My stocks stink already- and how much should I add to my base weight for sand?

May 2nd 2010
Pre-trip jitters have me in sleep deprivation mode. I feel like it is finals week, but really I am just working and trying to tie up a medusa head of loose ends. I hope to somehow magically arrive at the mexico border in New Mexico and start hiking north next Sunday, the 9th of May. Will it all fall into place? Who knows, but eventually I will start this trail, and hopefully my knees and feet and the rest of the universe will let me finish it. Ok- I am off to weigh my stinky socks and check the water beta again before I drive back out to camp to catch a few z’s before searching for tortoises tomorrow. Can’t wait for the simplicity of brutality.. wait. embrace the brutality? Here goes nothing!

off to Crazy Cook… here goes!

May 8th 2010
The magic of the trail has begun and I haven’t even gotten to it yet! A few days ago I had a thought- why not try to fly my Dad to Tucson to see his sister and drive me to the border? This wacky idea won’t be the cheapest or the quickest option, but it gives my Dad a chance to be a part of this hike, and a good chance to see my Aunt- they haven’t visited in over 5 years, so it’s worth it. Today I got a ride from barstow to Tucson with a co-worker. I convinced him to swing by a store and pick up some soda and candy bars to stash under the bridge north of San Jacinto & Snow Creek for PCT hikers, introducing him to trail magic and bidding last years trail a good season. Now I am sitting here in a food coma after eating a giant burger made by my Aunt, trying to figure out water and travel and how to make these insoles out of crocks… doubt I will sleep much tonight– I will head out tomorrow morning!!

sliver city roads and radness

May 16th
Here I am 110 miles in to this CDT adventure! My heels are bruised but other than that my body has been doing well out here on this trail. I am impressed by just how much I am able to hike my own hike out here- there are so many routes to choose from- and right now I am choosing the more mellow routes to let my acheilies tendons have some rest while I hike in crocks. In a few days all of this road walk stuff should come to an end and I will be walking up a river instead! I am heading up to Doc Campbell’s post (~45 miles by my chosen route) and then up the Middle fork of the Gila. So far this trip has been about meeting amazing people, not so much about hiking in wilderness. Last week I stayed for a couple of nights with Keith and Mary, trail angels in Deming, and enjoyed their kind and quirky hospitality, and had the chance to meet two other hikers during my stay. I took the Separ road route and enjoyed the rocky hills and the shift to high desert plants. There was plenty of water at all of the J ley locations, plus some surface water in a few of the creeks- yep!- flowing water out here in a dry dusty desert! I am full of potato pancakes and eggs fromt the bar next door, writing this in the cool computer alley of the Javalina Coffee House. This should be my last update until Pie Town. I’m hoping my heels decide to stop hurting and I will be able to toss myself in to full hiking days soon. If that doesn’t happen and the pain sticks around, I hope I will get used to it enough to keep on trucking- this adventure is too great to miss just because of a little pain. I just learned that you can turn size 5 boys crocks into size 8.5 in womens simply by hiking 40 miles in them! These babies fit great now- and you should see the awesome spider man “cali-bit” button on them- totaly rad!
Ok- I am off to learn more about the universe and burn off these potato pancakes! Sage

Ice Cream and Salad, Mesas & Cow tanks

May 17th 2010
Here in a motel room watching TV and typing on a computer, eating ice cream and looking over maps, the dust of the trail seems far off. Just five hours ago I was covered in sweat and grime, pounding pavement on my way in to Cuba, NM. This trail is wonderful and hard. Yesterday I had my first real breakdown, but don’t get me wrong- the day was not bad, just full of surprises.

I woke to a pale orange sky and a sea of golden mesas spread out to the north of my perch near the Bear’s Mouth in the San Mateo Mountains. Once I convinced myself to get out of my sleeping bag I shoved my belongings into my pack and was off, heading down to that sea, 2000 feet below me. On the way down I rounded a bend and scared a mountain lion from it’s sunny patch on the side of a grassy slope.


This is the second lion I have ever seen, and we were both in shocked- I hope I didn't ruin it's day, and the lion added some magic to mine.

