WhiteCrow Walking

My solo walk across America began in Maine. I walked for nearly 3 years carrying a backpack and facing countless dangers, as well as met wonderful people I could have never made it without. From bullets to bears I moved through mountains of snow and across burning desert country. The end result will be a book, and the fruition of a childhood dream. This is a blog from the field with rough stories about my steps along the way.

30 April 2007

Vernal,Utah in Route To Flaming Gorge

Maybe it is forty miles to Wyoming depending on the hip of the road or the pass I take, if I ever set this map down that I have soiled and tattered nearly out of existence. Wyoming. It is a crazy loop of string in my mind that is trying to connect all of the miles that have brought me over America and through so many lives that I have no thought of forgetting. I ask everybody about bears, the powerful grizz, asking where exactly is the line in the sand. "Your on it," I am told. Fifty dollars worth of food shudder on my cart, worried that it will be taken in in one meal. Everything about me smells like meals eaten and the smoke of two weeks of cooking over fire with sage wood. Inside of me in a area connected to my fight or flight response is a shudder of my own. For weeks I have been practicing the string and bag technique once again, getting all that is edible out of my nylon house and into a tree. Every morning I find an apple, a bar of lavender soap (keeps bugs away), a bit of jerky, alright, and maybe one chocolate bar--dove dark. I have become my grandmother with candy under the pillow. I'll have to search my pack more carefully now. The grizzly has just been taken off the endangered species list. Have I been added to it?

If there have been lonely miles before now, this is the same flavor of land, the same sound of silence once I leave this town. A mouse found its way into my pack last night. I talked to it. A nervous skunk flirted at my door, gave a free sample of her spring scent, then waddled into the grass with my apple core. It was 97 degrees the day before yesterday when I called it a day at one in the afternoon. It was ten degrees on Indian Canyon, and I was covered with a layer of hard blown ice, a white out of wind and snow only a week ago and now my cheese sweats and my candy bars are sports goo in plastic pouches that still say Snicker's. I can only flex so far before the man in my head yells for a break, or at least a pause between extremes to get the anti-freeze glans set up to sweat like a fiend as I plod up yet another mountain or stone red mesa. While on the hellacious rise before entering Vernal I found a concrete underpass for water to flow when water is there to flow, and animals to move under Rt. 191 through. It became home for a night; an afternoon to polish found ivory elk teeth, write postcards to people I've met along the walk, and feel the cooling effect of a heavy sweat. What spring? Dinner was wild rice with fresh mushrooms, real montery jack cheese, chilies,scallions all folded into tortillas and spiced slices of cucumber and tomato. I sip tea made from spearmint leaves I found two nights ago by the puddled remains of a creek, and watch the rock formations change in the passing light through the end of the concrete pass. After all of this walking I have forgotten to feel lonely. I tell myself this out load, and believe it with a smile feeling the cold of the concrete I lean against enter my back. The boulders turn their faces to slate blue, wink , and then move over to reds and golds so hard to blend with a brush or knife on a palette in any believable fashion for canvas to remember. I listen with my eyes the same way we put on glasses to answer the phone. I listen harder.

Vernal is a sweet town in the middle of a boom running on the petrol demand that is in the drilling south of town, like so many southern states where oil and natural gas still rumble beneath the earth...only Vernal appears to spend some of its wealth back on its own in a good way; the college is expanding, new shops open and flourish. People are smiling. Houses are being constructed faster than a supple of wood can be shipped in. New pick-up trucks cruise the town, and it appears everything here in Vernal is blooming in richness for spring. Every boom has its cycle though, and then ...bust. A few people that I have talked to say that this ride has been a good one, and although it is due to bottom out, new money has made some great changes in this high desert town that are here to stay and it has offer some wholesome new blood to this town. The energy of the people here is easy and friendly with people sharing their town pride at the tip of a hat, and everyone has a favorite route through Flaming Gorge that they are just thrilled to pull up a chair, finger over a map with excitement talking about all the best vantage points I just have to titter above with camera at the ready....and my favorite topic, the glorious return of trees and rivers...at least for a while.

20 April 2007

Making a Sketch

From Helper, Utah I am heading north toward Duchesne, Vernal, and then up to Flaming Gorge where I'll cross over to Wyoming from Utah. From the land of compact car size bears and Yellowstone (no worries here,right), I'll head into Montana and Crow Country.
Winter comes early to the northern 48 when the rubber under my feet is the only transport I use so there are no quick get aways. Without much perceived delay in Montana I'll head over to Northern California/Southern Oregon and then run these legs up the coast up to Olympia National Park, Washington to end my walk somewhere in northern Washington on the coastal waters of the Pacific late this year or early spring. So much on this journey depends on the weather, and of course the people I meet along the way.

