Monday, December 24, 2007

Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut

A few days ago the ghost of Mark Twain (or Kurt Vonnegut, or maybe an actual living person that just looks exactly like them) came into the store and repeatedly yelled "You can't tell me what to do you f---ing son of a b----!" while calmly taking a lap around the store, and then he showed himself the exit. It reminds me of the time the guy in the neon blue unitard came to church and yelled, "I am a vegetarian," proceeded to spell the word "vegetarian," and left, but then remembered he'd forgotten his invisible hat and came back to get it.

Hopefully I'm laughing at the funny actions and not at the person with mental problems themselves. My non-crazy friends came into the chicken fast-food place where I worked as a teenager and took their shirts off to see if they could still get service because there was no "No shirt, no shoes, no service" sign, and I laughed then, and when my buddy told me about how he dressed up in a Sasquatch suit and terrorized the local Taco Bell, I laughed at that too.

Speaking of hats, I bought myself this hat as a Christmas gift, along with a Loretta Lynn greatest hits CD. I don't know why I think really old country music is good, and all new country music is bad, but I do. Maybe I think that because it's true. Or maybe I just like Johnny Cash and I over-reacted to my recent enjoyment of Coal Miner's Daughter. We'll find out.

Merry Christmas. I'm going to run from the Embarcadero to the top of Mt. Tamalpais and back.

P.S. Speaking of vegetarians, I'm sorta vegetarian now. Mostly because I hate cows. With 12,000 miles of backpacking under my belt, they've shat in my water one too many times. Plus there's that whole efficiency thing. I'm also considering making a joke about how I went "cold turkey" by having the last meat I ate be cold turkey Thanksgiving leftovers. Mmmmm, those were good.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Knockin' Boots

Yesterday I went to REI to try on a pair of boots. Knowing how much I hike, maybe you'd think I already own lots of pairs of boots. Not so. I hate boots. Boots are for sucks. Boots are almost as lame as shaving regularly. Seriously, who would want to lift an extra three pounds with every single step for thousands of miles, and get blisters while doing it? Not that my trail-runners are always blister-proof, but wearing big-ol boots when you've got blisters is worse than wearing lightweight sneakers with blisters. I also hate the looks that I get when I tell shoe salespeople that I deliberately wear my running shoes a size or size and a half too big. This is actually pretty common amongst thru-hikers, but I've even had one salesmen try and bring me euro and women's sized boots to try and trick me into wearing something he thought actually fit me. I admit this would probably be a bad idea if I ever wore boots, but for sneakers it seems to give your foot plenty of room to expand with the relentless pounding.

Oh, and by the way, I attended the best high school in the country. Take that, Stuyvesent!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Getting Left Shoes

I finally got a job. I'm working at a gear shop called Any Mountain. In winter it's 90% ski and snowboard stuff, it doesn't have much local flavor because it's owned by a huge company that has 170 stores under 40 names and is majority owned by Vail Resorts, and until today there hasn't been any snow in the Sierras, so business has been very slow. The company is kind of cool because they've bought enough wind energy credits to power the whole business, and they have programs to encourage donations to Big City Mountaineers. Anyway, I mostly just float around the store, get left shoes from the back for people, and occasionally help people with camping gear. Whatever. I didn't like it at first, but I seem to hate it less and less every day (I've worked four days now), so we'll see. Sorry, no funny stories about crazy people yet.

I went to a free advanced screening of the movie Juno. The soundtrack rocked, and the movie was absolutely hilarious (what movie with Michael and George Michael from Arrested Development, Dwight from The Office, and a 90+ on Rotten Tomatoes could be anything but great?) but I think it was pretty hard to meet my super-high expectations. I also thought it was a little weird that Juno and her friends maintained their same witty sorta vicious sarcasm when they found out she was pregnant. The tone changed in the second half of the movie, but the first half was oddly too funny given the circumstances. That said, still great.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

California International Marathon

I ran my ninth marathon (not including ultras), the California International Marathon in 3:57 today. I was really pleased with the course. Optimal weather (50ish degrees and chilly if you weren't running), no significant hills, just rolling tiny ones you don't even notice, reasonably pretty suburban Folsom and downtown Sacramento course, decent fan support, a big running crowd, but not so many that you get trampled/slowed down at the start, and pros running every five minute pace (3:45, 3:50, 3:55 total finishing time, etc.) with a sign making it easy to follow them and know how you're doing. The only reasons it's not perfect is that aid stations should be synced with mile markers so you have to think about even less during the race, and it's a little confusing when the porta-potties are parallel to and facing the starting corrals, because then the lines for the bathroom cross the starting area.

I'm happy with the 3:57. I felt really good, not winded or sore and only had a little foot pain, probably since I haven't been running on asphalt much lately. It's better than I expected given the fact that I went running maybe five times as training. Of course I'm still in shape from the trail, so I knew I'd have the endurance, but probably not any speed.

Good course, but it's no St. George.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Smug, Thy Name Is Apple

Why is it that two-thirds of the employees at the Apple store in Emeryville are please-kick-the-snot-out-of me snarky and smug? Is it just the Emeryville store, or are all others the same? I'm sure that my own arrogance doesn't really help the situation, and maybe I should just take this as a lesson that I should be a little nicer myself, because if talking to me is anywhere near as annoying as talking to any of the "geniuses" at the Apple store (excluding Tony, who was plenty nice), then it's amazing I have any friends at all.

To add to my own culpability, despite the Apple techs having found nothing wrong with my computer at all, it apparently works just fine now. Now I just have to live down the shame of the fact that I accidentally got the black MacBook, which costs $125 more than the white one. (There's actually a $200 price difference, but I thought that was because of the 40 gig bigger hard drive. But you can just pay $75 to bump up the size of the white one.) One day I better be dying in the desert and be able to use the black case to build a solar still or something.

Enough of that. I'm going out to a vegan restaurant. Then I am not going to the opera with my friends afterward.

----
12/08 Update: It's not worth its own post, so I'll just tack a link to this mildly interesting Washington Post article about Apple stores and the love/hate relationship we have for them on here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

One Month of Doneness

I finished yo-yoing the CDT a month ago. It took me 10 days or so to get "home" to Emeryville, and since then, I've finished one book (Stegner's Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs), seen 7 movies (The Bourne Ultimatum, The Queen, 3:10 to Yuma, The Passenger, Cars, Pan's Labyrinth, The English Patient), inquired about/applied for 6 jobs (of which I seem to have landed an indeterminate number between 0 and 3, inclusive), gone running a handful of times, decided that I should volunteer at the Oakland Public Library or the People's Grocery community garden that's across the street but not actually done much about it, started eating vegetables on a regular basis, got a new computer (thanks Dad!), discovered that it annoyingly doesn't work with the wireless network in my house (but does work with other wireless networks), I've been on hold with Apple for the last 15 minutes, and I can't tell whether the robot voice is telling me the wait time is 15 or 50 minutes.

OK, apparently it was 15 minutes. I took the computer in to the Apple store, and they're taking a look at it, but I'm guessing they won't find anything wrong with it and will blame it on my router (despite the fact that the computer I'm on presently finds the network just fine.) I had to wait in line forever before a "genius" could talk to me, but I did manage to get the one non-smug employee in the store, and I did enjoy the Spongebob Squarepants kids typing game I played to pass the time. Anyway, that's probably more than you care to know about my computer woes.

It's really kind of weird for me to be having computer woes at all. I spent all day yesterday alone in my house with four different computers booting and re-booting and trying to get the network to function and dealing with tech support and bla bla bla. When computers would hang or fail to find the network, I screamed unrepeatables at the top of my lungs and got just as frustrated as when I was postholing (breaking through the not-sufficiently crusty top layer of snow and sinking to your hips) in the San Juans, but when I was in Colorado, I never once thought, "I wish I was indoors in front of a nice warm Windows blue screen right now," but yesterday I would've gladly gone for a hike in some waist deep snow if I could've.

So yeh, I'm messing with computers, and I don't have a job yet. I thought it was going to work out at Wilderness Exchange, but I haven't heard from them in a while. Now I'm pretty sure I've got a job at Any Mountain, but it's more of a winter sporting goods store than a gear shop and mostly just reminds me how much I hate the fact that America's economy is fueled by credit card debt and sprawling suburban McMansions. So hopefully I'll hear from Marmot Mountain Works, which actually has real gear. I didn't look into them for a long time because I assumed because they're a real shop they'd have more permanent employees and wouldn't need people for short-term, but I might've been wrong.

