Category Archives: Harpo’s CDT Journal

Harpo’s CDT Journal: #16

Sep 4

15 miles
We leave before noon and enjoy a flat and well maintained trail around the lakes… Then the Colorado River. It’s Labor Day Sunday and motor boats are the prevailing mode of transportation. 
On one trail I see (and finally get video of) a big black bear. 
We hear there might be a store open near Monarch Lakes at Arapaho Lodge. Our dream is a single soda or beer. But much to our delight this family run lodge, bar and store is hiker friendly. It is hopping with a reunion and toddler birthday party but trail magic abounds from a round of beers bought by Ryan? to triscuits brought by an anonymous stranger, to free camping in the lawn offered by the owner Todd as we settled up our very, VERY reasonable bar tab. 

I feel like part of a tight knit community talking to locals out enjoying their Labor Day weekend. And go to bed hearing the extremely drunk reunioners singing Rocky Mountain High by John Denver, proudly, at the top of their lungs. 

Sep 5

20 miles
Today it’s my turn to feel like crap. I got belly aches all day. There is some elevation gain, but nothing unreasonable. The day passes quickly with scores of day hikers out for Labor Day. Lots of them excited and incredulous asking about our backpacks and learning we are thru hikers. 
At the end of the day we ascend to around 12,000 feet elevation and I start dragging hard core. I fall behind Groucho again and again. My belly aches and my body produces a hot box of death smell that adds to my nausea. I can see Winter Park, our next resupply, 4 miles west as the crow flies, but we still have 21 trail miles (and a 12 mile hitch.)
We sleep in a shrubby area that protects us a bit from wind. 

Sep 6

17 miles
I’ve never dropped acid myself, so I can only believe certain friends who tell me that today felt like a very bad trip. Almost throwing up, crying about 15 times, the sensation that the rocks are moving, a feeling like I can’t catch breath all causing me to dissolving into hysterical gasps and literal wailing/ugly cries. but eventually I learn tears are like super powers: providing endorphins, huge gulping bellows of air, a chance for my feet to stop and heart rate to slow, a clear sinus passage for better breathing (after blowing several snot rockets), and a moistening for my dry eyes, which have burned from sun and wind exposure. Also a firm resolve. I will not succumb to this. I WILL keep walking. I will get out of this. I will feel better. Pain is temporary. 

Over several mountains. Climbing Over 5000 feet of elevation. Reaching higher than 13,000 feet several times. The day just doesn’t get easier. 
In addition to altitude problems we are cross country following faint or non existent paths much of the day. 

Tho the terrain is tough and I feel like crap… Well it’s just SUPER BEAUTIFUL up here. Also we enjoy a lengthy lunch break with Crunchmaster and Happy. Friends we’ve followed since the AT but haven’t seen in more than 3 years they are hiking this section NOBO. Crunch as a thru hiker and happy – his dad – as a short summer vacation following a knee replacement. Happy is so freaking nice and cool! Also he gives me pistachios so I love him forever. 

Ok so then much later in the day we decide to take a Ley map “shortcut” ascending steeply to 13,000 and walking the literal ridge line. It’s… how can I put it… INCREDIBLY FREAKING DIFFICULT. 
And up here it starts to snow. Snow?! It can happen anytime of year at this elevation but as we walk into fall the sense of an early winter is upon us. 

It feels like the most effort I’ve ever expended to step after step and get back to trail. But I do it. And then we descend to the road. My tears dry up, my altitude sickness alleviates and we get a super fast hitch from two amazing vacationers from Arkansas. They are so merry and warm. And they ask if they can help us with any prayers.  How cool is that? 
People are good. 
We get to town and enjoy a drink and shower and hotel. We sleep. Tomorrow is a day off. 

Sep 7


We tune in… To Facebook, friends, weather forecasts, inspiring activism in North Dakota, and to our own needs and feelings. 
People are starting to go off trail for the winter. Coming back next summer or a future year to finish. Others are shuttling ahead, skipping this section for now, trying to hit the 14,000 peaks and exposed sections of Colorado in the next week or so. If the weather holds, maybe they’ll come back to fill in this section later or just continue to the desert of New Mexico thru October. Tho the forecast for next week is snow above 9000 feet. That’s like the whole Colorado section of Trail. 
And Groucho and I have consensus. It’s time to get off trail this season. 
I love being here. In many respects, I love being anywhere but I’m tired of moving. I feel ready to sit for a minute. And reconnect, build, create and be a part of a geographically located community. I’m ready to digest and see if I can extend the lessons learned thru hiking to my everyday life: Operating in person. Not sweating the small stuff. Eating snacks when cranky. Tuning out of divisive capitalist-driven messaging. Tuning back into social justice, public spaces, communication, humans. 
Sooooo… Here in Winter Park, CO is where Groucho and I will deviate from the set path of the thru hike. Instead we carve our own path forward, toward an idea of home. 

Harpo’s CDT Journal: #15

Aug 30

12 miles
Leaving town Groucho and I receive rides from 2 excellent humans. First Clint who is on his way to get dental work in Silverthorne. He offers us a joint (we are in Colorado after all) as he confesses he doesn’t have enough money to pay for gas home. Lucky for him our practice is always to offer hitches gas money. The $10 I offer is exactly what he needs. The ride is exactly what we need. Win win. 

Clint drops us at trail which turns out to be a 10 mile paved road walk. But then comes Bret, a buffalo and cow rancher whose property goes right by the trail here. He gives a ride even though it is out of his way. Such a great dude. We enjoy hearing his ethos about raising meat and hunting elk. For 4500 people can pay Bret to stay on his property and shoot, slaughter and pack out a wild elk with like 75%+ success rate. He takes such pride in feeding his kids wild, non-chemical meat. I respect it. 

Bret drops us at trail which is actually a dirt road. We walk for 15 miles until we reach a flat spot with a snotel sensor. We sleep here since most of the snags have been cut to protect the snow measuring equipment. 