More and more people ask me what I'll do after the walk. Is shrugging an answer? Years ago I worked with people with special needs. On Saturday I would make a grand breakfast for six to ten of my smilingly buoyant clients. All the while as they lit into pancakes, bacon, berries, whip cream, coffee, and fresh orange juice they would be asking me about meals to come and the great eats we might have next week. There is so much on my table still as I walk north I cannot think about sitting down to anything else while all my heart is still romancing a freshly packed Crow Dog back under a sun cover (to save thread burn), and into another day of walking miles I have, in spite of all my tests and worries, come to adore. There are books to write, talks to give, friends to re-remember over a cold glass of green beer and hot wings, and the lazy ease of predictability, and the novelity of it to enjoy...for a while. Already I consider walking across New Zealand and The Land Down Under. Nepal? Perhaps I am also thinking of three egg omelette's with a mouth full of home fries. I think about not walking until all I can think of is this current joy, these people I have come to know, and so many maps that wait for my fingers to wander over. Inside I will always be walking regardless if these feet ever settle. I shrug my shoulders to the old man on the oak bench that is looking for warmth from a morning sun that is still too weak. "So ya gonna teach again when you settle this walk?"
"I wonder if I'm all settled out."
He squints over my shoulder, "I'd walk with you if I didn't have these legs."

19 April 2007

Helper, Utah

Heading north to Wyoming, back into the land of snow with a deep and complete longing for hardwood forests, less sand, as well as creeks to occasionally wash out a shirt and pair of pants. Yesterday I arrived in Helper (north of Price, Utah) with new shoes, new twin tires for the 150 lb. loaded cart , fresh food, decent shave, and five gallons of water --all ready to climb Indian Canyon high into the northern land above ( approx 8,ooo feet and up). Told to stop by the mission for a warm meal at the railroad and Helper museum, I do and a warm meal turns into a room for three days of rest, a couple of nights off the trail, another reporter stops by to laugh out stories with, new friends point at the mission wall map of America while we talk of roads to come with still the same original dance flicking in my eyes. In Helper's hay day the mission was a bordello and still holds that energy somewhere under its paint, as does the town. Early in the last century 27 languages were spoken here, and coal was the black coveted gold of the area that held promise and drew the people in from all over the globe. Walking the main street of the town (a current pop. of approx. 2,000 though most unseen) I peer behind smoked windows of stores and taverns that have saddled up and moved along down the trail. Even with many closed shops there are a few doors that open with smiles under tooled tin and copper ceilings, and the town has a facade to write home about, recently awarded one of the top old west towns in America. Nearly every building has an historical marker. In fact Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid lived in Helper for a term collecting information, before making a clean get away with $8,ooo in in a combination of gold dust and cash. The money was never recovered. Helper is steeped in history.
My large can of bear spray comes out of hiding from being useless deep within my pack, now ready for battle. I frown at all my food, food that I have adored through many a long hungry night as I stoked my inner fire through many dark hours to try to keep my weight up. I am sad with the fresh idea that we will no longer be tent mates. Now my food pack will dangle as a pinata' twenty trees away from the tent door(as soon as there are trees), and I will listen to every sound anew always wondering if morning will shine dawn on a mound of shredded packaging. There are to many miles to walk before the slack is taken out of my ribs to sleep easy while my precious food swing from a branch perfumed with promise.

12 April 2007

Without Road

Green River, Utah

From a little over five gallons my supply of water dropped to two quarts by the time four and a half days passed, uncounted miles wandering in the desert--walking over trails even the cattle abandoned many rains ago, and then I find their dead half engaged in the sand, and I keep walking certain of sun course, compass, and once in a while I swear I can hear the interstate miles to the south until the return of wind removes all sound except for its own chewing in my ears. No matter how certain I am of my navigational skills, when I leave the road to make my way to the town of Green River( because walking the interstate is illegal and there is Nothing else), all the little uncertainties of the world find a voice in me as water becomes sweat, and food becomes the memory of hard apples and cold cheese cut on a clean plate.

It is still funny without laughter the way this mind walks after me. Before I left the tar that runs up from Moab for sand, I found a sleave of new compact discs by the road. The first words out of my mouth were that I'd mail these to my brother Steve. My feet bite the ground. What happens in the mind that forgets the death of a brother twenty four years past? I reset my thoughts as a finger would turn forward the slow hand of a clock. And tomorrow, will I have to set my mind again? Miles have compiled the dead and the living so that the field is the same. Everything is memory from a land that no longer is in check. The world that I left, friends known, couples I knew as childless, and even my own marriage before its death, everything has floated away into an inaccurate soup.