 At the base of the mesa I found Ojo Frio, potentially my only water source of the day, filled up 4 liters, dropped some Aqua Mira in with hopes of fending off the shits, and headed on up the route. Somehow I passed the turn down a wash and finally realized it about a mile later. Instead of being reasonable and turning back, I figured I would just head down the drainage I was in and I would walk down an arroyo until I found where the route crossed it. I set off down the wash and suddenly found myself doing a snake dance away from the largest rattler I have ever seen, much less almost stepped on. In my head I was saying “HolY CRAP! SNAKE!” but in reality it probably sounded more like “AAAAEAAAHWIAAAA”. I jumped back so fast my water-bottle couldn’t keep up, and it fell on the ground pretty close to the coiled herp. After my panic subsided I reached in with my treking pole and scraped my water bottle back to me. Soon I found myself climbing down a 30 foot high washbank swatting biting flys. Then I wandered down the arroyo for an hour searching for human footprints and avoiding quicksand. Finally I found the trail again and got the heck out of the wash, 2 hours and one near heart-attack later I vowed to just turn around and find the friggin trail next time I lose it. The day had begun to heat up and my feet hurt so bad I wanted to cry, but I still had 23 miles to go until the next certain water source. I felt hopeless and fryed. I sat down under a juniper tree, popped some Ibu, ate a few gummy worms, and tried to calm down. A friend’s words of advice came to mind “it’ll go” and I decided that there really was nothing wrong, things would work out, and I just needed to get my booty up and hike, just being ready for the anything that could happen around the next bend.

It worked. Later that afternoon I found more water just as I ran out, and even got to take a bath in a cow tank- while a cow was drinking out of it!! I did not cover the 32 miles I was shooting for, but I found Sweep and Max, two awesome hikers, at the south end of Ventana Mesa and decided to hang out with people for the evening rather than force some more miles in the the dusk. What a treat! Other hikers!!!!

So, the first breakdown has come and gone. I am sure there will be more, but the first is always the hardest. Now I have been reminded of the emotional endurance needed to hike a trail like this, but it is something anyone can grow into. Just like hiking through blisters, I will eventually get a bit tougher (emotionally fit, as a student of mine said a few years back), at least so a few fly bites and getting low on water don’t make me collapse under a bush to cry.

Tomorrow I will set out for Ghost Ranch. I only have 12 more maps left for New Mexico, this amazing land of mesas, road walks, rivers, lava, and enchantment.

A link to my Itinerary

See my Itinerary here

Cliff notes from Southern Colorado

May21st 2010
Here in the home of another spontaneous trail angel enjoying Salida. I share a name with Bob’s great sheepdog/ lab mix. This town is a place I could live- poppys, green, a raging river, brick buildings, walkways, cafes- I will be back, there is no doubt. I have not posted since I entered Colorado, and honestly I do not have time in this quick town stop to even try to encompass the adventures I have had in this mountainous and grand place- but here are some snapshots:
Sunset on a windy volcanic ledge 15 miles N. of Cumbres Pass- my first night in the MOUNTAINS!
Wet shoes, frozen cardboard shoes, wet shoes, squish
Kicking steps, navigating on snow, and BOOT SKIING! The South San Juans were filled with snow fields that filled me with fear, joy, and awe.
Following two sets of fresh tracks, seeing a helicopter, then following one set of fresh tracks until I found 30/30- a fun hiker who had just watched his buddy go home via a winged beast (Fireball, the evacee is fine & nursing a sore ankle)
Office chairs on a hardwood floor in South Fork- Hanging out and talking about skis & eating eggs with Mark, meeting up with my friend Peter Mattox, and being introduced to a hiker with a large white beard and a pink kilt- Handle bar!
Entering the Wemenuche Wilderness, then getting lost.
Seeing a porcupine on a pokey, uphill bushwhack through dead spruce trees
Walking by the Rio Grande Pyramid and “the window” in early morning light, small flowers on a large green plane.
Wind on talus, almost falling over at 13000 feet, all as a storm begins to brew- vast.
Up hill for two hours, 13600 wooseyness, San Juan Solstice 50 mile race tags tinkling in the wind- can you imagine running up there?
sore feet at spring pass after 27 miles, thoughts of pizza and a buzz from a free beer, a fast hitch with a guy who had been awake for 29 hours!
Cinnamon rolls
7 layer bars
giant chocolate chip cookies!
Lake city was all about baked goods of delectable quality and ridiculous quantity!
Dirt encrusted toes & socks that can stand on their own in the Cochatopa hills
Oatmeal for an early lunch at a windy lake with Peter and his Dragonfly, before it stopped working.