Aug 31
The hills turn to mountains. Suddenly elevation gain is back in full effect as we pass landmarks with ominous names like troublesome pass trail and never summer gulch. 
As the air thins, the trees spread out and we frequently walk above tree line. Beautiful – but affording us a view of encroaching thunder clouds every afternoon around 4pm. 
I reflect on winter approaching: the frost on our sleeping bags, the scattering of dry snow when it’s precipitating above 11,000 feet, and these long above tree line sections. I realize I am triangulating signs from the universe… what does it add up to?
I think of CDT thru hiker Otter who died from exposure last year in a campground in northern New Mexico. He’s on my mind because 2 recent hitches, first our Rawlins angel a few days ago, and then just yesterday Bret, mentioned him as an old friend. Someone they hosted or gave a ride to. Someone they remembered. The repetition makes me alert. When is winter coming? And how best do I live my life so I can embrace each day?
Groucho is ill. Very ill. Doubled over. Groucho is strong and usually crankiness is the only sign of pain but today it’s visible. He needs long breaks, and to sit, and to dig multiple cathodes. Altitude? Food poisoning? Giardia?
By 6pm we reach a clearing and see Curtis already set up. He too, it turns out, has been slowed today by the stomach bug. We camp with him hoping both buddies will feel better tomorrow. 

September 1

22 miles
In the morning, Curtis asks where the nearest bail out point is. “Nine miles… But over the next 13,000 foot hill.” Hearing he feels worse we insist on hiking in proximity till the road where he wants to hitch. 
The terrain is open country ridge walking. Again above tree line. Very difficult, even though I am healthy. I feel so bad for the poopsie twins.  We summit Parkview Peak with a cool old fire lookout and take a long break. Then descend a mile in 45 minutes- very slow- cause it’s basically loose rock. 
We reach the road but no one will pick Curtis up. The poopsie twins rally and decide they can hike on. Another 27 miles to town. 
We encounter so many raspberries. I say to Groucho “I have to say I’m a pretty good berry spotter.” He replies “That’s true that’s one of your many talents. Do you think it’s genetic?” Haha. Totally since my dad has been foraging roadside berries into discarded mcdonalds fry containers since I was a small kinder. 
We summit Bowen pass at dusk and descend rapidly to the cover of trees to camp with Curtis. Passing not one, not two, but SEVEN moose at the creek. Amazing world. 

Bowen Pass

Never Summer Wilderness

Sep 2

15 miles
We wake to rain at 5:30am. No matter it’s another town day! We pack up and race thru the Never Summer Wilderness as it pours for hours. All downhill tho, so we reach town by 1pm. Right on trail is the glorious, volunteer built Shadow Cliff lodge and hostel. A beautifully homespun, loosely spiritual community where instead of 80’s movies one can spend hours playing board games with strangers. 

Sep 3

Curtis has decided. His hike is over. It’s not the same without Christiana, and sable’s old paws are cut up. It’s time for them to call it. 
Groucho and I decide to take a zero. It’s cheap to stay and so comforting here. 
Grand Lakes sports excellent pizza, good coffee and a nice outfitter. We enjoy free computer time at the library and more board games with new friends – hikers, volunteers and travel weary road trippers. 

Harpo’s CDT Journal: #14

Aug 26

26 miles
Today we hike in trees again! lovely, cool trees. The social interactions in Rawlins and our angel visit have rejuvenated me. The morning passes easily. 
Around midday we pass a huge backpack by a log. So huge, I don’t notice at first there is a person attached. Here we meet Tugboat, a 52 year old retired firefighter who started in Glacier on June 1st, trudging thru snow with an 80 lb pack. Tugboat is old school and didn’t know about the hiking culture which allows for hitching to town every 3-7 days for more food. Therefore he’s carried 21 days of food at a time, as well as his slingshot, pistol and pole so he can hunt, fish and grill game along the way. Amazing. A dude who really can survive the apocalypse. I am so impressed. Now that he’s realized he can go into towns he’s about 20 lbs lighter and much happier. And hella ripped. 
Groucho and I pass him and take a different alternate, but I feel happy knowing he’s out here. 
At dusk it starts to rain and we pitch our tarp for the first time in days. There are actual trees to pitch between!! We are almost to Colorado. 

Aug 27

26 miles
This morning we see Curtis (hiker) and Sable (dog) who we met in Lander. They hiked out a day earlier than us from Lander but our ride from the Rawlins angel helped us catch up. Curtis is admittedly lonely since his lady friend had to get off trail for work. We happily hike with these buds. 
Around 11am we reach the Boarder of WY and CO!! 
Then a nice leisurely walk into the hills and short mountains. Curtis gets ahead in the afternoon but we catch up at the dinner break and I let him know that, tho he is faster than us, he’s welcome to hike with us if it would be good for his spirit I know it will be good for mine. 

A few hours before dusk we begin a long descent into meadow. Then a long burn area. We pass up several sites because of so many snags (dead trees). Finally Curtis chooses a meadow and though it isn’t perfect, we submit. There aren’t any dead trees for about 40 feet in any direction. 

Aug 28

27 miles
At midnight a huge cracking sound and an earthquake-like shudder in the ground wakes me. Lighting? “What was that?!” I ask. Groucho replies… “A tree fell.” A big tree. Very close.  I count my lucky stars and try to fall asleep again but it is hella cold and damp in the meadow. 
We wake with frost frozen on our sleeping bags. 
Today we enjoy a 3500 feet climb over 10 miles. I feel weak and tired. Altitude? 
It’s the beginning of bow season and all day long we pass happy hunters decked in camo or hunter orange with bows slung over their shoulders. 
There is so much dead forest here because of pine beetle kill that we can’t help but sleep amongst some snags. It’s barely worth it as all night I feel awake. Staring at a sillouttte of a snag hanging over our heads. And by 4am hunters start tromping by our site. I need to get me some hunter orange gear lest I be mistaken for an elk or deer. 

Aug 29

19 miles
Im so excited to get to town! The morning passes quickly passing many hunters and day hikers and lakes. It’s almost all downhill. 
I do a movie-length retelling of Little Women and suddenly (2 hours later) we are at the trailhead! 2 lovely day hikers are parked and offer us a ride to Steamboat Springs. We accept and stay at the awesome Rabbit Ears Motel, across from the PO and natural food store. Sooooooo many vegan snacks. 