I do have a job lined up for next semester (I'm a TA for Econ 1) so all is well. Everyone that doesn't like teaching tells me this will be a horrible experience because the teacher really cares about teaching and that makes a lot of work for the TA's, but since I actually like teaching, hopefully this will work out. Since I've never TA'd at Cal before, it's also kind of the only position I can get in the department, but after having TA'd and becoming familiar with the class I'll be able to confidently and easily make some extra money by tutoring.

I'm still enjoying the Law & Economics classes I'm sitting in on, but they end soon, so hopefully something to occupy my time will come up soon. Otherwise I may just board a train, travel around the country, and rack up some credit card debt of my own.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Great Apple Tasting Experiment of 2007

Do you find yourself overcome by crippling doubt every time you go grocery shopping? Specifically, do you just buy Fuji apples because that's what you're used to, but wonder to yourself whether there isn't some sort of uber-apple out there that's better in every way and could improve the quality of your life immeasurably by instantly throwing a party in your mouth to which all sorts of good flavors were invited? Well, welcome to my world. Only now I've taken measures to solve this problem. It started when I challenged the food-snob status of my roommate Marcus. I asked him what types of apples he liked, and he could only name a couple. So he went out right then and bought one of every type they had at Pak-n-Save. The next day we invited three friends over for dinner, sliced up the fourteen apples, and had everyone rank each apple according to four characteristics: sweetness, juiciness, tartness, and crispness. We used a numeric scale from 0 to 10. 0 was way too little, 5 was just right, and 10 was way too much. Since one-fifth of fourteen apples makes for a lot of apples we had a spit-bucket, just like at a wine tasting.

Here are the types of apples we tasted:

  1. Ambrosia
  2. Braeburn
  3. Fuji
  4. Gala
  5. Golden Delicious
  6. Granny Smith
  7. Jazz
  8. Jonagold
  9. McIntosh
  10. Pippin
  11. Red Delicious
  12. Rome
  13. Southern Rose
  14. Winter Banana

You may notice the absence of Honeycrisp or some other sort of apple you like. We just used everything they had at Pak-n-Save (Marcus' bike got a flat tire on the way to Berkeley Bowl, so he just walked to Pak-n-Save.)

And which apple won? Don't be silly. Jazz, of course. To compute overall scores I subtracted five from each individual score, took the absolute value, and summed. That makes zero the best possible score, and 100 the worst. Jazz scored a 15.5, and McIntosh came in last with 59. I'd like to emphasize the fact that Winter Banana also sucked.

Here are the 14 types, in order of overall best to worst, the names are followed by their overall score and their sweetness, juicitude, tartaliciousness, and crisposity scores. Remember, low scores are good. My buddy copied and pasted this into a HTML table for me. (Can you just save an Excel file as HTML? Hmm, I should probably figure that out, because I've often wanted to put already-made spreadsheets on my website and couldn't find an easy way to do it just using Office and the old Mozilla page composer I use...) Anyway, just scroll way the heck down the page, and remember that Jazz is really good, Jonagold is so mushy it's the preferred apple of toothless octogenarians everywhere, and Pippin and Braeburn are really tart.



























































































































Apple
Type
Overall
Score
Sweet
Juicy
Tart
Crisp
Jazz15.56441.5
Braeburn19.561.575
Pippin2662117
Fuji28.585114.5
Ambrosia30.54.57136
Red Delicious3210.52910.5
Gala3285127
Southern Rose35117134
Jonagold37.51.57920
Granny Smith461571311
Golden Delicious5213111315
Rome5312101516
Winter Banana564161620
McIntosh591414922


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What Now, What Next, and The Meaning of Life

You might be wondering what my plans are now that I have completed the hike and have been "home" for a week. Succinctly, I have no idea what I'm doing for the next two months, I'm giving grad school another shot next year, and I'm probably not doing anything cool again until 2009.

While I was on the trail with all that time to think, I definitely made plans for the future. I planned to come home and immediately start attending classes until the end of the semester in December. I'd get a new computer and make DVD's of my trip, put all my photos on my website, and do a huge brain-dump with all my notes that I wrote on the trail maps for the benefit of future hikers, then I'd take off on a big bus/train tour of nearly every place where I have some friends: Truckee, Salt Lake, Iowa, Chicago, Buffalo, Boston, NYC, Philly, Baltimore, DC, North Carolina, then hitch across the country with a big sign saying "Mom's house" to San Diego, then stop in LA on my way back to Emeryville. I'd hoped to do gear shop slideshows all along the way to help inform people about the CDT and maybe get my name out there in the backpacking community so that I'll have a better chance of being sponsored the next time I decide to give society the finger and live in the woods.

But on my roadtrip home, I realized that traveling like that is actually more vacation than adventure, and I don't think I deserve (or want) a vacation right now. So I thought I'd try and get a crap job at a gearshop or bookstore to help pass the time until January. My preferred option REI has already hired their extra xmas season people, so that's no good. And yes, I tried the whole talking to the manager thing, because I went and talked to the woman that runs all the slideshows for the 10 bay area stores. (Regarding that, they prefer to do thru-hiking type shows in spring when people are planning hikes, Francis arranged to do shows before he even started the trail, and you need transportation to get to lots of stores to make it worth it to them, so I'm guessing I won't be doing any until Spring '09.) But there are several more gearshops and bookstores around town, some of which are actively looking for people, so hopefully something will work out.

I started going to classes yesterday. There are two Law and Economics classes this semester, and one Labor Economics class. The law classes are so far very interesting, but the labor class was way over my head and was a pleasant reminder of why I failed the labor exam in the first place. That gives me something to do from 8-9:30 Monday through Thursday mornings, at least. What else am I doing? Well, I'm trying to eat fruits and vegetables (interesting because I feel like a total neophyte idiot in the produce section), I'm buying some CD's, I'm remarking on the girth of the neighborhood raccoons, I'm disappointed with The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, I'm trying to buy a decent road bike, I'm nearly vomiting from the worst headache I've ever had in my entire life, I'm listening to Eddie Vedder's Into the Wild soundtrack on repeat, I'm gradually re-accumulating all the stuff I threw away when I packed up in April like bedsheets, toothpaste, and a phone, and me and my friends completed an apple-eating survey to find the best type of apple (more on that later). If I had a TV, I'd basically be sitting in front of it all day, but I don't, so all is well.

That answers "What now?" as well as I can. As for "What next?" I set several goals for 2008 while on the trail. I hope to run the Diablo 50-miler in April in under 14 hours, pass the Law & Economics field exam in August, run the St. George Marathon in under 2:50 in October, and have a date set for my oral exam by the end of the year. So basically, I'm giving grad school another shot. I can't be certain that it'll work out; I'm still really far from my PhD, but I'm going to give it another try and I'm hell-bent on at least getting my master's out of it. (Four years for a master's, I rock.) One of the law classes next semester is called Constitutional Law and Economic Development, and I'm really looking forward to that. As a grad student I have to be enrolled full-time, so including my being a GSI (TA), I have to take three courses. There are two law classes offered, so the question is what will be the third. I was planning on re-taking the labor course, but my experience in the current labor class yesterday convinced me I definitely won't be retaking the labor field exam, so I don't know why I'd bother with the classes. Maybe I'll take Spanish 1 instead. Shhhhhh, don't tell the department.

As for my next adventure, I'm running the California International Marathon in Sacto on Dec. 2. (It's a goal of mine to run a 26.2 mile marathon every year until I die, and this is my last chance for this year. No, running a 50-miler and walking 6,000 miles don't count.) That doesn't really seem like adventure to me, so the next real adventure will likely be biking across the country with Marcus in 2009. (Again, shhhhhh, don't tell the department.) Every time I've done a long distance hike, I've thought it would be cool to do triathlons and/or bike across the country. Then I remember that I like neither cars nor people and scratch it off the list. But this time I mentioned it to Marcus, and he loves biking and flakes out on camping plans less than one third as much as the regular person, so assuming that we're still friends, that he graduates in May '09 and that I've passed orals by then, we'll bike from SF to DC via his old stomping grounds in Utah and mine in Virginia, hopefully in under thirty days, with at least a century every day.

