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.

27 May 2007

Memorial Daze, Lander, Wy

Two days ago I called my ex-wife Alexcia, touched her world superficially with kid gloves shaped into words. She is moving faster and faster toward becoming a stranger that she blames on her busy bundle of life as if once she ties it up with stronger string; ties tighter, and tighter still, she will then find the perfect hour and seven minutes to place to me a post that will smell of used to be's , and a strong wind of still caring. Her boat has sailing away and I am waving as if she is still watching. I ask about her engagement, her life with him and his two kids in Minnesota, and then I glaze over as she answers. My mind is only hearing fluctuations in her voice, old notes of pleasure and thought, still, in my mind, we are dancing on the kitchen floor in stocking feet as if our faces will be smile tight forever, though now the image is seen through gause. Forever is spinning down fast. I miss the sisterhood of my wife, sharing with my friend. Living is missing rooms left behind, and the perpetual closing of doors on still more rooms abandoned. This I know. And still, as fall becomes the winter, and spring asks everyone to forgive and forget into summer, I wonder about this road on Memorial Day weekend, and remember the staggering march that brought me here. In an hour I'll begin walking toward Cody. In a hour I will be under a fresh sweat and forget this field of red and white checkered picnic blankets, knowing that someday I will be on my own boat no longer looking back to see who is still waving, or not-- though it is a pathetic art lost on me...this pretending to be eating well while inside I am starving to death on shore.

We were a marvelous group of western travelers for two days, bookended by two chilly nights. We sat on the rubberized metal planks of the picnic table, talking until we were too cold to sit and talk any longer in the black that follows day, most of our good stories used up, and we were too lazy to reach inside ourselves and unpack more. Ted and Dan rode in on bikes just as the day surrendered under the slant of evening Friday night.
"I wouldn't set camp by that dirt road," I warned as Dan walked his bike under a roadside tree. " It's almost graduation and these teenster's think this strip is a proving ground. They'll run up and down this road in their mazdas and pickup trucks until road dust is on everything you own, and maybe toss an empty bottle at your tent just for good measure. Last night a man jumped on my tent under some kind of stimulant and began to scream and beat my tent with a big stick. It was about 2am. My head is tuned for bear so I was outside still wailing some battle call at the top of my lungs, a yell I carried out of a dream, past two zippers I don't remember opening, and ready to war. The man panicked at my rage and ran into a tree just behind him before I was awake enough to call off the killing of him, and some of the want. I was awake for hours after that. Yep, better to camp up by the treeline," I trailed off.
Dan walked his touring bike up the plush lawn to me, we shook hello, and the anvil of being alone way to long fell off my head. Steve joined us later, another bikerider touring America with a heart intent on living. We set our three tents in formation ready for a scuffle that never came, and began to open each other's life with camp spoons, lives we had been blessed to share for a night, and maybe into the next day.
I was sad to see Steve leave for Muddy Gap in the morning, sadder still when Dan and Ted left today, but thankful that I am no longer starving for companionship, being well fed with great company. I was given wonderful men to share stories of the road with, dog teeth barely escaped, kindnesses from little ol' ladies that cameoed their faces, and generosity on our hearts forever, and the lift that comes with being outside the system. I was given friends that understood the weight of constantly leaving..at least its flavor, it's sound for the road is still rather new to them.
Walking off into the same direction this morning, at least until that far away signal light,I watch Ted and Dan's sun brown backs become silver, then a white you could read by, and finally red. Their bikes went from silent width to a line, and then they were sitting on saddles of air soundlessly leaving, a turn, then they were gone.
Good things move away fast; fantastic things are a breath, a gust of wind we try to hold in our mouths, minds determined to never breathe again for fear of the loss of it...and then it is gone. The breath is exhaled and for lack of anything else to do, we sigh. Eventually, if we are lucky, and if we are easy in this life, we smile, turn, adjust our hats, and step toward the next breath, hoping.
The soft scuff of my new brass bells move under my holstered leather gloves. I cannot camp here tonight. The house is always sold when the baby dies. Nothing is as lonely as a picnic table after everyone has gone home but you...knowing they will never come back again. Trodding into a too hot morning I am glad I have no appetite to be in a camp with my friends gone. Just now, just for this moment I taste the good-byes, sweat in the mouth before the rise of vomit, or the thick bile of being alone is swollowed, and I hope not to taste it. I held their forearms with my left hand as we shook out out separations into instant memories, and we locked eyes one last time in sincerity. Two more pictures and then they are crushing stones under sharp tires as I walk slowly, too slowly behind. Tonight they too, like Steve's last night after a lone day of pedalling, will arrive in Muddy Gap to camp in a town of absence before moving on. They will be my index finger's length on a map from here by evening. I will have walked a thumbnail past being lonely. A thumbnail toward Cody.
We sat in the same smoke for two nights, cans of beer we made empty, and the relish of meals made like art we ate hearing our eyes roll up into our heads like window shades misbehaving, and then we smiled with mouths full of cheesecake and fresh cherries knowing we would never be on this same raft, in this field of sweet grass eating cherry cheesecake again hearing only the sun.