Well- there are a billion more things I would love to share, but I must go eat & return to Monarch Pass- off to Leadville!

Chocolate Chip Cookies, Coke, and sand in my eye here on the Divide

July 2nd 2010
I started lost today. Lost and wet. Never a great way to start out. Lost, wet, and in a pissy mood. Horrible. I actually cried before 9 am. Due to the outdated maps wich still show Sawmill Meadow rather than the large Meadow Cr. Reservoir in combo with my apparent map illiteracy, I found myself misplaced and on my way to the town of Fraser, which I am sure is lovely, but happens to be 40 miles from where I wanted to go. Once I realized my poor choice I turned around and walked the three miles back to find the lost High Lonesome Trail that I was supposed to be following. I arrived in Arrapaho Bay 3 hours later than I had hoped and stumbled up to the Little Moose Trading Company: suddenly my day got better. Connie, the owner microwaved a homemade Cinnamon roll that her grandson, Mathew, recommended. He could not have been more right. With the taste of a delicious baked good in my mouth and a trail register in my hand I began to feel better about the universe. Before making it out of town I acquired a new family, 4 chocolate chip cookies, and a can of coke. Soon I found myself crawling over and under down lodgepoles on the way to Grand Lake. The bark beetle infestation has hit this area horribly hard and not only has damaged the integrity of the ecosystem up here, but has given trail crews endless work for years to come.
After coming to a forest service cabin with an excellent privy I came across a couple camped out by their boat on the shore of Granby Lake. In a moment they had me seated, beer in hand, petting their adorable bull dog, and telling stories of lightning and postholing. The 6 miles I had left to Grand Lake seemed far, but I chose not to worry about it and enjoy another handful of dorritos that taste like fast food hamburgers and some more conversation. I bid farewell and sprinted (well, stumbled & almost went for a swim in my tipsy state) towards town and the comfy hostel I knew awaited to the north.
Grand Lake was hopping when I arrived. The boards of the walk creaked and the smell of stale beer and mix of ten different bar soundtracks blended in the street. I had to check in to the hostel before 9pm so I ran past the whir and blur of people to this amazing complex of buildings perched on a cliff above town. I still have yet to wash the trail dirt off my body, but I did score some free veggies from the fridge here and cooked (for the first time in months!) a burrito for dinner.
Hiking the High Lonesome Trail for the last couple of days is quite apt- Ahab left the trail for a couple days back at Berthoud Pass and I have been cruising solo. It hit home that I was really alone when I hiked up a peak I read on my illegible Ley map as Party Peak. I sat there shivering behind a rock wall on the summit wishing I had more to party with than the tub of chocolate frosting that Ahab had given me before he departed for a couch and comfort the day before. It was a pretty great party in the end- nothing really compares to spoonfulls of creamy easy to use rich chocolate frosting at 13000 feet- I’m glad I didn’t find out the peak’s name is actually Perry until hours later- Party On!

Steamboat Sole Swap

July 7th 2010
The Steamboat library windows look out to quivering populus tremuloidies and darkened hillsides. Flashes of lightening illuminate this northern CO town. Another amazing mountain biking outdoor store employee helped me create a pair of crock insoles to go in my new kicks- thanks OBOZ! These Sawtooths and crazy trifecta of insoles will hopefully let me blaze through Wyoming with the speed I have been wishing for. I bid farewell to my Contours this morning, into the soles for soles box they went to continue their life on a different adventure. 639 miles plus a few wandering around aimlessly for good measure. I really loved those shoes & kinda miss them. It doesn’t feel quite right to change into a new pair with the remnants of my Ghost ranch pedicure still plastered to my big toe, but I can’t find a dollar store here amidst the ritzy ski shops, so the enamel will have to do for now.
Well- the library closed before I could post this one so here I am in the lobby of the Jade Lodge in Rawlins, WY getting ready to copy and paste & write another update… 