Harpo’s CDT Journal: #13

Aug 25 

3 miles
We expect it to be hot and decide to check out of the hotel in Rawlins as late as possible. Watching “the mummy” marathon last night soothed my unhinged mind and the prevalence of tampons here makes me feel more relaxed. I’m ready to hike out. 
We call to hear the local bus schedule and actually talk directly to the driver who picks us up like a taxi. And it is only 50c. I love Rawlins!
Clouds cover the sky and it’s cool out but I feel… Well… Good. I *could* be worried about the infrequent (and commonly alkaline) water… or which route to take (30 mile road walk vs 50 mile country road walk) or the incoming clouds and likelihood of thunderstorms. But we are strangely calm. I’ve loosely set my jaw in determination. I will hike out of town. I will be okay. 
We start the long road walk outta town and shortly a red 88 ford truck goes by. I comment “nice truck” and 5 minutes later it’s back and the gentleman offers us an unsolicited ride. 
We allow it to happen. It’s not necessary. Technically we’re on trail and resigned to the road walk. But something about our serenity allows us to just say yes. I start accepting messages like this as… Well… acts of god. Angels. Unspoken manifestations. 
We say yes. “Sure. A ride a few miles would be great.” And we are delivered the gift of learning about this incredible human. At times I really think God is talking to me. He repeats “you only live once you should have fun.” And “The most important thing is to help people.” 
He shares wisdom about hunting and meat and using the whole animal. Wisdom about these hills. Which streams are running and which lakes are alkaline. About his desire for Freedom from government. His Apache grandma. His views which my mother would consider conspiracy theories. 
He keeps offering to take us a little further. A little further. We submit as he confidently states “I know exactly where you need to go.” I really believe… If he’s an angel in disguise I should probably let him take me. Sure Friend. I trust you. Take me where I need to go. 
Then he asks me about politics. He is aghast about Hilary. It dawns on me he is a trump supporter. A reluctant, anti establishment Trump supporter. A low-income, on disability, Native American who will likely vote for Trump. After expressing my concerns about Trump’s racism, I change the subject. The most important lesson I’ve learned “out here”: people are good. The problem is we are -ALL OF US- fed damaging messages about other Americans. Other humans. We are intentionally divided by those in power as a distraction so we will avoid real resistance and they can stay in power. 
And I’m reminded of this poem I saw on my friend Arne’s Instagram feed months ago, by Brenda Shaughnessy:

“This is how we do it to you: we keep you extremes to either side
And parade down the middle while you cheer us on. ”
Because if you meet an angel in a red Ford truck in Wyoming who drives you 53 miles out of his way, and gives you a beer just because he likes being kind to people, he might be voting for Trump. 
I am broken open by this person. 
Amazing world. 
Politics (like mainstream media, like blockbuster movies, like the cult of capitalism) gets in the way from our basic humanity. Can’t we talk to each other more face to face? 
This is why I thru hike. 

Harpo’s CDT Journal: #12

Aug 20

24 miles
We ride back to trail with hiker Corbett, and her local sister Sydney – a super cool school teacher in Lander. We talk of the upcoming Great Basin section, a 120 mile trek thru the flat, dry, hot, shadeless desert.
We hike out with Corbett and soon encounter a NOBO! Hobb, an elder, has been bouncing around, trying to finish the trail in major sections. His wife joined him for this wind river section. They together have completed the PCT and AT (3 times I think?!!)

In 3 miles we reach the historic landmark of South Pass City, a preserved gold mining town.

The non profit stewards let hikers walk thru the area, and hold our resupply boxes for free! As we unpack our box, Corbett says good bye, pulling my heartstrings. I’d been looking forward to a new hiking buddy, but she is faster than us, by far, and once she walks off, I know we won’t see her again on trail.

The terrain is gently rolling -or flat- but strenuous in its own way as suddenly we are forced to walk miles cross country with only an occasional far distant fiberglass trail marker to assure us. We dodge sagebrush and cacti, but sometimes it’s so thick we must scrape our shins to make passage.
Whereas on the AT I wondered if I would ever NOT have a mosquito bite again, on the CDT I wonder if I will ever have shins not covered in a latice of scabs.
The ground is also uneven, and after multiple ankle wobbles I study the maps at a break and realize that if we find a nearby country road we will end up where we need to go, saving a few miles and providing some precious zone out time. the mental attention needed for cross country travel demands significantly more energy.
Soon we reach the dirt road and a short time later an oasis…. The sweet water river where we eat dinner in shade. Then along comes Weather Dan. A hiker who lost his crew when he had to hang back in town treating his Giardia.
Dan is quiet but amiable and we hike off after dinner up another country road until the light fades and we realize there really isn’t shelter out here. We will sleep aside the dusty Trail/road among the dry grasses and with a sage bush as a foot rest.

Aug 21

27 miles
Around 4am I wake to a startling sound. Thundering hooves approaching, passing. Too loud for antelopes or deer. A cattle stampede? Disoriented and wary I sit up and see nothing.
Then the herd circles back around to check us out again. And I am in a mystical universe as I behold a group of 6 wild horses. Their approach is much in the styling of Tolkein’s riders of Rohan. Graceful, curious, assertive, powerfully strong. “What news from the mark?!”
The head honcho neighs with blustering lips and a bobbing head. Asking something… Maybe just “What are you doing here?” His 5 companions peaceably standing in a row, silhouetted in the full moon light.
Then suddenly they are off again, hooves easing amicably around sage brush and dry grasses, in the darkness of the night.
Magical world.
I can barely return to sleep, alivened by the intricate choreography of meaning in their head gestures and their almost empathic forces communicating actively with each other and us. Obviously extremely intelligent beings – by any measure.
We wake an hour or so later with orange sun behind haze, starting early to beat a heat that’s soon to come, but hard to imagine in the crisp dawn air.
We pass sign after sign for Oregon trail and Seminoe Cutoff/California trail reminded of the western expansion and hopeful families treking thru this waterless plain for days and days with wagons and oxen and maybe a map sketched on a napkin. Hoping to find water, game, shade and cross the far mountains before winter.

