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 August 2007

Grizzly Steps

Heat brought me down to the tributary that works through a cove of cottonwood and non-descript scrub that perpetually drinks from the shore of round rocks walking root to root toward the clear Yellowstone River a couple of miles north, the same Yellowstone I had just broke camp on. It is the same pass that holds bragging rights to Lewis and Clark having ridden their 49 horses through 201 years ago...and one month. I read the sign this morning mentioning Lewis on horseback chased a grizzly through the fields just for fun.
From where I caught the shine and sparkle of creek water in my titanium pot to filter into drink I can see black mud banked twenty feet down stream. Thinking that I should go check for bear sign in the damp mud I grab my camera and bear spray, safety off. I crossed a fallen tree and there beside my feet in the sucking sand that takes in my foot are grizzly tracks with water just now moving in. The bear, approx. 250-300 lbs. just left the tracks of a fawn it was following and the creek as I climbed down the bank. This is when I should have gathered up my tack and found the road 500 yards back. This is not what I did. It is funny how what we fear is just what the heart curiously beats toward. I tell myself I just wanted a picture. I do not. I put the camera in my pocket and the bear spray I slide into my back pocket. I want to move over fear and own it again, always it is the first time. Slowly my feet are moving on blades making sound, without my need to tell them. It is silly really, worrying about sound. The bear knows full well I was in his water, in his wood line, and now passing through his field to where the apples fall to earth on there own accord. Thump, thump, thump. I walk until I fell the slow rise of down hair on the back of my neck lift away from the sweat and trail grime of my neck. I walk until I heard a voice inside my head, and signs outside say stop, and now it is reasonable, not fear alone. A bush to my left was circled back to. I fell it. There is no noise to be heard. Only breathing. It is the only place that is silent as birds flicked everywhere but to my left. It is where I would have waited. Slowly I give a nod and backtrack to the creek without turning my eyes away from the brush, backtrack until my feet are wet and I can easily smell the heat coming off the blacktop above. Here I take pictures of bear claws that sank in the black earth and know very clearly I had traveled to Yellowstone, and off the map.

"Yep, I'd say your gonna see a few more grizz before you get yourself out of these mountains. Plan on it." (Farmer standing in his field offering up advice on my chances of running into bears as head west into Idaho.)

Big Timber, Montana

At the North 40 coffee shop I order a muffin. Extra butter pools on the hot white industrial plate, waiting for the muffin to cool, waiting for the shakes to stop that flick my fingers like fly wings and for my thoughts to even out. Filtering water out of ditches has left me wanting, my head sun punched by heat that comes with perpetual walking that sweats my soul out through my brow and shirt. The day before yesterday I sat by the side of the road to bring my pulse back down, down out of my head into my chest. My boot was untied and I could not remember how to tie it again. I tried three times then waited as I sipped hot water that tasted like stagnant pond, leaves and old traces of lemon tea. By the time the coin of shade from a small tree had left me again in the sun I could remember the loop in lace my brother taught me 39 years ago; appreciate the need to knock on a door for more water... knock on a door when I saw one. Summer lingers on.

21 August 2007


Bridger, Montana

Into autumn, into history, into the frames of movies I walk and everything is smoke riding on the tops of mountains. A week ago a black bear decided to attack a man sleeping in his tent past the point when he woke up screaming. Then the bear jumped up and down on the man imprisoned inside his tent. The bear wanted in to harvest the man, the man wanted out to preserve his life. Finally another camper with a baseball bat convinced the bear to run off.
I arrived in Bridger with the sun burnt into my face, deeper than bone. A couple of men gathered around me to say hello and ask if I saw the sight of the bear jumping in rage over his fresh wrap meal. I was in the next valley I explained, but word travels over these mountains fast. I tried to grin at the humor they found but it was weak with my mind placing my flesh, my bones under the same horrible force alone in some unknown camp.
Given a lemonade by one of the men on Main I lighten at news of a free park to camp in without once again preparing for bear...at least as much. The Crow res. is just to the east though the phone has yet to give me a human on the other end of the line. I consider Crow country. I consider winter coming soon with the same scale over my worn out map. Fire is all over the north and west; so much fire the Chamber of Com. tells me to head north until I'm touching Canada and then go south and west across toward Oregon as if I am driving a van. I lip the ice lemonade that is now more water than lemon and smell even in the heat the coming of fall, knowing neither man or beast can find reason in this smoke brought by wind. For now I walk north, talking to strangers while unconsciously pulling on my shirt tails that are still giving cooling moisture from the Yellowstone River I sat in miles ago. I am talking too much to myself these days, days of eating pan warmed flat bread on the riverbank, wondering which road I'll take..or which road will take me past fields of fat apples, and bears that lie like breathing grass, roads that bottleneck into walking suicide I find I shoot myself with over and over again.
Mornings are cool now. Stories, they are everywhere. Legends have lived here I tell myself. Legends of the fall.

