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 January 2008

***Open For Comments***

So near to the end of the walk, I have re-opened the ability to leave your comments. Please use caution if you are asked to open a letterhead or go to another site as there are predators in the system that peddle their perversity even on blogs. This is why I shut down the ability to comment months ago.

I have missed your voices greatly, your encouragement, your point of view and wisdom. Welcome back. I do hope that this window to the walk can stay open so I can hear from you, your world, your voices from America.
Remember I am of course just walking and use primarily libraries to update. I do not have the ability to police this blog constantly. Thank you for your comments in advance. Soon the blog and all ten journals will be made into a book complete with amazing photographs of this great land and people. Until then, these are rough notes from my world to yours.

(All personal letters are still best e-mailed, or snail mail.)

29 January 2008

Mountain Waking (2)

(Vernonia, OR / 40 mil to Washington)

Most of the rain has been traded for snow leaving me to wonder if it was indeed a good trade. Nights move back into the 20's with a promise to fall colder as I continue climbing into the Cascade Mountain Range once again, this time toward central Washington to before mentioned Roslyn. Strangers warn me with big honest eyes, and then tell me twice, "Roads shut down this time of year Airborne. The snow they get up there will close you down too. Got snowshoes?" I squirrel food away in every recess of my pack, stretching pockets hidden inside pockets knowing I'll forget it and in that temporary loss is the trick, the Snickers bar I didn't know I carried eaten at 2am; re-learning what the previous winters have taught my fingers and heart, again the curling breath before me becomes the only company I keep, the only voice I have to step into.
To save weight I have left my large Sabertooth knife in Corvalis, zip wood stove I have also retired as dry twigs are part of past roads and drier forests. Memories now. I miss these old travel companions in a depth that would sound silly typed out. Still, missing is missing and evening camps with trips out into the dark unknown toward the sound of a river I can only hear in this world of moss and weeping forest growth makes my hands feel clawless and blunt. I depend on fuel tanks now and the stove the employees at Primus gave me as a gift when I was walking through Lander WY, a titanium 2 1/2 ounce dream of cooking perfection. Flawless. A four inch auto-blade is my only sword. Still, I ache to smell cedar smoke cupping up and around my face, the conversation of evergreen twigs giving up their stored sunlight, the turning of batter into hot cakes and searing the gift of an occasional elk steak.
On a back road outside Otis, a road I didn't mean to take, I find yet another bull elk. He is a huge mighty animal that broke against a car then took his last crippled walk into the woods. At near midnight with lite rain falling I am straddling the bull with tools I have made from blow down hardwood. Osa's blade circle cuts the skin around twin quarter size ivory upper teeth. With a round river stone for a mallet striking against a wooden chisel one ivory eventually wobbles free. Using all of my strength I roll the bull to the other side to again saddle it's shoulders. Tap tap tap. Wet faced I look up into the rain of night peacefully sighing that this is what I have become, this living in two separate times, an older time and occasional steps into the present; always the ease of old ways lovingly pulling me back from an edge I was never comfortable at. In an hour a small tent will be set across the field where I will sleep indifferent to the smell of a fresh kill and the likelihood of bears. In the morning I will step outside to a golden eagle chirping his exuberant thanks for opening the hide to his beak, his hunger. He'll hop about our find as if his painted feathers fanned open wide can cover 1600 pounds of elk until he is done feeding. Over a morning cup I will smell the slight stain of black red on my fingers even though they were puddle washed before sleep until they lost the adhesive quality of blood. In a pouch I count out twelve ivories; ancient power and currency to the Crow people...the part of the elk that survives decay when all other form of bone and flesh have gone back to the Maker. I tie them together, small skulls among red and silver beads; count them through my callus fingers without a need for numbers.
It is darker now; the three inch blade under old brown ivory handles working silently. I curl my fingers back because I will not feel a cut until morning dries and opens my skin, skin too lazy to bleed its own blood. Two trees away a raven complains in his sleep, "Kruuup," then returns to silence. The sound of ocean or of far away wind, or both, travel fields of marrionberry thorn and fat swollen bunch grasses, willow and adolescent bearded pine to tell me what they know about not being able to settle, to sit down in a forest and just let the leaves of autumn rest. Sitting on the elk that grows colder and now pulls my heat in, I palm swipe my knife clean and wonder if I am just circling mountains with no desire to land by this walking once again away from the ocean.
Walking toward Roslyn I listen hard with mental hands behind the backs of my ears because I have asked a question just before sleep and know the answer will wake me when it comes.

