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 October 2007

Chuck And Hannah

A few days in Stanley. Down time. When I got to Stanley I needed a washing. A rest. All supplies were down, internal and ex. The Salmon river, minerial springs with their natural roadside soaking rock tubs are behind me now. With four cars passing every hour it wasn't being too brave to shuck clothes and fall into the steaming water with the modest smell of sulfer and hot earth; roadside or not I was a regular
Outside a motor home pulling a pick-up and a Harley-Davidson Chuck flags me in for a brew. Conversation moves easy between two men traveling on a wing and no time piece. Meals shared become days of camp in the heart of a town that's rolled up it's carpet in exchange for snow creeping down from the Sawtooths. One store has a 40% sale on gear before its windows are soaped till spring. Chuck won't let me hem and haw over a pair boots still priced on the high side of the mountain for this long haul walker. I won't let Chuck rescue me from heals worn through even though the truck tire retreads less than preformed. "Alright," smiles Chuck as he takes command of the box of boots,"You promise to send me a signed copy of your book as soon as it hits the shelf and I get you the boots?" I think it is a question. I release the box and think about this being the first time I bank on a future after the walk.
Chuck and I are easy on eating up the days. Hannah, Chuck's dog and myself become locals...okay, we wander the streets and pause for this crossroad for three days. We are both divorced from wives, from homes we knew and trees we planted. Both beginning anew. Both ending all that was. Without words we both know after all these roads the pause is as important as the steps. In an hour we'll shake hands and I'll talk a loud good-bye to Hannah who can't really hear. I'll lean down into her black and graying shepard coat and again listen to good-bye.

27 October 2007

You Gave Me This

I read a letter from Adam that just arrived via e-mail, a man that I met on the Natchez Trace (www.fromflyoverland.com). Words are funny creatures. We all pretend they don't matter; sticks and stones and all that. But we are older now and know better. We feel the sticks, ducking stones without even thinking. The same is true for words of support, of recognition, kindness...hope. I feel it erase the wear of miles, soften the lines now softly mapping my traveled face. Thank you Adam for taking the time to lace my shoes, to tell me that you still hear me walking. That somehow it all matters. Maybe four months remain of this journey. Maybe. On the Salmon River I talk to the maroon headed ducks and we discuss the winter coming down before they wing tip across white water and river stone leaving me swirling my coffee cup in bank sand waiting for my fingers to wake to a cold retarded level of functioning.
Maybe that is the secret of it all; telling those that matter that they do....and it always has been. Thanks Adam...for walking with me in pictures from the Natahez Trace, wanderings in entries in old journal pages that'll be re-worked soon into a book, memories with that old red thread of kindred spirit linking us into the future lives of one another, into a constant pulse that makes up the blood of who we are; a coming home to self.

Stanley, Idaho Sawtooth Mtns. Range

The mountains are astounding, stuttering to my feet as I make my way into Stanley. Impressed, I had to stop and just talk softly to myself,"It has all been worth it." A prayer turned inward and out. I have been told that so many places would show the hand of God, the beauty of creation. Finally I see the truth and words are not enough. I remember a young man biking across a few western states that I shared camp with in Lander, WY. He told me that he broke into tears when he peddled through the Grand Tetons and I internally rolled my eyes. Now I understand. Stone has been filed worked by the hand of God into teeth chewing curtains of snow biting up at the sky; shadows and highlights of eagles and the frozen waves of oceans born onto stone. For no apparent reason the lodge poles fall off my cart...poles that have just come through weeks of climbing mountains now for no reasons release themselves from binding of buckles and rawhide. Sometimes I am reminded to stop and be where I am. No leaving. No arriving. Just now. Just here. Gathering up my gypsy parts of my trovois I look up at the Sawtooth Mtns. and just stop.
In a small pub, in this small town (population 100) I milk a Sweetgrass brew with a new friend that saw me walking through the endless canyons into town and saddled me to an offer of a beer and a seat free of ponderosa pine needles. I will be alone again too soon. Conversation has become too rare. There will be other libraries I can rush into before doors lock for the day. Chuck pulls out his wireless laptop computer and the urgent need to be elsewhere evaporates.
My food sack is pushing the seams after living for days on remnants and spice. This store I was desperate for. Nothing lies ahead. Nothing is to the rear. What does exist is in the process of nailing plywood over glass. Closed for the season. Tonight I will sleep out here in these cutting mountains heady with snow. All urgency has been striped away. This morning it was 9 degrees in my tent. Some things I can't out walk.

