where the trail crosses the road to the store, which we hiked past and within a few hundred yards of almost an hour ago.

We load and head for the store for our mail drops. Neat old place. Hundreds of boxes, hiker boxes, stacked ten high and forty deep in their back storage area. My drops are here, Sheltowee‘s too. Slider is missing one of his boxes. We sort through the stack for over half an hour–no luck.

The store is putting on a spaghetti dinner for thru-hikers this evening, plenty of takers. A little skimpy, far as hiker trash standards, but very good.

Much enjoyable conversation with many friends. Late evening we move up to the campground a couple of miles from the store and call it a day.

Passed the 700 mile mark today.


“Little by little, one travels far.”

[J.R.R. Tolkien]


Wednesday–June 4, 2008

Trail Day–043

Trail Mile–2.5/705

Location–Kennedy Meadows Campground

We’d been advised a couple days ago that the trail just north of Kennedy Meadows was closed due to a recent forest fire–the Clover Fire. But here at the Meadows today we find the trail open to thru-hikers, so we’ll be hiking on up and into the High Sierras without the need for a long detour around.

JoJo is here, and I dearly want to hike some with her. We’ve been friends for many years. Met her, got to know her, also her husband, Frank Nomad ’98 Burley, long before they ever met each other. A bit about this very special lady: JoJo is not just the first woman, but she’s the first person to thru-hike the entire Appalachian Mountain Range. She accomplished this great goal in 2002. The trek covered an incredible distance of 5,400 miles, from Key West, Florida, to Belle Isle, Newfoundland, in the Labrador Sea, off the tip of The Great Northern Peninsula. We’ve both hiked that trail, and many others–but never have we hiked together. And so, my desire to hike some, finally, with my dear friend JoJo.

We’re taking another day off today, but we’ll get in the least bit of hiking, from the road crossing near the store, to the campground above.

Dan prepares a tank-stokin’ breakfast for us, a dozen scrambled eggs mixed and loaded with potatoes, peppers, onions, and cheese, also toast–Oh, and lots of coffee to wash it all down. We don’t get out and going until after nine.

Since we’re hiking from the campground back south to the road, Gordon is waiting right at the same place, again. We load and beat it back to the store. Many dear friends, fellow thru-hikers lounging the deck outside. Great company; delightful afternoon.

We’re back to the campground before dark.

This peaceful time, this rest for this old man’s bones, for his pitiful foot, has been a much needed blessing.


“The value of old age depends upon the person who reaches it.

To some men of early performance it is useless.

To others, who are late to develop, it just enables them to finish the job.”

[Thomas Hardy]


Thursday–June 5, 2008

Trail Day–044

Trail Mile–23.2/0728

Location–Campsite at “year-round creek”

It’s 37 in my tent this morning. Dan has ice on his. This is pleasant weather up here at high altitude!

JoJo, Rascal, TarzanZelda and Greybeard get out at 6:00, Slider at 6:45. Sheltowee and I linger, enjoying each other’s company–and the quiet, crisp, clear of the morning. We finally hit the trail at seven.

It’s a gentle climb to begin, the treadway kind to tired, tender feet. At six miles or so we see a group of firefighters camped in a lush, green meadow below, maybe 15 or 20 of them, mop-up for the Clover Fire that burned across the trail. At mile seven for the day we begin hiking through the burnover. Hot spots (smoke) can still be seen across the mountain. That the fire affected an area so close to the trail certainly casts suspicion on us (trail users). However, and thank goodness, USFS fire investigators believe the origin of this fire was a smoldering lightning strike from a few days previous–not like the Apache Peak Fire, which closed the trail and caused us much inconvenience, the determined cause–a cigarette discarded by a hiker.

In Monache Creek Bowl, Olanche Peak, the trail climbs the sky, from 7,800 to 10,500 feet, one of the longest continuous pulls yet. I’m pleased with my stamina–quite amazing how my legs have come back under me, again, one more time!

Vast vistas reveal the majesty that is the High Sierras, snow-crested sharptop sentinels–to the blue horizon. It’s so easy to simply stand and stare the distant legions, and snap countless postcard scenes.

We all end up, same time, for lunch at the South Fork, Kern River Bridge. A most pleasant brook, spring snow melt running full tilt. Trout are abundant in the clear, swift waters.

Past Olance the trail descends to 9,000 feet where we find a clear “year-round creek.” We’re all in by five; a great campsite–fire ring, water, tent sites for all. Oh, does the warmth and glow of the evening fire prove such a welcome friend.


“If you’ve never stared off in the distance, then your life is a shame.”

[Adam Duritz]


Friday–June 6, 2008

Trail Day–045

Trail Mile–25.2/0750

Location–Trail Pass, down and back, then on to Chicken Spring Lake

The very best campsite so far. Great company, too. Sheltowee, Slider, Zelda, Tarzan, GreybeardJoJo and Rascal.

Greybeard is daily hiking with us now. Like Slider, he tries to get out to an early start; so now I’m up early, too. Except for Sheltowee and me, all are moving by a little after six. We linger, again, breaking camp, getting our gear packed, and enjoying time together.

The hike today begins at 9,000 feet, then climbs to over 10,000 in the first eight miles.  Though the tread is mostly sand, the vegetation desert-like, there’s plenty of water along the path now.

Sheltowee and I hike with JoJo and Rascal until around eight. During that time I’m able to get a neat interview (check the video link in a few days).

Today we’re offered many good views of Mt. Whitney, which we’ll be climbing early Sunday.

Toward afternoon we descend Trail Pass to meet Gordon at the trailhead below. Here, also, are Shirley, Greybeard‘s wife, and Frank Nomad ’98, JoJo‘s husband.

Sad news. Have known for the past few days, but couldn’t bring myself to tell you. Sheltowee is leaving the trail here at Trail Pass. The Boy Scouts of America have called him back, so he must go. One of the toughest good-byes in a very long time.

At four, and with heavy hearts, Slider, Greybeard, and I start back up Trail Pass; it’s a long, hard pull. The day proves uneventful as we continue on to Chicken Spring Lake, where we arrive a little past six. Other thru-hikers are here for the evening: Map Man, Robin, Just Ben, Roadrunner, and Delray.

Sitting now by the lake, thinking of this day, do such mixed emotions rush over me, feelings of joy and feelings of despair. I’m overwhelmed by what can best be described as an agonizing void. I manage to finally drive it down by remembering about and being thankful for Dan’s friendship over these many years. He’s been such a positive influence, a motivator in so many ways. His calm composure, his easy way with daily dealings have boosted me many a time. His example has constantly nudged my deeper being toward true, inner peace.

It’s been a sad day, a very sad day, but I am happy in knowing our friendship will endure. I’ll sure miss you Sheltowee; all the very best to you and Waterfall.


“That’s something I’ve gained from the experience [thru-hiking the AT]:

a sense of inner peace and confidence that I can be happy anywhere

because I have that happiness and love for life within me.”

[Nina Waterfall Baxley, ME-GA 2000]


Saturday–June 6, 2008

Trail Day–046

Trail Mile–21.8/0766

Location–Guitar Lake, Mt. Whitney Approach Trail

Slider wakes me. A squinting glance at my wristop (time and temperature); 5:30, 34 inside my tent. Aw my, not sure I’ll be getting used to this anytime soon. I really like the sun shining on me when I head out. We’re (SliderGreybeard and me) hiking by a little after six. Just before eight we enter Sequoia National Park.

I’m having a real tough time this morning, hiking without Dan. I keep looking back, waiting for the sound of his footsteps, anticipating his upbeat laughter, listening for his offkey sing-songs. But alas, there is naught but silence.

The goal today is to get within striking distance of Mt. Whitney, so we might climb early tomorrow morning while the snow fields are still crusted and solid.

In the afternoon, gnarly trail slows us considerably, rocks piled on rocks, and more than enough climbing, over 2,000 feet for the day. We’re off trail more than on, crossing deep snow drifts or avoiding treadway flooded to overflowing with spring snowmelt.

You may have noticed that my daily mileages don’t always add up to the total mileage. That’s because, like today, we’re hiking on trail other than the official PCT. This afternoon we’ve done part of the side trail leading up to Mt. Whitney–off the PCT, and I’m not including such mileage, other than for daily mileage purposes. In this case we’re so close to Mt. Whitney, and there’s a trail leading over and up there–why, it’d be foolish to pass it by. Oh yes, we’re hiking up Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower 48.

We reach Guitar Lake early afternoon to find it almost totally covered with ice, and all around, deep snow drifts. But with such a pleasant day (very little wind for a change), and the sun’s radiance, it’s shirtsleeve weather. Time to lounge a bit and enjoy the antics of the many friendly marmots scampering about.

We’re all very tired and it’ll be a long, hard day tomorrow, a climb to over 14,000 feet, so we’re all bedded down before dark. We’ve acclimated best we can in such a short time (above 10,000 feet). Hopefully we’ll all do fine. No way to know though. Perhaps we should have sought a little advice from the wise old man of the mountain.


“If you wish to know the road up the mountain,

ask the man who goes back and forth on it.”



Sunday–June 7, 2008

Trail Day–047

Trail Mile–21.1/0776

Location–Campsite near Lake South America Trail, below Forester Pass

Greybeard wakes me at 5:30. I break camp quickly and we’re out to a very cold morning, climbing a little after six. Getting an early start helps tremendously, as the snowfield traverses are much less risky over hard, frozen snow–no skidding around or postholing.  Such surface is more crusted, like sandpaper.

From Guitar Lake it’s around four miles to the top of Mt. Whitney, all up, to an elevation of 14,495 feet. We’ve left most of our gear back at Guitar Lake, our base camp at 12,000 feet. I’m carrying all by my tent and the food needed to trek on through to Kearsarge Pass.

Greybeard and I summit a little before eight. Slider reaches the top twenty minutes later. On the summit with us today are Map Man, Robin, Roadrunner, Just Ben, Delray, and Simon. It doesn’t take long for an hour to fly by. Lots of photo ops. I plant a small American flag at the most-high point–a formal ceremony filmed by Slider. We’re blessed with a beautiful, clear morning. No wind, just like on the summit of Mt. Elbert last year.

Incredible, breathtaking views, 360. The Sierra Nevadas contain the longest continuous stretch of wilderness in the lower 48. From Kennedy Meadows to Red’s Meadow, the PCT crosses nine passes, all near or above 11,000 feet, the highest being Forester at 13,180, which we’ll tackle tomorrow. For over 200 miles there are no roads, no power lines, just vast, unspoiled wilderness–and below us this morning does it stand in all its glory.

The descent back down to Guitar Lake takes two hours. We linger, have lunch, then break camp and head on back to the PCT, oh, and the JMT–we’re also hiking the John Muir Trail now.

Whitney behind us, the goal now it to get within striking distance of Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT, elevation 13,180 feet, as mentioned. Again, we want to hit the pass with the snow fields frozen. We’ve much slow going again today, snow drifts, flooding, lost trail. Toward evening we must ford two very large creeks, both roaring, the snow melt now in full tilt. We reach our planned campsite a little before six. Oh my, it’s going to be another cold night here at 11,160 feet.

The climb, then descent from Whitney bummed out my right foot again. Tramping through snow drifts and flooded treadway for hours on can wear on even the best-conditioned backpacker. Anyhow, seems the foot problem is setting in as chronic–not a happy thought. Much, much pain. It’s sure been one long, slow, tough-but-memorable day for this old man.

Instant rice seasoned with gravy for supper. Very tired–sleep comes soon.


“I am the land that listens, I am the land that broods;

Steeped in eternal beauty, crystalline waters and woods.

And I will not be won by weaklings, subtle, suave and mild,

But by men with the hearts of vikings,

And the simple faith of a child.”

[Robert W. Service]


Monday–June 8, 2008

Trail Day–048

Trail Mile–24.0/0790

Location–Kearsarge Pass Trails, thence to Kearsarge Pass, Onion Valley, and down to Lone Pine

Cold, cold night last, at over 11,000 feet. Ice crystals on my tent this morning. Stiff shoe laces (wet last night, frozen this morning).

Everyone is up and moving around by five in anticipation of a long day. We’re 4.3 miles from the highest pass on the CDT, Forester Pass. We want to hit the snow fields while they’re frozen and crusted. Much easier crossing them that way. Early morning is best, so we’re all hiking before six. And we’re all carrying a little extra weight. A couple, thru-hikers, Oasis, and his wife Scratches, have met with misfortune. She fell coming down Mt. Whitney last and dislocated her shoulder. They somehow managed to reset it. However, she’s suffering much pain and is unable to carry her pack. She’s going to hike it out (tough gal, eh!), so Oasis has split up her gear, a bit for each of us to carry up and over Forester Pass, so he doesn’t have to lug both full packs. Helping out will be Map Man, Robin, Roadrunner, Delray, Just Ben, Slider, Greybeard, and me.

The climb begins immediately. All’s fine till we hit the first snow field where the trail disappears under the wide expanse of glistening white–to emerge somewhere in the rocks above.

We spread out, to search up, down, and around. Finally Map Man locates the trail again a half-mile or so up the canyon.

This climb is every bit as difficult a summiting Whitney yesterday, and longer. I’m wheezing and huffing toward the top, which seems to loom forever above each successive switchback.

There’s an enormous amount of snow still banked up, both sides the pass. Slow, arduous going, up and over. Side-slabbing on 40-50 degree angle-down snowpack takes intense, very steady, uninterrupted concentration. One slip, one misstep, could prove disastrous–down, way down to the next stop, like a big pile of rocks.

In the afternoon, and while climbing drift after drift, flooded trail between, Slider goes down hard. He postholes in the ever-softening snow, his heavy external frame pack driving him in. Like getting blindsided in a football tackle, his right leg/knee takes a hard side-angle hit. Greybeard helps him up–he sucks it up, and continues.

The goal for today is to reach Kearsarge Trail, turn there, then climb Kearsarge Pass at over 11,000 feet, and finally, to descend to the trailhead at Onion Valley.

The climb up and over Kearsarge is another buster, just not as much snow–but very steep and rocky. Greybeard and I reach the pass half-past three where we meet Sauerkraut coming back up from the other side. He’s aware of and very concerned about Oasis‘s wife, and to stash his heavy pack (six days of food), and hike back south to assist his dear friends.

It takes us two more hours to descend Kearsarge, a drop of 3,500 feet, where awaits Gordon, Shirley, and Frank (JoJo and Rascal aren’t expected down until sometime tomorrow). After an hour, we become concerned for Slider, as it’s very unusual for him to be far behind. He finally makes it down, but with much difficulty and considerable pain. We all dearly need a rest–and a better plan to watch out for each other.

Tomorrow will be a much-welcome zero-mile day in Lone Pine.


“Adventure is putting one’s ignorance into motion.”

[William Least Heat Moon]


Tuesday–June 10, 2008

Trail Day–049

Trail Mile–00/790

Location–Portal Motel, Lone Pine

A day off, what a blessing getting clean again. Greybeard and his wife, Shirley, have become great new friends. We dined together last, then had breakfast together this morning. In town Slider‘s always finds time to do laundry. Out on the trail, if Gordon can get in to meet us at a trail crossing, I’m the kitchen setup man, working from the back of the van. In that situation, Slider‘s the cook.

On a zero day, there’s always so much to do in such a short time–journal entries, postcards to family and friends, clean and repair gear, figure next six-seven days, food, etc.–never ending, and time consuming–but very necessary.

Gordon is doing so much better, seems every day now. He’s been talking about getting rid of his walker. First chance we get, a Goodwill or some-such, the walker’s history; just great news!


“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”



Wednesday–June 11, 2008

Trail Day–050

Trail Mile–15.2/0797

Location–Near Dollar Lake

I’m still working journal entries this morning. Never seem to get caught up. Regardless, even with severely limited time, I do attempt to keep them interesting and fun. I sure hope you find enjoyment in following along with us this year.

Gordon and I open McDonald’s–coffee and biscuits. Shopping to do. To the sporting goods store, there  I buy new tips for my Carbonlites, and shop for a good pair of gaiters. Get the old beat up tips changed; no luck with the gaiters.

We work feverishly to get going but fail making the motel checkout by eleven. On our way back to Onion Valley Trailhead we make a quick stop at the Independence Post Office to mail cards, etc.

It’s 1:30 before we’re back climbing Kearsarge, a very long climb, 2500 vertical feet. My right foot takes the up okay, and does seem to be doing better–again.

As we descend from Kearsarge, and making good time, we decide to go for Glen Pass today, a climb back up to near 12,000 feet. The trail, the climb–both gnarly. No other way to describe it. Expansive snow fields obscuring the trail. Getting lost takes no effort. Where we’re able to find trail, it’s totally flooded with run-off. We finally reach Glen Pass around 5:30.

The descent is more of the same: snow fields totally obscuring the trail. Scary downs through the slopes of snow, step by step, kicked in indents left by others before us. Down, down, down, grades of 40-50 percent. Concentrate, concentrate, every step is crucial, must have perfect placement. A misstep here–there’d be only one.

Near dark, we find a so-so campsite and call it a day.

I am very glad we tackled Glen as we did. We’re in good position now to get up and over Pinchot Pass, a climb of over 3,000 feet–but that’s tomorrow. Indeed, we’re in the very heart of the High Sierras now.

I’ve doubled up on my enteric coated aspirin, near 4,000 mg per day now, keeps the foot pain tolerable.

Thinking as I nod off: Back at the kickoff event I had the pleasure of talking with Billy Goat again. I’m two months his senior, so we had plenty in common to discuss–like guys our age, they may have the will to take on such remarkable long-distance challenges, however, in most cases their tired old bones are just no longer up to it. Oh yes, our hearts are sure into it, Billy Goat–but we must always wonder, and marvel at our tired old bones.


“People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains…

and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.”

[Saint Augustine]


Thursday–June 12, 2008

Trail Day–051

Trail Mile–19.7/0817

Location–Campsite below (before) Mather Pass, near upper South Creek

We’re up and out to a cold, clear morning–at 6:30. More gnarly trail, flooding, snow fields.

Two hours into it, Slider has a blowout (his old worn-out Jan Sport pack breaks). The quick fix done, no sooner are we off again, climbing toward Pinchot Pass, than it’s get lost time–in a huge snow field. Much time lost, little ground (snow) gained; but no matter. Time up here in this “Range of Light” is certainly NOT of the essence. It’s 2:00 before we reach Pinchot Pass. So far, Pinchot has proven the toughest climb. Oh, but I must tell you, the scenery is spectacular. Snow everywhere, much, much snow.