Under a roof before the great basin desert

July 12th 2010
My Legs itch, my feet hurt, I walked into town with 6lbs of extra food (idiot..), and I am typing to you while wearing a rain jacket and a motel towel in the lobby of the Jade lodge Motel, but I am sweating but happy! In the middle of the night last night I woke to the sound of Wassa (a pal from Santa Cruz who is out hiking the N .5 of the CDT this summer. I found him in Steamboat last week) vomiting under his tarp. Lovely. My heart went out to him & I asked if there was anything I could do to help. His reply: not till morning… oh fuck… blueaaahhhaahaha. I put my headphones in and tried to sleep without much luck. When the sun started to create a glow on the horizon I figured it was time to motivate and get him down to the road. One truck passed before we were ready, but I was there with my arms waving the next one down at 640am. The truck of sleepy, haggard looking teenage boys let the lump of sleepingbag in the bushes on the roadside turn into a semi-human form and pile into their truck. Suddenly I was alone on the side of a WY highway at 645am. I had about 23 miles to hike before I could eat ice cream so my feet started their sore plod down the asphalt. Yesterday Wassa and I hiked over 33 miles which is quite a bit for me on this trail. My body ached and the going felt slow, but somehow I rolled in to the Guns and Grocery neighborhood market on the south side of the Rawlins Tracks by 3pm and bought myself a Fat Boy ice cream and a Fanta. Yum. Fanta.
I don’t know why orange soda has become one of my favorite town treats, but I have spent many miles of this trail dreaming about the sweet bubbly refreshment- it has superseded Chips and Salsa, but don’t worry, my mom’s homemade peach ice cream is still the overall dream champion (do you think you could send some?).
Today, hiking alone in the wide open Great Basin Desert of the Western United States I felt free and at home. My favorite wild flower, the Sego Lily or Mariposa Lily, was out in force, and the orangy ribs of rock making the Coal Rim were stunning under the drifting clouds and blue sky. This is sagebrush country. Guess I fit in here.
Here in town I had read about an excellent Thai restaurant and when I walked in the door I was greeted by Dave and Kelly, the infamous couple who I have been chasing since Crazy Cook in the register entries. We ate plate afer plate and chatted about the trail- I hope we getto hike together a bit- what fun people!
Tomorrow I will resupply at the Dollar General and the bakery down the street (mmm- Cinnamon rolls by a cattle tank on friday!)then set out for Lander, 120 miles and ~5 days away (not to mention the 34 mile hitch to town..). This next stretch is one of the most challenging due to the lack of water and potential heat. After spending over a month in the cool high peaks of Colorado I find myself back down in a desert, unacclimatized but curious. Here goes nothing!!

Lander Zero Bliss!

July 19th 2010
Ahhh. I was worked after the great basin desert & really needed this time off. You know those little sugar eggs that are hollow and have a beatuful frosted creature scene inside them- well I feel like I am peeking in on one of those little eggs except it is in the shape of a mountain and inside are big yellow frosted busses, miniture people with stinky brown frosting boots and giant backpacks, food rooms, gear piles, instructors with overloaded firstaid kits and lesson plans… the NOLS sugar egg. I used to work as an outdoor educator for Outward Bound and being here seeing this operation while wearing my Thru-hiker “goggles” is enlightning. Part of me misses being a part of a course, the student interaction, the constant challenge of keeping people emotionaly and physichally safe, the sense that what I am doing matters, that I am directly helping someone enrich their life by learning to live outside and to look inside at how they deal with adversity. Yep. I miss the magic of a fufilling job. But I am about ready to walk away from the sugar egg viewing window and jump back to my life on the CDT. A life of solotude, personal challenge, ultimate freedom (mostly to make stupid choices & be the only one to have to deal with the consequences), and a life that I am overwhelmingly commited and addicted to at the moment. This is the first year in 10 that I won’t have students out in the backcountry. This is an odd year. I am not sure how I feel about it, but I am not going to move to change it- instead I am going to keep hiking my own hike and being a bit selfish. I guess this is my Zero Year from being an instructor. I need the recharge time even more than I needed this break here in Lander. Tomorrow I am heading back up to South Pass and will hobble my way into the Winds. I am excited to be amongst huge granite peaks and patches of snow by Tuesday!