When Roads Break

Supplied in likable Tillamook that I hated to leave so soon, I walk quickly toward closed Rt.6 where a landslide sent the road three stories down into the water. I walk 40 miles in 1 and 1/2 days just to get past the construction site where a crain squats in the center of the road, my need is to be at least to a point that I will not be ordered back to Tillamook. In the dark and through weak rain I shouldered on past closed stores, stores I depended on for more food and local talk. Their logic was no road, no sales, so I walk through days of silence listening to my stomach start to worry. It is a new haunt, walking on roads at night under the weak glow of an l.e.d. headlamp until my hips argue to swing no further; only then I crawl under a bridge in lion tracks and set a dry camp.

22 January 2008

Finding Frame

Cape Kiwanda,Oregon

As I have earlier mentioned,it is the road that measures my feet and molds the trail ahead, inspires or rejects in something as simple and subtle as the pivot of a toe. When I pass the production site of The Burning Plain I stop to ask about the distance to a store, a coffee shop where conversation can sit down outside the reach of the weather. I mention that I am considering Walking through Roslyn, Washington(although at the time it is a weak thought)as one of the last adventures within this walk--and that it is far from a certainty.
I am talking to Joe Solberg and several men that are moving in and out of motorhomes and tractor trailer cabs, part of the movie set's transportation crew. As we talk about the miles, nameless towns, states less friendly, and crazies under my belt I learn that Joe Solberg worked support on Northern Exposure, all 110 plus shows produced in the six years beginning in 1990. A N.E.(Northern Exposure)photo book appears and I am verbally taken behind the scenes, introduced to the cast, told where they now and given sketches in words on the land I will be walking through...Roslyn, Washington...Cicely, Alaska. Each question I ask helps to form the next until I am afraid that I am eating too much of Joe's ear. Joe is as patient as he is kind; his smile is inexhaustible. It is hard to learn too much about something we love. We take a few photos together, talk about what really exists in Roslyn, chug bottles of designer spring water in rectangle bottles, and I learn that John Corbett (Chris in the morning,KBHR,) is in the production being filmed a few hundred yards below us on the coast. It has been twenty two years since I have worked on a movie set, throwing football with the famous between takes. A hundred dollars a day was good money then. I would have done it for free. Standing on the tarmac pull-off next to the motor coaches I feel the familiar pine return; the want to be where energy is created, a place where a person can become anything or anyone...the knowing that a I don't have to stand in the center of the fire to feel an inner glow radiate outward.
From Tillamook I'll head northeast, back into mountains and snow. Nearly thirty feet of snow fell in the pass just after I walked out of the few feet on Tombstone Summit. With this knowledge, I turn back in to what I know. Kit, the travois that I pulled through over half of America is no longer tied to my hips. Again I will sleep with the full weight of the cold. Meal time will often pass without exercising my mouth and I may again resort to eating sticks of butter to stay warm. Regardless of the saturation of my boots I will grin past the the deep ruts worked into my shoulders as I trek 75 pounds of support in external frame CrowDog and head toward a road, a town that reaches out to me.

15 January 2008

Touching Waves

Last night's camp was in an abandoned privy on the western border of Toledo. The storm was swallowing down town and turns in Rt. 20 with a big mouthful of water and I was walking blind just waiting for a semi to take me under its wheels, a distracted car to take me out in a wide turn. The defunct restroom outside the boarded up business called me back forgiving my revulsion. Covered in a rich deep ivy, door splintered, two toilets taken from the floor leaving rusted cast iron throats spilling up through the floor, a floor on it's way back to earth, it was haunting at best. There have been worst camps, rats included. They have been few. Choices were spent now though. On a plastic sheet I carry as a tent footprint I lay a sleeping mat and forbid myself to roll over and breathe only if I had to. The storm increased changing its medium to ice then back to rain. Spiders came down the wet walls and a rank smell of decay crept up and over me. Still, feeling safe I relaxed into something like a smile although more like a fist relaxing.
When morning came the sky had calmed to a sprinkle. Dancing Bear was visited again, coffee shared while I was interviewed by two radio shows and set up stories to be done with the Newport newspaper tomorrow.
Even though this is not the end of this journey or the last miles, I did step my wet feet into a wave as I trembled joyfully over a goal walked toward for a very long time. Tonight I will find a better camp and peer out over the ocean as I did in Maine so long ago. Tomorrow I head north toward the end of a dream.