The tires on the cart are worn through to the hollow the labeling said were solid. Soon they will fold open into uselessness. My shoes are worn to smooth rubber that prints every stone on my feet as I walk while the worn heels tilt my legs out to walk like a cowboy fresh out of the saddle. The largest water tank of three gallons drips like a faucet with a spoiled washer from a hole on the bottom I can not find. I am told the town of Price will have the fix I need for all my little ills. Sixty plus miles straddle above me before I'll touch down in Price. Another promise, another re-supply before I take my pen to map with total conviction that these distances are just variations on an old theme. It is not the same. Miles often no longer have flavor and little rewards are days apart, subtle as feathers falling in a sleepers room. These are mental miles; miles when the mind does not have enough to hold it down so that it is dayly wanders over years, relationships, brushes against the smell of sage warming in the morning sun then reels it back in a sigh, and now I am watching antelope moving too fast and far too close to my side realize, and somehow I never see them leave. Softly, very softly, all the world is humming as yesterday becomes today. I did sleep didn't I?

07 April 2007

110 miles Till Water

Still in Moab for yet another day that becomes Saturday night and too mush crazy poured on the road north from brown and green bottles for me to think of leaving until tomorrow. I will carry seven gallons of water in two tanks(so if one breaks I may still live). Four apples, 2# chunky peanut butter, raspberry jelly filled in old plastic peanut butter jar to lose glass, 10 oz. safflower oil, 2# Bisquick, 2# hot pepper beef jerky, 4 Ramon noodles, 1 1/2 # veggie burger dry mix, pepperjack cheese, assorted teas, 1 # whole espresso coffee beans, 6 bagels cin. ras., 2 tins sardines, 2 # rolled oats, two stacks of tortillas(20 total count), 3 large dark choc. bars, 6 cocoa, 6 breakfast bars, one titanium flask of Capt. Morgan spiced rum (4 oz.), 4 bags dried fruit and nuts.

05 April 2007

Moab's Big Easy

As the days move toward summer, I move toward two years walking, two years of living in a tent and making fires within the sound of the road moving past like insects I still pray never bite. Here in Moab I blend. This is a land where river adventure on watercraft, boulder bouncing in a steriod jacked jeeps for a week on Moab Jeep Safari, or canyon humping with rock jocks is all part of the landscape. Though I still look like I have wandered in from the Aussie outback with my 100 pound two wheel cart, and 70 pound pack high on my shoulders, Exofficio clothing, and wide brim Tilley propped up by two walking sticks, I am two looks and a return to the shot of espresso, or a turn and a nod in the middle of a conversation. It is good to just be though the cart is a bit much in the realm of society...and narrow sidewalks.
It is time to think about the life to come after I enter the third and last year ( or so) of walking across America. Many people already ask me about what I'll do after I peak out in Washington state with my feet in the ocean so far from the coast of Maine and the ocean where I began. As if I have been told that a child is on the way in the form of life after the walk, I can not fathom the concept until I see the swell rising; the promise getting closer. As these open miles pass, or fail to (as it sometimes seems), I move over possible names for children and new dreams, consider new places untraveled and new shoes I could ruin.... I am still a walker and know nothing of a week in the same bed or the smell of this skin stripped of trail dust and two weeks of oil and cedar smoke mixed with the sage tied inside the bandana around my neck.
Even now I am given new new worries, new trials to master as I tie concern into the brim of my hat with a tug that keeps the early morning rays out of my eyes. It is easy to see 140 miles of natures hardships and rich views before I make the next town somewhere above Flaming Gorge. The idea of buying enough food, the right food, and a mule's reasonable might to carry it keeps me here in Moab another day as I buy trinkets that please my heart's need to create, mail out gear I should keep, watch beautiful women walk by joyfully offering themselves to their sun god, and hope I can find a way to make six gallons of water weigh less than a buick.
These are the miles now where nobody stops. Days again without conversation. These days are broken into pieces of sky, holes in stacked boulders I climb and search like a squirrel, and snacks often have taken the place of meals for many times I have no energy to stir into one pot still like it is the first time...not unless I find a creek, or a small tree that moves like a sundress over barefoot roots in sand. Even the slightest tree has become a prized umbrella that I will offer up all my milage to just for an hour's reprieve out of the sun in which to watch the world pass by with thick lazy eyes and the easy swollow of water still cool from last night's camp.