Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In Tacoma

The train was an hour and a half late getting into Glenwood on Sunday. My parents and I sat in the station and worked on a crossword puzzle before walking outside to see it pull up. I pulled my pack up to coach and my parents stood on the hill outside and waved, and I waved back, through tinted glass.
We followed the river for a while, up through the pale red canyons, the water thick with runoff, and as we crossed into Utah the windows filled with sagebrush hills, instead.
West. Into Nevada in the night, my chair leaned back and my foot-rest sprung up. The pack in the seat next to me. And across into California the next day. Up into the Sierra Nevadas, still thick with snow, and through the blasted tunnels of Donner pass, then down and down, still west, until Sacremento. The six hour layover passed quickly in the balm of the evening. I lugged around downtown, checked out the mall and the library, and headed back to the station to read until the next train arrived.
At midnight we boarded and pulled out heading north, the second of my four tickets torn. I slept most of the way through until morning, and Klamath Falls, where we switched to bus for the next stretch, all the way up to Eugene. Through the mountains we hit alternating rain and snow and sleet and the trees were white in the cold. It didn't make me anxious to get going, watching the windshield wipers beat back and forth, furiously, trying to stay up with the fevered pace of the sky.
Back on the train, though, the weather brightened, and the last seven hour stretch, up into Washinton and through to Tacoma, was mostly lit with sun. The thick forests shone damp, and the Columbia swirled brightly. Up through Salem, and Portland, and Olympia, and into the station here in Tacoma.
Judy is....a second cousin? I think that's right, but I'm not sure. She recognized me, though, as I pulled my pack off the train, and tonight I'm at her house. Tomorrow she's going to show me around town, walk me down the bay and such, and then Thursday I'll head out to the actual coast.
To officially begin.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Four Days Out

Getting close now. The bag is packed. The ticket's been bought.
Tomorrow my parents are driving me up to Glenwood Springs to hit Amtrak, and I'm taking the train all the way out to Sacramento. A big landslide a few weeks ago knocked out part of the track north of there, up into Oregon, so I'll get on a bus until Eugene before getting back on the train. I'll get off in Tacoma, where some relatives of ours live and stay the night with them, and then I'll get a ride down through Olympia and out west to the coast the next day. The place I have my eye on is called Ocean City, but I could end up somewhere else. As long as I get to the ocean I'll be happy. And then I start walking.
The idea for the walk didn't hit me all at once. About a year ago I started out on a walking trip and I had no idea how long I'd be gone. A week, maybe, or two. Or three. I thought I might hitch some, might catch a bus and head east. But I walked twenty five miles the first day with no training under my belt, and I threw up my thumb the next morning and got a ride home. Forget walking, I told myself. Too slow, and painful. Stick to driving, or biking, or roller-blading. But don't walk.
Somewhere, though, the idea crawled, slowly, back into my head. I don't know when, exactly, or how I thought of doing the thing barefoot, but I started walking at night. Out to the high school, around the track, up the sidewalks under the lights. I filled my backpack with rice and National Geographics. And the plans started forming.
So tomorrow I'll be gone, streaking away to the west, and in a few days I'll stick my foot in the water and turn around. I don't know what I'll find. Don't know how my feet will hold up. Don't know how many packs of Top Ramon it'll take to keep me going. But it'll work out.
On my last night in Canon, on my walk through town I ran into a stray, black cat. He ran up and rubbed himself on my leg and I scratched him while he looked up at me with his glowing, green rings of eyes. I've never been superstitious. But I think that the world provides, that the wind will be behind me and that the road will keep running out in front to show the way. And I think that if you can befriend an omen, or if it befriends you, trots up and rubs your leg, let's say, then you don't have anything to worry about.