In this stretch we regularly walk 15 miles between water sources, which we can always spot coming because of the uptick of birds, bugs, flies, grass and cows.
Otherwise our terrain is quiet except for wind thru sage brush and the occasional horned toad scuttling across our path.

And every so often we see a group of glorious prong horned antelope. Running. Running. Always running. A relief to see such vibrant life! “Don’t run!!” My heart cries against centuries of acclimation. “I don’t need to eat you I have ramen.”
Weather Dan gets ahead at some point in the afternoon and Groucho and I walk alone again. It’s comfortable though and I feel resigned to our solitude on this journey.
In the afternoon we walk up a hill and spy a cluster of 3 horses against a distant field. They watch us carefully but do not approach or retreat. A little while later we reach a trail junction encountering a huge pile of horse shit. Like a large accumulating pile, right at the crossroads.

What the hell? Then Groucho reminds me that Sydney spoke of communal horse poop piles as a common occurrence, especially at the edges of territory. Intelligent indeed.
Finally, on this the day of the horse, I spy a gleaming white skeleton of a horse just off trail. Pulled apart and picked clean by coyotes but still commanding respect.

We end the day just after sunset and sleep in the warmth of a mountain saddle.

August 22

30 miles
I feel a familiar emotional vulnerability that comes on at onset of PMS. A strong desire to be on my own. Not forever. Just like a sabbatical. To make my own choices. Follow my own derive. I stubbornly don’t want to follow a path or walk behind another person. And yet I am terrified of breaking with what is expected of me. Still. After all this self actualization I still have to exercise complete mindfulness in my autonomy, my relationship and balance the rewards of perseverance with the satisfaction of impulsivity.
Do I want to keep hiking? In the heat of day this question pummels me every hour on the hour. I relentlessly check my phone. Not for service. (I haven’t had service since Glacier National Park.) Just clues. About terrain and mileage and water and where can I stop moving? Where might there be shade. And what will happen next? And what next? I am having difficulty being fully in this moment. Im afraid if I fully inhabit my discomfort, crankiness, the heat, the heavy pack, the dusty socks and new blisters that I may falter. If I really succumb to the present, how can I possibly choose to stay on trail?
most importantly I fear letting down Groucho. He who is determined, creative, strong. my partner in wanderlust and seeking and questing and asking. He, the most generous, intelligent, poetic, detailed, steadfast, hilarious. He, the most grumpy, sullen, quiet, introspective, gassy, existential and obsessive. He, my buddy on self actualizing. My travel companion spiritual co-explorer.
What does it mean for him if I stop hiking now and spend a little time alone? And what does it mean for me if I don’t? Historically Groucho and I spend several weeks/months apart each year. And it’s liberating and refreshing and rejuvenating for both of us. So I’m not worried about our ability to weather time apart. But I am worried about deserting Groucho’s thru hike.

This day passes like a liminal purgatory. Step after step in sand, and miles between water. For lunch we find a small grove of trees by a dry stream bed. The shade is delicious and I crawl under the scrubby branches into a tree cave. I never want to leave.

After another dozen or so miles, we find a blessed solar well the coldest, clearest, cleanest water pouring out of the sand into a barrel. We celebrate with a Fig Bar and move on as dusk approaches -determined to walk past dark and take advantage of the cool breezes. We tell movies to pass time. Me: Brokeback Mountain. Groucho: terminator 1,2,3

August 23

30 miles
Again I feel the layers of time folding close together in these hills. The me that resides here in Wyoming pressing against the me’s on the precipice of choices I’ve made through all the decades of my life. Who I would’ve become had I made different choices at any point. What do my choices say about me? Am I a loner at heart? Always choosing to leave? Often choosing solitude or pain?
Speaking of pain: Probably a result of PMS – my tissues swell, including my brain, which presses against my skull popping the enormous latent cyst that is my pain body. Who am I? What am I doing here? Waaaaay out here. How can I be so strong hiking 25-30 miles a day and yet feel so emotionally weak?

triangulating messages – this hill says “Hi”

The trail runs flat and mostly one direction toward the road until it dead ends along the freeway – where we tackle the slow scratchy trek of cross country travel into the hills. We could bail and hitch in several places down at the highway but something keeps us moving on the dry track to rawlins.

We sleep near a solar well. I’m comforted by the signs of humans: the road, the signs, the well, even the garbage. Tomorrow we’ll be in town. Will I hike on?

a young deer in the yard, Rawlins

August 24

15 miles
I wake with the excitement of a town day. I really need support and want to talk about the choice to keep hiking. But Groucho needs quiet time. Tho I understand his need for solitude, I feel frustrated beyond belief, fearing without the opportunity to talk, I will definitely get off trail. And I want to make this choice with Groucho in mind.
A few miles from town we break the ice and start having better conversations about things. Then we see a rattlesnake. And finally my cramps double me over just as we start the 3-mile road walk. I cry intermittently to relieve the waves of pain. I see a penny and pick it up wishing for the pain to end in the next 1 minute. Then, it does.

Town is uplifting. Everyone in Rawlins is so damn nice. It’s like a cheerful Twin Peaks. From the amazing(!!!) post office staff to the free 2 hours of library computer access to the hiker discount at the days inn and the super great Thai food and the chatty liquor store clerk. And several hiker boxes and trail registers! Also I get new shoes and maybe my feet will stop being so darn sore.
We heart rawlins.

At the motel bar we break our liquor fast. I need liquid relaxation. It’s Hanks birthday at the bar and it’s Wednesday so we enjoy $3 wells and wines amongst a slew of regulars.

Harpo’s CDT Journal: #11

Aug 17, 18, 19Zeros
The exhaustion and calorie restrictions caused by the wind River Range, now require us to take 3 zeros in a row. I suppose that’s what we get for not taking a day off in a whole month. We’re around 1000 miles into our hike. 
We arrive in Lander and I realize I haven’t looked in a mirror in almost 2 weeks. I don’t recognize this person. I look and feel dirty, depleted and gaunt. I shower, launder and give myself a bang trim with my mini Swiss army knife. 

