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.

15 April 2008

Gear That Made The Grade

Taking things out of the Dana Design Long-bed external frame pack(CrowDog)it appears to be time to make lists of the gear that earned their keep. The entire blog is printed out inches thick. Pictures fill ten disc's and journals still hold to their dozen tall stack in wait to be tugged and filtered, enhancements and the knife. It has begun.

Katadyn hiker pro water filter and storage sack.(I also used a First Need water filter but changed over after the second filter went belly up in Louisana due to stagnant crawling slithering water. No way to really back flush the sealed system.)

Polar Bottle was a gift in the Sawtooth Mtns. It is a plastic water insulated water bottle with a nipple that can be removed and cleaned then replaced. Nice. Helped keep water water in a frozen tent, and held off some of the inexhaustable sun.

The back of a roadside life vest was cut and sewn into a seat pad for all of those thousands of rest stops where I sat on every nasty, cactus spike as well as snow bank. Priceless!

Snowpeak has been gold to me. I carried a double walled giant titanium coffee type cup that served for every eating task that wasn't consumed straight from the pot, as well as the french press I designed for it. It never failed. One of my truly prized pieces of the walk. I engraved the exterior with a diamond bit and trinkets(old earrings and rings I was given along the journey) decorated the handles. Native art in the most modern/traditional tradition. It was lost for a month early in the walk(left on the back of a gas station tollet).I wailed in a frozen pumpkin patch. Stripped of art and enhancements it is a sixty dollar cup with tax. Have I mentioned that I love it. Even a tooled sterling and ivory lid to keep the coffee hot. That's love.

The MSR fusion two man tent was a bit stout in weight...but it took me in and out of every extreme. I had nearly 2' of snow on the roof at a time and 70mph winds(separately) and it held firm. Even saw me through a tornado...squished but sprang back. 27 people died that day. I had no idea how close I was to joining them. (TN)When the tent just plum wore out I sewed it into a new pack cover. Having a brown tent of pack cover is extremely smart. So often I wanted to become a knoll of sand ..so I did. This tent was my favorite and an absolute blessing.

Small zip pouch with assorted teas...all decaf for evenings around the fire or talking softly to maps, considering roads to hoe, and journaling. A nice coming down after a 25 mile day carrying 70 pounds up a slow grade that never ends.

Separate pouch for water bottle...it stunk but it was what I had so I endured never finding a better replacement. Dana Design. The one I began with died In the searing south. It was perfect.

Evernew titanium deco tea pot. The lid loves to hop up from a good seal as the water heats. I always grumbled over as I shoved it back with scorched fingers..but I really like the pot. The round belly bottom third makes easy cleaning and allows me to fit A lot of food in a small container. Constantly in use. Needs decorating...I'll get on it.

Each yoke shoulder strap has a pouch. Both are nearly white now. They were black. Here is where I put my 82nd Airborne Division patches/and rank. They got my hand shaken a lot, especially in Texas. Nice. The pouches were so nessary, so part of a working system. For toothpaste and a brushing, camera, and lip balm nobody wants to drop the house every time you down a Snickers.

One small Sea To Summit water proof bag. This was a last resort dry bag. I don't think I ever pushed its limits but it always gave piece of mind;vital papers, pictures, sage, bear claws, windproof matches, pack towel,beaver teeth...you know, the usual.

I love titanium but a good fry pan is a must for a pancake junkie so I took a saw to a nice aluminum pot and made a fry pan with a coated finish that loved to make great cakes as much as I love eating them. 8 ounces but love is love. I made the handle out of a wooden carving tool handle, brass tacks and aluminum muffler tape. I tried to walk without it for a few weeks. Boy, those were long weeks of muttering bad words at a too thin pan that burned batter on contact. Out of a pack towel I sewed a cover for my good fry pan. It protected the cook finish...and I could decorate it.

A first aid pouch crammed fat with all kinds of goop and body patches I never used.

A glow in the dark frisbee was my dinner plate. I rarely used it but sometimes I was sharing a fire and offered a dinner. It was nice to pull out my hand carved bear spoon and frisbee...and happy smile wired to my stomach.

Most always a gortex parka and pants. I used a marmot rain coat, and north face pants that were too thin for even the dullest briar.

All fabrics were/are earth tones. Never did I want to advertise my place in field, woods or desert. This military mind set served me greatly...probably saved my life.

A lot of gear I handmade or tweaked beyond the term of simple so I can not fairly say that I used a standard.... Often standard was over produced or wimpy. This is where passion and experience come in.

The sleeping bags changed depending on season. Through out LA. and a lot of serious desert I went without a sleeping bag. In the Rockies I sometimes carried two. (one very light weight to double up with). I only used down. This takes special care. Because this was keeping me alive I find this care to be a small tax. I used primary Feathered Friends -30 sleeping bag and a 20 degree Mountain Hardwear. Both were flawless.

Except for winter hats I always wore a Tilley wide brim hat in cotton or nylon. They are expensive but do what I need and replace for free. The sweatband needs special care or it smells awful day after day in the desert but most people are less a stranger to soap than I was. I just couldn't afford to waste water washing. When I washed a pot I drank the water. On filthy days my legs got one cup of water to come clean. I hate sleeping with my legs sweat/filth welded together.

Though I carried a bug head net it was unness. When the flying devils got too intense it was usually tent time and too @%##!** hot to re-breathe what I just steamed out into a fine mesh head cover at 120 degrees.