On the descent we’re off trail more than on (lost in the snow, treadway flooding). Descending, we pass many lovely high-held lakes, all above 11,000 feet. Near day’s end, we’re finally in position to tackle Mather Pass early tomorrow.

We (Slider, Greybeard, and I) have hiked today with Gopher, Rapunzel, and Thrust; great company.

The spring snow melt is in full tilt, and today we were faced with many deep, fast-rushing, (and very dangerous) fords–proved good, though, for numbing my pitiful right foot.


“Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed

and sent pulsing onward we know not where.

Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time

or make haste than do the trees and stars.

This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.”



Friday–June 13, 2008

Trail Day–052

Trail Mile–19.2/0837

Location–Below Muir Pass, near Helen Lake

I’m up but not moving very swiftly. Everything’s cold and frozen, especially my shoes. Have one heck of a time getting my (wire-like) laces tied, what with my poor, pathetic sticks for fingers.

We’ve been trying to hit the trail early, as our progress is now so very slow. We make it out, and we’re hiking a little before six.

In no time at all we hit the snow, huge fields of it, where the trail simply disappears, never, it seems. to reappear–until we reach Mather Pass. We were able to see the impression of many switchbacks on the mountainside, but no way could we go there. We had no choice–head near-straight up, the most difficult (and scary) 500 yards of tread I’ve ever negotiated (sideslab indent steps kicked in the 40-50 percent slope, high, high above anything in sight). Oh, thank you brave souls, you who’ve ventured here before me with crampons and ice axes.

We finally crest Mather Pass a little before ten. Rapunzel, Gopher, and Thrust have hiked up with Slider, Greybeard, and me. We take a break, and I take time to shoot a neat video.

Descending is treacherous. Again, huge near-vertical snow fields to cross and re-cross. Downs are really scary. Can’t help but look, to see where one slip would lead to–fast. On the ups, looking down can be avoided; not near as scary. But the near-straight downs–white knuckle time for sure.

Everyone makes the descent safely, and our focus now shifts to the goal of positioning ourselves for Muir Pass, our final climb to 12,000 feet. Hopes are to pitch camp at around 10,000 feet, but don’t know yet if we’ll have time to make that climb before dark, since the trail has dropped to a steel bridge, which crosses the South Fork, King’s Rive–at 8,100 feet.

There are many swollen streams to cross today. Over some of the deepest and most swift, we luck out by finding blowdowns over which to cross. But, oh yes, still plenty of dunkings–wet feet.

As luck (and perseverance) would have it, we do reach a flat spot at around 10,000 feet. Room for all–and we pitch for the night.

Another very big day tomorrow, up and over Muir Pass. But I’ll worry about it then. Too tired now.


“…few think of pure rest or of the healing power of Nature.”



Saturday–June 14, 2008

Trail Day–053

Trail Mile–20.3/0856

Location–Campsite near Muir Trail Ranch Trail

Another beautiful day;we’ve certainly been blessed. We’re out and climbing toward Muir Pass a little before six. Another very cold morning–sun’s across the other side of the mountain. Am wearing all my clothing, save my poncho.

We’re into huge snow fields almost immediately. The trail (on the ground under the snow) follows many switchbacks. On the snow it goes straight up. As before, others who’ve passed before me have stomped out footsteps, which makes the going easier. Yesterday, under similar circumstances, I was scared to death. Today I’m stopping to take pictures. Interesting how one adjusts, becomes more confident. But, oh yes, it’s still total concentration time. Slow and easy, one step, then the next, the only safe way.

We have little trouble with the climb, although we’re on the actual trail less than a fourth of the time.

Amazingly, we’re all standing by the stone hut in Muir Pass by eight. The hut is an impressive structure, indeed, built in 1908 by the Sierra Club, in honor of John Muir.

At the pass, here again this morning are Slider, Greybeard, Rapunzel, Gopher, Thrust, and me. We linger, taking in the amazing Sierras–and taking pictures. This is such a very special place. These mountains, this remote ruggedness. Well here, I’ll let Muir describe it: “”There are…old ways graded by glaciers and followed by men and bears…all roughened with gorges, gulches, land-slips, precipices, and stubborn chaparral.” We’re hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, true, but up here, in “The Range of Light” are we also trekking the John Muir Trail, approved in 1915 and completed in 1931.

On the way down I have a wreck, actually two. First I lose my footing on the rock-hop across the outfall from Wanda Lake, do a full off-load into the frigid whitewater ice melt–and break my right trekking pole in the process. I’m none the worse for wear, though, just very wet and the least embarrassed. Then a while later I lose my balance again, in the snow field below the lake where I fall slap-flat, breaking my other trekking pole. Once again I’m none the worse for wear. Fortunately, I’m able to repair my sticks well enough to continue using them.

Slider has another blowout today. His harness comes apart on his pack frame (again). Again, another make-shift repair. We’re both going to be limping into Red’s Meadow, in more ways than one.

Greybeard is an excellent guide. He always leads out, looking for the trail through the snow,  keeping us on track. We follow along, usually making good time.

In the afternoon I run out of steam, slow way down. My right foot is extremely painful, probably as bad as it’s been. As mentioned, I’ve doubled up on my coated aspirin, near 4,000 mg/day, but it does little good.

We’ve many more fords today, one a real dandy, across Evolution Creek, probably 20 yards across and thigh deep in some places–incredible force, tries to pick me up and carry me down to the falls below. I still possess good endurance, but my level of strength has steadily dropped over the years. Slider helps me across.

Everyone is hiking ahead of me now, way ahead. I’m unable to keep up. Now come the rocks, lots of rocks. Each off-step hobble, with my left foot, brings much pain. My hiking motto has always been: “There are no bad days in the mountains, some just better than others.” Well, as for today, there’s sure been better.

It’s so amazingly beautiful here in the High Sierras, but I’m having the most difficult time enjoying.

We reach the low point (for me) and for the trail a little after five, take water from the creek, and call it a day.


“Calling you still, as friend calls friend

With love that cannot brook delay,

To rise and flow the ways that wend

Over the hills and far away.”

[William Ernest Henley]


Sunday–June 15, 2008

Trail Day–054

Trail Mile–21.0/0877

Location–Trail to Edison Lake, thence to Vermilion Valley Resort

Up at 4:30, yes 4:30–dark, dark. Our plan is to reach the trail to Lake Edison, then hike the mile and change to the lake, and be there in time to catch the ferry to Vermilion Valley Resort at 4:45.

First comes the hard climb up and over Selden Pass at 10,900 feet. We had anticipated snow fields and were prepared to hammer through, but they aren’t at all bad. Good progress; we’re in the pass by eight.

Different trail the other side. Much snow, but we get through in good order, thanks to Slider. He’s been staying near, been keeping an eye on me–and he grabs me in time, just before I slide off the side of the mountain.

We hike a good distance down Bear Creek Canyon today before climbing again, to near 10,000 feet. Then it’s down again to under 8,000 feet, at Lake Edison.

As we lounge here at the shore of the lake, awaiting the boat to Vermilion Ranch Resort (VVR), I’m thinking: What a great group to be hiking with–Slider, Greybeard, Rapunzel, Thrust, and Gopher.

Mike, from VVR, comes to fetch us, then has us back to civilization by a little after five. Free first frosty, free first night’s stay. Wow, I like this place already!


“Then it seemed to me that the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light.  And after ten years of wandering and wondering in the heart of it, rejoicing in its glorious floods of light, the white beams of the morning streaming through the passes, the noonday radiance on the crystal rocks, the flush of the alpenglow, and the irised spray of countless waterfalls, it still seems above all the Range of Light.”      [Muir]


Monday–June 16, 2008

Trail Day 055

Trail Mile–17.2/0893

Location–Above Purple Lake

What a memorable stay at VVR, all the folks there, just great: Paula, Mike, Kevin, Roy, Tod, Scot, and Carmen. Didn’t get to meet Jim Clement, VVR owner, so would like to thank him now: What super folks you have, Jim, a most-friendly place, thanks! Oh, and thanks for the free beer to start, the hot shower, the delicious pasta for supper, the full platter breakfast, and the free stay, great!

The boat ride back this morning is much smoother. Out at nine; Mike’s at the helm again.

We’ve a long, hard pull, up and over Silver Pass, from the lake at just under 8,000, to nearly 11,000 feet. And again today, difficult and dangerous fords (2). This time the crossings at Mono Creek. Slider helps me again, anchoring himself at the deepest, most dangerous spot, thence to strong-arm me through; thanks Slider!

The snow isn’t bad on Silver. Actually it’s a frolic, great fun–glissading down short stretches over steep snow banks. Slider even gets into it with his gargantuan pack. And why not, with a name like, er, Slider! (Watch for the videos–they’re a hoot!).

We caught up with Brit and Irish at the pass, then we all camp together.

My right foot has been doing better the past two days. Perhaps the ice cold water, the constant dunking, has helped.


“Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.”

[Emily Dickinson]


Tuesday–June 17, 2008

Trail Day–056

Trail Mile–13.4/0906

Location–Red’s Meadow, thence to Mammoth Lakes

A relatively short day today, around 13 miles. Greybeard has me up at five. Not as cold this morning, but dang if I don’t have a time getting started. Takes awhile to get this old jitney warmed up anymore. Why is that!

A hard climb right out of the chute. I hang with it, my right foot barking every step up. After the climb to Duck Lake Trail at a little over 10,100 we drop gradually and steadily back down to 7,700 feet at Red’s Meadow. More fords today; cold, wet feet now the rule, so it seems. Foot never really settles down. I just hammer on–and pop more aspirin.

A mile or two above Red’s we leave the Ansel Adams Wilderness to enter the desolation and ruin caused by the Rainbow Fire. Remaining are huge charred snags that were once majestic stands of fir and pine, some over six feet in diameter. How Red’s escaped the inferno is a mystery to me.

Near Red’s now the trail intersects an old stagecoach road and then enters the stables, home to “Red’s 20 Mule Team. “Gordon and Shirley are right here waiting, both very happy to see us after six days out. Over to the restaurant for a burger, then we load up and head for Mammoth Lakes, the highs of the High Sierras all but behind us now.


“And not by eastern windows only,

When daylight comes, comes in the light,

In front, the sun climbs slow, how slowly,

But westward, look, the land is bright.”

[Arthur Hugh Clough]


Wednesday–June 18, 2008

Trail Day–057

Trail Mile–8.0/0915

Location–Agnew Meadows Road, thence back down to Mammoth Lakes

A much needed near-zero-mile day today. We’re in the van at six and back on the mountain at Red’s at seven. Eight miles of dry tread, yippee! Another slow, hard, and painful start for me. Everyone hikes away–until they realize I’m not coming along. Twenty minutes or so I catch them, sitting and waiting patiently for me. Slider tells me they’ve decided to let me lead today. Just a very kind way of saying they’ll slow down and hike my pitifully slow pace.

A couple more aspirin, which finally kick in, and I’m able to up the pace to a respectable three per. We’re at Agnew Meadows a little after ten, and back down the mountain to Mammoth Lakes by eleven. Again, so many chores, countless things to get done. My tent is filthy, my Therm-a-Rest is leaking, gators are shot, mail drop to fetch (memory card from Webmaster, CyWiz, and latest card to send), trekking poles to find parts for and repair, laundry to do (Thanks, Slider!), six days journal entries to polish up–and maybe find time for a bath and a few good, hot meals.

Hit the jackpot–my mail drop. Cards from loved ones, and a chock full care package (Say goodies!) from Lindy The Pole Goddess Spiezer, LEKI USA.

It’s 10:30 (the night 10:30) and Slider and me, we’re still at it.

Aw, time’s up–end of a very full day.


“I prefer the…star-spangled sky to a roof,

the obscure and difficult trail, leading into the unknown, to any paved highway,

and the deep peace of the wild…”

[Everett Ruess]


Thursday–June 19, 2008

Trail Day–058

Trail Mile–23.0/0923

Location–South junction of JMT/PCT, thence to Red’s Meadow Campground.

We make it out of the motel room by six; amazing! Forty-five minutes back up the mountain and we’re on the trail before seven.

The past number of days we’ve been considering completing a thru-hike o’er the John Muir Trail. We’ve already done the south end of it, from Mt. Whitney, where the JMT begins/ends, (A short distance from there it tracks north on the same path as the PCT). Well, it’s decision making time now, as here near the Ranger Station at Devil’s Postpile, just north of Red’s Meadow, the trails go their separate ways for a number of miles, not to merge again until just below Donohue Pass. We can take one or the other of the two trails, but then there’d be that gap in the trail not hiked. So, plan is to hike up the PCT to where the trails join again, then beat it back down the JMT to the Ranger Station here at Devil’s Postpile. Hiking this loop will give us both trail segments. Problem is: The north trail junction isn’t accessible other than by trail, a distance of some eight miles back up the PCT from Agnew Meadows. We all decide that re-hiking the eight miles of the PCT is worth it, so today we’re off on the loop, and tomorrow we’ll start back again at Agnew Meadows to head on north.

There are only five of us hiking together now. Rapunzel stayed the trail, took no time off at Red’s, so she’s now a day or two ahead of us. Her absence has certainly been felt–we all miss you, Rapunzel.

Lots of climbing today, up the PCT, then much drifted snow and snowmelt coming back down the JMT. A tough hike.

In the evening, we head for the neat campground at Red’s. Severe foot pain all day, kept popping the coated aspirin. Relief from pain, oh, what a blessing that would be.


“…few think of pure rest or of the healing power of Nature.”



Friday–June 20, 2008

Trail Day–059

Trail Mile–28.0/0943

Location–Tuolumne Meadows Campground

Another (needed) early start. We’ve a 28 to knock out today, if we can–depends on the amount of snow in Donohue Pass. We’re up at five, back to Agnew Meadows and hiking quarter-to-seven.

Yesterday, as mentioned, we did a loop hike in order to cover a section of the JMT (15 miles) that’s separate from the PCT. That hike also included eight miles of the PCT, from Agnew Meadows to the northern junction of the PCT/JMT. This morning, we’ve got to hike that eight miles all over again, as it’s the only way to get back to the north junction. From there we’ll continue on north, again on both trails.

Donohue Pass is the last pass to stand above 11,000 feet. In fact, when we cross over it’ll be our last time above 11,000 on this hike.

We cover the eight miles again in good order, reaching the PCT/JMT junction a little before ten. From here we continue climbing, to hit the snow (big time) a little above 9,000 feet. The trail soon disappears. We fan out to find the best route up–and hopefully some bits of the trail, to let us know we’re headed the right direction.

There are many deep drifts and expansive snowfields above 10,000 feet. Here, the trail totally buried–only way is to head straight up through the snow and rocks. Being early afternoon now, the snow is soft causing much dangerous postholing. We finally gain the pass a little after two–totally exhausted. Here presents an amazing panoramic view. Time to shoot my daily video.

Descending Donohue Pass, we’re hiking now in the Yosemite Wilderness. The trail down is rugged. Actually there is no path, just fields of snow everywhere. Luckily, as we slip and slide our way down, Thrust finds the trail and we all fall in. The trail remains much obscured, buried at times under many feet of snow. More straight down through it. Descending in such fashion, we make surprisingly good time. Finally, after many miles, and a couple thousand foot drop, the snowfields end and the trail flooding becomes less troublesome.

We’re on track for getting into Tuolumne (say two-wallow-mae) Meadows before dark, which we manage by six. We all head straight to the dining hall. Great atmosphere, fine evening meal.

Gordon has us to the campground before dark. This day owes us little.

Popped coated aspirin all day. Much foot pain–just part (a discouraging part) of the hiking program now.


“God’s promises are like stars; the darker the night the brighter they shine.”

[David Nicholas]


Saturday–June 21, 2008

Trail Day–060

Trail Mile–20.0/0943

Location–Sheltered area just below Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

A very noisy night at Tuolumne Meadows Campground, but I slept through most of it.

Here at Tuolumne the PCT and JMT split for the final time, the JMT passing Half Dome to descend into Yosemite Valley where it ends/begins at Happy Isles, Yosemite National Park, while the PCT continues on north, along the Sierra crest, to Sonora Pass.

Today and tomorrow morning will be our final two days on the JMT, with less than 30 miles remaining to complete our thru-hike. The goal today is to reach the approach trail, off the JMT, which leads some two miles to the top of Half Dome.

Not too good a start this morning. We’re unable to locate where the JMT leads out from the campground. An hour and a half later we finally give it up and walk the campground road, out to the JMT.

It’s a respectable climb first thing, from 8,550 to over 9,700 feet at Cathedral Pass. Lots of wildlife, grouse, deer, even a black bear. Slider, Gopher, and Thrust all get a look at him–and a few fleeting, butt-end pictures.

By 3:30 we’ve reached the approach trail to Half Dome. Hundreds of people, who’ve climbed up today, are coming back down. Through a gap in the tall pine we can see them, like a line of ants, descending the cables over the side of Half Dome.

We climb to within a mile of the summit, but must retreat back down into the timber when a thunderstorm comes driving through. We’re able to get back down in the tall trees and pitch just before the storm hits.

Cold pop tarts and cheese crackers for supper.

Much pain and continued discomfort with my right foot. I have prayed for some relief, but to no avail.


“Every evening I turn my worries over to God. He’s going to be up all night anyway.”

[Mary C. Crowley]


Sunday–June 22, 2008

Trail Day–061

Trail Mile–9.2/0943

Location–Happy Isles, Yosemite National Park

Our plan yesterday was to reach the plateau, a small, flat area just below the cables leading up Half Dome. We arrived in good order, but at that very moment did we hear thunder in the distance. Oh yes, dark, ominous clouds had been forming all around the Dome. Our planned camp area being exposed, we decided to beat it back down to the tall trees some 300 feet below, there to try our luck at finding a flat spot, then to pitch before the storm drove through. Luck was with us on both. We found (relatively) flat ground, got ourselves secure and were in just before the rain and wind arrived. The storm amounted to little and quickly abated. In an hour or so the whole thing blew through. That’s when Slider and Thrust decided to catch the sunset from the Dome. They were gone till well after dark. I heard them return but promptly fell back to long, restful sleep.