Am I going to keep doing these type of things my entire life? I sure hope so. I still haven't done the Arizona Trail, the Hayduke Trail, the Long Trail, the Colorado Trail, the Florida Trail, the Trans-Canada Trail, the Te Araroa, the Grand Enchantment Trail, the Via Alpina, or the Pacific Northwest Trail, and I haven't even been to Nepal or New Zealand, let alone Kyrgyzstan or Mongolia. I have a lot of friends from the trails that have never really settled down for a real career and just do whatever winter work they can get to pay for summer play. I don't really want to do that, because I want my job to be just as challenging and meaningful as all the outdoor adventures I do. I don't believe that I can actually make a big difference in the world, but it's fun to try every once in a while. So I guess the hope is to get my PhD and get a job at a slightly heterodox liberal arts college where I'm not really doing a lot of research and am instead just teaching undergrads that care about the world, where I can occasionally lead students on study abroad programs to East Africa, and where I can have summers and frequently whole semesters off to go live outdoors and be happy.

Here's a picture of me with Marcus, my good college buddy Nielsen and his daughter Scarlet at Red Rock Canyon outside Vegas.

And to illustrate how horrible I am with children, here are pictures of what happens when I get near one. You can click on them to see a larger picture and see that she's enjoying it even less than I am.
And finally as for "What NEXT?" or the meaning of life, well, I don't really think about that stuff very much while hiking. Mostly I think about food. Like that rustler burger I had in East Glacier with bleu cheese dressing and an onion ring? Holy s--- that was good. But here are two quotes that illustrate what I did learn.

1) Montani Semper Liberi.

2) There once was a young pirate named Gates,
who went around town on roller skates,
till he slipped on his cutlass,
rendering himself nutless,
and practically useless on dates

The first is the West Virginia state motto. It means "mountaineers are always free." I love mountains. They make me happy. I already knew this, but I needed to remind myself.

The second is a dirty limerick I found on the inside of a latrine in Glacier National Park. I am of the opinion that life may very well be fundamentally meaningless, so you may as well do what makes you happy. I wouldn't interpret that too selfishly though, because usually making other people happy is the best way to make yourself happy.

That's enough deep thoughts for now.
Peace,
the Onion

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Emeryville, CA

I spent most of the day yesterday at LAX with my sister gossiping about the rest of our family, and now I'm "home" in Emeryville. (For the sake of 300-something dollars a month rent, I'm splitting a room with Marcus until I go insane and we try and kill each other and then never speak to each other again.) I've now watched all the episodes of The Office that are available online, and now I have no idea what to do with the rest of my day/life.

Monday, November 05, 2007

San Diego, CA

We spent a day in Vegas hiking around Red Rock Canyon and eating a ridiculous amount at Hash House, then drove to Indio and crashed at Marcus' cousin's house. Sunday we hiked around Joshua Tree NP--visited an oasis, camped in the backcountry, and climbed around on some big rocks (the latter is what Joshua Tree is famous for). Now I'm in San Diego to visit friends and the folks, or rather, to finally get myself a second set of clothing.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Las Vegas, NV

Thursday we drove through Sedona, nearly vomited after eating a Burger King sandwich with "warm buttery-tasting bread," and hiked the popular trail up the west fork of Oak Creek Canyon. The leaves were changing and the canyon was spectacular. We drove into Flagstaff and saw Into the Wild. I was very happy that Sean Penn didn't ruin it, and of course, I absolutely loved it; I totally identified with everything in it, including all the on-location scenery. Yesterday we visited Petrified Forest NP and Walnut Canyon NM and gave a sort of crazy hitch-hiker a ride to Vegas, where we're crashing at my buddy Nielsen's house. I say sort of crazy because when he told Marcus he just got back from 10 years as a marine in Iraq, Marcus asked him if he'd been to Kabul, Iraq or Islamabad, Iraq, and he said he'd been to both. I think his stories about ranching might've been at least partly true though. Probably headed to Joshua Tree next.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mesa, AZ

Apparently Marcus believes in flying-by-the-seat-of-his-pants to the point of not reading car rental contracts before signing them, so we weren't allowed to take the car back to New Mexico. That meant no pie in Pie Town and no visiting the VLA (the Very Large Array, those big radio-telescopes) but no big deal, we just stayed in Arizona and did part of a canyon hike I heard of through Andrew Skurka--the Safford-Morenci trail. It's part of the Grand Enchantment Trail (http://www.simblissity.net/grand_enchantment.shtml) that connects Phoenix and Albuquerque. We may or may not have actually found the right trail, but whatever canyon we walked up was cool enough, so we kept going. Then we tried to camp at Saguaro National Park in order to check it out tomorrow, but they lock the gate at sundown, so we just kept on going north to Phoenix/Mesa, and are crashing at a friend's house. I'm enjoying returning to semi-normalcy in that I just watched "Stranger Than Fiction" and finished reading "House" by Tracy Kidder, but my thoughts on those are probably significantly less interesting than stories about rattlers and bears, so I'll be done now.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Springerville, AZ

After spending a night in Silver City at The Drifter motel (how
aptly-named is that?)watching ESPN tell me ad nauseam that the Skins
got destroyed 52-7 by the Pats, I hitched west to Glenwood, NM and
hiked the Catwalk National Recreation Trail. It's only a mile or so
long, but it's a pretty cool slot canyon with a metal walkway built to
the wall in the narrower parts. Hitched to Springerville this
morning, Marcus is on his way over from Phoenix, and we'll head to Pie
Town.
I really enjoy hitch-hiking. It's fun to try and hold your tongue
when people tell you that global warming is a scam to create a world
government.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Can I Mex? Mex I Can.

The journey is complete. According to timeanddate.com, it took 178 days, 13 hours, and 30 minutes. Here's how it ended.

10 minutes after I left the Internet cafe in Silver City on the 23rd, the power went out all over town. I couldn't buy my groceries or even use some of the pay-phones around town. Mysteriously, Dairy Queen still had power, so I hung out there until the power came back on, bought my groceries, and walked out of town on highway 90.

The next day I walked highway and dirt county roads to near Separ, NM. I saw my second rattler (a Green Mojave?) of the trip. On the 25th I passed through Separ, which is actually just Bowlin's Continental Divide Trading Post. Gross. I walked more roads with a little cross-country cacti bushwhacking to near Hachita. I did see some wild horses, but I also got swooped by an enormous bat, and swarmed by 5 Border Patrol trucks. Three drove past me in formation, one pulled a U-turn and focused his lights on me, and the two from behind pulled up to begin interrogating me. Because I'm sure illegals always wear blaze orange with reflect-y stripes for greater night-time visibility.

Finally I reached the "official" terminus of the CDT at noon on the 27th. The last two miles were a cacti-bushwhack, with the trail ending on the inside of the bootheel at the Crazy Cook "monument." (NOBODY thinks "let's go east to go to Mexico," and NO, the actual Continental Divide does not leave the country to the east either, it leaves to the south, just like you'd think.) The only joy I felt here was that this was such an amazing example of the crap of the "official" trail. They'll put a signpost every quarter mile but not dig tread and then expect it to just spontaneously appear, the trail isn't even routed to the monument (it ends a couple hundred yards down a fence-line road), and the "monument" is a crumbling slab of concrete that just happened to already be there to commemorate somebody's death. Also, it was 90+ degrees out and there wasn't a water source in 40+ miles, and when I found one, I got swarmed by fire-ants and a seven-foot long snake tried to crawl in my pack. Then at night I trespassed across a farmer's field that had a large number of rats in it, and got swooped by yet another enormous bat, this time it was loudly screeching to boot.

I reached highway 81, took it south for 12 miles, and reached the border at Antelope Wells this morning (the 28th) at 9:30. Despite the above paragraph, I had a great time the last few days. The desert had some cool scenery, what little traffic there was on the roads gave me plenty of room, the moon was full so I could do lots of easy night-hiking, and the air is totally dry, so I slept under the stars ever since leaving Silver City. Within 10 minutes of finishing my photos of the border, I boarded a Phoenix-bound shuttle and took it to Lordsburg. Then I quickly caught a ride (with free pizza) to Silver City, where I am now. Marcus is flying out on the 30th, and we'll somehow figure out a way to meet up and head west. (Anybody in New Mexico got a POS car they're looking to sell?)