Then I try to gain weight. Over three days I will eat caramel corn, hummus, chips, bean dip, sandwiches, wraps, pizza, more pizza, waffle fries, again with the waffle fries, coconut chocolate milk, bread sticks, bananas, peaches, salad, more salad, more salad, and many Luna bars. 
I begin to feel normal ish. 
Our hotel room is ridiculously spacious. We spread out over 2 queen sized beds and air out our gear, clean and repair things, ice our knees and feet. 
I also practice talking to other humans again. My first attempts are runaway train style. And I realize how lonely I’ve felt out here in our stretch since we left Helena. I turn on my phone and dash off dozens of text missives to friends back home. 
The teevee offers an impressive array of 80’s hits including Beverly Hills cop and Full House. 
Lander is a charming town with a great bar/restaurant, outfitters, groceries, a Post Office, thrift store, coffee shops and a yoga studio. We take yoga and feel great. And now, finally, it’s time to get back on trail. 

Harpo’s CDT Journal #10

August 12

24 miles
A Beautiful Day. Finally! 
Today is a joy. We relish several hearty breaks, make good miles, and traverse easy but gorgeous terrain of frosty meadows, aspen groves, epic lakes and aqua green rivers. 
It’s a popular area with troves of trail runners, day hikers, canoers, and some 7-day section hikers on a similar route as ours. 
The green river lives up to its name and we only wish we had extra food so we could camp early along it’s shore. 
At the end of the day we turn up the Knapsack Col alternate. Recommended by all NOBO’s this 13 mile alternate replaces as many miles of the CDT. We camp a mile in, saving the climb and “big reveal” of the landscape for tomorrow. 

August 13

17.5 miles
There are so many hearty, kind, adventurous Wyomingians out here. We meet several couples who we leapfrog with throughout the day. Social time feels great. I miss people. 
But most importantly the views and features along the alternate drop jaws. 100% awesome. 
Bouldering becomes the new normal as we scramble up and down mountain cols, skirting glaciers and skipping over glacial melt. The new way of traversing Takes more time, strength and energy tho, and we finish a 12.5 mile section at 5:30 totally depleted having already eaten all our snacks for the day. 
Normally we’d simply eat more to perk up but we are on rations now (having taken a low mile day early in this stretch and adding -23mi- when we had to bail from the high route. 
I’m very stressed out about this. I’ve never run out of food hiking. I feel so far from our goal – landers, Wyoming. We still have 77+ miles to go and with less energy we go slower still. I feel like a jerk because this is one of the most breath taking places I’ve ever EVER beheld. And all I can think about is getting to town. 
We could bail a few places, hiking 11 miles down a side trail to a popular trail head or campground but we’d have to come back the same way which at this point sounds like a drag. 
I’m so tired. But stubbornly press forward. Mile after gorgeous difficult mile. 

August 14

27 miles
A Good Day. After yesterday’s rigors today feels a bit easier. We wake early, discipline our selves to time our food breaks every 2-3 hours. Miles go more quickly along so many gorgeous lakes. 
At one we pre wash our bodies and clothes. Anticipating the 36 mile hitch to town in a few days. 
We ran out of coffee yesterday but run into a weathered, handsome gentle soul who becomes our Coffee Angel having packed in too much instant folgers. Groucho pulls a bag out of his collection of slightly used ziplocks and we feel hyped in anticipation of our afternoon coffee break ritual. 

In the evening we almost jog across a 4 mile stretch of flat, high, open meadow. Chatting merrily I spy a weird looking dead log by the side of the trail (never mind that there are no trees up here.). As we approach I again wonder why dead logs often look like dead animals. Another two steps and almost imperceptibly the log twitches. Oh crap. “Back up back up back up back up” I stammer as I realize it’s a Badger!! I love badgers but from afar. They have strong jaws and teeth and for their size can be very intimidating if you startle it. This one is pressed as flat in the brush as possible, like a cat stalking prey. I take a great tho shaky video which I will post to YouTube. 
We continue till dark, finding refuge under a large tree. 

August 15

20 miles
At 3:30am it begins to rain on us. We work swiftly to set up the tarp together. Some things we are really good at now. Like truckers hitch knots. Our gear is just a tiny damp but dry by morning. 
I’m a broken record that cannot stop pining for town. But today holds a lot of beautiful, treacherous and rigorous distraction in our Cirque de Towers alternate. A 21 mile path thru 3 steep, Rocky Mountain passes, among jagged peaks and pristine lakes. 
A few photos:

Though my mind drifts toward town and my very light food bag, the challenge keeps me very much in the present. Isn’t that what we all aspire to? To be “here”? Not to be with wandering stress, distracted thoughts, worries about the future or regrets about the past. Just to be here now… It’s a gift if only I can accept it. Today I realize that often it takes fear – jumping into the unknown or placing one’s self in precarious and difficult situations – to snap someone back to the present. I’m thankful for this difficult lesson – . In today’s case presented via thunder, rain and hail at 2 mountain passes, steep traverses down narrow, worn down switchbacks, with recent evidence of rockslides, and inclines so steep that my toned calf muscles burn and burn and burn some more. 
We can’t locate the trail several times today. It doesn’t worry me any more, as much as annoy me. It’s much slower to walk thru open terrain than on a solid trail. And I want. No I NEED to make miles today. I have to get to town. 
At night we stop by a river. We’re heading to bed earlier on this journey. Not as much from fatigue, it’s just easier to find a flat, soft, sheltered spot in the light. On pct and AT we were spoiled. all guidebooks show where you can find slightly (or very) impacted sites and shelters along the trail.  So hiking at night, it was easier to have faith we’d come upon a decent site by reviewing the data. On this hike we only have our eyes and topo maps to guide us to a safe slumber. 

August 16

31 miles
Today’s rations are light and we know it. Unless we run into campers we can beg for food we will be totally out by nightfall. We have 31 miles to the road where we can hitch to town. Okay. Ready. Get set. Go. 
6:00: We are up and at it. 

7:20: I find raspberries and pick a dozen to add to our oats! 

