Tag Archives: America

The Wasteland

People are more confused than scared in the rural west. As COVID 19 spreads and the quarantine becomes more serious, many are trying to figure out what’s going on. Groceries and gas stations are still open, along with the liquor store. Restaurants are doing take out. Things are alive under the surface of this frozen world – people are finding ways to escape the paralysis.

Empty shelves in every grocery store. Strange how people express fear & panic. There are still full baskets of oranges & avocados, and anything gluten free is still available. There’s no meat or milk left, no toilet paper, no bottled water.

And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you
I will show you fear in a handful of dust

T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

The streets are empty. An occasional single human walking in the dusk. The cattle trucks are running down the highway, the trains still roll the tracks. I look at social media; a whirlwind of opinion & self promotion even as the media falters juggling bits of incomplete information. I look at the world outside & it seems still – more quiet than normal, as if reflected in ice.

Still snow above 8000 feet, and it’s still winter in the west. The last icey finger has followed me from Colorado to Utah, chilling my bones and waking me up to another morning of snow. The cold and desolations mirror the empty streets in town.

Rather than fear, I feel a sense of wonder at the strangeness of the world. Both because and in spite of COVID 19, the world is reborn, reimagined; the light casts different shadows. I haven’t had to use my voice much – silence is engulfing me, the distance between people ever greater as language fails and words fall out of thin air, muffled by a thin blanket of snow. The world is whole, outside, caressed by rushing wind… I’ll follow that wind to the end, into the canyon and across the Basin, asking for its truth.

Nothing nothing nothing.

What am I doing here has become a prescient question – more essential than existential. It’s a time to question my motivations, looking for what this journey can uncover both internally and in the world I move through.

The barren west, the Plague

It seems strangely appropriate traveling the vast landscapes of the American West during the outbreak of the CORVID19 virus. We are forced thru quarantine into involuntary isolation – it’s not so different being alone in these bleak landscapes – water and wind sculpted rock, sage, pinyon and blackbrush scrub and the feeling of infinite empty space between everything. Social distancing at its finest.

Cemetery sunset on CO141, so far the most remote stretch of road I’ve travelled. Slept well with the dead, who were totes unconcerned with the plague.

Arriving to grocery stores with barren shelves, 6 foot distance laws, and government regulated personal space feels post apocalyptic. Yet within it service workers, post office staff, bike mechanics and grocery clerks seem unperturbed… thank the working class for their pragmatism and willingness to help in the face of a perceived crisis.

Hopefully the last snow as I leave Colorado for the canyon lands of Utah. A morning of frozen toes and the creeping anxiety that ‘this is the new normal’ before descending 2000 feet into the canyon, where it was dry 50 degrees & sunny.

Where will this adventure end? Is this the end already? I ask myself if it’s irresponsible to travel at this time – but there’s not going back at this point. Colorado is covered in snow, public transportation isn’t an option, and it’s unsure if return is worse than continuing. So the only way out is thru…

The sense of depth and scale leaves everything feeling far apart and unreal. I watched a motorbike cruise down this road and disappear long before they even approached this massive geological structure. When everything feels like forever, anytime is now.

coloRADo trail report 

Starting in Durango we climbed, climbed, and continued climbing until it seemed we were passing through a gateway into the sky. Pine forest, yet untouched by the Western Pine Beetle, was lush and crept up the mountains around us interspersed with aspens just verging on the fall turn. Sweating up the Highline trail and across the Sliderock Traverse, all of this fell away – revealing row upon row of peaks scraping the sky. Finally we had arrived – at least at the first above tree line track of the Colorado Trail. There would be more as we began our northbound journey thru the San Juan mountains and onwards towards Denver…

The Colorado Trail Foundation likes to claim their trail as the most beautiful of the 11 National Scenic Trails. It’s hard to argue with them… You’ll find expansive pine forest, massive aspen groves on fire with fall color, beautiful trail towns full of friendly locals and delicious local beer, exquisitely maintained trail and miles & miles of views. Of course, it is the high Rockies, so you may also encounter thunderstorms, snow at any time, subarctic temperatures, and looooong exposed miles of trail. But like many adventures, the risk often heightens the reward.

I traversed the volunteer built 478 mile trail northbound with my friend Atrain and Ekho the dog in September of this year. Atrain, Ekho and I met in 2015 on the PCT, and had hiked for a few weeks together. After he and Ekho moved to Portland OR, Harpo and I kept in touch. In the planning stages of my hike, Atrain mentioned that he was looking for some late summer adventures as he drove cross country moving back to Atlanta. A plan was born…

New vegan trail snack by Harpo-mane – freeze dried strawberries with Dang original toasted coconut chips. Tasty!