Stay tuned to the blog; I'll report on my road-trip adventure home and answer important questions like "What next?" "What do you want to be when you grow up?" "What's the meaning of life?" and "When the heck do we get to see the photos?"

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pie Town, NM - October 18

Aaron: The new Radiohead album the day it came out? You, my friend, are awesome.

Thomas, Jody, Wendell, and Sarah: I wish I knew the Cookie Monster song, because if I did, I'd sing it in your honor right now. Thanks!

Did 38 on Sunday so I could get to the Grants PO by Monday closing--I surely wouldn't want to be forced to pay $25 for a hotel room and watch movies and Monday Night Football and drink a gallon of chocolate milk--that would have stunk. So I climbed Mt. Taylor (11,301") then walked by a landfill and a prison literally 10 yards from the road while inmates followed me in the yard and stared. Went to the PO and grocery store, then left town.

After a bunch of annoying lava and road walking I'm in Pie Town now on the 18th. I've got maps for the rest of the trip. There are a lot of options south of here. I'm not excited about fording the Gila again, but I probably will end up there anyway. Hopefully, I'll be in Silver City in 5 days, then visit the "official" Crazy Cook terminus, then hike out and down the highway to the Antelope Wells point of entry the next day. Not a lot of water and not a lot of trail. Oh well--it's still fun and the pie is great.

P.S.: I'll try and stop at the PO in Hachita, NM if anybody wants to send me a victory postcard.

For anyone who knows the geography of small NM towns, sorry this is out of order but I was out of town when Garret sent it home.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Silver City, NM

I listened to All Things Considered as I walked into town today, so all is well with the world. Except for my parents' house being in danger of burning down, along with the rest of SoCal, it seems.

After a quick stop in Pie Town, I hiked over John Kerr peak and imagined it was really John Kerry peak and busied myself making puns--I didn't climb John Kerry peak because of its French-looking North Face, but I wish we'd gone over John Kerry peak because anything would've been better than the 4 miles of bushwhacking before and after. Lame, I know.

Then I got to Snow Lake and walked the Middle Fork of the Gila River from end to end. My love/hate relationship with the canyon continues. In the afternoon I was thinking "if we ever run out of petroleum and Tina Turner runs the world with a disguised midget named Master-Blaster as enforcer and good people have to hide in surprisingly well-watered canyons in the desert, I got dibs on the Gila." Then in the morning it was 20 degrees and my waterproof socks didn't keep my feet warm so I had two icy stumps beneath my calves and I found some sunlight and rocked back and forth on the ground with my toes in my hands muttering swear words for a couple hours until it got over 34 degrees.

Then I walked 42 miles on the highway to Silver City, and I've got maybe 4 days left to go. Apparently Francis will be done in under 24 hours. Congratulations, Francis, you've earned it. You're the first, and I'll be "one of the first" and the fastest, for the time being. (The idea of a speed record is kind of dumb since the trail is such a free-for-all, but I digress.) How do I feel about not being first? Well, I'm a little confused that Francis said he was finishing on the 31st and is now done a week ahead of that. Maybe he was going to finish then in order to let me catch up, but then changed his mind when I said I hoped to finish on the 29th to make it 180 days because he thought I was spurning his offer of partnership. Or maybe he's just really bad at math, and honestly thought it would take him 19 days to get from Pie Town to the border (insert MBA joke here.) I might've preferred it to be a straight-up competition--I lose in races all the time and it doesn't phase me.

Anyway, I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to be first (actually, a tie was honestly what I was hoping for) but I wasn't really doing this to be first. I was doing this to do something no one had ever done before--to expand the set of things the human race has accomplished, if you will. A slight difference, but a real one. If someone had already done this before I started, I probably would've tried something else. But if you had told me that Andy Skurka or Squeaky was going to try and yo-yo the CDT this year, then I would've known they'd be able to pull it off, and probably 20 days faster than me to boot, and I still would've done it, because I was still venturing into the unknown, and it was still going to be the greatest adventure of my life thus far.

Congrats again to Francis. He's from the Bay area too, so I hope we'll keep in touch. I've told him I'm looking forward to the day when we hang out with all our maps and go through the entire trail and I say "I did X nobo, and Y sobo" and he says "I did Y nobo and Z sobo" and we both say "Cool."

On to Mexico!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cuba, NM

Well, I've exceeded my allotted number of offers of free showers/rides from skeezy guys while in town in the past two hours (I usually prefer to get these offers once every NEVER!) so I'm ready to get out of town, but the library was on the way, so here I am. I did the San Pedro Parks Wilderness yesterday and this morning, and now we've only got one high place left--Mt. Taylor, which is in the next few days between here and Grants. It hit 82 degrees yesterday. Life is good.

I camped with Jug and Nitro the night before last and realized that was only the 3rd night out of 162 nights (including day one when I started at 8 PM and camped at the state park three miles from the border) that I've camped with other CDT hikers. Obviously there've been a few nights with other random people in the national parks or Forest Service campgrounds or at a couple friends' places, but not a lot. It was also cool that Nitro knows more about the NFL than any other human being I've met, so we got to gripe about missing the season together.

I've got to go walk the highway shoulder for 6 more miles or so, then tomorrow I'll have 28 waterless miles. I'm carrying take-out from El Bruno's (best Mexican food EVER) so I'll have a delicious burrito for dinner tonight and a slimy piece of Styrofoam to carry all the way to Grants. Again, I'm hoping to finish on the 29th--that'd make it an even 180 days.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ghost Ranch 2

Other things I need to mention:
Milena, you rock. You totally rock. Lindt truffles? F--- Yeh!

Cal Football is #2 in the nation. F--- Yeh!

I'm not sure of exactly the mileage or what route I'll take south of Pie Town, but if it's ~300 from Pie Town to Antelope Wells like I think it is, I'm guessing I'll be finishing on the 29th or 30th, assuming decent weather. Marcus might fly down and pick me up, we might try and see Andy Skurka finish his hike at the Grand Canyon on the 3rd, then head to SD and pick up some stuff so I can have more than one set of clothing in Berkeley. My sister has a layover from Indonesia in LAX on the 7th, so that's all got to work in there somehow. It's too much to think about--I've got to get hiking. I'm gunning for El Bruno's (the best Mexican food ever) in Cuba the day after tomorrow, and maybe the Grants PO before closing on the 15th.

Also, if you were wondering, I weight 128 pounds. I hit an all-time high of 147 a week or two before the trail (and before running that 50-miler 3 days before I started), but normally I'm ~135. What a crummy weight-loss plan this has been :)

peace,
the Onion

Ghost Ranch, NEW MEXICO!

I ended up staying a night in Pagosa Springs, because it started dumping when Namie was driving me around to do my errands, so it made more sense to stay in a warm dry house than to hike for half an hour before dark and get soaked. Unfortunately, it was still raining (hard!) the next morning, so I ditched into a ski-area tool shed on the Divide and hid there from the lightning for a few hours. I only made 16 that day, and 22-25 the next two days, but on the 7th, I went over 12,000 feet for the last time, left the South San Juan Wilderness, and camped on the state line. On the 8th, I woke up, told CO to kiss my ass (I've got pictures,) and hiked on, and it's been glorious New Mexico jeep roads 'n bushwackin' ever since, with 32+ miles each of the last two days. Right now, I'm in the computer lab at Ghost Ranch--I hiked 18 already before noon to make it before lunch, and it's 74 degrees outside! 74 degrees! The last day I spent in CO it was 18 when I woke up, my shoes were frozen despite having spent the night inside my tent, and I spent the first two hours of the day walking along basically screaming and cussing like a madman until my shoes finally warmed up, and it didn't get much above 40 all day.

I caught up to Nitro and Jug, so hopefully I'll camp with them tonight (the 6th and 7th SOBO hikers I've passed on trail, also having passed Wildcat, Scarlet, Wildflower, Donna, and Gruevy, plus a bunch that I'm sure I missed in towns or whatnot.) The forests are crawling with hunters and the roads are littered with Bud Light cans, but I've got lots of blaze on, and did I mention that it's 74 degrees? One hunter was lost, so the first day in NM everyone was asking me "Are you Dave? Have you seen a guy named Dave?" Also saw two more bears my last day in CO, odlly probably my first black bears of the entire trail.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Pagosa Springs, CO

Just rolled into Pagosa Springs. The weather today isn't great, but it's not horrible. I left Lake City on Sunday and had great weather, but Monday it snowed on me again. Tues. and Wed. were great. Namie, the local trail angel is coming into town and going to help me run my errands and then I'm headed right back to the trail--65 miles left of Colorado, and I can't wait for some of New Mexico's boring-ass low-altitude jeep roads. The San Juans were a completely different experience this time around. I didn't recognize much of anything without 8 feet of snow except for obvious things like The Window and the Rio Grande Pyramid. I did do the entire official route though, or rather, what was the official route in June, as they're partially done with a higher re-route that I didn't take because I wanted to see where I'd nearly drowned (Pole Creek). Of course it was piddly this time of year.