We are getting up earlier and earlier every morning, always for what seems a good reason. This morning we’re stirring at 4:30. The reason: To be on top and catch the sunrise from Half Dome. We make it with not a moment to spare. Sunrise this morning is 5:47. We’re on top at 5:48. Ah, but the sun is a minute late as it must rise from behind one of the very tall, distant peaks. As it does, I manage a sensational sunrise video, 360, from Half Dome. The early effort, getting up in the dark; it was certainly well worth it.

The Dome–how to describe it. For sure, it’s like no place I’ve ever been to or ever before seen. Standing as it does, alone and reaching heavenward at 8,800 feet, nearly 5,000 feet above the valley floor, it dominates. It first became visible yesterday, miles and hours before, while we were still at a great distance. Next to Stone Mountain in Georgia, it’s one of the largest and most impressive rocks I’ve ever seen. And the final climb–how can I possibly describe both a heart-stopping adrenalin pump, and a truly life-altering experience? I’ve read, over and over, Muir’s account of his harrowing experience, his struggle on Half Dome–adrenalin surge, yes; heart-stopping experience, oooh yes!

Every day many are lured to the raw adventure that is the climb to Half Dome, there to labor for hours with their personal struggle, up, some 4,000 feet from the valley below. The final 500 feet, near straight up, are the most strenuous and scary. Holes have been drilled every 20 feet or so, into the solid rock, there to support pipes, which in turn support the two-foot wide corridor of steel cables anchored above and below.

We linger the longest time on the huge crown of rock, taking pictures, and watching in total fright as Slider climbs around, between, and through the heap of boulders, to emerge at the very edge of the overhang that is Half Dome, there to sit casually with feet dangling some 4,000 feet above the valley floor. The descent down the cables proves not near as difficult nor as scary as I had anticipated, and we’re soon back on friendly and familiar trail. Ah yes, the side trip up Half Dome and back down will long remain in my memory.

Today we complete our thru-hike o’er the John Muir Trail, as we descend past Nevada Falls, and on down to Happy Valley. Yosemite Valley, on this first summer Sunday is a zoo. We stay only a short time before heading back to the peace and quiet of Tuolumne, where camp has been set. I manage a shower, make-shift though it be, using the van doors to create a shower stall. The evening I spend making repairs to Gordon’s driver’s side running board–one more time.


“Yosemite Park is a place of rest, a refuge [in his day]

from the roar and dust and weary, nervous, wasting work of the lowlands.”



Wednesday–July 2, 2008

Trail Day–062

Trail Mile–15/0958

Location–Lower Parking Lot/Trailhead, Carson Pass

Well, you’ll no doubt notice right off the 10 day gap between Trail Day 61 and 62. Okay, so I’ll tell you what’s happened:

Sunday, June 22nd was not the most pleasant day. That night the pain in my right foot became so incessant, so intense that I had difficulty sleeping. Next morning, the 23rd, as all my friends hiked out from Tuolumne Meadows, I remained behind. An agonizing decision, a very sad, tear-filled time. Reality: I had been holding my companions back for the past number of days as I blundered along with much pain, great discomfort, and difficulty. Not fair to them or to myself, the hike having long failed to bring the least joy.

Later that morning the decision was to have Gordon drive me down to Sacramento, to the J Street Clinic there, in hopes of getting one of the podiatrists to take me in. Many weeks and hundreds of miles of unending pain, with only occasional improvement or letup–it was certainly time.

Gordon has dear friends in Sacramento, Cameron and his wife, Romel. He’d been in touch with them. In fact it was Cameron who’d recommended the clinic, and he’d invited us to stay while in Sacramento.

On Tuesday, I was indeed fortunate to get in to see Dr. Kerbs at J Street. One look was all it took for him to diagnose what I had long suspected–a badly infected foot. Weeks ago I had torn away the lump-like layer of flesh, a corn that had developed on the side of my 4th toe. Removing it left a large cavity. After, I had diligently applied triple antibiotic ointment and bandaged it. But with constant wet conditions, with the never-ending grit and mud of the trail, it was impossible to keep the wound clean and dry.

Doc scolded me, gave me a script for systemic antibiotics and ordered me off the trail until my next appointment (in 11 days after completing my daily regimen of meds).

During the down time, Gordon and I continued supporting many thru-hikers as they trekked on north without me: Slider, Greybeard, Thrust, Cruiser, J.Z., Neighbor Dave, Chickadee, and others.

Yesterday morning, the 1st of July (at South Lake Tahoe, below Echo Lake where the PCT passes), Gordon and I bid final farewell to our many dear friends. Another agonizing, tear-filled time. He then drove me back down to Sacramento, to Cameron’s, where we stayed the night. Dr. Kerbs had also insisted I get a new pair of shoes–ones with a much larger and wider toe box. So we’d stopped at REI on the way in for shoes.

This morning Gordon has me back to J Street. Actually I’m a day early, as my appointment isn’t till tomorrow, but my toe is much improved and I can hardly wait to get back to the trail, back hiking again; so here we are.

The kind receptionist at J Street informs me that Dr. Kerbs is out today, but with much tolerance and continued kindness, she sees that I’m taken in by Dr. Smalley. He spends much time with me, looks my foot over, then gives me the go ahead to return to the trail.

Sacramento, for its size, is a beautiful city, its citizens most kind. We’ve gotten in and out twice now, from clear downtown, with not the least difficulty, all drivers patient with us and most courteous. And thank you, Cameron and Romel, for taking us in. You’re a perfect example of the kind, tolerant and caring folks of Sacramento.

Gordon has me back to Echo Lake in good time. We’ve decided that it’d be best for me to hike south from Echo Lake to Tuloumne as the section of trail just out of Tuloumne has been reported to be wet and muddy, what with the snow-melt. Hiking south will give me at least three days of relatively dry trail, no deep crossings or fords, no muddy bogs. So it’s shoulder-the-pack time at Echo Lake, and I’m back on the trail again a little after two.

Much discouragement and disappointment right off the bat. My right foot starts barking almost immediately, same old stick-the-hot-match-to-it pain. It’s almost impossible not to limp as I attempt to maintain a normal stride.

The trail offers some climbing, a few decent views. Camera stays in my pack, though. Gordon’s waiting for me at Carson Pass Trailhead where I call it a day.

Great joy in camping with JoJo, Rascal, and Frank again. By the time I reach Tuolumne, then get back up to Echo, they’ll be far ahead.


“So thou shouldst kneel at morning dawn

That God may give thy daily care,

Assured that he no load too great

Will make thee bear.”

[Anna Temple Whitney]


Thursday–July 3, 2008

Trail Day–063

Trail Mile–28/0986

Location–Trailhead, Ebbetts Pass

The beginning of this day, the second day back to the trail, brings much hesitancy and trepidation. Seems all the time off, the professional treatment given with sincere caring, the new shoes, seems all has been for naught.

I’m out from Carson Pass at six, the old jitney cranking reasonably well, considering. After some three hours on the trail, begins a surprising (and miraculous) occurrence. Quickly, and for no apparent reason, the pain subsides and my right foot settles down. No words can describe my “glory-be” reaction, my thankfulness, joy, and absolute glad-hearted elation–to be hiking, finally, pain-free. Oh, I’ve certainly done my level best to remain true to the trail, to stay the journey, no matter, with what determination I’ve managed to muster, day-to-day. But my good effort, my  stay-it resolve, that hasn’t turned this hike around. Nope, had nothing to do with it. Divine intervention; that’s the only plausible explanation I or anyone could ever come up with. Thank You, dear Lord, thank You, once more, for Your never-ending grace and loving kindness.

Much climbing again today; some great photo ops, with the right state of mind now–to appreciate this incomparable “Range of Light” sky-filled wildness that is the High Sierras.

Twenty-eight miles for the day, yet I’m in to Ebbetts Pass Trailhead by six, where Gordon and I get a cooking/warming fire going. Hot dogs over the coals. Fresh bag of chips and plenty of iced-down Gatorade for my evening treat, compliments of Gordon.

What a day; what a day!


“This day be bread and peace my lot;

All else beneath the sun,

Thou knowest if best bestowed or not,

And let thy will be done.”

[Alexander Pope]


Friday–July 4, 2008

Trail Day–064

Trail Mile–31.4/1017

Location–Trailhead, Sonora Pass

A strange feeling, staying last at Ebbetts Pass Trailhead–Gordon and I alone. We’d camped there earlier in the week while supporting our friends hiking north. Pretty sure it’ll be the same reaction this evening at Sonora. We camped with all our friends there, too.

Kind of a bummer, going the opposite direction, getting further and further from dear friends with each passing day. They’ll all be over 200 miles north of me when I finally return to Echo Lake, where I’ll resume my journey north. Perhaps, and not likely will I ever see them, ever again–bummer.

I used to do well if I hit the trail by eight. One thing I learned (not that I didn’t know–just not daily applied) was to get out and going, to hit the trail early, like at six or before. First light, Greybeard would roust us all, “Gotta get going, gotta get going,” he’d always say. Slider picked up on it right away. Turned to being a contest; who’d roll out first, Greybeard or Slider. Sorta funny, all the tents lit up before first light. The “old dog, new trick” thing gets harder and harder for this old curmudgeon, but the early-rise change has apparently stuck–I’m out and hiking quarter-to-six this morning!

One very neat and unexpected consequence of hiking backwards (south) is the pleasure in seeing so many friends I’ve not seen since way back in southern California. It’s embarrassing, having my name called out so often, and not remembering in return. I’ve found that simply begging my old age to be an acceptable excuse for forgetfulness. All is forgiven. Ha, and isn’t it interesting that I’m often remembered as “the hiker Gordon’s following.” The pleasure of a cold (out-of-the-blue) Gatorade is sure hard to forget, eh Gordon!

The northern High Sierras are a jumble of jagged razor-topped ridges. Hoodoo-like formations abound. All are eerie looking forms, from the bizarre to the grotesque. And the common colors: Dark volcanic-like browns, even mixtures of black. Oh, and today–reds. We’ve all been to and have seen places like Red Rock, Red River, Red Canyon, Red Desert. Today I hike for just a short time through red, I mean red-RED dirt. Just a small patch on the very top of the Crest.

A 31-mile day, no big deal. But throw in nearly a mile of elevation change, up and down, and you’ve got yourself a hike. I hadn’t really planned on hiking all the way through, from Ebbetts Pass to Sonora Pass, but arriving early the last big (2,400 foot) pull, up to the Crest above Sonora, and having remaining good energy, I decided to give it a go. Some small patches of snow, nothing like back on Mather or Muir. I get off-trail only once, in the boulders above the saddle, leading to 10,500 feet. Vistas wide and glorious. Sharp tops piercing the heavenly blue, 360. Lots of pics today–and a fine video you’re certain to enjoy. Should be up in a couple of weeks. Don’t miss these shots!

As the ups have gone up today, down goes the final down, a bail-off across cliff-angled rock, the narrow tread literally hacked out of the rock face. An exciting climax to a most memorable (and almost totally pain-free) day.

I arrive, and am alone at Sonora Trailhead, no friends like before, to cheer me and share good tidings of the day. I’ve done plenty of long, solitary days on the trail, just not during this trek. Will take some getting used to.


“The land of the great woods, lakes, mountains and rushing rivers

is still mysterious enough to please anyone who has eyes to see and can understand.”

[Norman Collie]


Saturday–July 5, 2008

Trail Day–065

Trail Mile–00/1017

Location–Trailhead, Sonora Pass

We’ve decided to take today off. Much to do (besides getting a couple good hot meals), so we head down the mountain and take our chances. Instead of turning toward Bridgeport, we head for Topaz and the state line, for gas and the AYCE buffet at the casino.

Along the way there’s a neat mom-n-pop for breakfast and a campground to get showers and do laundry. Luck’s with us!

Really nice to be clean and have clean clothes, and the buffet was just super. Manage to get back up the mountain just before dark.

Want to do the remaining 76 miles to Tuolumne in two days plus, so gotta get my tent pitched and hit the hay–4:30 comes early.


Sunday–July 6, 2008

Trail Day–066

Trail Mile–31.7/1049

Location–Above Wilmer Lake

Camped on Sonora for the 4th time last. The place is getting to be like home (not).

I’m up at first light, wake Gordon so he can see me off, pop a Pop Tart, break camp, then at a little before six I’m out and climbing, from the Pass up to the Crest.

When we were waiting here for all our friends to come in a week ago, we could see where the trail crossed two good-sized snow patches way above. They’re still here, and I must cross them, but they’ve shrunk a bunch. I do believe summer is finally here.

The hike this morning, in these northern High Sierras, is one of the most spectacular of all to date. From the Crest, at nearly 11,000 feet, the highest point since Donohue Pass, the trail weaves back and forth through wide-open notches, saddles and passes. Hundred-mile vistas abound full around, and they’re heart-stopping stunning.  The bit of far haze keeps the distant-most snow covered sharp-tops dancing the dusty blue, such mirage-like fantasy enough to make one wonder, to doubt if they’re really out there at all; a mysterious thing, as if enough mysteries weren’t already lurking beyond the horizon.

The trail soon drops from the high ridge to descend Kennedy Canyon, the first of countless canyons through which the trail will make its way for the next forty-or-so miles. Down a thousand feet it goes, to ford the ice cold stream below, then right back up it wends again, usually a thousand feet–and then some, to repeat the exercise over and over (I’m hiking south now, entering the High Sierras from the north now!). The tread today is mostly rocks and boulders, heaped upon heap, rugged, difficult, making for very slow and cautious going, the only way to keep from busting it, what with the ascents and descents totaling over 7,000 feet for the day.

By eight (14 hours on the trail) I manage the 30.  Rocks, boulders, fords, climbs, and the largest, most amazing hatch of mosquitoes I’ve ever dealt with (even worse than in the Florida Everglades).

It’s been a day. And what a day, one to remember awhile, for sure.


“The blue crest of the distant mountain, tops

The green crest of the hill on which I sit;

And it is summer, glorious, deep-toned summer…”

[Amy Lowell]


Monday–July 7, 2008

Trail Day–067

Trail Mile–30.4/1079

Location–Virginia Canyon Creek

I climbed far up the trail from the canyon last, in hopes of rising above the mosquito zone, but to no avail. Tried ignoring them while pitching for the night, Ha! Then tried cooking my evening gruel by reaching out my tent, Ha, Ha! Very uncomfortable night, what with the zipper on my tent door broken. Skeeters out here in the High Sierras work three shifts. They stay at it (at me) 24/7.

I’m up at first light; the early morning shift is here. I skip the Pop Tart, break camp and move out. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that by hiking briskly along one might be able to outdistance the little spitfires, but no such luck. The elbow and back-of-the-leg demons move the fastest. One of the northbounders I chanced to meet yesterday (well, I really didn’t meet him) lamented in passing, “These mosquitoes are just crazy!” I returned with, “Hi!” but that was our total exchange–kept his head down and continued plodding, an entire squadron encircling him, two in hot pursuit. Headnet, Deet, my attempt to thwart their search and destroy mission. Again, no help.

More canyons, more climbing the heap of rocks, but hey! fewer skeeters today.

In Lower Kerrich Canyon, near Bear Valley Trail I come on this northbounder standing on a rock, waving his arms and screaming to high heaven. When he sees me approaching, he hollers and waves to me to “STOP! There’s a bear over there, there’s a bear over there.” He keeps hollering “Hey bear, hey bear,” but apparently the bear isn’t buying it and hasn’t moved. I look, can’t see him. Sure enough see him, though, when he climbs a tree 15 yards away. Had my camera at the ready, already. Oh yes, I get the shot, totally unobstructed. Remarkable, just a remarkable bear sighting!

The guy finally quits hollerin. I pass the bear. The northbounder follows along with me–40 yards back to where he’d dropped his pack.

I’ve been hammerin’ on another 30 today, but the miles are grudging and tough. The canyons have their own charm, the cold browns and grays, the heaven-high spires, the ridges with their rows of lined up sky-piercing needles. Crossing over to each new canyon, and with unlimited views across, each pass sets me to wondering, totally bewildered as to how the trail will ever get through such a confusing jumble. Ah, but as always, one look at the trail data sheet reveals the 1,000 (more or less) climb up the far canyon wall. I hope for the low spot, and that’s usually where the trail goes–just that the low spot isn’t really low. For this day, today’s trek is certainly “Over the hills and far away.”

The day is done, a satisfying one. I’m sure done, energy totally spent.


“We shall remember, and, in pride,

Fare forth, fulfilled and satisfied,

Into the land of Ever-and-Aye,

Over the hills and far away.”

[William Ernest Henley]


Tuesday–July 8, 2008

Trail Day–068

Trail Mile–15.6/1095

Location–Tuolumne Meadows, then back north to Echo Lake, to continue on north

One of the best campsites last. Great cooking and warming fire, few mosquitoes (still picking dried up ones out of my nose).

I think that today I’ve forded my last stream, for awhile. Faced now with mostly rock-hoppers. Dry feet for a change.

I’ve a short hike today and am most anxious to finish this southbound trek, to return back north to Echo Lake where I’ll be hiking north again.

I’m up and out before six.

Toward Tuolumne Meadows the trail levels out, fewer rocks and boulders, and I haul. At Tuolumne Falls, the trail turns, to climb right beside the falls, then the rapids, then the swift running river, all the way to Tuolumne Meadows. What a spectacular bit if trail, certainly impressive–plenty of snowmelt yet.

Gordon is waiting for me at the very spot where I bid farewell to my friends almost two weeks ago.

We’ve a long drive back to Echo Lake. First stop in Bridgecrest for lunch. As luck would have it, we end up with a long detour around, clear into Nevada, then back to California–semi wreck on US395. Mid-afternoon, we make a stop at Topaz Lake Campground for showers and laundry. Then after, to McDonald’s in South Lake Tahoe for our evening meal.

We’re back up the mountain before dark, where we call it a day at the Echo Summit Trailhead.

Sure glad to have this southbound segment behind me. I’ve prayed for this day, this success; thank you, Lord!

I’ll resume hiking north again tomorrow–alone.


“Prayer is not a weakness but a strength.

Its benefits are insight, patience, endurance, and the power to cope with anything.”

[Franklin Graham]


Wednesday–July 9, 2008

Trail Day–069

Trail Mile–32.9/1128

Location–Route 3, Barker Pass

Today will be a very long day, so I’m up, out, and hiking at 5:45. Echo Lake (Lower), also Middle and Upper Echo are picture postcard lakes, with many small, unique cabins reachable only by boat. I can’t resist taking a picture of one of them. The owner, architect, and builder–all likely one in the same person. Neat place, the kind of cabin we’ve all dreamed of owning one day.