LOGISTICS

We shared planning duties for the hike, tho to be honest logistics were pretty easy compared to some other hikes Harpo & I have done. There was some spread sheets covering mail drops, mileage, and shared gear – but not too much nerding out. Our resupply strategy was partial mail drops supplemented with whatever we could find in town. U could easily resupply 90% in town, no problem, and mail yourself a few boxes if you wanted to avoid longer hitches. Harpo and I had a bunch of homemade dehydrated meals left after leaving the CDT early in 2016, so Atrain and I chose to use as many of those as possible hence more boxes. Thankfully Harpo was willing to mail our resupply – being busy with the full time job thing – and hooked up the super surprise vegan snacks too!

The Colorado Foundation provides an excellent guidebook for the trail, which includes complete listings of trail towns, resupply options, and hitching distances (we found a used copy at a gear store in PDX for $5). National Geographic publishes a 3 part map series which is unnecessary (the trail is super well signed) but nice if you like alternates, blue blazing, and seeing context. We used the maps, along with the Guthook app for iOS, which provides info about water sources, lists trail miles, and uses GPS to help with wayfinding. PMags also offers a great overview and valuable observations in his “End to End” free downloadable guide. I also use the Gaia app for iOS, which offer offline available topo maps and GPS functionality. The trail is easy to follow, but it’s also nice to bushwhack for a couple hours and get off the beaten path…

Surprisingly wild flowers were everywhere – even in late September, probably the result of abundant summer rains.

Trail Conditions

From the first step to the last, the CT is meticulously maintained. Many sections rival Yosemite, not just in beauty, but in the sheer attention and time trail crews have invested in creating an exceptional trail experience. Wayfinding was easy as signs were well placed both NOBO & SOBO, and there was nary a blowdown to be found. Given, we hiked the trail at the end of the season (September 3 – October 5) so crews had all summer to clean it up, and we didn’t really deal with extensive snow.

One difference from the AT & PCT tho; be ready for mountain bikers. I also love a good shred, so it didn’t bum me out – tho there was a good couple of hours one day dodging dudes on a tour with poor trail etiquette, and a Saturday when we ran into and annual charity ride (and literally hundreds of bikes). On the whole everyone who shreds there seems to know the deal, is super polite and happy to share the trail.

(For u novice MTBrs out there, please use bell, voice or whistle well BEFORE u would like to pass. Don’t sneak up! Also, let hikers know how many are behind you on trail so we don’t keep getting surprised and can find a good spot to pull off for larger groups. Technically hikers have the right of way & yr supposed to dismount & walk or wait, but hikers know that’s bs & nobody wants to stop a good shred – so communicate & everybody wins😘)

In September we dodged the majority of the monsoon season, so we only had to hide in a ditch dodging lighting once. Score! Reports from SOBO hikers indicated that was not their experience. And we did catch a little early season snow coming out of Brekenridge – about 3 feet up top, which was enough to provide 5 hours of shin shredding post holing up Georgia Pass. Ekho, who is mostly husky, was LOVING it – especially after the sun set and the full moon started making monsters in the shadows.

I will say – it was not summer up there. The trail elevation averages 10,300 feet, with a high point of 13,271 and many passes over 12,000. NBD but prepare yourself appropriately, especially if hiking thru the monsoon season in August when u might wind up wet & cold everyday. We definitely got wet on several occasions, and our weather experience was mild compared to many SOBO reports.

Campsites were easy to find, often had spectacular views, and because of the plentiful summer rain many campfires were had.

Pre hike vibez in Durango, another great trail town (great co-op & gear store, breweries, cool downtown). It’s a little spendy, but I could have stayed for a weeks exploring the hundreds of miles of trail in and around town…

Trail Towns

It’s impossible to pick one when they’re all so awesome! Most had great resupply option, many had hostels, and people were totally down for the cause. In particular we had a great time in Silverton (great hostel, brewery & pizza), Lake City (long hitch but excellent hostel & full grocery), Salida (another long hitch, heard the hostel was good but stayed in a cheap hotel, great river swimming, good natural foods store), and especially Leadville (excellent hostel, short hitch, friendliest locals, brewery, grocery). Brekenridge was a little bobo for my taste. Twin Lakes would have been hard for a vegan to full resupply (we got a package) but the restaurant had an awesome black bean burger.

Epic views every day – and impressive variety of terrain. Just when you’re feeling too stressed about a long but beautiful exposed section, you’ll duck into some lush pine forest & find some of the coldest, clearest mountain streams ever.

Overview
I loved this trail. I want to go back and snowshoe it right now, then mountain bike it in the summer.  I liked it so much I somehow convinced Harpo it would be a great idea to move to Leadville – and that’s where you’ll find us now. I think it’s logistically simple enough to make a great first thru, but rigorous and beautiful enough to challenge and amaze even saltiest dirtbag. So go forth & HIKE!!!

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.