I guess I'm now 2 days behind schedule, but things are good. I'm bummed to be missing football season for the second straight year, and I'm kind of ready for the hike to be over. Not that I don't still love it, but being almost 90% done, I'd just like to be 100% done so I can start planning my next big adventure, whatever that may be, (getting a PhD?) and the days are only going to get shorter and the nights are only going to get colder, so I'm just going to keep going as fast as I can.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Lake City, CO

Oh my word, I am tired. Like my mom wrote below, I'm taking a day off in Lake City, CO. I'd hoped to go straight from Monarch Pass (which I hit on schedule on the 25th) but I got hammered yesterday going over 14,014 San Luis Peak. Bagging the peak is actually three-tenths of a mile shorter than the official trail that just goes over a shoulder, but when I got to 13,000 the winds were gusting to maybe 70mph and it felt like Nolan Ryan was chucking gravelly snow at me, so I bailed to the regular route. I met two nice dayhikers Dave and Greg that were good company during crappy weather. I still made 28 miles, but I camped right by the road to town and when the weather was still crap this morning I decided I needed more food/warmer socks to be able to make it through the San Juans. I got a pair of neoprene wading socks (the first time I've ever been glad an outfitter is fishing oriented!) and some more food and I should be good to go tomorrow, assuming I can get some sleep. The forecast looks OK, but there's 6+ inches of snow accumulated already. I could be in Pagosa Springs in 35 miles if I took the Creede cutoff, but I'd rather endure the suffer-fest that is to come. I wish I had more time to type and tell you about the inspirational people I've met (like the guy that was hiking his 1000th mile who started at 400+ pounds, or Robert Woodruff, one of seven surviving Korean War Marine Corps POW's) but the nice people that are putting me up want to close up the ice cream shop.

More Colorado

From a postcard: 23rd, Twin Lakes - I'm a little bit loco. Climbed 14,433 ft Mt. Elbert (CO's highest) last night as a snow storm was coming in. To make it better, I did a traverse. Bummed I didn't do Mt. Massive (CO's 2nd highest) as well. Good thing - with PO hours, it really didn't set me back at all. Peace, G

From a phone call: 29th, Lake City - He tried to climb another 14er but the weather turned bad and he is forced to take a break in town.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

More Colorado-from a letter

September 14 - left Steamboat at 7pm, did 12 miles of highway walking at night to get my miles in after 7 hours in town.
September 15 - My 28th birthday. Did around 30 miles. Passed Wildcat, so I'm not the last southbounder anymore.
September 16 - Woke early because of lightning. It was on and off all day. I remembered something - the weather in Colorado is horrible. And there's no shame in low routes when the weather calls for it - lightning will kill you. That's the one piece of advice Scott Williamson could give me about this hike - let weather determine your hike. It kinda sucks, but unless you have the time to wait out every storm (every day), which I don't, it's what you have to do.
THEN IT SNOWED ON ME.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Steamboat Springs, CO

First, to mail me something at a post office, you can send it to:
Garret Christensen
c/o General Delivery
Town, State
ZIP

But I won't be using that many PO's any more, just Twin Lakes, CO (81251) on 9/22, Grants, NM (87020) on 10/13, Pie Town, NM (87827) on 10/16. You could also use USPS to Ghost Ranch (on 10/7):
Garret Christensen
c/o Ghost Ranch Conference Center
HC77, Box 11
Abiquiu, NM 87510

and write "Please hold for hiker, ETA ---" on the package. (The postal address in my last post for the Monarch Crest store is apparently no good, you have to use UPS, so don't worry about that.)

THANKS!

Everything is going well. It's raining like CRAZY outside, so it's good that I'm sitting in the library. I've got my next bunch of maps, now I've just got to go buy a bunch of food and mail it ahead to avoid some long hitches. There's a long highway walk south of town, so hopefully I can get started on that before it's too dark--camping between the road and the fence kinda sucks. I'm way bummed that Into the Wild isn't out till next week. When I was in junior high, my mom brought that book home from the library, handed it to me and said, "Don't let this happen to you." Chris McCandless grew up in the same county as me, went to the high school five minutes from mine, in his family he got along best with his sister, he was a huge Redskins fan, and his dad was a defense-contracting radar engineer (mine is a defense-contracting sonar engineer).

Anyway, I'm obviously back in Colorado. The Huston Park Wilderness didn't have 300 elk in it this time, but boy have I been seeing a lot of hunters. Scott Williamson tells me that after Labor Day he hikes thousands of miles in the Sierras without seeing a soul. I'm seeing more people out here now that it's bow/black powder season. My dad sent me a new tech tee that, if not exactly blaze orange, is at least "please don't shoot my youngest child" orange. Plus I found a blaze vest by the side of the road, so I drape that on the back of my pack. I'm up to 3 days with no new trail. The road south of Rawlins and the crossing the WY/CO border days are so uneventful that there aren't really good opportunities for alternates.

Three weeks and 600 miles for the rest of Colorado. Can I pull it off? I'm sure it'll snow on me at least once, it's just a question of how much.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Rawlins, WY (Sep 9)

Hi all. Poor planning (I shouldn't have stayed in Lander) means I have to wait here for the PO to open tomorrow morning. Oh well. On my way into town a disabled vet gave me $1 and then said I could stay at his place, so it's all good. I did blow a day, but let's hope it doesn't matter.

The desert was quick and easy. Lots of antelope and wild horses, and no 105 degree heat.

For those of you wondering how much planning it takes to do a high-speed long-distance hike like this (or for those cool people out there that would like to send me cookies or details of the college football season), here's the e-mail I just sent my folks about resupplies for the rest of my hike.


Hi. Here's my plan. The town name, the date I'll be there, and the
miles from previous town, plus what I'd like to happen. An asterisk
indicates I need you to send stuff.

*Rawlins 9/9

*Steamboat Springs, CO
Fri 9/14 (140) I just need the maps. I'll mail food from here to
Monarch and maybe Ghost Ranch too.

Grand Lake, CO 9/17 (80)
Silverthorne, CO 9/19 (82)

*Twin Lakes, CO 9/22 (76)
Please send the regular packet of maps, plus the last pair of Montrail
shoes, plus the Montbell down jacket that I just ordered from
backcountrygear.com (check my yahoo account for the order
confirmation if nothing shows up)

*Monarch Crest Store 9/25 (151)
Please send the maps that you would've sent to Lake City here instead.
Their address is: my name, c/o Monarch Crest Store, PO Box 40, Salida
CO 81201. Get it going EARLY since it's not actually at the store and
they have to drive it up there. Their phone is (719)539-4091; please
call and make sure this will work. (I'll try to do that too).

Lake City, CO--this town rocks and the guy I met there Jerry Gray is a
total stud, but I can't take the chance that the hitch will suck. Not
going.

*Pagosa Springs, CO 10/2 (216) My biggest haul so far, but I've GOT
to do the San Juans. Please send the maps that you would've sent to
Chama, NM. 10/2 is a Monday, but to make life easier (hopefully),
please send them to me, c/o Namie Bacile. I'll mail food from here to Pie Town, maybe.

Chama, NM. Too long a hitch after too few miles. Not going.

*Ghost Ranch, NM. 10/7 (150) Please send new shoes. I'll try and buy
a new pair somehow, but Montrail's pro-purchase site is down today.
The address is on the original itinerary.

Cuba, NM 10/9 (55) At least it's got a good Mexican place.

*Grants, NM 10/13 (110) Please send maps.

*Pie Town, NM 10/16 (85) Please send maps for the rest of New Mexico.
Be sure the Antelope Wells route and the Gila NF map are in there.
I'll sort things out and might forward some maps to Silver City, NM.