7:30: morning break. 

8:00: We rejoin the CDT. 

8:15: hike up a hill. 

9:00: intermittent huckleberry foraging whilst ascending our steepest climb for the day. 

10:00: Break at creek for water, a Luna bar, and to wash my shirt and hat. I smell. 

10:15: resume walking (downhill!!)

12:30: water break. Coffee. Last protein powder. Begin to enter the desert of the Great Basin area. Hot sun! 

1:30: blessed clouds greet us. We love them. Miles go faster. 

3:15 dinner break of a cup of rice, nutritional yeast and olive oil. 

3:35: hike up last long hill of day. 

4:00: trail retellings of mice and men (Groucho) and ghost busters (Harpo)

5:30: we recount our Hungary hike along the Blue Trail town by town. Campsite by campsite. (We miss you Huck!)

6:00: coffee break at top of the hill with last dribbles of snacks: a cherry jolly ranger (me) and 2 squares of chocolate (Groucho)

7:00: 7 miles to go! We start trail running on the downhills

7:45: pass a huge herd of prong horned antelope 

8:11: reach road! Start hitching. 

8:14: official sunset

8:30: stop hitching. 

9:00: Camp along the road in grove of aspens. Share miso packet. 

10:00: sleep. (I realize ironically that today is the first in this whole hike we haven’t spoken too or seen another living soul.)

August 17

4am: wake with grumbling belly

7:15am: start hitching

8:15am: a wonderful couple headed to North Carolina drops off another SOBO at the trail head and offers us a ride to Landers!!!!! We are saved!!!!!!!!! 

groucho gets a prewash from Chief (the dog) during our hitch

Harpo’s CDT Journal #9

August 9

15 miles
We sleep in. Delicious sleep. 
There is an active but 80% “contained” fire on the east side of this mountain, so our hike today is a reroute along dirt roads on the west side. 
We meet a Man from Texas on a wagon with his son and 4 horses. Two of the horses are carriage ponies from NYC pulling the wagon. He tells us story upon story of being lost, killing elk, and being attacked by a grizzly he and his buddies had to take down with 7 gunshots and then call fish and wildlife for a CSI style investigation. Grizzlies, like humans, are a protected species. 

On a long break under a bridge we rinse clothes and review maps, deciding which of the half dozen routes to do thru Northern Wind river range. There are many alternates and side trails to discover if we have enough food. 
The afternoon carries some challenging way-finding up to Sheridan pass. Exhausted, we decide to sleep here… it’s too beautiful to move along. 

August 10

30 miles
A day of reckoning. Are we brave enough to attempt the cdt wind river range high route? A little dotted line on our map indicating less than distinct trail. We’re told it’s like combining katahdin with mahoosic notch in some areas. Both the toughest parts of the Appalachian Trail. Hum. 
The morning moves fast but I feel lonely. And by 3:30 we’re at the turn off for the alternate, squinting at the sky. Are those fluffy playful clouds or storm clouds? Map notes say to ensure a clear forecast before attempting the high route. We’ve seen clouds the last few days but no rain. We don’t know the forecast but a cautious couple on an ATV say they think it’s supposed to be warmer this week. 
After dinner at Lake of the Woods we decide to go for it. The first 10 miles are along an ATV road but gains 3000 feet elevation. This will be the rest of our day. Then tomorrow we’ll have 14 miles up and along the high route before 4-5 miles descending and rejoining the CDT.
Feeling excited we set off and are making good time but the last few miles are killer on the jeep road and we get to the pass right at sunset. 
We look at the map. now we’re supposed to bushwhack off trail for 1.2 miles, toward some lakes and find another footpath that will connect us to the base of Shale Mountain. 
For this task we use a paper map and the compass on our phones and the Gaia app which will use the phone GPS to draw our route in case we want to go back. 
As we start down the last leg of the jeep road I realize we already missed the “turn” for the bushwhack section. We can either backtrack, or just start from here. I pull out my tools, okay let’s go. 
The bush whack would take us straight up and then down the other side of the mountain on our left. We decide on a round about course following a topo line for awhile and judging our way down the hill based on what we see. We avoid the super steep areas and head for wider spaced topo lines on the map. This works for awhile… until the sun sets. 
Around dark we reach a place where the alpine meadow transitions to a tallus field where we maneuver around huge boulders. We attempt to descend slowly and carefully toward the tree line we can barely see below. Eventually we begin to feel mossy dirt under our shoes and see sparse scraggly trees here and there. In the dark, with just Groucho’s night vision and my headlamp guiding us, we maneuver to soft tho slopey duft under the protection of several trees. We are adjacent to a glacier and sleeping close to 11,000 feet. 
We eat snacks and pack away all our food in our opsaks. Grateful for the odor barrier ziplocks since we have no trees tall enough for a bear hang. 

August 11

22 miles
At 4:44 I awake to rain?! Oh wait no… Actually it’s snow. What?!

We scramble and throw our tarp over us batwing style and are warm and dry but worried what for this mean for the high route?
We talk and hit snooze on the alarm, waiting until light to check the scene out. The popcorn snow stops, but as the light seeps grows we behold a persistent cloud cover blanketing the sky. Menacing dark clouds hang just beyond our beloved high route. Shale mountain shrouded in mist. 
We make a difficult choice to forego the adventurous high route and (ugh) retreat 11.8 miles back to the regular CDT and resume south from there. 
We encounter more light snow, hail and rain off and on all day. Also scattered sun and wind. By noon we are back on trail and though I feel relieved believing we made the right and safe choice, I dread the days ahead now we are squarely in the middle of this section and I have a sneaking suspicion we are low on food. We review the maps and look at our remaining food, realizing yes… we will have to ration food… having added approximately 24 miles to this already-long leg of the journey 

