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.

21 September 2007

Beating Snow, Waving Good-bye

This is my third trip over the Rocky Mountains; above Taos New Mexico, South Pass in Wyoming, and now the Rockies of Montana and Idaho. Each venture over the Rocky Mountains I have moved through snow, slept in snow, cooked on evergreen boughs so my small fire wouldn't sink into feet of hard pack. Walking across America was always a mental picture of my shoulder boards and pack shouldered thick with white down and a hat brim pulled down in white, apples that are nearly frozen against my teeth, and the smell of wood smoke coming up from the towns in the valley below. Yes, I complain when the water filter freezes solid so that I have to put it into the crotch of my pants to thaw while I drop camp just so I can filter water from a murky bog for oats and a much needed cup of coffee but the bruises are worth the beauty. I have slept beside elk under cedar, and have fallen in love with the way cars slow to pass in a staring Norman Rockwell whisper, moving past something of themselves perhaps they dreamt long ago, something lost or forgotten in most of us that still holds pulse. A separate time. I think I have fallen in love with the romance of everything appearing untouched, dangerous with lace along the river banks, ancient trees bent in pillows and blanket shards, all appears holy...alive.
Offered a ride back to Thermopolis then back to Bozeman, I have returned to say good-byes once again and prepare sun faded and thread worn gear for it's last winter of the walk. I hand sew another layer of fleece onto my sleeping hat, retread the cart tires for more open miles of market less open road with 16' bike tires I alter with my pocket knife and self tapping screws over solid wagon tires. From tractor trailer tread I carve new rubber tips for my walking sticks. The set of tips I carved out of road found rubber in southern Virginia just wore through after well more than a thousand miles(those bought in a store last less than 200 miles and are $8.95 a pr.). What takes days in a livingroom sitting at a table takes much longer sitting under a sun umbrella on an abandoned ant hill watching the world rush by, mindlessly poking fingers through sand looking for beads unearthed by ants. New leather becomes a sheath and gauntlet. Thank you letters are written and mailed in the same day.
Jessica Monday, a reporter from The Independent Record, and I became quick friends when Jessica interviewed me for a story months back. We sit the Big Horn River below where the river changes from The Wind River at the Wedding of The Waters. Her bare feet move in the shallow water that turns gray as my camera clicks at her. I failed to say good-bye when I last left town so I am thankful for a chance to sew up the oversight along with a list of other repairs;it is a chance to talk about what is to be in our lives and what roads brought us to this river bank with autumn floating downstream. I give her a piece of robin's egg blue blue jasper flint while I pocket it's twin to spark fires when lighters fail in subfreezing temps. We promise to stay connected, reconnect. This does little to the pang that comes when we walk apart for the last time. We both look back as we walk in opposite directions, laugh, and then turn into the separate emptiness that comes with last words before an ocean of time unmeasurable. We have shared food, bottles of wine, friends, zany photographs with tongues thrown out of the sides of our mouths, and truths said without staring at our feet. It will be at least ocean before we see each other again.
So many clothes. So few. I weigh with my eyes now. A scale is no longer necessary as I have measured ounces and pounds, grams and fringe until most of my gear is memorized. As I oil my knife blades I start a humble fire to sear pieces of steak to share with Lisa so she can taste camp before the day of my leaving. Everything becomes a last time. Last coffee press is shared; last pass through the buffalo fields by the mineral springs, the smell sulfur I have come to love, and a climb up Round Top Mountain to see darkness take the town of Thermopolis and lights begin to sprinkle the valley from the homes below. Last moments with the Higgins family pass too quickly. Young Jessica and Ian Higgins joke around me as I type a blog in their livingroom and they wonder why it takes me so long to write so little. My leaving is hard on them so we talk about everything but the walk...which of course becomes the walk. Ian no longer calls me Bearbait. I am told that he cries when I leave so I am gentle with him. "Hey Jesse," Ian calls out from his bike saddle that he has ridden beside me to our good-bye,"You got to see me being seven." Ian's birthday was just as I was leaving in August. It was his running joke that I had to return to see him being seven. His face is a sweet roundness that trusts and shines out at his world. A tender sun rising.
"Ian, I'll see you again. Be careful riding home." The words good-bye are weak and scatter behind his tires heading home. Ian is already a recognizable sadness peddling home on the empty street toward Pepperment Lane. I am taking pictures without my camera.
As I have written before, often times the walking is not the hardest part. Tomorrow I step far away into walking west; walking alone, walking heavy with memory, a series of memories that ironically make everything light...in a mind silently waiting on snow.