Silver City, NM 10/21 (170) I might forward maps here. If I'm on
schedule, this will be pretty tight, so I might just hold on to all
the maps from Pie Town.

YO-YO MEXICO! 10/25? (120)

I might need more shoes than indicated (either at Pie Town or Silver
City), let's hope not. Also, this is obviously an *ideal* schedule.
Pretty much any snow means this is way off.

Also:get a big box ready for when I call you begging for my snowshoes,
trekking poles, extra long-johns, cannister-top stove, and tiny
titanium cup (NOT the pot that the stove is in, somewhere there's a
titanium cup.) Also, please weigh the trash bag I returned (and still
have one of) and compare it to the trash bags in my room (there's a
bag of hefty or glad in there somewhere). If I'm right that it's
measurably lighter, send along one of mine, please.

love ya!!!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Lander, WY (Sep. 5)

First, happy belated birthday Mom. There were no phones at 13,000 feet when I was boulder-hopping across glacial moraines on the Divide in the northern half of the Winds, so I didn't call. Please accept my apologies.

Anyway, I'm in Lander now. Here's the skinny: after 5 nights in Yellowstone on a made-up route that had some very cool parts (ridges, canyons, bison) I reconnected with the official CDT at Two Ocean Pass. The next day I got to Dubois, WY. Hitching took forever, but I finally got a ride from Matt Carpenter, a guy that horse-packed the entire trail a couple years ago starting at Canada in April and raised something like $8 million for the Make a Wish Foundation. (Google him, or try something like diamondc.wyoming.com?). Yes, starting southbound in April is nuts, and yes, taking 16 horses over some of these high passes is nuts, but this guy puts Jeremiah Johnson to shame. I entered the Winds and did two absolutely amazing high-route alternates--walking the Divide from Union Peak to Tourist Creek, and going over Knapsack Col into the Titcomb Basin (my vote for the most beautiful place on the planet.) The Winds are totally spectacular. The high routes were spectacular. Seeing a Wilderness area with lots of other people doing the same thing I'm doing (backpacking, duh) even after Labor Day was spectacular.

You know what else is spectacular? That I've been headed south for a month now, and I have had only one day that I hiked no new trail. (The day from Two Ocean Pass to Brooks Lake Lodge/the road to Dubois.) Yet I'm still on the CDT. There's just so many alternates and way too much cool stuff for just one trail. I'm headed back into the Red Desert now, and I'm guessing that one or two of the next couple days will be exactly the same trail as I covered northbound, but it will be great that it's not 105 degrees out.

Of course I am the last southbound hiker, but all is well. My route from Butte didn't put me ahead of Andrew Skurka, and I'm probably still a couple weeks behind Francis Tapon, but no worries. I'm giving myself goals to make the southbound hike have panache (or insert your preferred cheesy french-sounding word there, aplomb might also work.) First I made up a route through Glacier that included the Floral Park traverse, then I made up a (second) new route through the Bob Marshall, then I took a 30-year old alternate from Butte that nobody does anymore and added my own route through Yellowstone, then I followed the Divide and crossed glaciers at 13,000+ feet in the Winds. So life is good. The rest of Wyoming doesn't hold much potential for spectacularity, but Colorado has lots. I'd like to do the Rocky Mountain National Park loop, but I doubt I'll be able to convince myself to hike a 30-mile loop. Mostly I'll just be sure to do any high routes I avoided nobo, including the Silverthone-Copper Mountain non-bike-trail route.

Oh, and if I could get someone to mail me postcards every Monday morning with a summary of VA Tech, Cal, and Ohio State's football games from that week (and the Redskins as soon as the NFL gets started), as well as their standing in the AP poll, I would love that person forever and ever. Every mail drop from here to Pie Town, NM should go as scheduled (except for my being 2 weeks ahead of schedule). Elisa Barber, you sent me cookies; I am madly in love with you. However, the fact that you addressed them simply to "Garry" is truly ridiculous. Thank goodness for the postal miracle that got them to me.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Aug 25 Mammoth, Yellowstone

Postcard:
I'm in Mammoth waiting for the backcountry office to open. That means I'm in Wyoming, right? Sweet! I'll be headed east from here then south down the Lamar. The first day and a half in the park were very tough--hopefully the river trails I have in mind will be cruisier like the Flatheads. In general Montana was totally amazing. Just a tip for visitors--if you want to be liked say, "my dad went to high school in Browning" not "I'd like to see less cattle-grazing on public land."

Phone:
Garret was in Dubois today. He says the route he took made him miss most of the northbounders, but thinks he may be ahead of his friend Andy Skurka (headed south) which would be good company if Andy catches up.

Note to parents:
Greetings from Tower Fall Campground. I'm supposed to be at a backcountry site 6 or 7 miles back, but I couldn't bring myself to stop hiking at 5:00, so here I am. Today I saw The Black Canyon of the Yellowstone. Man, it was HOT there for a while - swimming in the Yellowstone was very nice. Do I have a big Yellowstone fan amongst my friends/family? I'm curious. To me, Yellowstone is cool because it's big. It's -really- big. You won't see a fence or a cow for days. But you won't see peaks or drop-dead gorgeous alpine lakes like you would in practically all designated wilderness areas. Maybe I'm being stupid - parks aren't designed to be thru-hiked, and I'm just a mountains guy, and there are plenty of bison/geyser/big boating lakes/meadows lovers out there. Plus, Yellowstone seems like "the west." When you think of the old West, you probably don't think of the peaks of Titcomb Basin in the Winds, because nobody in their right mind would try to homestead there, but yeah, I could see Native Americans hunting here in Ystone, or an old Army fort or what not.
I should've kept track of the number of blisters I've had. Popped another pinky-toe one today. You might think that my feet would be made of steel by now, but that's unfortunately kind of like thinking my teeth should be made of steel after all this eating I've been doing.
It's 8:30--almost hiker midnight.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Aug 21 Ennis MT

From a postcard:

I'm sittng at the ranger station in Ennis trying to figure out the best way from here to Yellowstone. My preferred route crosses private property so I'll make a little change. Also looks like I won't be able to make it to Mammoth Hot Springs before my first night in Yellowstone, so I'll have call and get my permit from here. Aside from these minor annoyances and seeing way too many cattle pooping in my water, all is well. The Tobacco Roots definitely had cool parts. On to the Madison Range.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Aug 19, Whitehall, MT

Me, pointing to where I was at the time. The red blob is a big fire that went from 19,000 acres to 32,000 acres the day the photo was taken.


Yep, that's all smoke in the air as I passed the Fool's Creek fire.


Crap, did I take this? Sure looks pretty. Wish I had some idea where it was. I want to say it was on the border of the Lewis and Clark NF and the Blackfoot reservation near the Swift Dam, but I could be wrong. Yep, I'm wrong, it's in Glacier. It's St. Mary's Falls, or Virginia Falls, one of the two.

The Ahern Drift on the Highline Trail in Glacier. Usually this is a totally treacherous spot because the trail is crazy narrow and the cliff is steep and covered in snow, but there was nothing to worry about when I got there.

Me at the border on August 6 at around 10 AM.


From a postcard: "Please blog this. Aaron Rutman, it has been an honor to call you "one of my four friends" for the last 3 years. It's a shame I've only lived in Berkeley for 2 of the last 15 months. Anyway, as far as the music on the mp3 player you just got back to me: you nailed it, you absolutely NAILED it. Europe's The Final Countdown plus cheesy sing-along songs like Stand By Me, Lean On Me, and Tiny Dancer. I love you, man. Anyway, the hitch out of Butte was a little frustrating but I did like seeing a real shoe store and a K-Mart. Saw my 5th bear yesterday and have been on pleasant farm roads so far today. I can't really tell how long this alternate will take me, despite my dad's excellent mapping job, but should be in Ennis in a day or two. Peace, Garret" (He phoned from Ennis around noon on the 21st.)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Butte, Aug. 18

From a phone call:

No cute girls around. In fact, they're Butte ugly.
Yesterday was a BAD day--feet were bleeding. Not sure if it's the cheap socks or the shoes that last 8 days. Possibly flesh eating bacteria eating the fleshy bottoms of feet.

Despite it all, Garret sounded great and was in high spirits. He just got a new playlist for his MP3 player, so look out for a bearded Onion singing Neil Diamond in your neighborhood.