23 October 2007

Dugout Dick

The retread skin from the semi tire is cut into heals fastened to my shoes with screws from cart tires, screws that held the retreads on my two wheeled work horse. Two lodge pole pines, water tank, food and a honed and chopped down game cart I ordered back in southern OK still tug behind me in addition to the 60- 70 pounds on my back. Insurance. No, out here,need. On a park bench I find a green fleece L.L. Bean sweater that takes off the growing chill. Down a steep embankment I spy a camp sleeping pad to add to the two I carry. I'm headed for Stanley. The coldest town in the lower 48, located on the spine of the Saw Tooth Mountains. Mountains? I have been in mountains for weeks again with no memory of coming down. Coming down is always subtle; little turns that don't pan out into valleys, I then rise again with the white chapped sheep as everything runs thin, food, clothing, shoes,knees and the conversation of self confiding in self. I don't remember looking up in days so I yank my Tilley hat up on my head like a bewildered cowpoke and take a bead at the snow caps that have come down to make my boots wet, a wet that won't dry. One snow storm has already shoved me off the road into a camp under bowed branches. No longer do I worry it out. Wood is gathered silently for the morning fire then set within the tent like an offering. At the Salmon river I look for tacks out of habit. Nothing comes this way. An owl tells me that I'm not alone and that with the wood that I have collected is enough.
Below the Rattlesnake Creek I am told about Dugout Dick,a man that began living in the mountains in the late forties. In 1948 Dick Zimmerman had completed his first cave home into the base of the riverside mountains. Without much of an internal discussion I was walking back up into the mountains to meet Dick. I hate walking miles in reverse. I hate missing important parts of America more.
For a couple of days I live in the caves of Dugout. It would take more than a library spot to fill in the pictures that are more mental than physical. The camera did flash many times, each time I looked at the picture screen it was tin, cold, nothing with warmth remained. I set down the camera and decided to just listen with my eyes, my nose, my gut. I walked away with a better understanding of everything I didn't want my life to lead to. I have slept in a thousand camps alone and never felt as lonely, raped in my heart to where I could taste sorrow coming up from under my tongue the way sickness does. There are places we go that our inner voice detests. It pleads with us when we arrive to turn around and leave. I sat in the wood stove warmed cave of stacked boulder walls, in where the chiseled walls began to hatch me inward. Deeper. I bent under the 12 volt light and talked to Dick about where all his years had brought him. Dick is 91 now and draped over a cane or walker when he moves. When he sits at his table of tin can meals, some open,and pill bottles. He taps his cane as he talks to keep my eyes on him. My eyes stray. All the pictures on his walls, the letters that have been framed, and memories that lean down just for him have all turned a flat black of soot; the same soot that makes Dick look like an elderly chimney sweeper with long white hair and beard caught in a wind no one can feel. Fourteen caves in all. Some of these caves go into the mountains more than a hundred yards all dug with out power tools. Timbers Dick cut from trees miles away and pulled to location with his horse and wagon. I tried to listen. I really did. 25 dollars a month to rent. A dollar for all the pictures you want to take.
I was watching starving children tell me stories,and already knowing the ending and trying to smile. There in tattered jeans, the once red coat and the red construction helmet oiled by fingers tared to perfection, black ankles, no socks, and knotted hands that can no longer play the guitar I fell down inside.