Eulogy for a good hat

July 20th 2010
Last week I walked through the great basin desert section of the CDT without a hat. As I stumbled along for miles I wrote this appology letter to my friends who gave me the hat last winter. I think it is a good look at what happens to a person when they walk alone in the desert- I had to find something to laugh about to distract me from my self inflicted misery.
Aaron and Serena,
I wanted to write to inform you of the tragic loss of the Sage To Summit visor you two sent to me last winter. Though it’s time with me was short our bond was strong and we went on many great adventures together. The visor not only did it’s job of protecting me from the blazing desert sun, it prompted many conversations- “Oh, are you from Bishop?” “No, but my good friends live there and sent me this hat. It is kinda a name tag I guess.. Bishop is a beautiful place huh?”
About 12 miles north of Rawlins WY out here on the Continental Divide Trail I camped next to Fish Pond Spring on a windy stormy night. When I woke in the morning the visor was nowhere to be found. I searched the sagebrush and grasses to no avail. The only two possible fates I can think of are 1) that the visor was swept away by the Wyoming wind in the night and is out being an appropriate name tag for the local flora, or 2) the 2.5 lbs of Gummy Worms I was carrying out of Rawlins came to life in the night and ate it.
Since we all know that the likelihood of wind stealing a hat in the night is incredibly unlikely, in-fact, almost certainly impossible, it was obviously the worms. I mourned the loss of my visor by covering my head in a deet, snot, and dirt covered bandanna and conducting a grieving ceremony. I was consoled by the fact that the Sage to Summit visor was off making its own way to a wind blasted Great Basin Desert summit of sagebrush, but it sure made me feel better to decapitate a couple of pounds of little gummy worms. These particular trouble makers were Amish Wedding Gummy Worms. Instead of normal wormy slime, the Amish worms are born with smiles and eyes on their faces. I know they probably have similar regenerative properties as normal earthworms so I was sure to sever essential glucose ganglia with each chomp. After the gummy worm massacre I felt better, even though I was blasted by the sun for the next 100 miles and used twice as much sunscreen as normal.
Here in Lander I am scouring the shops for a new hat, knowing full well nothing I find here can match the fit of the comfy gray visor from Bishop. Thank you two for giving me the opportunity to travel with such a wonderful companion, and I am sorry I let the worms get to it. I vow to carry Peachy Rings or maybe those Swedish fish (how much trouble could they cause…) from now on.
I hope summer in beautiful Bishop is treating you well, and thank you for the opportunity to get to know a great hat!

Magic in old faithful!

July 29th 2010
I am typing this on Sarong’s Space Ship- his Mac. This morning after sleeping in at Ginger and Tim’s (these two became instant trail angels and friends yesterday after meeting Ginger and her pups at the PO) house here in the Old Faithful I was walking across the road to the Village and out the window of a silver mini van I heard “Sage!” A moment later the clowns called the 30’s piled out onto the roadside and fed me a cookie and stories of Rocky Mnt. Tick Fever, hitchin into Jackson, and general trail maham. Jack & the Beanstalk’s family is out visiting, as is Sarong’s wife. They let me pile into the silver bullet of a van and set me up here at the old faithful grill with a computer while they are out for a hike, enjoying the sights of Yellowstone while I try to figure out how to move music from itunes to my unrecognized MP3 Player and set up my new PEEK (Iceaxe and Voyager have inspired me, joining the PEEK cult..). I am so fed up with technology I am going to sign off and eat a burger before walking through the swarms of people here to see gysers and bubbling pools. I hope to make it to Montana today- how awesome! It’s kinda like entering CA for me as a SOBO on the PCT last year- the longest state for the last state! I have started seeing SOBO’s too- The Noodleheads yesterday near Shoshone lake- we stopped and chatted under regrowth from the fire, and Boone and Moosa the morning before, out at the edge of Yellowstone. Ok- off to the bright buggy world of Montana! Think I’m going for the Mack’s Inn route.. Lima by Sunday? Here goes. Thank you universe for being so full of magic!