Lincoln, Aug. 14

From a postcard:

Arrived at Lincoln safely. Thanks to all the rangers and firefighters trying to keep us and our forests safe. Even more thanks to those with some compassion and a sense of adventure as well. I was totally safe, but just barely got through; hikers behind me are totally screwed. On to Butte.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Letter Aug. 9

On Aug. 6 Garret started a letter. On Aug. 9th he finished it. We got it this week.

Here's the deal: He reached the Canadian border at 10:25 AM on the 6th. He kinda wanted to continue on Canada's Great Divide Trail, or take a left and hike along the border, but mostly he "just wanted to turn around and get to Colorado ASAP to see what the the San Juans look like when they aren't filled to the brim with snow."

So he started a westerly route south through Glacier, trying to stay west of the Bob, but fires drove him east. He plans to reach the Mexican border by Nov. 2, making it 95.5 days northbound and 88 days southbound. Which he thinks is doable, but he's going to take a major alternate/detour through Yellowstone (don't send stuff to him between Butte and Dubois).

A ranger he met kept muttering about him being "insane" just like on the PCT when the tough old dudes said, "Have you always had calves that big or you just do a lot of hiking?"

He met with his folks on the 9th and was confused about his plans as the fires keep forcing him to change plans. Needless to say, he's loving his hike. Also, judging from his stationary, he's recently memorized the Gettysburg Address and the Preamble to the Constitution.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Headed South

Garret called me at 5:45 Saturday morning, which would be 6:45 his time. He began with one sentence: "It's cold!" Even though he's at lower altitudes now than he has been at his entire trek, he was really feeling the chill.

He told me that he's on the east side of the Divide (at least that's what I understood) just avoiding wildfires. It's weird to him that he's only going to hike about 5% of Montana on the actual trail, but he's glad to be southbound. He's also hiking closer to towns (thus the ability to call) which is somewhat disappointing. But on the up-side, he's glad he's not risking his life hiking through a forest fire. Also he's seen several bears.

He should hit Lincoln today or so.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

East Glacier, MT

Woohoo! I'm alive! I just walked ~180 miles from Lincoln, almost entirely off the official CDT to detour around 3 huge fires. (Ahorn, Fool's Creek, and Skyland, the last was for a while the top priority fire in America. Check out www.inciweb.org for really up to date info.) I didn't even know that Skyland existed when I left Lincoln, so I was making up a route on the fly, asking crew I met to radio ahead and see if trails were open. Last night I slept a hundred yards from a dirt road that itself is the firebreak at the east end of the Skyland fire and watched the fires on the hills above me all night. At least they didn't keep me up all night like the wolves a couple nights previous. I also saw a griz yesterday.

So it's been pretty rough/amazing the last little while. I'm excited about heading into Glacier tomorrow.

I need to tell this story: I left Lincoln and was walking on NF roads to get back on the real trail. From Lincoln, I'd ordered a pack from ULA Equipment. (Awesome packs made by a dude in his garage in Logan, Utah.) Only then I'd e-mailed him and asked if he'd like to sponsor me since he sponsored Scott on his 2006 yo-yo. So I wasn't sure if he was going to go through with the order if he didn't want to sponsor me. (I wanted him to, the zipper on my current pack in breaking.) So I asked the first person that stopped when they drove by if they'd relay a message to my mom that explained the situation and asked her to make sure the order went through. This was all semi-urgent because ULA closed Aug.1, I assume so the owner Brian can go on his own adventure. Anyway, the lady was very nice, happily agreed to deliver the message, and gave me $18 and a diet Coke. Then when I caught up to her on the trail (we were both headed to Heart Lake) she said that she wanted to pay for my pack ($175) if Brian decided not to sponsor me. Her friend had recently passed away, leaving her as the beneficiary of a sizable sum. Her friend had loved the outdoors, but hadn't spent enough time there, so she would have loved what I'm doing. Thank you Donna! Also, thanks to Brian, who decided to sponsor me! People are cool.

Also, another neat story from a while back is that when I hitched out of Lander, WY, the random person who picked me up happened to be a friend of my friend John Bellows. Guess that story kind of pales in comparison to the previous heart-warming one.

On to Glacier and the turn-around. Nobody send anything to East Glacier for my Sobo pass-through--thanks to the fires I may come out on the west side of the park near Essex.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Lincoln, MT

Dammit Al Gore, we believe you already! Now turn off your infernal global warming machine! I'll never drive a car again, just let me hike the Bob!

If you'd asked me before this trip what parts I was looking forward to, I'd've said "Glacier, the San Juans, the Winds, and the Bob." And now the entire Lewis and Clark NF sections of the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Scapegoat Wilderness are closed thanks to fires, so I won't get to see the Chinese Wall, a 1000-ft shere cliff on the Divide that goes for miles and miles. Thanks a lot global warming-warmer winters-pine beetles-wildfires vicious circle. I talked to rangers at the office in town for hours this morning, but they're still working on putting together an alternate route. I met a sobo hiker yesterday, and his route hit the road way west of Lincoln (Lincoln is already ~30 miles west of the Divide) so I dropped from an earlier pass and walked directly into town in case I'd have to take that route. Turns out I'm gonna walk lower trails that are east of the closed trail in the Bob, but still in the L&C NF, but there's a route due north straight out of Lincoln, so it shouldn't be too bad.

In slightly more happy news, I have a heel blister and serious ankle tendon pain, it's hot as hell, my headphones only work in one ear, and the zipper on my pack is breaking. No, seriously, I hitched a ride out of Darby with a cute little Rexburg, ID Mormon girl (no, normally I do not get rides from small girls with their infant child in the back seat), the Ananconda cutoff put me 4 days ahead of schedule, I met cool guys in Helena that gave me a can of bear spray and a ride back up to the pass (I started talking to one of them at a street corner after I think he was laughing at me because I was talking to myself), my package got to Lincoln on time despite only having a couple days to get here, my parents are coming to meet me in Glacier, and the road I walked from Stemple Pass was again (the third time this has happened) part of Adventure Cycling's Great Divide bike route, so I again met cool mountain bikers riding across the country.

Finally, a good story is that when I was hitching out of Dubois back in Wyoming, a truck passed me with a cab full of people, an RV camper on the back, and towing a boat. Since the cab was full and the windows were down, I yelled "I'll sit in the boat!" They stopped and said "OK, get in." But it would've been a really long and windy ride, so they let me ride in the camper. People are cool.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Darby, MT















On schedule! I did 122 miles in about 73 hours because the Darby post office isn't open on Saturdays, so all the sudden I'm on schedule, assuming I can get a ride out of town this afternoon. I got a new pair of shoes (I'd had the previous since Steamboat Springs, so they were hating it.) I got a haircut (sorry, no unabomber beard--it's freaking hot out here, and it's kinda nasty to have dead mosquitoes and flies all up in your face). Speaking of flies, I killed either 82 or 84 in a two hour period the day I left Lima, MT (it's on I-15 if you're looking at a map). Usually I'd go at that pace from around 9:30 AM to 7:30 PM, but that day it rained so they went away. They've kind of gotten less bad of late--the trail's new challenge is that it's super PUDy. It doggedly follows the Divide and is full of Pointless Ups and Downs rather than PCT-style contouring from saddle to saddle.

I'm starting to run into southbounders, so that makes the hiking a lot more fun, and a lot more embarrassing when I'm singing off-key at the top of my lungs (OK, that hasn't actually happened yet). I met Foxtrot, Dave from Maine, Wildcat, Groovy, Donna, and the French Couple, and have apparently missed a few others. They left the border in Glacier about 5 weeks ago and had some snow and most had to take the low (Belly River as opposed to Highline) route. Hopefully I'll be catching up to some of these folks again somewhere in WY/CO.

I think I'll be taking the route through Anaconda when I leave here, so if anyone has sent anything to Butte, I probably won't get it until I go through there southbound.

I sent a full memory card home today, so hopefully my mom will post some pictures soon.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Alternate from Delmoe Junction/Butte to Yellowstone?

If anyone intimately familiar with the CDT happens to read my blog, do you know the details of a route from Delmoe Junction near Butte, MT to Lewis Junction on the Dogshead trail near Lewis Lake in Yellowstone NP? It's mentioned at the southern end in the CDTS guidebooks, but I don't know if it's described in detail anywhere. Does anyone do this route? It says it's much shorter, and it seems like it would facilitate hiking north-south across all of Yellowstone, so that would be cool, and if it was much shorter and didn't skip something cool in southern Montana, then if I do it soutbound it might give me time to hike the San Juans again rather than taking the Creede cutoff.