16 October 2007

Two States and A Half Piece

The mind chews on itself. Too many people ask me what is next, and for five hundred miles I have ruminated on that. For a long time I thought that I had such a long time so I wouldn't put post walking living to mind. The elk came down to water. The bear tore my food sack. Mallards followed me around my fire begging for Grape Nuts. Still I pick up what I put down. Maybe the soles of my feet are rounded for a reason; always moving into and out of form and function. Surely I will roost, write, soak until two hot layers or trail wish for the drain out. Settle? The knives I carry are way to expensive...especially at the rate the road takes them yet I persist. Somewhere in my old life I have several insanely expensive knives growing older, but they are not my knives. They have no stories. They haven't even cut my hand skinning a bear. They have not been palmed moving through cities back street dim when the thugs rooted me into a church. They have carved no spoons, made no snares, served no grouse or held buffalo fat in their seams. I am no good in the settlement of 9-5. Brass bells on my cart chime to bears on the roadside feeding on one of the roadkill elk I pass. This pulls me back. When I was three years old and before I knew of years the poor would come to our hillside in Peru just up from the creek. They came in rounded campers, silver canned hams, and shakey campers that I am sure shouldn't have rolled at all. They came to a relative next door. No, I knew they came to me. They came to fire; to sitting in circles where I was passed from lap to lap just like the instruments they played. My one leg was a cast to the hip so I was just in my underwear passed under moonlight gently, always movement, always music. I can smell those smells still, fires from townless people far away, sweet pipes making apples over my head and I want to be there under their hair, their spinning perfume of laughter drunk on summer new and winter loping. Many times I have lived under big roofs but I spoil, grow rancid. People always laugh at how I always have to point out an Airstream rolling down the highway, especially a classic. They see an old camper. I am looking at the people that held me up under moving skies and fiddles bowed in and out of the darkness. I am seeing travelers and I hear music healing in my legs. I have been the grasshopper and the ant and winter is coming.

15 October 2007

Walking Down Clouds

Salmon, Idaho Pop. 3,122 (National Geo. Mag ranks Salmon as the most remote large town in the lower 48. I believe them.)

All the mountains are ablaze. Blaze orange. Can there even be as many bull elk as there are hunters I wonder as the train of SUV's thunder past me with camo quads buckled to their backs? I flag CrowDog in orange to save skin. In the morning I still check for bullet holes again when the first rifles go off and walk around my tent with my head sunk into my shoulders. Boom, boom.
So much land in the form of mountains is all I walk for days into a week. It was silent until now except for the constant of flowing rivers licking branches and rock, and the tapping of leaves falling on tent fabric when walking miles stop allowing night to ease in. Now the mountains hum like a bug zapper hung outside the kitchen window. Salmon is the first real town in .....well, a very long time; a plush town where a man fresh out of the mountains can fill his grub list, drool over new boots(ones with heals still attached), and show off my earthy smell won on the Nez Perce Pass. Too cold to linger long in mountain creeks.
With so little time in a library to bring this text up to speed I must by nature of so much information leave large holes. It is still hard to move over some of the great beauty I have passed through without company for over a week, days pushed into journal pages while sleet salted me outside my tent in the mountains by a weak fire; sleeping in Big Hole Battle Field just into treeline to hear the lost Nez Perce wail through the night, surrounded by wolves that sang on and off all night moving in and around my camp like ghosts in mourning. Then there are the kindnesses that were offered up to me by strangers (Marc and his son and daughter) across the road from my camp that shared half their chardonnay, expertly seasoned grill cooked steak and clam alfredo that bowed the belly of the double paper plate, and then Rita finding me 120 miles away from her saloon, bringing steak and a full cooler to refresh me after a long day of hiking down the mountains from the border pass into Idaho..... my utter amazement is that Rita found me on the porch of a little store in North Fork unfolding stories to a group of hunters waiting on their Monday morning hunt.
Everyday becomes a story; a pile of round and sometimes crooked words that make up this series of adventure. The only thing that I am certain of is that I am doing what it is that I was meant to do, and this feeds both pen, and heart.