Harpo’s CDT Journal #8

August 5

13.5 miles

The morning goes like this: pack up, walk on paved road to bridge bay store, charge devices, drink coffee, get a camp permit for tonight on the thoroughfare trail, go to the bathroom a dozen times (town food? Too much coffee? the free beer yesterday? Too much bison poop in my water?) hitch to Fishing Bridge for resupply (mostly ramen, bars and oats), hitch to nine mile trailhead with a super great family from Wisconsin!) all these chores take about 5 hours. Generally speaking, 5 hours is enough time for basic resupply. Throw in Internet, correspondence and laundry – a good town day can last 8-24 hours. But none of these spots offer wifi. And we decided not to invest in laundry at this time. So we’re out pretty quickly. 
The amazing thoroughfare trail runs along the east side of majestic Yellowstone lake for about 20 miles. Today we knock out 13 miles finding wild strawberries, raspberries and huckleberries, bear scat. And huge dog prints? Or Wolf prints?
Groucho and I engage in good, challenging, invigorating conversation and hours pass quickly till we arrive at our spacious lakeshore site. It sleeps 12 but we now know that the Park’s policy is first come first served and they make no attempt to share sites among multiple parties. So we are wonderfully alone except for the chirping chipmunks. 

August 6

24 miles

The thorofare trail runs remarkably easily, breezily and beautifully along the east side of Yellowstone NP. Reportedly this area is the most remote in the lower 48, with no road access for 40 miles in any direction. 
We follow a long river valley, stopping for breaks and seeing huge Pelican claws in the sandy river shore. 
I’ve begun reading again on trail. I enjoy reading stories about women and make an effort to download books with the free library “overdrive” app. This week is finally “wild” by Cheryl stayed. Surprised but I love it. Don’t know why the patriarchy tries to smash her so hard. Brave and interesting writer. 
Reading makes me feel creative and enjoy my blogging more. Groucho and I discuss how we might be ready to process/communicate more outside our blog about the thru hiking experience. Today we discuss these possibilities at length. 

August 7

24 miles

A tragedy befalls us. I’ve lost my beloved Jean Luc aka Patrick Stewart. Tho he was just a .6 oz, golden, anodized aluminum poo trowel he was treasured by all in the Wrong Way Gang. I know Future Dad particularly will be sad to learn of his disappearance. 

*a moment of silence*

so yeah. It’s lonely out here. Groucho wakes on the wrong side of the bed. We indulged in a series of intimate conversations yesterday about families, relationships, friendships, personal histories and he is emotionally depleted. 
I walk alone all morning, looking for animal prints in the sand with the same expectation I used to attend to my email inbox. Hello squirrel, hello hawk, hello chipmunk and bear and dear buddies. The only human prints today are Groucho’s wavy vibram soles. I feel far away from everyone. 
No matter. Im in no shape to accept company. It’s been 12 days since we were in Ennis and indulged in soap. The musk under my arms has transformed from salty to sour. I have a weird scab between my eyes, and tiny ones up and down my calves like topo lines – caused by bush whacking thru the brushy sage. My Fingernails collect dirt and grime no matter how short I cut them. My feet look like a cracked desert landscape. 
 And today I accidentally stowed my spoon in my trash bag instead of my snack bag. It may have touched a packed out poo napkin so I spent most of my morning break hosing it down with hand sani and water. 
Groucho wants me to tell you that his poo is more regal than my plebeian poo. This is penance for accidentally spraying his Taboo-tees with the water while cleaning off my poo spoon. Groucho’s magnetic, majestic patriotic poo p. (This from a man hiking in socks and sandals. )
In the mid morning we rejoin the CDT and run into 8 consecutive northbounders and 3 consecutive thunderstorms. Our gear stays *mostly* dry but the trail alternates from slippy to squishy to shitty (literally from horse manure and figuratively as the horse shoes tear up the ground.)
We make camp at 8pm under two big trees, just as the clouds break and the sun spills over the plateau to dry our gear. 

Aug 8

19 miles
Crazy day. We fight hard, first thing in the morning, about style differences. It’s pretty trivial but dramatic. 
Groucho speeds off and I follow reluctantly wondering many things: does he want to hike alone? Do I? Can we? Do I want to bail and head to my high school reunion this weekend? Do I want to “finish” this hike? What does it even mean to “finish”? Isn’t this trail, this line thru the rocks, this process, this idea just another trap/job/shackle/competition if my whole validity is based on some narrow concept of finishing created by who knows… God?? Am I trapped in some patriarchical religion invented by an unknown leader? I thought I was supposed to be discovering neo-transcendental America. I thought I was supposed to be discovering myself. 
Or do I just really need a day off?  
As I huff up the hill my anger ebbs, then renews. We always stop after the first hour or two for breakfast and three hours later still no Groucho. “He must be really mad.” I eat oats sorrowfully alone and skip hot coffee cause he has the stove (I carry the fuel).  
I scan the ground looking for vibram soles but only see the Brooks and the Altras belonging to Dirt Wolf and Cheese Snake who are just ahead. Huh…
An hour later I see two weekenders and ask if they crossed paths with Groucho. They don’t think so. “Unless he is from Nebraska?!” One inquires. Uh… no. 
So now I wonder if I somehow am ahead. No tracks. No sightings. But it doesn’t make sense. where the heck is he!? Did he take the wrong route or step off trail to poo?  
We are lost all day from each other, but we both have maps. And we both know we are going to pick up resupply box at Brooks Lake Lodge.  
I now assume I am ahead but how far? Should I wait? What if he is ahead and waiting makes me fall behind? There’s no way to know for sure. So I keep myself found, and go to the lodge. At least if I don’t see him by nightfall there will be a phone and people there to help. 
I feel almost bad going inside the Lodge. It’s super beautiful and clean and smells good. All things I am and do not. They are so super sweet. It’s amazing they offer to hold boxes. I can’t afford to stay the night (it’s over $300 says my guidebook) but they let me use their phone to call my mom, and when my resupply arrives by UPS they let me unpack it on a picnic table. 
About an hour and a half later Groucho rolls up. I’m so relieved to see him. We discern that early in the morning he pulled just off trail for coffee as usual and I walked right by, we were both too quiet to notice the other. He waited and then retreated 2 miles to make sure I hadn’t hurt myself at the ford. Adding 4 miles to his day. We extend compassion and harmony to each other but it’s also tough. We are about to go into a 7 day section without going into town. Do we need a break first? Are we about to emotionally collapse?
We decide no and push on walking an easy 5 miles to a friendly Wyoming campsite in the foothills of the Winds where we enjoy a small campfire in a fire ring and sleep under a huge tree. 