Past Echo, the trail soon enters the Desolation Wilderness. Isn’t it interesting how Ma Nature has her way with beauty, even the most stark and forbidding aspects–and the brooding silence always there! Rocks and water, not a hint of green, just cold, grey rocks–and water. The Desolation Wilderness soon ends, but the Desolations go on. Much uphill climbing today, especially the long pull to Dicks Pass.

My time soon becomes occupied with gazing the many picturesque lakes, like Lucille, Suzie, Velma, Margery, Heather, Gilmor, Tamarack, Aloha, and Lake of the Woods.

Since Tuolumne Meadows the PCT has been sharing tread with the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail (TYT), and there’s been much traffic, both ways, both trails. Towards day’s end the TYT and PCT part ways, the TYT heading for Lake Tahoe and the PCT continuing north.

Gordon is patiently waiting at Barker Pass. He loads me, then we drop off the mountain for Tahoe City and a good hot meal. Late evening, but not yet dark, we’re back up the mountain to Barker Pass Trailhead.

The couple I met earlier today, Philip and Wilma from Switzerland, have made it in and are camped in the meadow. Mosquitoes not so bad for a welcome change.


“Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us,

Let us journey to a lonely land I know.”

[Robert W. Service]


Thursday–July 10, 2008

Trail Day–070

Trail Mile–29.3/1157

Location–Old Donner Pass, then to Pooh Corner, Bill and Molly Person, Trail Angels, Truckee

I’m out at 5:45 to another long day, with a long climb to the Crest right off. Get to meet Scott Williamson as he cruises by. Scott’s a speed hiker on a fast trip up the PCT.

More lung-choking smoke from all the fires. Also much ash in the air.

I’m faced with more long climbs as the day progresses–through the Sierra Nevada rocks. Stumbling through sets my right foot to complaining again, but nothing like before. There’s a couple of snow patches to cross, but they’re very small. The snow is nearly gone now, the traverses fewer and farther between. I’ll be entirely out of the snow before long.

Today the trail seeks then follows the Crest for a good while. I’ve grown accustomed to stunning vistas, but the haze/smoke prevents seeing the far-distant mountains I know are out there.

My lungs become dry and scratchy from the stifling smoke.I must slow my pace to breathe easier.The Data Book shows long, waterless section toward the end of the day, but there are numerous small brooks along with plenty of water–the snowmelt isn’t over yet.

By late afternoon the trail drops from the Crest to Old Doner Pass, where Gordon is waiting with an iced down coke. A call to Bill at Pooh Corner and we’re invited to enjoy their hospitality for the evening. Great meal, lots of thru-hikers, laundry too.

It’s dark before we get back to Donner Pass, from where I’ll be able to get going early.


“The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail.”

[Louis L’Amour]


Friday–July 11, 2008

Trail Day–071

Trail Mile–31.4/1188

Location–FR70 near Jackson Meadow Reservoir, thence to Pass Creek Campground

Don’t know why I didn’t go ahead and hike the other three miles yesterday evening, from “old” Donner Pass to the rest area at “new” Donner Pass (at I-80). We ended the day, before heading to Pooh Corner, by shuttling a couple of hikers over to the rest area. Could have had Gordon wait there for me; just didn’t think about it.

We camped last at “old” Donner, so it’s an easy out for me this morning. We were welcome to stay with Bill and Molly at Pooh Corner, on Lake Donner in Truckee, a lovely home-turned-hiker-hostel (all provided by and through the kindheartedness of Bill and Molly Person), but they really had a house full, and I needed to be out and going early, to get the 31 in on up to Jackson Meadow Reservoir, so after supper (a super hiker-stokin’ meal prepared by Bill and Molly) we thanked the kind couple and headed on back to Donner.

Many branching trails just north of I-80. I take the wrong one. Never would have believed it’d be possible to get lost on the PCT, but this morning I manage–hike the wrong trail for over three miles (and 1,000 feet elevation gain) before I realize my error. Bummer! Told Gordon I’d be finished for the day around 5:30-6:00, but no way now, with a 37 starin’ at me. It’s head-down-and-haul time for sure. No time to stop and dally. Be lucky to finish before seven now.

Lots of climbing, again, and rocks, but better arranged rocks. 25-30 horsemen out. Pulverized trail. Two inches of talcum consistency dirt with rocks mixed in; slow, careful churning it through, for five or six miles.

It’s nearly seven, and Gordon’s left a note posted where he’d been waiting for me. “Gone to check the other crossings, be right back. 6:00 Gordon”  Dang, I knew he’d be worried. My last time to get lost on this hike?  Probably not.


“It is one of the blessings of wilderness life

that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.”

[Horace Kephart]


Saturday–July 12, 2008

Trail Day–072

Trail Mile–30.2/1218

Location–Small brook near county line Crest saddle

Rough day last. Gordon had gotten me a sub and chips for supper–and a case of Coke. I was so dehydrated that I chugged five of the Cokes, one right after the other. Would have downed more but ran out of ice. A delightful stay at Pass Creek Campground, near Jackson Meadow Reservoir. Managed a fine fire and worked journals for a short while before nodding off. I was weary and very tired after doing 38.

I’m up at first light this morning; get Gordon up at five. Not as smoky or hazy today. I’ve three segments of hiking to break this day up. First, 11.5 from Jackson Meadow Reservoir to the road down to Sierra City. Noticed something strange coming down to Sierra City Road–a leaf carpeted trail, oak trees all around, the first oaks in hundreds of miles. Gordon is waiting at the crossing and runs me down for a great breakfast at the Red Moose (beat the 10:00 a.m. cut-off by ten minutes). Second segment, 9.8 from Sierra City to FR93 above Packer Lake Lodge. A short section but with an incredible climb up the wide open Sierra Buttes. Gordon is waiting again at the end, and this time drives me down to Packer Lake for a couple of cold ones.

I make ham and cheese sandwiches for tonight and tomorrow, plus I put together some snacks and energy bars for the overnighter. By hiking a few miles off tomorrow’s longer section–doing it today, I hope to shorten up the time needed to reach Quincy/La Porte Road where the fire closure/roadwalk begins. As to the fires: There are a number of active ones. First, the BTU Lightning Fire (38 separate fires). Second, the Canyon Complex (50 separate fires). And finally, the Cub Complex. These are the fires responsible for 100 miles of trail closure. It’ll take a 74-mile roadwalk to get around them and back to where the trail’s open again.

All three segments today–pleasant hikes. Lots of mosquitoes, though, on the last. Makes for fun pitching. Do manage to set my tent, roll in, swat mosquitoes–and down the other ham sandwich.


“All are but parts of one stupendous whole,

Whose body Nature is and God the soul.

[Alexander Pope]


Sunday–July 13, 2008

Trail Day–073

Trail Mile–32/1250

Location–End of PCT (for now) at Quincy/La Porte Road, (Roadwalk, first nine miles around fires)

Managed to make it last to the water source just below the Crest near the county line. The mosquitoes were fierce. I’d made two ham and cheese sandwiches at the van earlier, so as mentioned, I downed one for supper.

I’m up at first light, along with the mosquitoes. Over the years I’ve pretty much learned to live with them, but they’re a blessed nuisance this morning. I break camp with haste and get moving, the mosquitoes in hot pursuit.

Got a 20 to finish this section to the point of closure where the Forest Service has posted “Trail Closed” signs, $5,000 fine for violating the closure order.

More ups and downs, and rocks, but I make good time until the last mile-and-a-half. The Data Book shows a gentle down, but I begin climbing, over 400 feet, with no letup. Must be lost again. I finally turn back and backtrack over a mile (and scuff off the 400 feet) as I try finding where I made a wrong turn. Then I see a PCT marker on a tree indicating I’ve been on the trail all along–just erroneous trail data. So now it’s hike it back the mile, and up the 400 feet, then on in to Quincy/La Porte, where Gordon is waiting. The screw-up cost me an hour–and 1,200 vertical feet.

At the van I down two Cokes, then head out on the roadwalk. Get another nine miles in by six.

Gordon loads me again and we drive down to Quincy and the local Mexican place. Good steak and fries–and two cold frosties. We find the motels way too expensive for our budget (California for you), so it’s back up the mountain to pitch in at parking area/trailhead near where I’ll resume the roadwalk in the morning.


“The feeling remains that God is on the journey too.”

[Teresa of Avilla]


Monday–July 14, 2008

Trail Day–074

Trail Mile–25/1275

Location–CA89 past Keddie, thence to Taylorsville County Campground (Roadwalk)

Recent early starts have been beneficial. And so today I’m out and hiking the roadwalk down Quincy/La Porte Road at 5:30. Must keep my hands in my pockets awhile; oh yes, a very cool morning.

Smoke from the many fires proved very bad early yesterday, but it’s tolerable this morning.

Gordon meets me at the CA70/89 junction around eight and we head back to the little Mexican restaurant in Quincy for breakfast.

While in Quincy I stop at the drug store to speak with the druggist about a possible topical anesthetic for my right foot. Oh yes, the barking doggie is still at it, just haven’t mentioned it recently. I ask him if there’s such a thing as Anbesol (for toothache) for corns. Ha, end up with Anbesol! He says, “Apply it to your toe; it’ll help.” I also get a pair of shoe inserts, but find out right away when I try them that they’re no good.

At Church Street Laundry, Keith refers me to Ardell Waters, a seamstress he knows where I can get my pack repaired. There are no serious structural problems with it, but I want to make sure it keeps going. I told Glen (Glen Van Peski at Gossamer Gear) that I’d try to make it all the way with the little seven-ounce wonder, and I want to give it its best chance. So I have Ardell stitch around and patch it up for me.

Oh, and what a remarkable and interesting lady, Ardell Waters. She just celebrated her 80th birthday. Family and friends held a party for her, 140 of them!

She shows me pictures of her family. She’s proud of them all, but especially of two of her grandsons. One, Chris Hoke (recognize the name?) is defensive tackle for the Steelers. She’s got an autographed Christmas card (signed by the entire team and staff) on her mantel/bookcase). I take the card out and show it to Gordon. He looks at it and looks at it, shaking his head in disbelief. And Luke Adkins, grandson–recent graduate of Annapolis, another of the many 8X10 mantel photos. Shiny-faced, bright-eyed young lad, parade dress. Proud grandma? Oh yes! Ardell’s got a big mantel/bookcase. Good thing! “Had a hunch I’d meet someone special today; that’s you.” she beams (same bright eyes and shiny face–at 80).

As I rise to go, she gently takes my hand, in both her hands, and softly prays the most thoughtful and caring prayer for me. What a joy meeting you, Ardell Waters!

A detour to the bank and I’m back on busy CA89. I’ve been in rough traffic before, but the rush and roar that’s CA89 is crushing–logging trucks, hundreds of logging trucks constantly coming and going. Narrow road, no shoulder, blind curves, and rock bluffs right up to the white line. Scary, very scary and dangerous; never walked anything like this, ever. Already I yearn for the quiet solitude of the mountains.

I manage to knock out 25 for the day, then we head over to Taylorsville County Campground for the evening. We both take showers. I hand wash clothes, then work journal entries till after ten.


“When from our better selves we have too long been parted

by the hurrying world, and droop.

Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,

how gracious, how benign in solitude.”

[William Wordsworth]


Tuesday–July 15, 2008

Trail Day–075

Trail Mile–24.8/1300

Location–CA89 at Lake Almanor, thence to Sandy Point Campground (Roadwalk)

Another glorious day to shoulder my pack and hike out (and into the teeth and jaws of it). Most hikers hate roadwalking. I (usually) find much enjoyment in it. But what a roadwalk this morning! More logging trucks, three to five every minute, plus empties coming back. And no shoulder to speak of, the white line only a couple of feet from the vertical rocks. Tough as any roadwalk I’ve ever done, and I’ve hiked a fair distance down these-here roads!

At all the U.S. Forest Service campgrounds we’ve been able to use our Golden Age Passports, which saves us half. The fee at Sandy Point is $18.00, so I seal up nine bucks and drop the envelope in the pipe. In awhile the campground hostess pays us a visit–to inform us that this campground is indeed federal land, but that it’s managed by a concessionaire. So guess what? Our Passports aren’t honored here. Yup, time to fork over another nine bucks. During the conversation I mention that I’m hiking the PCT. “Never heard of it.” says she. Give her my card, and Gordon hands her a PCT brochure. Hour later, her husband comes by. “Since you’re hiking such a very long distance, you’ll stay at Sandy Point tonight for free.” says he, big smile. Hands Gordon back the 18 bucks!

Less than 15 miles of roadwalk left. Somewhere up there, in the closed section of trail, the Sierra Nevada Mountains end and the Cascade Range begins. Oh, and I’m nearly half-way through this journey now.


“I prefer the…star-spangled sky to a roof,

the obscure and difficult trail, leading into the unknown, to any paved highway,

and the deep peace of the wild…”

[Everett Ruess]


Wednesday–July 16, 2008

Trail Day–076

Trail Mile–30/*1354

Location–Lassen Volcanic National Park, Warner Valley Campground (Remainder of Roadwalk)

First light comes later each morning now. It’s still dark at five when I roust Gordon. Very quiet here in the campground, not a soul stirring this early. We break camp quietly and head out. A cool, crisp morning, first time for gloves and jacket in awhile. I’m back pounding the tarmac a little after 5:30. The loggers are also up and out pounding the tarmac–a little after 5:30. Tough, dangerous roadwalk. No emergency lane, blind curves, overhanging rocks–and logging trucks coming and going, steady, a very busy road.

Another segmented day. First, a six-mile hike to the junction of CA89/36. I arrive before eight. Gordon loads me and it’s down to Quincy for breakfast, a grand affair. Second, the final 5.7 miles of roadwalk up to where the trail crosses CA89/36. And finally, it’s back in the woods for an 18 on up to Warner Valley Campground.

An okay hiking day, but very little redeeming value (“Some days just better…” applies here). The highlight for this day is Drakesbad Guest Resort. A hiker friendly place, even though they cater to an entirely different crowd. Free shower and use of their natural, thermal-heated pool. Evening meal for only ten bucks (after guests have been attended). Tonight’s fare consists of a 14oz steak, baked potato, salad, corn on the cob, and an assortment of desserts–and all the wine one could possibly care to enjoy with dinner. An absolutely superb meal, with cheerful staff to boot. For sure, it put a happy cap on this day–for this old man!

A little before dark we head up to Warner Valley Campground, where many thru-hikers have pitched for the night.


*mileage adjusted for roadwalk


“I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and enjoy life.”

[Baden Powell]


Thursday–July 17, 2008

Trail Day–077

Trail Mile–20/1374

Location–FR32/12 near Twin Bridges Campground, thence to Old Station

While at Drakesbad, and dining the evening last, I chanced to speak with a thru-hiker who, at the time, had just finished hitchhiking the road around the fire-closed trail section, and was there where it crosses CA89/36 when Scott Williamson and Tatoo Joe came out of the woods. You will recall my mention of meeting Scott as he cruised by me a few days ago, and that I commented that he was on a speed-hike up the PCT. What I didn’t know at the time was that he and a (hiker trash) friend named Tatoo Joe were attempting to break the PCT thru-hike speed record. I’m not sure what that record might be now, or who currently holds it (My friend, David Horton, did and still may). I believe David’s run was supported. Scott and Joe are hiking unsupported.

Anyway, what’s interesting is how this whole exciting adventure of theirs is unfolding, the fact that they defied the U.S. Forest Service trail closure order, hiked on past the signs, into the fires–and got caught.

Both emerged covered (scorched) with soot and char. Both had fried shoes and burned feet. Scott had a burned arm and leg. Joe suffered severe eye pain from hot cinders. Incendiaries had been dropped from above them on the fireline, to start backfires. Apparently they were right in the middle of it.

When the Forest Service became aware of their reason for hiking through, they weren’t held back. What the authorities ultimately might do, I’m sure, remains to be seen.

In the meantime, the two adventurers have cleaned up, have sucked it up, and are speeding on north. Good luck, Scott and Joe. I hope the trail proves a little less bumpy from here on.

My hike today is through the Lassen Volcanic National Park. But as is customary with the trail, it passes some distance from all points of interest. It’s almost as if the PCT thru-hiker is unworthy of such discovery and enjoyment–without sidetracking, sometimes great distances, off-trail. And so, Lassen sounds like a very neat place to hike, but the trail through, such as it is, proves totally unredeeming, and will quickly be forgotten.

I’m now in the midst of the swell of northbounders, the “wave” as it has become known. Taking ten days off to recuperate has set me back and in with the masses. So now, from day-to-day, I’m hiking with many other northbound trekkers.

Early afternoon (I dearly need some time off-trail) Gordon loads me a few miles short of Old Station, and drives me on down to the motel there. Hot shower, clean clothes, a night’s rest in a soft bed–oh yes! For sure, I’m a total lazybones compared to Scott and Joe.


“Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired.”

[Jules Renard]


Friday–July 18, 2008

Trail Day–078

Trail Mile–24.5/1399

Location–FR22, Hat Creek Rim

Good start today.  Well, good meaning we got to sleep in till eight.  And now we’re down at the J&J Cafe for their full breakfast.  Back at Hat Creek Resort, we beat the eleven o’clock checkout by ten minutes.  A short drive back to the trail and Gordon has me out and hiking at eleven.

Got a 24 to do today.  Two segments: First, an eight miler to CA44, where Gordon will have a fresh case of Cokes iced down.  And the second, a moderate climb up and onto Hat Creek Rim, where I’ll be hiking most of this afternoon and evening.

Neat the way these last two days are working out.  Did a 20 yesterday; will do a 25 today–and we’ve had most near an entire day off.  Now how did we do that!

Thought by now we’d be past the smoke, but no such luck.  Guess the wind has changed because there’s as much, perhaps even more smoke now.  Visibility is very limited and the smell of smoke fills the air.  Sure hope we get by this soon.  The orange sun casting eerie yellow-tan shadows is eerie.

The first eight miles pass quickly, and I’m at CA44 a little before two.  Iced-down Coke hits the spot.

My Therm-a-Rest has totally given it up.  It sprung a leak some 400 miles back.  A patch and it held a couple hundred miles before it started leaking again.  Patched it again, and now it’s leaking again.  So, finally took time while resting a few minutes with Gordon at CA44 to call my dear friends at Travel Country Outdoors in Altamonte Springs, Florida.  Ah yes, a new sleeping pad is on the way; thanks, Ryan!