08 August 2007


I believe I have opened the comment area for respectful use. Please remember that the blog is a rough field report of sorts. It is not the book that I will be writing about my walk solo walk across America. This blog is my gift to you and all those I meet along this road. This computer journal does not earn a dollar for me or the walk. I write because I want to, to say thank you to all those that shared an apple, a smile, a story,.....and most of all for those that believe in this journey of America.

Fire On The Mountains

Before leaving town I visit fellow veteran Henry Bennett. He is a broad man that carrys the hunt in his shoulders, in his powerful hands. Into my right hand he places one at a time, a mound of bullets he has loaded for the gravest extreme. Grizz. Henry is a story waiting on a listener. I listen through fields and through hunts as Henry gifts a long knife into my left hand that he made from a file, then polished into a mirror. Henry smiles as he moves his pointing finger near the hilt. "What I like most about this knife is that it doesn't read CHINA across the blade," Henry grins at me like a young soldier, like an old friend I had forgotten the memory of. We are standing in and out of his front yard, and then we're thrown into Montana's back country dressing elk with no other voices for a hundred miles, at once I am alone looking back, looking forward, looking inside for a compass with magnetic pull. Nothing speaks. Here I have been adopted. Here I have been given many faces pleading concern up and out through their eyes, watching me prepare to leave, porch and curb, from experience and innocence fingers are folded and unfolded, shuffled like cards nobody can turn over except the digital movement of time. They want to save me from the road, from myself. They want to see me fulfill a dream far from just started, and yet I see them stare with a mouthful of words they can't say or swallow and I understand. I can't swollow either. I will listen more in Cody.
The newspapers all talk about the fire coming down from the mountains, across the high deserts and open plains into the course I've plotted. Homes are abandoned with little hope and some given to fire. This of course means the bears that sought food and seclusion in the woods now flee hungry and scared into a path I have yet to break through. Parades are over. The Gift of the Water celebration in which the Shoshone act out the giving of the mineral springs in Thermoplis to all mankind to use free of charge for all time has passed. The tepees have been dropped, and all the golden eagle feathers have walked away. Fattened pigs have been auctioned. Schools begin to pull boys up out of the fields, and girls from their saddles. Somewhere geese prepare to move into the sky and I feel it.

06 August 2007

Return to Cody

After two months of listening to the summer sun bake sand to glass, I step into the early morning air of Thermopolis and smell the gentle slight perfume, the coming autumn caught in the north wind. It is time. By mid-week I will again be yoked to cart and shoulder my pack in Cody, feeling my legs grin toward new miles, new towns, and adventures ....and the 30 miles until Montana. Montana. This will be the last northern state that I will walk across before I ascend Washington's northern coast in winter. From Montana I will spill across Idaho's farm country, gravitate south through more desert to southern Oregon and northern California, then my eyes, legs, and heart will rise in the cold of snow as I straddle ocean and shore to Washington's coastal peak.
The fear I held for the grizzly has been replaced with wider eyes, and ears that reach out to decipher every sound, sounds I don't know I hear. Free range fire eats roads and forests in my direction, then there are wolves, bears, crazies, snakes, drunks, lions, the need of water and the hope for a camp I will survive nightly; I set it all down and prepare to walk away without looking back at my gutted pile of worry. There is only room to carry what I now own. What I own is that I have come this far. It is enough to carry with the feelings that come with so many good-byes.