Five Wolves

Aug 3rd 2010
This evening I found myself dispensing advice to a pack of 5 wolves as I tried to locate the temporarily missing CDT. I told them they shouldn’t even think of the cows as food- they should really stick to elk, much better for their health. I mentioned they were beautiful and one of the most impressive things about my trip- their presence in the meadow meant something had gone right despite wolves being shot from helicopters, ravaged by disease, and outcast by the culture of the west. These 5 wolves ran around the top of a knoll, I could almost feel their curiosity about me, their noses facing me, ears cocked forward. They came together and raced apart again and again, wolves running in sagebrush, each with their own strut-one almost limped, another pranced. Now I am still misplaced and worried about rain in the night. I am camping on a peaklet in a valley but I have no clue where- somewhere east of Garfield peak.

Macdonald Pass and what to do with my life after the brutality…

Aug 17th 2010
Sage to Summit

This morning I slept in & was awoken by a loud rickety plane flying over. I had been expecting to hear a log truck being that I was about ten meters from a road, but instead I found myself staring up through the twiggy logepoles at the sky. last night I walked late, about 930, because I was listening to a this American life episode I just couldn’t turn off- it was about escaping boxes! When I could barely see and the show had ended I found myself with no flat options. I walked on & then scrambled up the road cut & flopped over in what turned out to be a very productive patch of whortle berry & huckleberry- yum! Now I am walking down a well graded gravel road with less than 20 miles to MacDonald pass & hwy 12. I am trying to talk myself out of a dream. The dream: to keep hiking this fall. Somewhere in New Mexico the idea of hiking for 8 months entered my consciousness. Over the last 2000 miles it has grown into a problem. Details of the dream: I hike the CDT, take a 10 day break, buy a better headlamp & some new stuff sacks that don’t leak, find a ride to Maine. I start hiking south on the Appalachian Trail by Sept. 15th & end in GA in time to have Christmas dinner with my Grandparents (they live in north GA near the trail). The problems with the dream: This is not even half way through my season- can I physically & mentally handle this dream? I am horrified of failure, & if I set forth on this I will probably have to deal with bailing off the AT, dropping my dream, and all the unpleasant stuff associated with trying to repaint a failure as a success. Yuck. Will I be able to enjoy the trail & the hike? This is the big one. I know I will get over disappointment, but by hiking on am I devaluing my CDT experience, will I truly appreciate my time on the AT? I guess this is the bottom line. If I start waking up, walking all day, and going to bed hating life & walking, I will know its tome to go home & play in the ocean. My current status: I love hiking! My feet hurt like hell, but that is mostly because I have walked 30 mile days for a week in old nikies I found at a thrift store for a $ 1.50. My body is stiff but feels mostly good- no crazy knee issues, my plantars facitus is present but at a low level, I have not lost any weight & maybe have gained some. Physically I think I’m good to keep going for another 3 or 4 months. Mentally I am nervous but excited. I have no idea what to expect from the North Eastern trails. I hear they are steep & slippery & I won’t need a map to follow them. The lack of maps will drive me crazy. I currently look at my maps about 50 times a day (yes, I counted!). Difficult terrain and no pleasure of navigation sound kinda hellish. In the end I will probably go to know, but this morning I am trying hard to embrace the idea of reaching Canada on September first & just being done. Are there berry fields I can sleep in on the east coast? Hmm.

Belly River & wrapping up… last night on the CDT

Aug 31st 2010
Well here I am sleeping under my little green tarp for one last night of CDT dreaming. I am only 6 miles from Canada & could have kept hiking tonight but I opted for a quiet night to brace myself for re-entry, & I wasn’t sure about camping in the parking lot. I hope Grant & Laurie come back in the am- somehow I miscommunicated my finish date- guess that 2 medicine phone really was horrible!
It feels like it might get frosty again tonight but I am going to try to get an alpine start & finish early. For some reason the corners of the day seem more poignant & I want reaching the border to feel like something more than another town day. I can’t believe this is it. So strange to be at the end of my CDT adventure. I can’t help but to ask what is next, but I am forcing myself to take a week before making any fall plans. I want to have my thru-hiking trail blinders off my eyes & out of my mind before I turn down fall work & hit the trail again. If reason has its way I will be heading for the Mojave, if dreams & insanity have their way I will be off to Maine. But for now I am curled up in my stinky down bag cozy in the late august chill that has sunk into glacier, surrounded by snow glazed summits and grassy meadows. 6 miles of muddy belly river trail lie between me and the end of my current endeavor. I wish I new how to leap from one way of life to another with grace & style, but I can feel hot tears & deep anxiety welling up along side the excitement & pride. Canada, the end of the CDT. But for now, sleep, stars, and wind in alders.