14 January 2008

Seven Miles To Waves


Rain falls sideways, shoved by the unfatiguing arm of the wind. In minutes my legs are soaked shingling water into my boots that aim to never dry. Again rain, though variation on a theme. Yesterday was my first sunny day in a month dayly watering. At first the sun made me flinch the way a laugh does after a long sadness, the squint of it erasing cloud. Now in Toledo I stop in at the Dancing Bear Bakery/Coffee Shop to hear words spoken in a new voice. Over a bowlof chicken soup and a hot cup of house joe I give up stories while trying hopelessly to memorize smiles and the perfumed talk of women, Jodie and Shannon, two tables away. Only now do I realize that I am a song catcher of sorts, gathering cords knit into new stories so that you the reader can be here inside looking out at water falling hard against glass while you spoon noodles around and around in a bowl, temporarily shielded from this rain moved by wind while two women I will probably never see again open their unique voices, stamp their finger print of town and family just for me.
Two blocks away at the library I receive a bag of food from the Dancing Bear via Shannon so I won't go to bed hungry. She is wet and wind swept though she shines like a rumor of sun,"I am so glad I didn't miss you. If you weren't here...," Shannon's eyes are electric. I feel them as much as see them. She is gone back into the rain before it dawns on me to hug her,; to offer up some gesture that she matters, that this matters. I am staring at the computer and the clock and the computer screen, Just outside of camp I will sleep between fields odf water. Tomorrow I'll walk back and say thank you properly.
Thousands of miles after a sow bear gave me her claws to carry on this walk I still see signs that we are connected, and 'the bear' is still carved on my spoon, still watching out for this traveler. The Dancing Bear...how perfect.
In two hours of walking wet I could reach the ocean. It is not the way I have seen it. Under a bridge without a name I will make morning coffee from rain and pack up the kit that has seen me across America. Tomorrow I will put a foot in the Pacific
Ocean and turn to walk north.

06 January 2008

Leaving Travois

** Again I am in Corvalis, though I have now arrived under my own power. For a few days I settle issues with my tack, trying to make peace with walking in a perpetual state of getting soaked...and boots that will never dry until I toss them for the last new pair of the walk. Jeni and Dave and I enjoy the scents and servings of comfort food as we sit at the kitchen table watching the trees drip. Some times it is hard to get excited about 'camp underwater'. These are the last states, the last miles. I wouldn't trade it for the world...but a hat that doesn't drip down my neck and a sleeping bag that doesn't clot into tired pasta....priceless. In a couple of days I re-shoulder CrowDog and walk 60 miles to the ocean!!!!!! How can I keep from smiling.

After being brought back to Sweet Home to pick up the walk where I left off before the holidays I re-enter life I knew before Anadarko, OK --the walk before the building of the cart, the travois that I pulled across thousands of miles of mountains and desert, snow and burning sand. Even in this world of rain miles move quickly. I am reborn. No longer is there a padded willow branch gut tied to a lodge pole pine frame that bangs into my abs with every step, and shallows my breathing on every assent. For miles I am giddy walking on New Years's Day away from the warm people of Sweet Home, thrilled that I can muck across fields and puddle jump into abandoned barns to stash myself behind bails of hay till dawn, falling in behind nodding state tractors, falling on dry leaves as the world I now live in continues to switch over between spin and wash cycles, falling into the deepest sleep as mice crawl out with their secrets on feet that sound like more rain. Although I could easily grow melancholy if I begin to consider the years that my two wheeled kit (or Kit, as that is what I always called it in reference or command yelled out while walking through oceans of soft sand)preserved my life by carrying hundreds of gallons of water, nearly the same shifting weight in food, and a means to stand up to bears and lions without running being the instinct that punched my ticket. As with all my gear, a bonding takes place, a trust I feel I am betraying when (through no failure in gear performance)I walk away from tack knowing I won't return to it on this journey. Instead of adding weight to CrowDog with this line of thinking I ride the boyant feeling of being unyoked, untethered, being given once again the promised freedom of having wings. Yes, the fields are saturated and the river yawns outside it's banks. The song birds gargle more than sing, but I can bow under the giant Douglas Fir with a smile that I can just turn, at any moment I can just turn and this one shout in ability allows me to forgive the meals that I return to skipping routinely...just so that I can soon walk down to the ocean and turn freely to the north and these last miles of Washington. Maybe I will find that one shell that I will want to carry to the end, or really be able to turn and listen when the wind speaks about new roads and a new journey I feel begin to kick me in my sleep.