05 October 2007


Although I don't have time now for details Ryan, an elk hunter from Sheridan, WY found my wallet and His kind wife mailed it back. Ryan S. found it in Medicine Wheel territory.

Early on I asked the walk for a gold ring to wear and remember the walk by wearing long after the journey. On my third time over the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide(right on the line) I stopped to make the first snowball of the season and there in the rain washed gravel was a 14k gold band washed clear of the sand. Perfect fit.

Winter Coming Down

Dewey, Montana

The rain that has shadowed me for a week, and taken all shadow, turns to snow that removes the grain from wood on the fence posts outside the log cabin I have slept in for two nights. Snow comes like a hand over a mouth and everything is quiet, everything is waiting for a kiss, for a slap, for confirmation that if we put out our open hands we can handle this one moment of change. I am a dog that feels the clouds sitting over this canyon, yawning into the steam of optimistically strong coffee. One leg scratches the other. The dog in me sighs swallowing tastelessly. "There will be no escaping another winter," I think to myself out loud. I have been courting this since I sat out the fires in August. "I ordered this winter walk myself...just get through the sub-zero temps and the mountains. Just see me through" Grizzley's walk these roads and tackle the river. Forget about the map in the Tracker's Field Guide showing where the ursus arctos call home. I am not the only wanderer. Snow.
Raisins grow fat in hot water and cinnamon on the stove waiting for dry rolled oats to be stirred in. Shutting off the stove and my stomach I step out into the wet, into the cold weighing of everything through glassy eyes, then the unsuppressed shrug of it. All this leaving becomes easy, one cough that brings on another. Staying on. There is the trick. Feelings catch up whenever I sit too long at a table and I'm given my mind to chew on. Everything I tied a sheet around and sunk behind me eventually floats to the surface if the pot isn't constantly stirred by walking. So I stir. Tucking laces into my boots before stepping into them and pulling my hat down to keep my glasses dry I walk toward the saloon to see Rita, to hear her tell me to stay in her cabin for another night allowing the storm to move through the canyon; this white that makes what is already breathtaking become unbelievable. Rita is the owner of the polished bar of Dewey, the fire all the mountain moths dry their wings around wet from the hunt, wet for conversation. The bar took in 41 bullet holes the first season open. I am told the story and pointed to holes through pine boards and walls. We talk about having breakfast down the river as the snow moves toward rain and back to snow again.
If you told me this town was a prop from the Northern Exposure television series set in Alaska I would believe you. The log cabins facing the winding road have flat square faces as they did a century ago, bleached antlered elk skulls angle down like soft lights always illuminating lost hollow need over weathered boards I walk slowly beneath when evening comes...just to get this feeling right. Old pick-up trucks and campers that match the number of homes, exceed it, rest in the moving air timelessness, paint on old steel having gone appaloosa in weather and age even the dead looks picturesque. This is a place that you'd want to be hit heavy with snow so the whole world have to completely bypass and leave you to winter, to reading books on a bed of silver furs,the making of children and smelling cranberry candles and cedar logs burning, turning to ash till spring whimpers in a quarter year from now. We'd eat smoked meat fattened on alfalfa grass and tender sage. We'd talk about your grandfather's rifle, the way he wore that coat all year long until it became a continuation of his leathered brown skin. "It is good that some things never change," we say in soft paper voices as if the saying it secures some things in state for another year, another winter. The ivory that I have carried for a thousand miles would become two lovers I'd stain in tea. You would ask me to trade Osa's knife, knowing down deep that I couldn't trade it in spite of that look in your eyes. Your son would be holding the she-bear's claws I carried since Jersey, feeling stories digging through roadsides of evergreens in the remnants of fur caught between nuckle, sterling beads and cord. I would turn the dead tree that watches you undress through your window into a pine bear wearing claws around his neck and feathers gently lifting in his cape. If winter held us here.