23 May 2007

Landed In Lander, WY

The sky pulls a mottled soot curtain from the west to east too full of promise, too full of rain. At The Open Door Cafe' I kick start my titanium cup after 125 miles without a store or coffee I haven't field ground the beans for. No complaints, being blessed to have fresh oily beans from base camp Betty. I am on fumes now, and the motor in my feet is tired of kicking on powdered mix food and the dusty remnants of old jerky from Oklahoma,...yes Oklahoma.
No mail waits at the post. Maybe a hello waits at the post in Thermopolis, WY.
No trees offer cover from the storm that took all night to crawl into town already dropping sleet last night as I tried to sleep under my nylon roof. Slow in, slow out is the old weather jargon. I'm going to get seriously wet. That mixed with subfreezing nights that solidify the top inch of my water tank and I see a long night awaiting me. The energy is fresh in Lander. Instead of being told by Jim Wynn, a field reporter for the Lander Journal, that I must go see that object, or travel over there...I am told I need to be right here. Wonderfully original. Jim gives me a map to the city park where I can stay for several nights and get to know the town that pulled me out of South Pass, Red Canyon, and through so many breathtaking vistas a camera simply nods at but never records. I am starved for words, for people, for the sweet nip of the familiar..or even an illusion of it before I am stranger to all once again.

The newest report straight from Yellowstone is 610 grizzly bears are in the park, not to include black bears. Cody, the town I have been aiming for, is said to have even more fine furred friends than Yellowstone as many bears flee the concentration of people at the park for the quieter outlying regions. Trooper Ed Sabourin of the Wyoming Highway Patrol is a state trooper that heard from a fellow trooper I was heading north. When he sees me forty miles above Rock Springs he pulls around facing me with his cruiser. I give my card and a grit laced smile. I offer my license. He waves his hand in a negative, and asks to keep the card. This isn't Oklahoma. We talk about the land, the journey, bears and family. With a serious face I am warned against traveling through Cody, being alone and on foot. The trooper is far from the last to give me heads up about Cody. I will see Cody, just maybe not this trip. Maybe I will meet a friend along the way. I hate to miss this gem of America being so close. I would regret it.

South Pass was a travel in time, a travel in solitude. How incredible it was to walk in the steps of the pony express riders, to sleep on the Oregon trail, and to sip water at the Parting of Ways while thinking of the lives that were once thrown together for a journey not unlike mine, and then at this point in their route they said their good-byes as some went on to California, others Oregon, and some took the Mormon move toward Utah pulling carts that look very familiar. (Yes, the cart is still a must for food and water, while I also carry Crow Dog, my pack.) The sadness hung in me for over a day for all those that I have parted the company of on this quest, so many souls reaching out above and beyond mere gesture. A Parting or Ways. I have begun to know that junction well in my life. In a couple of weeks I will be in Montana and still tying what little remains in my food bundle into any hopeful perch, then lying back in my tent wondering when I get up at 6am if I will have fresh coffee beans and cakes, and rasins in boiled rolled oats, or powered grass or sand and a shredded waterproof sack that smells like eating. Time alone will show the partings that await.

11 May 2007

Rock Springs, WY

I ran out of water 14 miles before I got to Rock Springs in the heat of it. Hole in water tank, and one tank split totally. Not Good in unsettled southwestern Wyoming. A blizzard in Flaming Gorge held me in snow cave with my tent as a liner...for three days under 18 inches of snow...plus more snow falling every minute; falling that made the tree which held my food a treasure hunt to find. That was a very long road ago as I walked among wild horses whose curiosity brought them remarkable close except for the black stallion that reared and cantered in circles two hundred yards out on a barren table of red earth.
Several storms have been on me with each mountain pass, making me tired of the deep white cold of it--and yet recharging my eyes with a unique beauty that drenched my soul.....and feet. I have walked the saddles taken by mountain men, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, better understanding their ability to lose a posse' time after time.
Never have I arrived in a town while being this filthy (the promised rivers were not), this depleted of food, water, and self. My pants are oil cloth I can fingernail a cloud into. My face is sandpaper adhered by the sharp bite of salt I replace on my tongue with sea salt from a vial I keep in my pouch on my waist, along with a stick of grease for my shattered lips, a gratitude stone that is half a flint spear point, and several beads I can't send away. Everything has gone from pale sand and rock to the industrial blue-gray of factories and fields of pipe. I am on the outskirts of Rock Springs. This is all I see. I see no springs with swimmers drying on boulders, boulders that squat in the unbridled sun. I see angles drawn by man, and earth being moved to be moved again so that it is in all of my mouth each time I breathe. I am a horse promised a stable after a hard 75 mile ride, only to see torn canvas feathering from an old wooden frame set out by broken tractors and barrels that can't hold water anymore. In a day I'll be regrouped from the hard walk from Vernal, for there is again nothing fore 60 miles before me, all the while the mercury rises. In two days I will not crumple the map and sigh into my cravat. In three days I will be wearing new shoes, smiling over a contented stomach, and not dreaming about ankle deep water softly talking roundness into stones. In days I will blink into a new morning with the draw of adventure eagerly waiting under the laces of my shoes.