Monday, July 21, 2008


As I climbed up into the mountains east of Montrose the weather cooled. I walked through a few quick showers in the late afternoon and evening, and felt good to keep walking as the stars came back out from behind the clouds. Around midnight I stopped to heat up some soup by the road and eat some poptarts. I put on long pants for the first time in a month (not including laundromats, when my shorts are in the wash) and drank the warm broth, and packed up, and started walking again.
I didn't stop for another four hours. Walked steadily through the dark hills, down the little canyons, and back up. Made it to the base end of Blue Mesa and slept on the bluff, just a little off the road.
In the morning I got up fairly early and made it to the visitor center by noon. Filled up my water bottles and walked on. In Gunnison I ate dinner and found a place to sleep behind the courthouse, then laid out a little frisbee golf course.
Hole 1: to a bench on the far end of the courthouse lawn, par 4
Hole 2: to a handicapped parking sign across the street, par 2
Hole 3: back across the street to a tree by a building opposite of the courthouse, par 3
Hole 4: all the way down the courthouse to the flagpole, par 3
Hole 5: back to the bench where my pack was laid out, par 2
I probably played twenty rounds. Had to get to three under par before I could stop. And then slept.
The next day I stayed in Gunnison for a while. Hung out at the library, and then walked down the street to the community center, where I watched a movie. No Direction Home, the Bob Dylan documentary, and it was four hours long, so I didn't get out of Gunnison until fairly late. As I was leaving I called a friend of mine, Tim Fleming from Canon City. He had planned, for a while, to try and walk with me at some point, and so we arranged a spot to meet in the morning.
I made it twelve miles out of Gunnison, to Parlin, before stopping outside the post office to sleep, and then walked another five before Tim pulled over and hopped out. One of his friends had driven him up, so he wouldn't have to leave his car somewhere.
By six or seven we had walked to Sargents, and had some dinner at the little cafe, and played a few games of pool before heading back out.
As we started to climb Monarch pass the clouds blew in around us and it started raining. We threw on ponchos, and made it six miles out of Sargents before stopping for the night. The rain let up and we camped in a pull-out four miles from the top of the pass.
In the morning we didn't start until ten, when the sun finally hit my sleeping bag and brought me out of my slumber. By the time we made the summit we were covered in sweat, though the clouds blew over as we ate ice cream, and it rained a little before we headed out again.
At five, three miles down from the town of Monarch, Tim's dad pulled over and picked him up to take him back to Canon. He's in a summer long melodrama at the Annex, and had to be back by evening. So we said our goodbyes, and I started off on my own again.
By eight, in Poncha Springs, the sun was falling away, and I stopped to rest briefly before making the last stretch into Salida.
At ten I stumbled into the apartment complex where both my aunt and great aunt live, and both were waiting to greet me.
In the morning my dad got a ride into town with a neighbor, and he and I started walking downriver. In Howard we met my mom at her vet clinic, and the three of us walked, in the heat of the afternoon, the last four miles to Home.
At the newspaper box I broke down. Stared down the driveway at the house, wrung with summer green. The elm trees blowing. For a long time, now, I've been walking with this sight in mind. Walking with the notion of being back to Coaldale.
I'm taking some time off. One of my best friends is getting married August eighth, and so I'll be here at least until then, resting up.
1600 miles. Eleven weeks. I'm not even half way. But I feel like I've already completed something.