The short climb up to Hat Creek Rim has me tripping through volcanic rock, sort of like those encountered in Acoma-Zuni along the CDT in New Mexico–but not nearly as extensive.  On the Rim, the trail is a cruise, following the edge of the rim along, for miles.  Take my first video in days.  Not much to see, though, what with all the smoke, limiting visibility to perhaps no more than six to eight miles.

Much of the area I’ve been hiking through today, the nearly flat terrain, the lose, deep sand, and the scattered longleaf pine with its understory of scrub, it all reminds me of Big Scrub, the Ocala National Forest in Florida.  Just no palm or oak!

Wow, has the rest yesterday and this morning done wonders for my hiking attitude and my energy level.  The recent stack of long mile days, especially the mental fatigue caused by the crushing roadwalk had taken their toll on these old bones.  Ah yes, I’m hiking with the lightest step today–and no barking doggie, so far.

By seven-thirty I’ve knocked out the 25.  Gordon is right here waiting at FR22.  He gets the van setting level in a little pull-off next the trail.  I find a soft spot to pitch under the pine.

Ah-ha, don’t have to cook tonight–Gordon surprises me with a foot-longer from Subway!  Another fine day, just the way I like it.


“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night

and in between does what he wants to do.”

[Bob Dylan]


Saturday–July 19, 2008

Trail Day–079

Trail Mile–24.4/1423

Location–Burney Falls State Park

Gordon gets to sleep in this morning, as we set camp right next the trail last.  I need my little Micro-Light now to get my stuff together and break camp as first light is noticeably later each morning.  As the day dawns I’m out and hiking.  Much less smoke this morning, but there’s enough still present to close the distant mountains down.

After CA22, which crosses the Rim, and where we camped last, the trail climbs again, as Hat Creek Rim climbs again. There’s still plenty of Rim left, and the trail seeks the very edge of the precipitous escarpment, following it along till where it drops to the volcanic jumble of rock in the high desert floor below.  Water alerts on the data sheet warn of no water along the trail for most of this day.  I’ve brought extra, and I’ll sure need it as the day really gets to cooking.

Today I diligently concentrate on not tripping, as countless toe-stumpers scatter the trail, firmly fixed jutters Joe Dodge has affectionately referred to as “jeezly rocks.”  Despite my best effort, I do little better with the process.  So I decide, if I must stumble, to try and stumble a little more gracefully–doesn’t work either.  Okay, I know when to give up.  Listen old man, just try to keep from falling; that’s the plan now.

There are hundreds of burn-over areas all across the mountains of California this season and I’ve just entered one of them.  The terrain here is desolate to begin with, but after everything has burned, the scrub, every tree, it’s absolute, total desolation.  Pulverized rock, gray-black pumice, and deep, loose sand defines the trail.  I hike (churn) through this wasteland for the better part of two hours before I’m able to see anything green, anywhere.

Mid-afternoon now, the trail descends gradually to Burney Falls State Park.  I get off track coming in (yup, nothing new) and waste nearly an hour finding my way across to the park.  Gordon is waiting, anxiously.  We decide to stay the night; get a site, cook some hot dogs, and call it a day.


“Have you camped upon the foothills, have you galloped o’er the ranges,

Have you roamed the arid sun-lands through and through?

Have you chummed up with the mesa? Do you know its moods and changes?

Then listen to the Wild–it’s calling you.”

[Robert W. Service]


Sunday–July 20, 2008

Trail Day–080

Trail Mile–38.9/1463

Location–Grizzly Peak Road before Pigeon Hill

Lots of folks making lots of racket last night but all was quite by ten.

Thru-hiker Nitro Joe came by for awhile, then ended up pitching at our site for the night.  Also, Wiz Kid stopped to chat.  Talk was mostly about pack weight, their 30+, my 7-.

Shortly after leaving Burney Falls the trail descends to the dam at Lake Bretton.  Just across, the climb starts at 2,760 and never lets up until 5,410, an elevation gain of almost 3,000 feet.  Another, a 1,000 footer late afternoon, and after just shy of a 39 mile head-down-and-hammer day I hang it up at Grizzly Peak Road.

The day’s highlight–first sighting of Mt. Shasta, some 60 miles to the north.  Shasta is a snow covered sharptop standing all alone.  Most impressive.  The day, otherwise, hasn’t been the smoothest or the most memorable.


“We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it,

we go to smooth it.  We get it rough enough at home.”



Monday–July 21, 2008

Trail Day–081

Trail Mile–28/1491

Location–Road in saddle above Squaw Valley Creek

Hike along some yesterday with Gator from Gainesville, Florida.  He’ll be remembered as the young chap who carried the backpack guitar the whole way.  Actually, he’s from Melrose, home of my dear friend Edna Melrose Octogenarian Williams.  Gator also knows Edna well; they’ve been friends for a long time.  Make sure and say HI! to Edna for me, Gator.

Getting some downhill in today, but it’s bound not to last.  Water availability has been an issue off and on recently and today is no exception.  On the ridge there’s no water, and the trail continually seeks the high ground–above the water. A nearly 14-mile dry stretch, and it’s hot, hot.  Brought an extra 20-ounce Gatorade bottle.  Today I fill them both at every opportunity.

There’s no decent road anywhere along here where Gordon can get up to the trail for almost 70 miles.  So today I’m carrying my full pack, plus a few extra pounds in food.

Plan is to hike the distance in two days.  Ah, and today I’m well on my way.  An energy sapping one, though.  I’m tired and totally beat by seven-thirty.  But the day’s been a satisfying and rewarding one; I’ve given it my best.


“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment.

Full effort is full victory.”

[Mohandas Gandhi]


Tuesday–July 22, 2008

Trail Day–082

Trail Mile–15.3/1506

Location–Castle Crags State Park

A short day, relatively.  Just want to get into the park and call it a day.

Pack’s up and I’m haulin’ by a little before six.  Decent climb right away, 1,500 feet to the ridge.  But it’s a cruise, almost five miles to pull it out over beautiful graded trail.

The views of Shasta are supposed to be some of the very best from this vantage, but the smoke’s moved back in, dropping its shroud over the entire area.  This smoke is no doubt coming from the complex of fires north of Etna.  I’ll have another roadwalk around again in a few days.

After the climb to the ridge, the trail wiggles its way down the other side–all the way to Castle Crags State Park.  On the way down I get a momentary glimpse of the crags, very strange and mysterious looking in the smoky surrounding.

I’m down by 11:30.  Gordon guides me across the tracks and under the interstate, to the end of the section.  We load and head for Dunsmuir for breakfast, then to the park for a campsite.  Plenty of hot water to chase the dirt, then to hand wash my hiking garb.

Great day, a short (and sweet) saunter!


“Now these mountains are our Holy Land,

and we ought to saunter through them reverently…”



Wednesday–July 23, 2008

Trail Day–083

Trail Mile–24.7/1531

Location–FR26, Gumboot Trailhead, Trinity Alps

Oh my, I’ve overslept this morning; don’t often have this problem.  By five I usually have Gordon up and am ready to hike.  But this morning it’s already five-fifteen and I haven’t even rolled out.  Gotta get a move on.

A few weeks back, at Pooh Corner, I weighed myself on their bathroom scales.  Was alarmed to find that I weighed only 142 pounds.  When I had to leave the trail, Slider and Greybeard moved on.  They did all the cooking.  Since, unless Gordon and I have been able to get into town, meals in camp have pretty much amounted to hot dogs, a pretty sorry diet for both of us.  Recently, during long hiking days, and especially in the afternoons, my energy level has been way down and at times I’ve felt lightheaded–and I know why: I’m not getting enough nourishment.  Gotta change this program, and soon, or I’ll end up sick and off the trail again, like in 2005.  I’ve talked this over with Gordon and this morning he takes charge by getting me slowed down long enough, at his insistence, for me to make a couple of sandwiches, one for now, and one to take along today.  Also have doubled up on the Pop Tarts and will carry more energy bars.  For dinner tonight we’re switching to beef stew and chunky soup!

Despite getting up late, Gordon manages to get me back to the trail and heading north by a little after six.

The hike today will be relatively short, twenty-four plus, but I’ll be faced with one of the longest continuous climbs so far, nearly 5,000 feet, and as a result, I’ve allowed extra time and have told Gordon not to expect me in much before four.

The climb starts out easy enough, a gentle grade that holds steady.  Once climbing, and to my surprise, the easy grade continues for nearly five miles, making for an effortless ascent.

 From Castle Crags State Park, the trail climbs up and into the Trinity Alps, appropriately named for the jagged peaks all around.  The smoke is dense again today, limiting visibility to perhaps less than eight to ten miles.  But its presence adds a mysterious over-glow to the scene, by dimming what would otherwise certainly present as utter starkness.

My path has crossed recently with that of Packman.  He catches up with me and we climb together.  Other thru hikers I see today are Mercury and Gator.

By four, I’ve got the day’s hike behind me.  Gordon is right here waiting for me at the paved road.  Down the mountain a short distance is Gumboot Lake–and down we go, for a cool swim and a waterfront campsite.

Climbed to near 7,000 feet today.  There will be few remaining days now, where the trail climbs above that altitude.


Thursday–July 24, 2008

Trail Day–084

Trail Mile–35.1/1566

Location–CA3 at Scott Mountain Summit

I’m up at 4:30, get Gordon up, we break camp and I’m back on the trail at 5:30.  That’s great as I’ve a 35 to do today.

From Gumboot Trailhead the trail starts a long, steady climb, nearly 1,200 feet, up to over 7,000.  It isn’t going to be the last time I’ll be above seven, but few times remain, mostly in Oregon along the rim at Crater Lake.

A few miles into my hike this morning I pass a backpack laying on a deadfall beside the trail.  A closer look and I see the name, Billy Goat.  I’ve been hoping our paths would cross, as I knew he’d be hiking south this summer, from Seaid Valley to Castle Crags.  In just moments, here he comes down the trail.  We share great conversation, then it’s time for pictures and an interview!  The interview video turns out great.  It’ll be up in a week or so; make sure you check it out.

I had mentioned to Mercury yesterday that we should be seeing Billy Goat soon and to keep an eye out for him.  The two have been the best of friends or years, hiked many a mile together.  But wouldn’t you know, when I catch up with Mercury, he hadn’t seen his friend; somehow they missed each other.

The trail between Deadfall Lakes and Parks Creek Road is busy today.  First I meet a family headed for Lower Deadfall to do some fishing, then comes a couple with a pack train of Llamas.  Get another neat video.

I’m hiking most the entire day on sideslab trail, not the most pleasant treadway.  But here in the Trinity Alps, the mountains so remarkably steep, there’s really no other way to get through.

Smoke from the many wildfires is much thicker today, limiting visibility to less than two miles.  Not much to see from any of the vantages along, so I just put my head down and plod.

A long, difficult 35 miles.  Make it in by six-thirty, set up camp, fix a good hot meal for the two of us, and call it a day.


“Do not pray for easier lives, pray to be stronger men.”

[Phillip Brooks]


Friday–July 25, 2008

Trail Day–085

Trail Mile–19.9/1586

Location–Forest Highway 93 at Carter Meadows Summit

Great stay last at Scott Mountain Summit Campground.  Flat spot to pitch plus a great warming fire!

Gordon had brought much food from town, mac salad, fruit chunks, cans of stew, soup, and vegetables.  Oh, and ice cream, plus cheesecake!  Inchworm and Freedom came in and camped with us; just a great evening.

Another day begins with a steady climb of over 1,600 feet.  I’ve entered the Trinity Alps Wilderness once again.  Incomparable, rugged beauty, what I can see of it, with the dense wildfire smoke.  Sunrise this morning comes a little after six, but it takes over three hours for the sun to burn a hole through the smoke, enough of a hole that is, for it to cast eerie orange-tan shadows all about.

The climb which began this morning continues, to over 7,000 feet.  At this altitude alpine vegetation prevails.  I stop, marvel, then snap pictures of many delicate, miniature wildflowers clusters, all perfectly content in this harsh environment.  I linger the longest time knowing the beauty I’m taking in now–this will probably be near the last for this journey.

Gordon gave Slider a call the other day.  Slider had broken his backpack again and repaired it–again.  Developed a sore on his side from the pack problem, which became infected.  Had to go to the clinic in Etna and have it lanced.  Relieved to know he’s back on the trail again, somewhere in Oregon now.  Slider is strong of will and of body; I knew he’d be okay.


“…we grow strong or weak and at last some crisis shows what we have become.”

[Brooke Foss Westcott]


Saturday–July 26, 2008

Trail Day–086

Trail Mile–20.1/1606

Location–Somes Bar-Etna Road at Etna Summit (Beginning of Roadwalk)

What a fine camp last, at Carter Meadows Summit.  A primitive site, large and level under the tall pine, rock fire ring, even a stack of firewood, and not five minutes down the mountain from the trail.  Plenty of daylight to set up.  Pulled the table out, Coleman cook stove, and chairs to sit around the fire.  Spaghetti, mac salad, and hot dogs (diced up in the sketty) for supper.  Gordon worked our days/mileage schedule for Oregon, studied and marked maps where he’ll be able to meet me–and we just sat the delightfully warming fire the remainder of the evening.

I think I mentioned that my Therm-a-Rest gave out miles back, that I’ve been unable to give it a permanent fix.  Called Travel Country Outdoors in Altamonte Springs, Florida.  The kind folks there (one of the old Nomad‘s longest and most steadfast sponsors) pulled a new pad down and they’ve got it in the mail to me.  Should be waiting in Independence, Oregon when we get there in a few days.  In the meantime Gordon’s loaned me one that his sister, Sue, used for years. I’m in (like) Best Western again, thanks Gordon!

It’s light enough to see the trail by five-thirty, and I’m out and truckin’ a few minutes later.  The morning begins a bit on the crisp side; got my short sleeve, long sleeve, jacket, and gloves on.  Another climb first thing, over 700 feet to regain the crest.  That gets the old jitney up to normal operating temperature in no time!

Yesterday I departed the Shasta/Trinity National Forest to enter the Klamath, where I’ll be till I reach Oregon. Another wilderness today, the Russian, one of Billy Goat‘s favorite sections of trail.  Others who’ve hiked the PCT have also told me that the hike through the Russian Wilderness will be memorable.  As I pass the wilderness boundary sign, and in only minutes do I understand what they’ve all been talking about.  Immediately does the Russian present its most imposingly rugged side.  Seems I scarcely get moving that I stop, then stop again, to marvel, and to take photo after photo.  Here these mountains stand, not so tall as the Sierras, but every bit as grand.  Unmistakable evidence of the near cataclysmic forces of ice–jagged pinnacles, vertical walls, scoured cirques, such breathtaking features presenting all around. In the shrouded veil of the ever-present wildfire smoke is there created such a mystical, dream-like aura–silent, still, the grey-white stone (one spire appropriately named “The Statue”), the softened green sentinels, the tan sky–not the least forbidding but certainly not the familiar mountain place I’ve come to know, that’s befriended me for so many years.

Much climbing, as the trail continually seeks the crest, past vertical granite cliffs, only to plunge to the next saddle, and from there to pass the other side, through the most amazing jumble of boulders and rocks–and on and on.  And snow, still patches of snow across the trail.

It’s late afternoon when I reach the road where Gordon is waiting, where wildfires have closed the trail.  Roadwalk time again tomorrow, early.


“The road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began.

Now far away the road has gone,

And I must follow it if I can.”

[J.R.R. Tolkien]


Sunday–July 27, 2008

Trail Day–087

Trail Mile–20.3/1626

Location–Etna, thence to Migginsville, Quartz Valley Road (Roadwalk)

When I’d completed my hike yesterday, Gordon loaded me right away and we headed down the mountain to Etna and the Alderbrook B&B (Hiker Hut), owned and managed by Dave and Vicky Harrison.  Neat bunkhouse with internet, shower, kitchenette, laundry, and a full-sized motorhome out back to handle any overflow.  Vicky gave me the tour, showed me around.  I chose the motorhome.

Gordon had checked with the postmaster–where to get some sewing done.  More repairs needed on my little seven-ounce pack.  And my tent, it’d be a blessing to get my tent repaired, especially a new zipper; clothes pins to hold the no-seeum door closed just don’t cut it with the mosquitoes.  My lucky day.  Called Claudia Russ (postmaster’s friend).  Got her first thing.  “Bring your pack over, I’ll see if I can fix it.”  Kept her on the phone.  Three minutes later she’s guided us directly to her place.  Easy fix, pack and tent.  Claudia even had the right size and length zipper to do the tent fix.  “Be ready later this afternoon.” says Claudia.  What an absolute stroke of luck, and what a blessing!

Time then for some good hot grub, preferably steak and baked potato.  The local mom-n-pop is Bob’s.  We headed for Bob’s.  Top sirloin and baked potato.  Oh yes, pure high-octane jet fuel!

Today we’ve planned a day off, except to get in twenty of the forty-mile roadwalk.

Up at 4:30, Gordon at 4:45–we’re back up the mountain at 5:30 and I’m hiking the diverged path (a paved road) down to Etna–along with Flop (who’s with us today).

We’ve got the ten to Etna knocked out by 8:40.  And, oh yes, back to Bob’s (right on the way) for a tank-stokin’ breakfast, three eggs, short stack, biscuit’s ‘n gravy.  We’re hiking again a little before ten.  Want to get another ten in by two, which we  manage easily.

Ah, and now, back to Etna, and Dave and Vicky’s place, to relax the remainder of this day.  Neat trail town, Etna.  Kind, friendly folks here.  So too, the Harrisons.


“…Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

[Robert Frost]


Monday–July 28, 2008

Trail Day–088

Trail Mile–19.6/1646

Location–Lover’s Camp

What a luxury, sleeping in.  I hear Gordon drive out at six with Flop. He’d ask Gordon to take him back up to the point where he ended his roadwalk for the day yesterday. I went back to sleep immediately and didn’t wake again till 7:30. Oh yes, pure decadence!

Gordon returns a little after eight and we head back to Bob’s (one more time) for their grand breakfast. Sparky and Doc tag along.