Harpo’s CDT Journal #7

August 1

8 miles
Something about being in Yellowstone is making us very mad. Accessibility to nature is needed and desired to permit the masses to connect with wonders. But utter accessibility also means cars, roads, giftshops crammed with tchotchkes, and a wilderness experience designed primarily to keep everyone safely in line. In line to see the hot springs. In line on the popular 3 mile loop trails, in line buying hot dogs and ice cream. And within lined parking lot campsites that can host upwards of 600+ people. We sorrow at the disneyfication of the park that makes the natural world seem unnatural. Less wild. 

Simultaneously the park is remarkably inaccessible as soon as you step off the pavement. Even for weathered hikers like us. The back country rangers here seem green, unable to tell us first hand knowledge of our route or sites. 
Also no one will give us a hitch to our trail head. Tourists rarely feel comfortable, or their cars are filled. And there isn’t any public transportation in Yellowstone. How’s that for access?
It’s confusing because as much as I critique all of this, I am a part of it. I participate in the patriarchy. The raping of resources for processed food and manufactured goods. The consumption of synthetic fibers and plastic bottles and fleece and the stuffed animal bison I want to purchase for $9.99. 
 Despite being vegan (which research suggests saves 600-1100 gallons of water a day compared to a meat eater.) Despite giving up my apartment and house and living for 5 months a year outside, limiting my ability to purchase and consume excess. Despite rarely buying clothes or electronics. Despite finding ways to live more simply on less than 15 grand a year. I can’t escape my participation in the US hierarchical capitalist patriarchy. Mainstream media, wifi, social media, technology, packaged food and buereaucratic permitting systems pull me back into that life as often as I attempt to escape it. Despite my dislike of the system there are so many ways I accidentally and unthinkingly accept it. And isn’t acceptance the same as support?
So today is a major disappointment. We escape the bad wifi and relative lack of tasty town food around 2:30pm which should get us to our permitted campsite (in 10 or so miles) around 7pm. Perfect. One mile in I sit down while we treat water. It’s blazing in the heat of the day. I look at the map and add the mileage markers… We still have 18 miles to go. WHAT?!
We feel seriously bummed. We have no idea how the ranger so thoroughly misunderstood us. Not only is 19 miles NOT a rest day, but in this heat with full packs there’s no way can we arrive to camp before 10pm. Unacceptable. 
We decide to bail out. We walk 5 trail miles to a junction with the road and a beautiful creek with a roadside rest area. After swimming discretely in front of picnicking tourists – whose mouths hang wide as they openly stare – we try to get a hitch to a trail head 9 miles east. From there we can walk Just 3 more miles to get to our permitted site. Technically replacing trail miles with a ride is “yellow blazing” and frowned upon by purists. But technically we’re not on the CDT anyway, haters. My hike. My rules. 
We hitch for an hour and tho a stream of cars pass us no one even slows down. Discouraged we return to the comfort of the picnic area and attempt to eat our way out of the crisis. The plan works. We strike up a conversation with an adventurous couple from PA (WE ❤ PA!!!) and they offer us a ride!!! Saved! As they finish their picnic I look at our itinerary and attempt to calculate our mileage for tomorrow. Except I can’t because we don’t have the complete map. Thankfully our new friends do and we photo the 20 mile section we need. 
Sadly none of the maps list where the camp site is for tomorrow. We’ll just have to hope that it’s at 20-23 miles where it’s supposed to be. 

August 2

26.5 miles
Day of the Bison!! Also the day we begin to suspect the ranger is messing with us. Our route today is 3 miles more than we requested but also climbs over 5000 feet elevation. And has a long dry stretch. All things we wish we had known. 
No matter. We fall in love with Speciman ridge. The day is full of views, bison and prong horned antelope dancing across the fields. 
By late afternoon we descend off the ridge into the Lower Lamar valley. We ford the creek than eat dinner near a beautiful lone bison who followed us across the creek in a lumbering gentle giant fashion. They are magnificent animals. 
Our campsite isn’t at mile 20-23 like we expect. By mile 25 it’s dark and we have no idea how close but we might be several miles off still. We give up guiltily stealth camp near an occupied camp. 

August 3

14 miles
Today is a day off! Well kind of. We expect an easy 8-mile walk based On the itinerary. But of course, again, we should do our own math because we end up walking over 14 to get to our campsite. WHY CANT I JUST HAVE A REGULAR DAY OFF? 
We wake at 4:45 to rain and decide to pack up and walk on before light so as not to be found stealth camping. 1.5 miles later we come across our designated site and peacefully have breakfast. Then start the official hike to our next campsite. On the way Groucho trips and bends a toenail back, I meet an extremely friendly, bug-eating bird that follows me trying to land on my umbrella AND we meet 4 friendly STOGs (swaying towers of gear) from Pennsylvania here to play catch and release with the fish. 
Regardless we arrive at camp by 2pm, rinse our clothes and selves in the river, make first dinner, eat first dessert, take a nap, eat again, make a fire and roast vegan marshmallows courtesy of our friend Bug, and go to sleep early. It’s really cool to have time to relax on trail rather than waiting for town to chill out. 

August 4

17 miles
We sleep in because it is so cold at cold creek. There is frost in the grass. 
And we begin the day with two river fords right in a row. My feet are painfully cold before 8:30 am. Then a rather nice and super easy 16 miles to the road. Along the pelican creek we meet a couple from Netherlands and a parade of 16 animals, 4 tourists from Arkansas, and their chef, wrangler and guide. 
Sean- A young fellow from PA – gives us a hitch and a beer! our first booze in 34 days. Our rule for clarity, efficiency and budget is no booze unless it is offered spontaneously as a gift. 
Bridge Bay offers a ranger station, enormous campground, marina and modest camp store. All services seem staffed by retirees who have bought RVs and are touring the country. It’s pretty nice here but not gonna make it my forever home.