Monday, July 14, 2008


I didn't leave Rangely until fairly late, and only walked a few miles in the dark before pulling over and rolling out the sleeping bag. In the morning I got started fairly early, trying to beat the heat. The day was spent almost entirely in sagebrush hills. Dry and hot, winding through the canyon. I filled up with water at a rest stop twenty miles in, then did another ten before stopping for the night. The next day started off fairly well, as the green came back into the hills and I climbed up Douglas pass. Going down the far side ripped me up fairly well - the constant slap of pavement, as gravity pulled me down, was hard on the shins and the soles. I filled another bottle close to the top of the pass, where some springs come out of the mountains and run down alongside the road. Quickly, though, the trees and green grass died away, and the last fifteen or twenty miles down into Loma were desolate, again. Flat and dry.
I slept off to the side of some kind of business - not sure what, exactly - and woke up to sprinklers. Fortunately it was already warm enough that I didn't freeze, but by the time I hauled all of my things to safety in the parking lot, everything was soaked. I stood on the pavement in my shorts, dripping, and a man from the business came outside.
"Hey man. What's going on?"
"Oh. I just slept over by the building. I mean, I'm not destitute, I just needed a place to pull over for the night, you know."
He nodded. "That's understandable." And then frowned. "But I'm going to have to ask you to go ahead and get your things off of our property."
I packed up in an adjacent parking lot, and then walked toward Fruita, and Grand Junction. From the Grand Junction library I called another of my mom's classmates from vet school, Pete Jouflas, who picked me up and took me back to his house, outside town. He and his family took me out to eat and put me up for the night, and then made a few phone calls, in the morning, to line up a meeting with the local, NBC 11 news. Kristy, Pete's wife, drove me to a City Market, where a reporter and his cameraman interviewed me.
And then I headed out, on highway 50, for Delta, and made twenty three miles before stopping, at eleven thirty, to sleep.
My parents, this week, took some time off and had been camping in the area, and we arranged to meet, Saturday, in Delta. Seven miles before town, in the morning, they found me walking, and pulled over, and drove me down into town. We spent the night at a motel - cooled off in the pool and played cards and watched softball on the television. After ten weeks, it was a welcome reunion.
Sunday we said our goodbyes, and I headed out, again. Ten miles down the road, in Olathe, I stopped to sleep out the heat of afternoon, and made another ten, into Montrose, for the night. I had planned to go on, but decided that I needed to find a library in the morning, and did so.
I'm only five or six days out from home, and I'm more than ready to be back.

Monday, July 7, 2008


This was a long stretch. From Lyman I headed south, down past the blip of Lonetree the first night, and then on into Manila the next afternoon. Stopped and made a batch of sandwiches and checked the local ranger station to ask about where I'd be able to find water between Manila and Vernal. In the evening I pushed past town, and climbed out into the bluffs toward the Flaming Gorge. For eleven miles I climbed up and down (mostly up) through red rock and sunbeam. At sunset I made it to the top of a set of switchbacks four miles long and cut at an 8% grade. My thighs burned and my shirt dripped, and right as I came up onto the top, an old lady grinned real big and gave me a giant thumbs up as she passed me. I started bawling. My emotions are so easily set on fire, now. My heart strains to be in love with the world, and it succeeds.
I camped the night twelve miles out of Manila, then made another thirty miles through the Flaming Gorge Recreation Area the next day. Pushed on to Vernal by late afternoon on Thursday, but by the time I stumbled onto the library, it was already closed for the entire holiday weekend. I stayed Friday in Vernal. Watched the parade come down through the streets. Did some laundry. Slept. And then left town when the heat had died away, around ten that night. I made it halfway to Jensen before turning in behind a church.
Saturday I pushed through Jensen, and out into the final stretch toward Colorado. Half a mile from the border I pulled over in the ditch and slept.
Sunday I crossed the border and made it up to Dinosaur, then headed south-east toward Rangely. Three miles out of town a pickup stopped and a middle-aged couple offered me some work and a place to sleep, and I couldn't refuse. They put me up at the R.V. park where they're staying, fed me, and this morning I went to work hauling brush on a stretch of property they just acquired, back in Utah.
And now I'm back in Rangely, at the library. I'm going to head toward Loma and Grand Junction tonight, to get a jump on the next stretch. The map says that I have 73 miles between here and the interstate, so I might need to try and cache some water, though I've heard that there are some springs down toward the pass. I'll see.

An entry from my journal:

Things I hated about today: The heat. The insufferable heat. The sun itself. That burning glob in the burning sky sending out little beams of burning light. And the heat from the motor homes as they climbed the hill and passed me by, their engines struggling. I hated that they were sitting in air conditioning at my expense. Hated that they were getting four miles to the gallon to entertain themselves for a week's vacation. And I hated how everyone had to pull a boat. Had to pull a boat or haul an ATV or lash a whole fleet of ATVs inside their boat.
I hated the heat some more. Hated the way it made me sweat, and hated the way the sweat rubbed on my skin. My armpits and the inside of my thighs rubbed and rubbed and sweated and sweated, until I was raw and stinging with every step.
I hated the notion of town. The notion of fountain drinks and ice cream, out of reach. And I hated getting to town. Hated passing dog kennels and law firms and nurseries and hair salons and not seeing so much as a coke machine for miles, or a gas station. And then I hated the gas station. Hated having to stand in line, dripping, panting, to fill my 44 ounce fountain drink cup. Hated having to stand in line to pay for it, even though I started to gulp it down. I hated the first gulp. So incredibly cold and delicious, having waited for it so long, having struggled for hours with its idea in my head, and the gulp itself seemed out of place. Seemed too cold. I gulped and my head went funny and the cold wrapped fingers around my brain.
And then I hated sitting outside. Drinking my drink out front while the pickup trucks pulled up and blew their heat on me. Hated how the drivers left their engines idling as they went inside so that the wife and kids could remain in their fake states of air conditioned bliss for an extra five minutes.
And I hated the heat. Hated it.