Back at the motorhome I work journals and get caught up on my correspondence. Don’t get loaded till 11:30, to head back to where Gordon picked me up from my roadwalk yesterday. A trip to the post office on the way and we’re off. Tangent, Jelly Bean and Carbo are along. They skipped the roadwalk but want to get back on the trail where it’s open again. So, after Gordon drops me off at Mugginsville, where I resume my roadwalk, he hauls them on up the mountain to Lover’s Camp where they’ll catch the trail back up to the crest. After I’ve done my final twenty on this roadwalk today, I’ll end up there too, and Gordon and I’ll pitch at the trailhead for the night.

Even though I’m not back hiking till noon, I make good time, arriving at Lover’s Camp a little before seven. Gordon backs ‘er up to the picnic table. I set up the kitchen, fix coffee, get an evening fire going, then prepare supper–Dinty Moore Beef Stew.

Had most the morning off and still got in a twenty!  Mighty fine day.


“Going to the mountains is going home”



Tuesday–July 29, 2008

Trail Day–089

Trail Mile–30.2/*1656

Location–FR46N66, Grider Creek Campground

A really fine evening at Lover’s Camp. We sat the evening by the fire, right at the picnic table not ten feet away. And I was able to easily reload the coolers, cookstove, kitchen bins, as the van was right by. Yup, a fine evening.

I’m up way before first light. Seems to take me forever to get organized and break camp anymore. I try not disturbing Gordon, but I must get in the van for a minute, and in the process I wake him. He wishes me a good day and I’m off, up he mountain, at a little before six. With the ever shorter days, I need to use every bit of daylight.

Most thru-hikers are not only skipping the roadwalk, but are also passing by the Marble Mountain Wilderness section I’ll be hiking through today. A bus runs from Etna to Seiad Valley, so it’s easy to get back on the trail there, and that’s what many have chosen to do–but I will tread the different way.

On the climb out of Lover’s Camp I see my second bear this trip, a little cinnamon colored fellow. He was walking down the trail, right toward me.

I’d be in Seiad Valley now but would have missed Marble Mountain Wilderness.

By ten-thirty the wildfire smoke completely socks in again.

As usual, there’s a climb up–to 7,000 from 2750.

I’d like to make good time, get in the miles today, but there being many different types of trail to slow you down. Connectors–hammer out like Scott Williamson. Grider Creek Canyon–cross bridge 3 times. Long day. In at 5:30. Another neat campsite.


“The trails of the world be countless,

And most of the trails are tried;

You tread on the heels of the many,

Till you come where the ways divide…”

[Robert W. Service]


Wednesday–July 30, 2008

Trail Day–090

Trail Mile–21.6/1677

Location–Cook and Green Pass

A very peaceful night last–campfire put me to sleep. Since I’m hiking out right from camp, Gordon gets to sleep in. I’m out and moving a little before six. From Grider Creek Campground, the trail is a roadwalk for six and one-half miles into Seiad Valley. A few homes there, and a general store, that’s about it–cafe on one side, post office on the other.

On the way to Seiad Valley, the trail crosses the Klamath River via CA96. A pleasant roadwalk; Gordon and I both reach the Seiad Valley General Store about the same time–time for breakfast!

Many thru-hikers, perhaps as many as 15, have already beat us to the cafe. Specialty–pancakes, and they’re the best. A full inch thick, dinner plate size. If you can eat five in two hours, they’re free. No takers this morning. I’m sure not going to try, what with the near 4,500 foot climb out of Seiad Valley first thing–nope, sure not going to hurt myself that way!

After a fine breakfast (not quite two, but almost two of the super pancakes, and a couple eggs) I’m able to shoulder my pack and get going again–a little after ten. On days when Gordon is waiting the end of the day, I’m able to eliminate a number of items from my pack, like my tent and sleeping pad. So my pack, on such days, may weigh no more than two or three pounds. With the long climb ahead, all are envious. Gordon has been listening in and he offers to slack (haul packs up to day’s end) for those interested. Eight take him up on the offer, Milk Jug, Dewey Duck, Noel, Bear, Tenderfoot, Moondog, Gil, and David.


The climb is not the least unpleasant, a steady grade with a few switchbacks over an eight mile distance. I reach the crest around one. There should be grand views from up here in the Upper and Lower Devils Peaks, but the smoke has returned, limiting visibility to less than three miles.

From Devils Peaks the trail descends steadily to Cook and Green Pass, my destination for the day. Gordon is here. We set camp right in the pass, and build a fine fire in the fire ring. One-by-one most of the hikers who were at the general store come in–and linger by the fire. A memorable day–and evening.


“Does the road wind up-hill all the way?

Yes, to the very end.

Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?

 From morn to night, my friend.”

[Christina Georgina Rossetti]


Thursday–July 31, 2008

Trail Day–091

Trail Mile–33.6/1711

Location–Long John Saddle

For this day we’d planned around a 25. Problem is: That would leave another 25 tomorrow into Ashland. We dearly wish to get there early afternoon, even before if possible. The “we” are Flop and the old Nomad. We’ve been hiking together the past couple of days; Gordon’s been slacking him, and with only a day-pack, he’s a strong, fast hiker. Anyway, today it’s heads down and hammer; hopefully we’ll be able to get in a thirty-plus, which would leave a relatively short day tomorrow.

We get off to a good start a little before six–and as customary, it’s up, and up some more first thing, a pull of near 1,000 feet.

This is a special day, a day we’ve all been hiking toward for months–our final day on the PCT in California. For me it’s taken 91 days to cover the nearly 1,700 miles. I reach the state line a little after one. Others are with me: Flop, Carbo, Jelly Bean, Tangent, and Bear.  It’s a happy time of whooping and celebrating.

In Oregon, the climbing continues, just Oregon climbs now instead of California ones. By three, Flop and I have reached Jackson Gap, where Gordon should be waiting–no Gordon. We spend the next hour looking for him, and waiting anxiously. Not a good time. He finally comes bouncing up the cobblestone-like road at quarter after four.

Flop and I decide to hike on another hour or so, thence to find a flat area where we can all pitch for the night. Ah yes, as luck would have it–the ideal spot, Long John Saddle. We repair the fire ring, get ‘er fired up, set camp and call it a (long) day.


“Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer.”



Friday–August 1, 2008

Trail Day–092

Trail Mile–15.4/1726

Location–Old Oregon Highway 99, thence to Ashland, Oregon

Shed-the-crud day–Ashland here we come!

I’ve gotten to where I can break camp in the dark, the routine being so, well, routine, a task repeated day in, day out. Oh, I might need my little Photon for a minute or two to make sure I’ve got my left sock left and right sock right (They’ve mirror image arch sections and the toebox angles are a little different), but that’s about it for needing light. By quarter-to-six there’s enough daylight to hit the trail. Flop‘s ready, I’m ready, so we’re off.

Plans are to meet Gordon at the old highway next to I-5 and from there, beat it to Ashland where we’ll split a room for the night.

All through the last couple of sections there’s been much horse traffic. Horses absolutely pulverize the treadway, leaving loose, shoe-top-deep, powder-consistent dirt. Tripping along brings up a constant cloud of it, which totally engulfs and encircles you the whole long day. Remember the ever-present dirt halo suspended over Pigpen, the happy little fellow on the Peanuts Show? That’s us!

The trail is mostly down, after one more climb over 7,000 feet near Mt. Ashland. We’re at I-5 before noon. First stop is breakfast, a real sit-down, hot, cooked breakfast–washed down with pots of steaming coffee. Then it’s to Ashland Motel for a room.

Ashland is a university town, a preppie, hob-knob sort of city. Sushi bars every corner, two Starbucks, Ben and Jerry’s (mostly freezer burned–yippee!) at all the jiffies–you know the sort of community. Had hoped by the time we reached Oregon that the “cost of living” might be a little more within my budget range, but no such luck. Ashland sure ain’t it! Don’t get me wrong, I liked California a lot, the people, the mountains. But figure double, though, then add some, and you’d likely hit the price of everything pretty much spot on. California’s way overpriced–the end result of “Uncle will take care of us.” mentality, I suppose. Too rich for my blood for sure. I’m hoping Oregon and Washington will be better. Recall from my Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail odysseys that around the Portland, Astoria areas, food and lodging were much more affordable. Anyway, FLOP and I split the room bill, each paying about what it should have cost us both.

In the room, de-crudded, feet up now–not too far behind on journal entries for a change, but much correspondence to get caught up on. And I’ll be loading my Webmaster, CyWiz, up with a bunch of additional work. I want to create a new page for our website, a page to be known as “Nimblewill‘s Great Western Loop,” or something to that effect. Tell you more about it in the coming weeks.

A very relaxing day, capped off with a trip to Oscar’s Steak House. Time to stoke the old fuel tank with a steak and baked potato. Ah yes, I’m a happy camper–life is good!


“The virtuous man is happy in this world,

and he is happy in the next; he is happy in both.

He is happy when he thinks of the good he has done;

but he is still more happy when going on the good path.”

[Buddha, The Dhammapada]


Saturday–August 2, 2008

Trail Day–093

Trail Mile–17.5/1744

Location–Highway 66 at Green Springs Summit

Unbelievable how filthy all my clothes were. I had to wash everything in the motel room sink, then rinse three times to get the water looking halfway decent, and that was before running them through the washing machine! A joy having clean clothes again.

Back to Wild Goose Restaurant at I-5 for breakfast–then to the post office. Gordon and I both received mail. My new Therm-a-Rest arrived from Travel Country Outdoors, and a dandy care package from girlfriend, Dwinda. Back to the motel now; checkout is eleven. We check out at eleven. Gordon has me back to the trail and I’m hiking by 11:30. And I’m finally headed the right direction, as the trail’s finally headed the right direction, north–for the first time in weeks. Discouraging hiking the wrong way, but that’s what I’ve been doing since south of Mt. Shasta. To get around Shasta the trail turned west to make a big horseshoe curve to the north and east. So, today, my shadow is being cast the right direction, left of me in the morning, and right in the afternoon.


The trail starts out as usual today–up. I’ve a steady pull of 900 feet over the shoulder of Pilot Rock. A cool morning though, with a gentle breeze, which makes for an easy climb.

No smoke today! Great views from Pilot, perhaps 20-30 miles to the hazy blue. Standing in silence, looking and trying to understand such a mysterious tugging–the wanderlust that dwells deep within us all.

A short, pleasant day, only six hours of hiking, the last three mostly down to Green Springs Summit.


“The land of the great woods, lakes, mountains and rivers

is still mysterious enough to please anyone who has eyes to see and can understand.”

[Norman Collie]


Sunday–August 3, 2008

Trail Day–094

Trail Mile–25.2/1769

Location–Dead Indian Road

Didn’t have to set camp or cook last evening. Directly down the mountain from Green Springs Summit is Green Springs Inn–cabins, rooms, even a restaurant. Oh yes, we head straight down to the restaurant. Good folks, great food.

We had planned on staying at Hyatt Lake Campground last, but being Saturday, summer vacation days in full tilt, the place was totally packed, not an campsite available anywhere. So back up the mountain to Green Springs Summit we went, ending up at a small dirt trailhead there. I maneuvered Gordon till he had the van reasonably level, then I found a spot under the trees to stealth camp. Not a bad night at all.

A cold morning, low 40s at five. Got 25 to do today, so a Pop Tart down, I’m out chasin’ my dreams, the old jitney crankin’ along a little before six.

The hike today, and for the next number of days, will be through one of the least scenic sections of Oregon. That’s according to Jeffrey Schaffer, author of Pacific Crest Trail, Oregon and Washington. In the introduction he writes, “Section B will certainly be shunned by many and its trail will likely be taken mainly by long-distance hikers passing through to a more scenic section.”

Well, Section B certainly lacks in scenic quality, which makes other sections more popular. However, I think Section B has been given a bum rap. To me, I’ve found it offers a certain charm not found elsewhere. And the trees, the forests here are among the most magnificent anywhere along.

And my hike today takes me in and out of the forested mountainsides, some climbing, but not to the extreme as in other sections.

The day is broken up nicely, first as a result of finding a camera (Sam’s) lying directly in the trail, then lunch with Gordon at around the 17 mile mark. A ham sandwich followed by a blueberry muffin trumps the usual Pop Tart and an energy bar any day!

Getting out early makes for finishing early. By a little after three I’ve the 25 in the bag. There’s a gravel trailhead at Dead Indian and we set up right there. Sam comes in and spends the evening with us. A satisfying and rewarding day.


Concentrated very hard on not stubbing my toes today, and my (still occasionally barking) right doggie greatly appreciated the effort.


“Not many people really get to chase their dreams.

Not many people get to do something no one else has done.”

[David Horton]


Monday–August 4, 2008

Trail Day–095

Trail Mile–11.5/1781

Location–Highway 140, thence to Fish Lake Resort/Rogue River Recreation Area, Fish Lake Campground

Gordon’s got a schedule worked out for me. It’ll put me at Manning Park just inside the Canadian border around the 17th or 18th of September. The ALDHA West annual get-together takes place the 19th through the 21st at Snoqualimie, Washington, and I want to attend. Purpose being: I’ll get my little bit of fame–the Triple Crown Award. They’re handed out annually at that event. Gordon and I will also get to see many dear friends we haven’t crossed paths with for a long time.

So today, I’ve only an eleven and change, into Highway 140 and Fish Lake Campground, a short, very leisurely sort of day.

I get out as usual this morning, around sixish. That’s so I can finish the day’s jaunt in time to hit Fish Lake for breakfast. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together–hike’s done, we’re here at Fish Lake, breakfast’s ordered, and we’re having seconds on coffee–a little after ten!

The highlight for this day, what will remain in my memory–the remarkable treadway constructed through miles of glacial terminal moraines. Where the glacier stopped pushing millions of tons of fractured earth, and dropped what was left as it receded, created the most jeezly jumble of boulders, rock, and gravel one could ever imagine. Well, then imagine building a trail through such obstacle fields for miles, all by hand. Amazing how it’s been done, a perfect pathway winding and wending it’s way. Treadway so incredibly smooth, one could rollerblade it. To me it’s just nothing short of amazing. Check the next photo album in a week or so and you’ll see what I mean; got some neat shots.

Also amazing is the fact that anything could possibly grow in such barren rock, let alone enormously tall trees. But between the rock fields are lush stands of spruce, beautiful sentinels all, green and thriving.

Yes, a very short hiking day, but one to be long remembered–oh waitress, more coffee, please!


“Bids me dream and bids me linger–

Joy and beauty are its goal;

On the path that leads to nowhere

I have sometimes found my soul.”

[Corrine Roosevelt Robinson]


Tuesday–August 5, 2008

Trail Day–096

Trail Mile–34/1815

Location–Just past trail to Ranger Springs

The next two days I’ll be hiking nearly 50 miles, with a full pack. Sounds like a long distance, but not really. I expect to knock it out with ease–perhaps a thirty-plus today, which will leave a short hike on in tomorrow.

I’m off to a good start a little before six–into a climb first thing as usual. But this one, amounting to a pull of over 2,000 feet, will continue throughout the morning and into the early afternoon, a distance of some 25 miles.

The gentle, continuous climb goes well–well that is, till I reach the junction with Sky Lakes Trail. A confusing intersection, I take the wrong path–to follow Sky Lakes Trail for almost two miles (descending when I should be climbing), until I finally figure it out. On the way back I meet Drew, who’s out for a day hike. Coming to a halt, then shaping me up, he asks, “You Nimblewill Nomad?” (inquisitive grin).  Find out he’s also a friend to Billy Goat.  “Billy Goat speaks very highly of you.” says Drew.  Ah, such good energy–sure makes this off-track diversion all the worthwhile!

I’ve been totally frustrated, trying to keep track of where I’m at any given time. Been that way for the past number of days. Seems the folks who put this PCT Data Book together have made a conscious effort to use obscure or nonexistent reference points. I know you’ve oft heard me repeat what my momma said–“Son, if you can’t say something nice, keep your mouth shut.” Okay, okay mother; suffice to say that I’ll sure be glad when I reach the Washington line at Cascade Locks. Erik’s new Washington Atlas will be waiting there at the post office for me (and I won’t have to rely on this [expletive deleted] Data Book any longer).

This entire section, for nearly 50 miles has little water near or directly on the trail, as the path continually seeks the high ground–the crest. Honeymoon Creek, where the trail drops to cross it at 30 miles is dry. Both my water bottles are empty. I hike on hoping for the best–a small pond, a spring-fed trickle, anything. But no luck.

It’s now seven and I’ve been going for 13 hours on 40 ounces of water. I did chomp on some snow from a lingering patch near Devils Peak, but that’s been it for hydration. I’ve more climbing to do, back up to 7,000, close to the elevation where snow remained earlier. So, as I climb, hope-on-hope, I’ll find more snow soon. Ah, and what luck, back to near seven again I find one ever-so-tiny snow patch–and the trail crosses a small saddle. Hey, flat ground! Double-the-luck, I’ve water and a comfortable spot to pitch as well. Soon a fine warming (and snow-melting) fire is glowing in the fading light. Camp set, dinner cooked, plenty of water for the night. Yup, my lucky day. Thank you, Lord, thank you for this day, a day devoted to the exercise of patience, then to one You’ve so lovingly turned to a day of satisfying reward.


“Everything that slows us down and forces patience,

everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.”

[May Sarton]


Wednesday–August 6, 2008

Trail Day–097

Trail Mile–15.4/1830

Location–Highway 62 near Mazama Campground, Crater Lake National Park

Around 3:30, as usual, the “Old Man Syndrome” kicked in and I woke to lightning flashing and illuminating my tent. No thunder, just lightning. My duty done, and concluding the flashes were heat lightning, I went back to sleep. But at 4:30, thunder not so far distant got me up. Half yet in slumber, I’m thinking, “There’s no thunder with heat lightning; this is the real thing.” A storm is definitely approaching, not a good time to be making or breaking camp.

I’m up, reluctantly. By five I’ve struck camp and have my pack shouldered. I clamp my little Photon Micro Light to my cap bill, and I’m off truckin’ the trail. In no time the wind starts really driving, bringing rain. Surprisingly, the downpour quickly turns to gentle and steady. In another 30 minutes the trail and everything near it is wet, including me. The rain continues, turning very cold. In yet another 30 minutes my fingers quit working, a scary deal. Soon, I just gotta take a whiz, but aww, what great difficulty unzipping my fly. Finally manage, but then have trouble putting my hands through my stick straps again. As the rain continues, I’m able to hike through it, making reasonably good time.

I’m not whining, certainly not complaining. This is the first rain since passing through the desert in Southern California.