MSR makes a folding spatula. Nice. A must have.

Just before the end of the walk I was given a three quarter length Thermarest pad that went through a flood. I got 'let down' by so many inflatables I shrugged that I'd try it. It was the only one that didn't fail. I was sooo happy. I was sleeping on a hard solid Thermarest on feet of snow before that and nights were painfully long. Not good.

Carring a couple of very large clear strong plastic bags that saved my sleeping bag in extreme rain for 2 months straight. Now one seems a smart staple.

A golf umbrella saved me from life as a raisin and rain down my spine...high winds.. forget it. Lost my prize umbrella in Idaho. I walked back up a canyon 8 miles on suicide turns only to see it had been adopted. Gone. It was 500 miles before I got another large umbrella from a kind postal employee. It wasn't a Gust-buster from Brookstone like the one I lost but it was some protection in the land that never stopped raining.

The titanium flask from Snowpeak was a gift in Penn. from Basecamp. I kept it filled with Capt. Morgan spiced rum when I could to celebrate great turning points in the walk and share with special people. Now I can't look at it without seeing the hundred faces that sipped from it. It became incredibly valuable..and will always be.

Basically the clothes I wore was the bark and the dog. I did carry a fleece sweater/windproof, several scarfs, and socks. Nothing cotton. Period. The socks were usually Workwear with Patagonia liners. Four pr. of each. The Workwear socks are similiar to Smartwool but a bit lighter as I have hot feet and size 14 shoes are hard enough to find in West Nowhere.

Gaiters were a constant to keep out stones, ticks, rain, sun and keep socks cleaner. Funny thing is that many people looked down their nose at them. "Why do You wear Those things?" As if the way they asked would have me running for a trash can to dispose them. Never. They work, and work hard. I wore through two pairs. One pair was Mountain Hardwear. They were the toughest. They hide a knife and a gold coin well too. If you have to ask... I am not airport friendly.

The cedar flute I made before the walk and its case did the whole walk. I didn't always take it out( as my playing will attest) but I loved that it was ready to compliment any season or mountainside .....batteries never included. It has similar stories as the flask.

Food food food. A lot..well almost all of my food came from Mom and Pop's dusty shelves across America. Yes, the reporters got this right, I did catch and kill to eat but we're not talking moose here...the other end of the telescope. Couscous, instant mashed potatoes, jerky, dried corn, oatmeal, Bisquick, chili peppers, rice, and everything I could glean from the land. Everything.

A couple of pens, stamped postcards, and scrap paper made up the office. Nothing fancy. Maps of course, and an always present journal by Moleskin, in a cover of beaded buffalo skin I made for the journey that only got more beautiful. Worthy of holding every story I was given.

A small titanium Snowpeak (sierra type design) was the work horse of my kitchen; coffee cup for strangers, pancake batter, mix bowl,and bath cup. Fresh (when possible) coffee beans were crushed in my double walled titanium cup with a stick I cut daily. As wood became less abundant I carved a nude woman out of gifted scrap mahogany. Her name is Latte' and in her hand she holds a miniature version cup. Through years of cook fires and tumbling in leaves and back into the pack she is the deepest brown to black and heavily oiled from coffee beans with a carved feather in her waves of hair. She is very high in caffeine.

Carried are two headlamps. One ties to the pack frame and blinks when the road is hazardous. Petzl is the maker of both and one is fully adjustable...although the blinking when the battery is low is plain stupid. The human eye will overlook a light in the woods. Nobody overlooks a blinking light. From a broken tail light I carved a red filter. That helped.

If I detail this to death I could write all day so I will round it off.My only surviving camera is a Casio 6.o mega pix digital. I love it. Tiny and great. The resulting photographs I captured are super. You'll see. One stove are a titanium Primus the company gifted me (the only company that gifted me anything) that runs on those small pressure gas cans that screw into the stove. At 2 1/2 ounces it is a constant back-up...and in months of rain the only stove I use. The titanium Sierra Zip stove is another item of love complete. I cooked with everything from moose dung to pine cones that fell on my grandparents grave when I visited for tea and thinking before I started walking. The stove runs a very small blower in the bottom of a double wall pan that has holes in it. It is a hot blaze when tinder is set inside and a flame is added. For 90% of the walk I carried no fuel. BLISS! The stove is highly decorated with a sterling war metal from my grandfather, metal tag from the year of my birth, and a silver plate marking the journey across America.

Yes there is still more...but to tie up the bag I will just add the knives I carried. For more than the first half of the walk I carried a Pipe hawk I made before the walk, weapon, tool and pipe I did rarely smoke with sage,cedar bark, and sweetgrass.

I Bartered an old blade and a gold coin for a Jefferson Spivey Cross Country Saber Tooth Knife in Cody, WY to stand off bears with.(designed by a man that rode a horse across America) I'd lose but I'd stand ...and did stand. You only run when there is somewhere to run to. I loved that my index went through a hole just short of the long razor edge so even in a struggle the retention remains. Of course I brass tacked the rosewood grips. Sadly I lost a couple blades, but adopting a few that I was given by friends including a Cold Steele knife Trail Master that was made for an adventure. The MercWorks pocket knife got attention when I pulled it out, and it was all business, truly my intimate knife that was made to gut and skin, set emergency snares, and out survive us all.

With all the laws regarding firearms and state lines I will dance over this last topic by saying I carried what I could when I could. In the south west I found a .22 against a rifle was worthless. Then, that's another story.