Things I loved about today: I loved waking up. First to the yip-yelp of the coyotes in the hills around me, high in the mountains. Their seemingly congratulatory remarks to each other in the cold. I loved the way my face, as I looked up at the stars, was bitterly frozen, and loved tucking it back under, nose first, into the warm depths of the sleeping bag.
I loved waking up again. With the sun on the sleeping bag, heating me up so quickly and telling me to climb up from the bag and pack up my things and be on my way. Telling me to walk.
And I loved walking. Loved the first five minutes. The first five miles. Loved coming over the pass, green with alpine grass and covered in little white flowers, and scattered with aspens, their leaves blowing in the breeze. Loved the shade that sloped down across the road from the trees, where I walked. Loved the sound of the water bottle sloshing in my pack. Loved the peanut butter and orange marmalade sandwich for breakfast, sticking in my teeth.
In town: I was in the midst of hate, and then suddenly the ice truck pulled up, and I loved it. Loved how the two Latino guys jumped out and threw up the rolling back door of the truck. Loved the way one of them jumped inside and starting tossing down bags to the other, who stacked them on a waiting dolly. Loved as his gloved hands nimbly flexed and grabbed and patted. I loved the rhythm: Catch, Smack, Stack...Catch, Smack, Stack... I loved watching as the stack grew. Eleven bags to a layer. Two layers. Three. Six. Eight. The stack grew as high as the man stacking and he had to reach up over his head to put them in place. Thirteen layers. Eleven bags per layer. Seven pounds per bag. 1001 pounds of ice, sitting in front of me. 94 degrees, on the pavement.
And I loved the way the men rolled the dolly inside and re-stacked the ice inside the freezer. 23 degrees, inside the freezer.
I loved the quickness of it all. The rush to get it all from the truck into the store, under the sun. 'How much ice do you go through,' I asked the lady in the store. 'A lot,' she said. 'They have to bring it two or three times a day.' 'And how much does it cost?' I asked. 'A dollar fifty three a bag,' she said, 'including tax. Three - 0 - seven for two bags.' (As if that were a steal.) 'And we hardly ever sell just a bag. Five or ten at a time, mostly.'
I loved, today, the idea of the ice. The idea of the time it buys, that must be bought. The idea that all that ice will just buy a little time - maybe to keep your beer cold, or your milk, or your thinly sliced ham from the grocery store deli - and is then doomed to melt back away. Doomed to go back into water. Doomed to be poured out on the side of the road, or in a campground, somewhere...
I loved evening. As the sun fell and the heat faded a little. Loved walking on the sidewalks. Loved it when a kid in a car yelled at me from a stoplight. 'Cut your hair!' And I smiled and said 'Sure,' and he said 'I'll give you a hundred dollars to cut your hair.' I was interested. 'Okay,' I said. I loved how instead of pulling out scissors he pulled out a middle finger and waved it at me as the light turned green.
I loved the grocery store. Loved the familiar aisles, and sections. Deli. Produce. Bakery. Bread. Soup. Dairy. Cosmetics. Customer Service. Loved being surrounded by food. And loved how everyone seemed eager to talk to me, to hear my story. The older couple. The younger couple. The mother and daughter. The checkout clerk. And I loved talking about myself, about my trip. Loved feeling social.
I loved eating my macaroni outside the store, on the sidewalk.
I loved putting new film in my camera.
And I loved, today, the way that everything seemed to be a love or a hate, and the way that nothing seemed bland, or mundane.
It's interesting to think that when my life seemed too pedestrian, I became a pedestrian. The pedestrian seems to be going away.