More climbing, and some rocks today, but it’s a short pull, and the hike quickly concludes near Crater Lake (Mazama) Campground. Gordon is waiting at the road, we load and head for the campground.

Hamburger and left over noodles, not a bad meal for the evening, prepared by yours truly. Come to find, Gordon’ll eat most anything!


“I’m a feather for each wind that blows.”



Thursday–August 7, 2008

Trail Day–098

Trail Mile–22.5/1853

Location–Highway 138, Cascade Summit

I’d hand washed my clothes yesterday afternoon, but rain threatened all evening and we had drizzle off and on. Certainly no warm sun to dry my wet laundry. So this morning I’m chillin’ out with very soggy hiking garb.

I’ve a short hike to reach the rim at Crater Lake. Want to get it done, then head to the lodge for breakfast by eight. Good plan. Gordon has me hiking by six and I’ve got the short climb behind me by seven-thirty. Off to the beautiful old lodge atop the rim. Reasonable prices and great food. We have three egg omelets–plus a couple pots of coffee.

I’ve been excited for the longest time about the remainder of the hike today, actually since deciding to hike the PCT–I knew the trail followed the rim around Crater Lake for a fair distance. I recall vividly my childhood visit to Crater Lake. We used to take a trip west almost every summer. Mom, dad, sis and I always looked forward to that time. When I was around nine or ten, that summer our vacation included a trip to Crater Lake. Year-to-year we’d done a lot of touring out west, and I’d seen some pretty amazing places, but that trip to Crater Lake has always remained as one of my fondest memories, a very special time and place. So, I’ve never forgotten that day we all peered down from the overlook, here by the lodge. The enormity and starkness of the crater, the sheer cliffs all around, the most perfect-blue water I’d ever seen. And Wizard Island, I just stared at it and stared at it for the longest time.

So now, after nearly 60 years have I returned to Crater Lake. Can you imagine why I’d be the least bit anxious and apprehensive about being here again? How will these old eyes perceive what that child’s eyes saw back so many, many years ago? As I look down from the overlook once again, what will my reaction be? Will I be disappointed, or will I see as a child again! Will there be the hushed silence as I stare in disbelief, or will my reaction be world-weary and jaded? Who will stand to look, the humbled child or the hunched old man?

Well dear friends, I must tell you that my childhood memory of Crater Lake has not failed me, nor has that excitement and awe faded, not the least. As I gaze once more across the wonder of it, do I marvel at its vast, magnificent, heart-stopping enormity. Crater Lake has not changed, nor has my reaction to it changed, the shudder and overwhelming impact of being here–not the least change, not a bit in 60 years. And so, am I now reminded of a quote by Maurice Brooks: “…Blessed is the land whose fulfillment is greater than its promise.”

The hike out from the lodge takes me along Crater Rim Trail, around the northwest edge of the lake. Rain had threatened earlier, but the day has turned perfect, just enough cirrus and cumulus above to lend the perfect backdrop–for a bunch of videos and a hundred or so pictures. What a spectacular hike, probably the most grand and scenic six miles I’ve ever trekked.

Another ten or so to close out the day, down from the rim to the forest below. The day ends at Highway 138 where Gordon awaits. More thunder–we beat it to Crater Trailhead where we set camp for the night.

An incredibly emotional day, fresh new memories to heap on the old, unfaded ones–enough memories to last another 60 years.


“At the first view a dead silence fell upon our party. 

A choking sensation arose in our throats, and tears flowed over our cheeks. 

I do not pretend to analyze the emotion, but…to me it was a revelation.”

[Frances Fuller Victor, author, describing her 1873 visit to Crater Lake]


Friday–August 8, 2008

Trail Day–099

Trail Mile–30.4/1883

Location–FS60, Windigo Pass

Rain again threatened toward the end of my hike yesterday–dark skies, lots of thunder, and driving wind. I hastened to reach the highway, to load, then get to our campsite. Then as quickly as the threat came, did the whole thing blow over, not a drop of rain from it. The evening ended perfectly–a dandy warming fire and flat ground to pitch.

Another 30 coming at me today. That means hit the trail early, and haul. Gordon has me back to the road, my pack’s up, and I’m in the woods a little before six. Trail magic first thing. Large shopping bags loaded full with all kinds of treats, from trail mix to energy bars, to jerky. I choose the trail mix. Thanks, kind and generous trail angel.

Not a mile into my hike today comes on the breeze an old familiar smell–smoke. I’m hoping it might be someone’s campfire. But after an hour, the smoke has become more intense, limiting visibility to less than three miles. We’ve had much thunder and lightning the past two days, and I fear that nearby wildfires have been started as a result. I’m able to reach Gordon by cell phone to have him check with the USFS. In awhile he calls back. My hunch was correct; there are a number of fires, but none are threatening the trail. What a relief to know I’m not hiking into one!

A scenic and enjoyable hike today. Dramatic views of Mt. Thielsen, Sawstooth Ridge, Diamond Peak, and Mt. Yoran. Plenty of climbing too, but the trail is well graded, making for easy going.

A few miles from the end of the day’s hike, I have a blowout. My left doggie starts really barking. I stop, take my shoe off, and give it a look. No blisters or hot spots, just a small lump on the top of my second toe. I tape it, put my shoe and sock back on, and I’m out and moving again.

Gordon’s waiting at the road. We load, then head for the trailhead by Windigo Pass. Bumpy gravel road, remote spot–but flat, fire ring, and toilet. Ah yes, this is home! How do you find these places, Gordon?


Saturday–August 9, 2008

Trail Day–100

Trail Mile–30.9/1914

Location–Highway 58, Willamette Pass

Pretty amazing, how Gordon finds these places–our campsite last. Up a narrow rutted-out road. Strange deal though, as the ruts lasted for only a couple-hundred yards. From there a fine graded gravel road lead off to a hunter’s camp, complete with pull offs and fire rings. Oh, and right next, a clean, well kept toilet. Yup, had the whole place to ourselves, and no scrounging around for firewood, like at the fee area campgrounds where every twig’s been scavenged. Just a great spot, perfect evening.

And to make it even better, just before dark who comes strolling in other than Sam. Sam’s a really nice young lad; always a joy seeing him. He’s the chap Gordon and I managed to get the camera back to at Hyatt Lake. Sam sits the fire a spell, then accepts our invite to camp the night. Oh yes, just a perfect evening.

My hike today takes me through the Diamond Peak Wilderness. Here, again, there’s no lack for climbing–up and over the shoulders of three remarkable sharptops: Cowhorn, Diamond, and Yoran. I’ve easy treadway to Diamond. But from Diamond, I encounter many small snow patches and a respectable snowfield, with plenty of rocks in between. Getting over the shoulder of Cowhorn requires a climb above 7,000 feet, the last for Oregon.

Sam and I hike together some, off and on. He’s young, much stronger, so he ends up way out ahead most of the time.

Smoke still lingers. I can see waves of it drifting through the forest canopy. Visibility as a result (and unfortunately) is limited again to just a few miles. However, by one a southerly breeze clears it out nicely. Great views of all the sharptops around, most still sporting their pure-white ridged veins of snow. Plenty of picture postcard shots–and a very scenic video from the alpine zone below Diamond Peak.

Another long, hard hiking day, 31 miles–to the next road crossing at Willamette Pass. I sure prefer carrying a light pack (around three pounds without certain of my gear). Having support offers that advantage. So, hoofing the miles to the next road crossing as opposed to doing less miles and carrying my full pack with a day’s food for the overnight is a no-brainer. So it’s head-down-and-hammer. Hiking fast and covering the miles doesn’t compromise my hike, so don’t misunderstand. If that were the case we’d sure have a different plan. Believe me, I am seeing and smelling the flowers along the way.  Here’s how I see it: Through these long, same-old, same-old sections, and there will be more, the sort of treadway designed and intended to get the hiker from one place to the next, getting through them in good time is actually hike-quality enhancing.

Thought I’d be way off pace today, but to my great surprise I’m at Willamette Pass before 4:30, a ten and one-half hour day for 31 miles. Not bad for an old codger, eh!

Gordon’s right here. Iced down Coke, just the ticket. “How about prime rib and a baked potato tonight?” asks Gordon with his usual broad-faced grin. “Duh,” is my reply. Oh-ho, we’re sitting the dining room at Odell Lake Lodge in less than fifteen minutes.

All the major roads, where the PCT happens to cross have trailhead parking, and for thru-hikers (and their support crews) there’s no hassle about plunking down for the night. I pitch not 20 yards from the morning trail out, and Gordon will be sleeping level in the van. A great day, just a great day.


“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.”

[Henri Matisse]


Sunday–August 10, 2008

Trail Day–101

Trail Mile–18.4/1932

Location–FR5897, thence to Willamette Pass Inn & Chalets, Crescent Lake Junction

A short hiking day today; happy for that. I came in very tired last, my feet especially so after two thirty-mile days back to back. Today, my left foot, the one that suffered the blowout Friday begins complaining. Neat in a weird sort of way–having some other problem bother me more than my right foot for a change.

I want to finish early so I can have the afternoon off. Have already made reservations at Willamette Pass in for tonight and tomorrow. Oh yes, I’m finally going to take a day off, after many a day and many a mile.

Plenty of climbing, along the ridge mostly, thence to sideslab the taller and more rugged crest-toppers. Lots of water for a welcome change, plus a bunch of snow patches to get over.

The hike goes well and I’ve got the 18 in by twelve. Gordon is waiting for me at the road. We load and head straight for Crescent Lake Junction, and AJ’s for lunch. Super spacious room at the Inn. Got near everything, even a fireplace plus wood to burn. Welcome time of rest.


“Without weariness there can be no real appreciation of rest,

without the ancient responses to the harsh simplicities of the kind of environment that shaped mankind,

a man cannot know the urges within him.”

[Sigurd Olson]


Monday–August 11, 2008

Trail Day–102

Trail Mile–00/1932

Location–Willamette Pass Inn & Chalets, Cascade Lake Junction

A well-earned day of rest, a zero-mile day. And not a finer place to spend it, the Inn at Willamette Pass. Dianne, the Inn’s kind owner, listened patiently while I explained my plight to her (my meager budget), and that I dearly wanted to stay two nights. She was very sympathetic when Gordon brought me to talk with her Saturday evening. He’d also stopped and met with her earlier that day. “Come in when you finish your hike tomorrow. We’ll work it out for you to stay the two nights.” Warm smile from Dianne! And so I did. And so, her generosity, just as promised. Thanks, Dianne, you cannot know how much I appreciate your kindness!

What a blessing, being clean, having clean clothes (hand washed them yesterday afternoon), having my feet up and keeping them up, catching up on journal entries and correspondence, and just relaxing for a day–such a welcome blessing.


“The invariable mark of a dream is to see it come true every day.”

[Ralph Waldo Emerson]


Tuesday–August 12, 2008

Trail Day–103

Trail Mile–28.2/1959

Location–Elk Lake, Island Meadow Trailhead

Our stay at Willamette Lodge and Chalets, Crescent Lake Junction, was the best. Dianne, lodge owner, made sure we lacked nothing. Having a real wood fire in the fireplace both nights was such a treat. Yes, our room had a fireplace!  I could long remain content sitting a glowing fire, as I did these last two evenings–but I would soon long for the silent contentment only found deep in the wildwood. Thanks, Dianne, for your kindness and generosity!

A bit of a bumpy start this morning. Get Gordon up. Clear the room as usual. Get everything loaded and ready to go. It’s five-thirty. Gordon turns the ignition key–errr, errr, clickety, click, click. That’s it. Dead battery. Push the van out in the parking lot. Raise the hood. In and out of the van, slamming and banging around. Dianne’s boyfriend apparently hears the racket and comes down in his robe. Luckily, Gordon’s got jumper cables, and we get the thing started.

The drive back up the mountain takes nearly an hour, so I’m not on the trail till almost seven. Not a problem though, as I’ve a relatively short day today, less than thirty. I head up the mountain; Gordon heads down the mountain–to the auto parts store.

I’m hiking in the Three Sisters Wilderness today, rugged and remote, a land of pristine, placid lakes. And mosquitoes, countless mosquitoes. And they’re everywhere. Endless swarms all through the cool forest. Even up on the dry, hot ridge do they persist and dog me. No stopping at the lakes to look or rest. Don’t have my headnet. Don’t have my DEET. Gotta hike faster!

Surprising number of folks on the trail today, mostly day hikers. Did see a couple of thru-hikers, though.  One, Guardian Angel. Hadn’t seen her since the desert in southern California.

This is BBB day, blowdowns, bugs, and burnover. The trail passes through two very large burn areas, both having occurred long enough back for the snags to be rotted–enough to fall. Don’t think I’ve ever seen so many blowdowns in one place before, hundreds of them beside and over the trail. Crews have been through, but to keep the trail completely clear would require daily sweeps. So, lots of climbing–over blowdowns. As for the mosquito count, only the good Lord could ever know.

I’m able to stay on trail and make good time. To meet Gordon, I’ve got to take a spur trail about a mile down to the trailhead. I’m down by 4:30. Gordon’s waiting. “Want a steak and baked potato again tonight?” beams Gordon. Hey, hey, ten minutes later we’re sitting the bar at Elk Lake Lodge. Great steak (and a couple cold ones). High octane jet fuel. Burn that off tomorrow.


“I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on.”

[Eleanor Roosevelt]


Wednesday–August 13, 2008

Trail Day–104

Trail Mile–32/1988

Location–Lava Camp Lake Trailhead

Glad I decided to do a day hike yesterday and hike the mile down to Elk Lake Resort rather than carrying three days of food and hiking through. Certainly much easier, and the time spent at Elk Lake Resort (great steak dinner) was singularly worth the trip down.

So, this morning I’ve got the hike back up, then 49 to do in the next two days, which will require an overnight. I’m carrying enough food for today, along with some snacks for tomorrow. I’ll be shooting for around a thirty today, which will leave twenty or less for tomorrow, setting me up to finish around one.

I’m a tad late getting out, and with the mile back up to the trail, I’m not covering any trail distance until after six-thirty. The climb goes okay (there’s almost always a climb to start the day), but up and over and starting back down I run into one of the largest trail-blocking blowdowns I think I’ve ever encountered. Trees the diameter of your dining room table wind-rowed across and blocking the trail for better than 50 yards. Up, over, and through is the only way. Heading in, I try to keep track of the trail below through the tangle of limbs and huge mounds of dirt (root-wads). Finally, unable to keep the trail in sight, I concentrate on the climb, crawl, and scramble through, hoping to find the trail again on the far side. I get through fine but am unable to locate where the trail comes out.  I climb up the mountain, then down the mountain–no trail. Could it be the trail did a switch-back somewhere under the pile of trees, and simply came out below on the same side?  Convincing myself that the trail could not possibly be above where I had climbed, or below, I work my way back through the heap. Sure enough, 50 feet below where the trail entered the downed maze, I find the trail. Had I known of the switchback I would not have even needed to enter the maze. Cost me nearly an hour–and much energy.

Many lakes to pass again today, which means more mosquitoes, lots more. Gordon has loaned me his headnet, and I have bug repellent with me now, both of which I use, to little avail. There are so many mosquitoes, seems they’re almost pushing me around.

I’m hiking once more in the Three Sisters Wilderness. I passed one of the sisters yesterday. And today, the other two, plus a husband and a brother. On north sister, there’s a glacier. I’m hiking well below it, but am able to get some good pictures.

The feature of this day, well, there’s two actually. First, another wildfire ahead, which I can see burning on the east slope of Three Fingered Jack. And second, the special treat and excitement of hiking into the Belknap Crater lava flow. Jumbles and piles of lava, the trail weaving through. Much slow going just at the end of the day.

A short side trail, less than half a mile, leads over to Lava Camp Lake, a neat campground just off McKenzie Pass, which is closed. So there’s no one around. Fine campground beside a small, crystal-clear lake, toilet, picnic table and fire ring–and mosquitoes!

It’s dark before I get a fire started, take water from the lake, and get my tent pitched.


“To me, this lunar-like landscape…

is one of the most remarkable natural sights I’ve ever seen,

beautiful and terrifying at the same time. 

It looks like the earth exploded yesterday.”

[Karen Burger]


Thursday–August 14, 2008

Trail Day–105

Trail Mile–18.5/2007

Location–US20, Santiam Pass Trailhead

I did the long-mile day yesterday so today would be fairly short. Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish around one. Oh, but I hadn’t figured on such a long, circuitous trail through the lava fields, two dandies. The second one also involves a pretty  steep climb to boot. A distance that could otherwise have easily been covered in less than an hour takes well over that. No use rushing through though; no use fighting it. Nature has chosen this harsh and utterly wicked place to tell an enlightening story–that of eternal creation. One need only pause and listen.

Coming up from the lava field, the trail turns abruptly west, then north–to pass Three Fingered Jack on the west side. What a relief, as the wildfire I mentioned previously is burning on the east side. Hopefully, the trail won’t be affected.

Mosquitoes don’t seem so bad today–no water to speak of! Have carried an extra 20 ounces, but that’s quickly gone. Only twelve more miles in; I’ll get by.

Less than a mile from day’s end I head off on the wrong trail, and end up at the Hoo-Doo Snow Park. Neat place, but not where I’m supposed to be. A call to Gordon and he gets me straightened out. Waste only half an hour getting to the trailhead to end the day.

During the evening we see Mercury, Carbo, Jelly Bean, and Tangent. It’s ten before I’m caught up and ready for the sack.


“There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks.

Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.”

[Linda Hogan]


Friday–August 15, 2008

Trail Day–106

Trail Mile–33.1/2040

Location–Whitewater Creek, Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

At the kiosk above Santiam Pass the USFS has posted a notice asking all PCT thru-hikers to skip the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness and hitch on up to Lolo Pass. The notice comments on the unusual amount of snow and about the treacherous conditions there, especially in Jefferson Park. I have many friends who’ve already hiked the Jefferson Wilderness and all have made it through in good order, some having done so weeks ago. As I age, it is becoming harder and harder to scare me–I’ll hike through; I certainly do not want to miss the experience of witnessing Jefferson Park.

As usual, I’ve a climb first thing, nearly 2,000 feet. A gradual grade and kind treadway makes for an easy go of it. At the first overlook I get some great shots of Three Fingered Jack.

The forecast for the next couple of days is for warm to very hot conditions, but up here (on high) it’s very pleasant this morning.