Thanks for any info.

West Yellowstone, MT

Hello all. I'm at Sun and Steph's cabin on the Madison river in MT near West Yellowstone for the afternoon. They picked me up from the road/trail near Macks Inn, ID. I tried to convince them that we needed to spend the day watching Transformers and whatever the IMAX theatre happens to be showing, but they weren't up for it. Apparently they come up here to do outdoorsy stuff. Whatever, lame-o's :)

Anywho, I finished Wyoming! I hiked through the Red Desert, then the Bridger Wilderness in the Wind River range, then Yellowstone NP. The Winds were amazing. They're too high and glaciated to stay on the crest most of the way, so the route stays pretty low and goes around a bunch of pretty ponds/lakes, but there are three alternates that hit some pretty awesome heights. I did one of the three, over Jackass and Texas passes through the Cirque of the Towers. (a la Robert Frost: Oh, I left the first for another day!) Google cirque of the towers, I'm sure the pictures you'll find will be awesome, as will mine whenever I manage to post them. Also, when you say "cirque of the towers," you need to say it in a loud deep tone as if it were the lair of some evil wizard from some dumb fantasy novel you read in high school, like "Mordor" or "Mount Doom" or whatnot. Yellowstone wasn't too awesome, as it was mostly low and flat through the '88 burn, but I was very happy to do a 39 and a 35 mile day. It was fun to act like a "regular" hiker for a couple days--camping in a designated spot rather than in the middle of the trail wherever I happen to be at 10:00 at night, hanging my food rather away from bears rather than using it as a pillow, etc. The trail goes right through Old Faithful, so it was very weird to see all those thousands of people milling about and speaking tons of different languages.

I'm feeling really good lately. My feet are well, which usually means all is well. I was given a pro-deal discount on shoes by my preferred shoe company Montrail, so that will definitely help the wallet. My mom sent me my MP3 player, and although the music on it is really stale (Aaron, I'll send it to you soon and have you load all the Johnny Cash/U2/Zep/Radiohead/Decemberists/Belle & Sebastian/Strokes/Weezer/Arcade Fire/Postal Service that you can onto it) I sometimes manage to pick up NPR, which is sheer joy.

Thanks to my mom for posting some pictures from the disposable camera that I used from Lake City to Silverthorne. The campfire picture is the only fire I have built thus far, built literally in the trail, in order to thaw my shoes the day after I left Lake City. Usually I was smart and put them in a bag in my tent and used them as a pillow to keep them warm, but that day due to the 50 mph winds, they were already frozen when I took them off, and I stupidly thought, "well, if I can get them off frozen, I can get them on frozen." Not true, especially if you stuff a couple pairs of wet socks down them.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Lander, WY - July 1






Just crossed most of the Red Desert. Heat up to 105 and no shade w/nothing but sagebrush for miles and miles and miles. Saw one group of wild horses and a million antelope. Also found a tick on me basically every time I looked. Took slightly longer alternate along Sweetwater River. Beautiful oasis, but too bad there were a million horse flies. Looking forward to getting off jeep roads and back on real trail in the Wind rivers. Still the greatest adventure of my life thus far. :)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Rawlins, WY

Goodbye, CO! Hello, WY! The Mt. Zirkel Wilderness was awesome, I crossed the border, the Huston Park Wilderness was pretty lame, but then I saw a herd of ~300 elk, making it pretty dang cool. I started the big desert stretch and did a huge roadwalk. The road was part of the course in the Great Divide bike race, so I saw 7 of them go by, plus some very friendly motorists stopped to see what the heck I was doing (this road is really long and really empty through really empty terrain).

I'm feeling good. I got blisters on each pinky toe, so that kinda stinks, but I guess I feel OK. The terrain in CO was so rough I could rarely do more than 2 mph, but I was doing 4 on the road this morning into town, so it feels good to know that I still have it in me if the terrain isn't ridiculous. My pack feels a little too heavy, especially now that I have to haul lots of water again. Sometimes by 9:30 PM when I quit I'm stumbling around like a drunk and banging my feet on every rock, but I feel great every morning. I have started sleeping pretty well, not waking up every hour, but that means I sometimes don't get going until 7:30 or even 8, much later than I'd like. Seeing the bikers cruise by made me want to run, but I have to remind myself this hike is somewhere in the region of 5500-6100 miles long, so I've just got to do 28 miles a day, every day, slow and steady, and I'll make it.

Apparently there is a fabulous Thai restaurant with a AYCE lunch that is fabulous in town, that's where I'm headed now. Great Thai in Wyoming, whooda thunk it?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Steamboat Springs, CO

Sweet. I'm only one day behind schedule, and the mountains had to take a little break while I went from some range east of here over by Rocky Mountain National Park to the Rabbit Ears range over here, plus this is my last resupply in Colorado. 1256 miles done. I ran the last hour into Grand Lake a couple days ago in order to get to the PO before it closed to mail my ice axe home. Too bad everything else closed at 5 too, so the only socks I could find in town are cute little ones with moose on them. Speaking of moose, I saw my first two of the trail in the past few days. I saw three beavers on the bike trail to Frisco, as well as a guy fly fishing from the shoulder of I-70. Not a trailhead, not a pullout, not even a wide shoulder, there was just a dude fishing from I-70. I thought it was pretty awesome that he could've gone trolling if he got in his car and drove along in first gear. I continue to see lots of elk, but also saw a couple newborn dear that were still mottled and instead of running they just hunker down in a ball and shake with fear. I had a roadwalk on highways 14 and 40 today, along which I met an English/Dutch couple biking across the country. Marcus, we're soooo doing that summer '09.

Oh and you better believe your black wicking polyester REI MTS size small men's boxer briefs that I rang in the first day of summer yesterday by honoring the Appalachian Trail tradition of Hike Naked Day. Needless to say, it was totally awesome.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Pics as promised

I have tried to put these photos into roughly reverse chronological order but they lack captions because I don't have any details at hand. Not anymore, says Garret. Hopefully once I get home and look at all of them in exact order I'll remember names and everything. That's always seemed to work out before.


Yep, it was pretty much like this for 250+ solid miles.

Me, on the crest somewhere in the SJ's.

Gunsight Pass in the SJ's.

Woo! Made it to Colorado.
The Toaster House in Pie Town. Formerly a hostel, now a porch to hang out on.

The road turns to gumbo and attaches to your shoes in 5 pound clumps.
Aspens, not birches Aaron :) I believe along the Black Range Crest Trail

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Lone rattler of the trip (so far). West Fork, Gila River

Gila River

The Gila River, forded 150~ times

This should be obvious. The border. 8:00~ PM May 2.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Frisco, CO

I think I'm getting soft. 3 Showers in the last 7 days and I'm doing laundry once a week like a regular person (of course normal people don't wear the same shirt/shorts/underwear for the entire week, but I digress.) I'm actually at my friend Carolyn's house outside Boulder for the night, the fourth night I've slept in a bed in the last month and a half. I did a couple 12,000 foot passes on Wednesday to get to Twin Lakes, one of which was Hope Pass which plays a prominent role in the Leadville 100 and has something ridiculous like 2,500 feet of gain in two miles from either side. A 16-hour day yesterday, and two more similar passes today, and I got to Copper Mountain. I started a low route to Silverthorne so I could be near a road for Carolyn to pick me up for the night. Good thing too, because there was a traveling BBQ festival in Frisco, about halfway between Copper and Silver.

So things are going OK. I get crazy ideas about doing big 35+ days and making up time, but then the Colorado mountains think it proper to remind me that, just like the San Juans, they can kick my butt any time they please, so the trail climbs 1,000 feet in a mile and then gets routed on some spruce-covered north face that's covered in rotten waste-deep snow that I have to swim my way through, and every time I posthole the snow grabs the heel of my shoe and reminds me I've got a quarter-sized open blister. I get really mad, but I keep on trudging, and when it gets dark and I set up my tarp-tent wherever I happen to be, I usually realize that I did manage to do 25+ miles at 11,000 to 12,000 feet and I'm doing fine by my schedule. Or I walk right through a BBQ festival. Funnel Cakes!