sidestepping the recovery hurdle

Sept 9th 2010
Glacier NP

Last Tuesday I woke up to another cold gray morning alongside the Belly River in northern Glacier National Park. I was 6 miles from the northern terminus of the Continental Divide Trail, so I pried myself from the warmth and comfort of my sleeping bag, slipped on my shoes, & undid my bear hang. After chucking everything in my pack I started off down the mushy, muddy trail along the Belly River.
Soon I came across some fresh Griz tracks and started singing some made up songs out loud to scare any bears with musical taste far far away. As I hiked, the mountains turned burnt pink with an early alpine glow. Thimble berries lined the trail all the way to the border, and before I knew it I was standing on the Chief Mountain Highway hugging the border monument.

A half hour later I found myself in a friend’s van on the way to the Park Cafe where their slogan is “pie for strength”- my kind of place! We ate a whole peach pie and they gave me enough tokens for a 12 minute shower. I left Saint Mary’s heading up the Going to the Sun Road in a car, full, clean, & in good company, satisfied.

Now a week out from that day, the sense of satisfaction is slipping away. Indulgence in front country activities like watching movies, drinking beer, checking my email 20 times a day, eating fresh fruit, taking a friend’s dog for a walk on pavement around the block, sleeping under a roof, has me happy, but recovery from the trail has it’s own challenges.

Leaving the trail is not easy. I want to eat like I did out there but wind up with a stomach ache if I even consume half the calories I was pounding. I want to run for a workout but my body feels stiff & clunky, my lungs burn, unaccustomed to the quick cardio.

My daily mileage has decreased to about 5 per day rather than 25. I feel slow and sluggish, sore and tired. The weight of the distance I covered this summer seems to be slamming into my body, but not really sinking in to my mind yet. All my expectations about fitness & enlightenment seem unmet when I look through this lens of post trail recovery. All I can say about the past 4 months of my life is that I experienced true wilderness, kindness, adventure, and solitude. Stepping away from the constant feed of direct experience hurts.

Eventually I will readjust, but for now I have decided to continue adventuring instead of committing to this challenge of recovery from trail life. Friday I am heading out to Maine to see what the East Coast is all about & hopefully stay long enough to catch some fall leaves. Soon my feet will be back on a trail & the comforts I have at the moment will be things I dream of. I guess I like having a lot of dreams so when one does come to fruition I can always have a new one to try and breath reality into. CDT, you were a wonderful dream & a spectacular reality. I miss you.

Sept 12th
I am in the middle of a middle. An intermission. Tomorrow I will hop a bus and head into the heart of Maine. A woman named Alien will take me to Baxter State Park- can’t think of a better person to drop me off at the start of the Appalachian Trail. I might as well be going to the moon. This trail sounds so different than the hiking I am used to out west. But I expect to have all my expectations & plans blown out of the water- this is still hiking after all & nothing ever goes as planned, reality is always what it is. I hope the balloon of anxiety I have surrounding this adventure gets popped soon, but for now it is kinda fun ( & stressful) to not know if I will like hiking here or if my body can handle it. That worry might sound funny- I mean shouldn’t I be in excellent physical condition after hiking for almost 4 months?
Last year I assumed the same thing, but when I switched to the Grant Enchantment Trail after the PCT I strained both my knees on the second day & ended my hiking season completely debilitated. At the moment my body feels stiff & tired from the CDT. I will start as slow as I can out here- but day one will be Katahdin- sounds like the equivalent of Whitney as far as knee bashing steepness. I will proceed with caution. Maine is my test state. At the border I will reassess to see if I should keep going.
Underneath it all I am stoked to be hitting the trail! I really hope this is just half way. I want to hike to Georgia by Christmas. I want to get to know this mysterious east & stay in leantos, slip on wet roots, follow white blazes blindly, carry only 3 days of food, sign frequent registers, check my email while I’m on the trail….
Off to buy my food for the 100 mile wilderness!