I’m out with just my long-sleeve, following Mercury‘s footprints–to finally catch up with him around eleven at Rockpile Lake. From there we hike together on up to the Escarpment where we stop to rest and have lunch. Great place to relax and just take it all in. What an eye-popping view of Mt. Jefferson–in all its presidential glory!  Met a group of young folks from Outward Bound here. They’d just climbed Mt. Jefferson–a remarkable accomplishment!

At altitude 6,000 feet and above, which the trail seeks out today, I’m in and out of lingering snow patches, none of which are of any consequence. I’m able to find and follow the trail easily.

Mercury stretches lunch. I hike out–to promptly take a wrong turn, down the Pamelia Lake Trail, an old PCT route. I stay the Pamelia. Doesn’t take long to understand the reason for the PCT reroute; this Pamelia Lake Trail has seen its better days. Rutted-out tread, rocks and roots, all compounded by neglect, resulting in an overgrowth of brush. The hike, though not unenjoyable, is also one I’d not return to anytime soon. A degree of redemption though–the section along Pamelia Lake, a large, most impressive recreation area. Lots of families camping and enjoying one of the few remaining summer vacation weekends. A short climb and I’m back up to the official PCT.

The remainder of the day goes quickly.  A climb to ford Milk Creek (first wet feet since back in the Sierras), then Russell Creek, which turns to be an easy task, as I simply cross it over a large snow bridge.

At Whitewater Creek, the last ford (there’s a footbridge over this one now), I  decide to call it a day, as there are restrictions on fire use along the trail above. I want a cooking and warming fire for the evening, so it’s stay below Whitewater for the night. I take water from the river and pitch in a pleasant, secluded cove back in the spruce.


“As a man grows older it is harder and harder to frighten him.”

[Jean Paul Richter]


Saturday–August 16, 2008

Trail Day–107

Trail Mile–13.4/2053

Location–FR4220, Skyline Road

I get out and on the trail later this morning than anytime in weeks. The temperature really plunged during the night, down in the 40s this morning. I hiked out without my gloves yesterday–dumb. Told Gordon when I decided to leave them in the van that I’d probably regret it–yup. Had a time talking myself into breaking camp. Didn’t want to get up and face the cold. Almost seven before I’m moving back north again.

From Whitewater River the trail climbs to Jefferson Park. It certainly is a park, a place of amusement, just a different kind of amusement. In Jefferson Park there are no Ferris Wheels or Merry-go-rounds, just Mother Nature’s best alpine show: lovely (as if groomed) meadows, and crystal clear ponds and lakes. Above Jefferson Park looms Park Cirque, a semi-circular cathedral up and into which the trail ascends. On the rim, Park Rim, there’s a spot simply referred to as “Viewpoint.” In my opinion, Viewpoint is one of the most spectacular overlooks anywhere to be found. Looking south, and framing the skyline looms Mt. Jefferson, with Jefferson Park presenting below in full grandeur. Turning now to the north do I have my first view of Mt. Hood, sitting the hazy-blue horizon. Yes, a stunning panorama. Remember to check out the video in a week or two.

It’s taken me awhile to get past Mt. Jefferson; not like Mt. Washington and all the other sharptops to the south. Seems folks out here in Oregon hold a special place in their hearts for Thomas Jefferson. Back in Siead Valley, folks there claimed they lived in a locale simply known as the state of Jefferson! Certainly understandable; hadn’t been for Jefferson, his foresight and leadership in acquiring the Louisiana Territory from France, might not be a state of Oregon today, let alone a state of Jefferson!

Interesting that Mt. Jefferson was first seen (and named) by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. They saw the majestic sharptop during one of their exploratory journeys into the Willamette Valley. That was in 1806. As you may recall, Lewis was sent by President Jefferson to explore the Louisiana Territory (and points west–today’s Oregon and Washington).

Down from Park Rim, the snowfields obscure much of the trail. Tracks go every which way. Many of my friends had difficulty finding the trail here, and this is the area warned about by the USFS. But today, I have a relatively easy go of it as I am passing through much later, and there’s been enough snowmelt to reveal numerous sections of the trail below. I must scamper over and down through the ice and snow, but this is pretty much “old hat” to me now, after traversing the snow-choked passes back in the Sierras.

Down and into the forest below, clear of the large snowfields, I sigh a deep sigh of relief. For some reason I had become very anxious with each passing day as I listened to reports and rumors about the difficulty I’d face in the snow and ice on Jefferson. Don’t know why I feared. Perhaps my increasing age. During my hikes in Canada, in Forillon, and in the Chic Chocs, especially, I was constantly faced with much worse snow conditions–and thought nothing of it.

A very short hike today. I’m in by a little before one. I load and we head over to Olallie Lake where we find a campsite and squeeze in for the evening.


“An area unexcelled in the Pacific Northwest as a natural alpine garden

sprinkled with lakes and streams,

above which rises graceful glacier-hung Mount Jefferson…

a fascinating land of picturesque and friendly beauty.”

[Clinton Clarke]


Sunday–August 17, 2008

Trail Day–108

Trail Mile–54.1/2107

Location–Timberline Lodge

Olallie Lake Campground was jammed, what with the great weather we’ve had, plus this being summer vacation time–in full bloom. We did manage to squeeze in. Had camp set, fire built, and supper cooking nicely on my old two-burner Coleman when, at a distance, we could hear thunder. We hastened to get through with supper and load everything back in the van as the thunder intensified and drew nearer.

I no sooner had my tent pitched for the night than the rain came. After all the thunder and commotion it lasted only 20 minutes, what little there was of it.

No one is stirring; it’s still dark in the campground as Gordon gets us out as quietly as possible this morning. It’s a short but bumpy ride back to the trail. With a thirty staring at me, and with the expectation of more gnarly tread, as was the case coming in yesterday, the need is to get haulin’. I’ve my pack up and am hiking right at six.

To my surprise, the trail is most-near interstate, smooth and wide, the least variation in elevation. I’m moving along nicely and really covering the ground when the smell of smoke comes drifting the breeze again. In no time visibility is down to less than five miles, then two.  he lightning of last evening has apparently started more fires. I hope and pray they’re not burning across the trail. I’m unable to reach Gordon, to find out about this one. Choppers have been passing over since mid-morning. The smoke persists and remains heavy until early afternoon, then finally dissipates and clears out. Flags have been flying at half mast recently for firefighters lost in a helicopter crash. This has been a very bad fire season.

Early this morning I entered the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. Through here the trail is remarkably well maintained. By noon I’ve had to climb over only four blowdowns. Here on the reservation, the trail crosses a number of logging roads. Just past one I meet an Indian woman and her child out picking huckleberries. The low bushes are full and so is her basket and gallon can.

I reach Warm Springs River by twelve, over 20 miles in six hours. By three I’m at Highway 42 where Gordon is waiting.  I’ve hiked thirty miles now in only nine hours.

Ever since the beginning of my backpacking “career” I’ve always wondered what my personal best day might turn out to be mileage-wise. Never dreamed, in my wildest dreams, that it’d  be such an astounding and amazing number, or that I’d accomplish it on the PCT in Oregon with a backpack on at near age 70. Sure had no thought of going for my personal best when beginning my hike this morning. But now, finished up by three, I know this is the time to go for it. I’ll hike on for who knows how many more miles. This will be the day, my longest-mile day, ever.

Just after setting out this morning I started seeing familiar footprints in the rain-settled trail–Mercury‘s. I was thinking then, “I’ll probably catch him around noon, like on Friday.” But noon came and went, and no Mercury, his footprints still right there ahead, marking the trail. When I reached Gordon at three, he told me that Mercury had made the same decision that I’d reached–to go for it! I finally catch him late afternoon, by a blowdown beside the trail, slouched down against his pack, appearing exhausted. “I think I’ve got well over forty in now.” he says, sounding dejected. “You can do better.” I reply. “Come on, get up, lets go.” I move out. Mercury‘s up, pack shouldered, and he’s right behind.

I’ve hiked into the high 40s on a number of occasions, all roadwalks. Not a fifty in the bunch, though, and today I want to break 50. From Olallie Road to Highway 35 near Barlow Pass/Government Camp, where Gordon can meet us again, it’s 49.1 miles, a scant nine-tenths short of 50–not good. Past Barlow, the next place Gordon can get in is up at Timberline Lodge, another five miles distant–and nearly 2,000 feet up Mount Hood.

I give Mercury the news, “We’re hikin’ it on up to Timberline. I think we can make it in before midnight.” Mercury gives me a nod. In a short while we pass Gordon again. He’s come around to Barlow Pass. Looking anxious, he expresses concern that I might be jeopardizing my hike. I calm him and we move on through.

Pitch black now, lights on, we’re movin’–when the little flashlight Gordon loaned me blows a bulb. My little Photon is really dim, having been used almost every evening (and morning) since Campo, to set and break camp. Nothing else to do but stumble along behind Mercury. At half-past-eleven we see Gordon flashing his lights from the Timberline Lodge parking lot. And by twenty-to-midnight, we’re in.

Ah, and so folks, the old Nimblewill Nomad has hiked this day from Olallie Lake to Timberline Lodge, a distance along the Pacific Crest Trail of 54.1 miles. What an absolutely amazing accomplishment (Remember what Walt Whitman said–“If you done it, it ain’t bragging”!). As I think of such a distance, write down that number and look at it, it’s simply astounding, like a dream–a dream that’s come true.

Thanks, Mercury, for sucking it up, for coming along, for your help, and for being part of one of the most thrilling times in my life–thanks!

And thank you, Lord, for this remarkable day, for my good health and strength, for the determination and resolve, and for the tenacity you’ve instilled in me–thank you!


“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”

[Edgar Allen Poe]


Monday-Tuesday–August 18-19, 2008

Trail Day–109-110

Trail Mile–00/2107

Location–US30/I-84, Columbia River Gorge, Viento State Park between Cascade Locks and Hood River

Cold and windy on Mount Hood/Timberline Lodge at midnight last. Much to celebrate, Mercury and me, but we’re both exhausted, so we tarry little.

Congratulations, Mercury, your 50 mile day! Oh, and hey, what are the odds of us ever experiencing another day like the one we shared Sunday? Uhh, probably way less than 50/50, eh!

I pitched last on the “No overnight camping” crown just above Timberline Lodge parking lot. Mercury went back on the mountain; he’s gone. And so, dear friend, should our paths not cross again, it’s been one memorable time, Mercury, a pure blast!

Time now for a couple days rest. Thought for sure this morning (Monday) I’d be stiff and sore, my poor old doggies barking, but I’m feeling fine. And so, first things first–breakfast at Timberline. Then it’s down and off the mountain, 5,000 feet down and off, to Columbia River Gorge, there to bask awhile in the sun, reflect a bit, and try to number (though infinite the number) the countless blessing, the daily bounty of goodness and mercy God has seen fit to bestow this old man.

In the Gorge now we soon find just the place to rest and while away a couple of days–beautiful Viento State Park, off US30/I-84 between Cascade Locks and Hood River. We know we’re home when, on the park entry kiosk we read: “Showers for non-campers, $2.00.” Hey, we’re campers here. That means we’ll get squeaky clean without dumping four quarters in the slot just to reach hot water, another four quarters to soap down, and a final four quarters to rinse! Oh yes, we’re home.

In awhile the ranger comes by in her Mule, chains up to a dead snag and pulls it down. Well now, free firewood even! Gordon goes over and dices it up with his bowsaw and we’re good for firewood.

Cascade Locks lies only a short distance west; we head there, to the post office where I’ve mail waiting. Then we’re off to dinner. Returning to our campsite it’s soon time for a warming fire, to end a most restful and carefree day.

Many trains pass during the night, but the clatter and racket disturb me only the least.

Tuesday, another day of rest. Some chores, like doing laundry, and a pass by Wal-Mart in Hood River. Supper, can’t wait–Dinty Moore prepared by Chef Nomad on his sputterin’ old Coleman. Time then for another fine warming fire–to rest some more and close ‘er out.


“Beyond the last horizon’s rim,

Beyond adventure’s farthest quest,

Somewhere they rise, serene and dim,

The happy, happy hills of rest.

[A. B. Paine]


Friday–August 22, 2008

Trail Day–113

Trail Mile–17.6/2125

Location–Lolo Pass

The storm was supposed to break during the night. So hopes are we’ll wake to a clear morning. What we wake to, however, and this is amazing–Gordon’s van was one of perhaps seven or eight vehicles in the lodge’s 500+ lower parking lot when we rolled in last night (I crawled in the van again to get out of the cold rain). This morning when we wake, the entire lot is full!  Oh yes, we’re right in the middle of some kind of event, but we don’t know what.

And the storm? The storm’s finally cleared out. Some lingering local clutter still passing, but that’ll burn off soon enough.I try to arrange everything in the front of the van the way I found it before converting the place to a bunk. Then I venture out to see what in the world is going on.

Come to find this is the weekend for one of the biggest relay races anywhere, The Hood to Coast Relay. Teams here from every state around, all age groups. The first wave is off the line at eight.

Gordon and I had planned on hitting the breakfast buffet a good lick again this morning, but now, I’m just wanting to get back up the mountain and on the trail, as Gordon hopes to get down the mountain, through all the runners and traffic, to his turnoff to Lolo Pass. I’m on the trail and out of the confusion by 8:30. Sure hope Gordon gets through headin’ his way.

I’m about halfway around Mt. Hood on the west side now. Ahead will be a number of water crossings, including a couple of rivers that are fed by the glaciers on Mount Hood. In so passing, the trail will climb and drop as it works its way north past these drainages.

I was expecting to get wet feet right off the bat, but the smaller crossing are rock-hops, and the glacier-fed rivers are crossed by bridges, so my feet stay dry the whole day, yippee!

By eleven the local clutter has burned off leaving the most serene cirrus-dotted sky, the perfect backdrop for some amazing shots of Mount Hood, which is sporting a fresh cape of snow clear down to timberline.

My energy level is down today, don’t know why, just haven’t been able to get crankin’ as usual. Tired legs, tired feet. Told Gordon to expect me at Lolo Pass between 2:30 and 3:00, but I don’t come tripping off the mountain until after 3:30. Only an 18 for the day, but happy and relieved to get it done. Hood is in my rearview now, also happy for that.

A grand evening at Lolo. We set camp not thirty feet from the trail. Everyone coming through, and there must have been at least twelve or fourteen, everyone stopped. Gordon handed out Gatorade to all, then cranked up WalkinJim. Wonderful fellowship, great evening. Check out the video in a week or so.


“If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain.”



Saturday–August 23, 2008

Trail Day–114

Trail Mile–15.5/2140

Location–Wahtum Lake, thence to Wahtum Lake Campground

I had much difficulty sleeping last, stopped up sinuses, sore throat, a dull, nagging headache. The whole mess hit me around ten.  And so explains my lack of energy during the day.


This morning I load up on regular aspirin, also enteric coated, as my lower back invariably locks up during these cold/sore throat episodes. I’ll be able to hike today, but at a slower, more deliberate pace. Sure glad Gordon’s got a short day planned. Okay old man, quit whining, get your pack on and go.

From here to Columbia Gorge the crest winds down but there’s no lack of climbing this morning, from 3,420 at Lolo Pass to Buck Peak at 4,500. The trail then stays the crest, side-slabbing the more rugged, steep sections.

Around nine I have the good fortune of catching up with Rachel, a petite young lady who’s hiking the Oregon section of the PCT. Our paths have crossed a number of times since first we met at High Point a week or two ago.  Since, we’ve been working on a trail name for her, and this morning the decision is reached. In a most formal ceremony, with much pomp, the old Nimblewill (in his official capacity as Grand Trail Sorcerer), christens Rachel (henceforth and forevermore to be known as) Little Bit.

Just past a spectacular viewpoint, which offers a breathtaking 360 of snow capped Mount Hood, Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens, the trail finally drops off to pass Wahtum Lake, and there the spur up to Wahtum Lake Campground where Gordon is waiting. My energy is totally spent but I have managed and have endured the day arriving Wahtum a little before one, thankful to have this day done.

A side-hill campground, Wahtum, but we manage a flat spot for the van right next a flat-set picnic table, a fire ring–and toilet. Oh yes, this is home for this day.


“If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on.'”

[Rudyard Kipling]


Sunday–August 24, 2008

Trail Day–115

Trail Mile–15.4/2155

Location–Trailhead, Highway 14, Near Bridge of the Gods, Washington

Slept so much better last after loading up again with both regular and enteric coated aspirin. A little slow getting up and going this morning, but manage to hit the trail a little after six-thirty.

I’ll be hiking the official PCT route for only two-tenths of a mile today–backtracking to the junction with Eagle Creek Trail; I’ll be hiking it instead.

The two trails are near the same length, but Eagle Creek is much more scenic, what with the largest concentration of waterfalls along any trail anywhere. I’m dropping to Columbia River Gorge, over 3,500 feet, so Eagle Creek Trail is down, and down some more. From Whatum Lake to the most spectacular of the falls, Tunnel Falls, the trail is poorly maintained, many blowdowns and much overgrowth. But once at Tunnel Falls, an amazing bit of trail work, the trail is wide and beat down. Eagle Creek Gorge is not such a big place in relative terms, but it’s certainly one of the most picturesque of any so far. Shear rock walls, the trail blasted from them, the tumbling, cascading creek, very special, very scenic.

Around twelve, who do I meet coming up the trail but Dawn and Paul, friends from Tagart, Washington, near Portland. Happy greetings, then a grand hike together down to the trailhead, all four of us (Dawn is expecting in just weeks). Near the trailhead, we meet Gordon, who’s also hiked up a ways. He’s getting around much better now.

I hike the three miles on up to Bridge of the Gods, Cascade Locks, where we have a long, leisurely  lunch at Char Burger.

I’ve Oregon behind me now; less than 500 remaining. And today I’ve also completed “Nimblewill Nomad‘s Great Western  Loop.” A special “bragging page” (featuring this accomplishment) will appear shortly.

In closing today, I’d like to take a moment to thank Leki USA, another of my longest, most loyal sponsors. Every year they insist on me starting that odyssey with a new set of trekking poles. And every year, just as I think they’ve perfected the hiking stick, they make it even better. This year I’m sporting a pair of their remarkable Carbonlites, lightweight, yet strong and stable. Thanks Chris and Lindy, dear friends, for your continued support and encouragement.


And thus, the Great Western Loop has been completed!

My Way

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