The Prison of My Skull and Setting Up Camp
Two questions have come to me that I’ve been thinking about for hundreds of miles. What follows is a disjointed mishmash of thoughts and sentences composed at various times while eating lunch and doing my laundry.
If you like these kind of posts, please ask me questions. They provide a distraction as I mentally compose a response during the thousands of steps I take each day.
What do you think about while you’re walking? What percentage of time do you spend thinking about the past, present, or future?
What’s your camp set-up look like?
The camp set-up is easier, so I’m going there first. I’m sitting in McDonalds. They don’t hassle you and there’s wifi.
Tarp and sleep system
Here’s a shot of the my tarp up and pack mostly empty. It’s amazing what comes out of a pack as you unload it. My sticks, hiking poles, are used to support each end of the tarp. I can remove the tail end pole and lower the front if severe weather threatens. It becomes quite tight for any movement in that position, so I always start higher. Often I leave my head out of the tarp, so I can see the stars, but can quickly slide in if rain begins.
The tarp uses two poles and eight stakes. It compresses to the size of a Nerf football and weighs even less. I’ll be sorry to see it go. Michelle is sending me a more substantial tarp in a hundred-fifty miles or so to finish out the trek. More sustained severe weather is now possible. It’s heavier and bulkier.
My yellow inflatable pad goes inside the brown bivy sack. The sack protects the pad from puncture and functions as a ground cloth and wind break. The other bags you can see contain my food, additional layers of clothing, and electronic equipment. Lots of plastic bags hold additional small items.
Cooking and Eating
Each days food items gets placed in a gallon plastic bag during the prep stage before leaving town. In the bag go 5 or 6 bars of some kind. Clif, Lara, Payday, Snickers. Just a good mix for some variety. Fritos and Snyder’s pretzel bits bags get broken apart into daily allotments in their own quart size bags and then stuffed into the gallon bag. Some sort of lunch goes in. Usually, peanut butter and a tortilla or two. A dinner finishes it out. If I’m buying in town, it’s Knorr rice sides. If I’m picking up a box from home, I have rice and beans and peanut noodle mixes. These daily gallon bags get stuffed into a stuff sack in the order I want to pull them out. Makes it easy to pull out a bag in the morning and know I have all my food for the day in one bag.
I use a small alcohol stove to heat food up. HEET, in the yellow bottles, is easily purchased at most gas stations. A small amount is required to boil the two + cups of liquid I use for a meal.
The stove sits inside this windbreak with designed holes to funnel the flame up at the bottom of the pot. The cut out fits the handles of my pot and positions it centered over the stove.
Knorr rice dinner with lots of extra liquid. The extra liquid gets more into me at the end of the day. I’ll add oil or hot sauce to the mix to add a bit to it. I also carry potato buds to add to thicken a watery pot up if I’m especially hungry. I’ll scrape the pot down as far as I can with my spoon then pour a small amount of water in and clean it with my fingers. I’ll wash the pot and spoon with soap each time I’m in town.
By the time I finish eating each night it’s usually dark. I’ll write on my paper maps a few notes about the day. Then it’s time to pull everything in close and sleep until around 5am the next morning.
In My Head
I’ve been walking for something like 72 days. My skull is a prison. I’ve played over every stupid mistake I’ve ever made, thought through my relationships with my parents (both deceased), wondered about how I’m doing as a parent myself, thought about all the things I could be doing at home, missed my wife in every hour of every day, and finally pondered about what am I going to do when I’m finished with this never ending walk.
Often the trail is difficult enough or confusing enough that all attention must be paid to it to keep from walking extra miles by missing a turn or being injured falling over a downed tree. I’ve done both numerous times.
However when conditions are easier, I’ve decided I’ve had enough of the torment in my skull, so I’m listening to more music and audible books. The words and music are distracting enough that I stop sinking into my own self-pity regarding loneliness or discomfort.
My feet hurt. The balls of my feet and most of my toes are numb. When I stand up in the morning, I stagger around until some semblance of communication with that part of my body is established. As soon as I hit a pointed rock, feeling explodes in them again for the rest of the day. Music and words help to ignore most of that discomfort.
I’m lonely most of the time. I walk alone. I camp alone. I see people when I’m in town or for a few miles minutes in passing on the trail. I’ve become accustomed to it, and I try to see it as solitaire rather than solitary, as Mr. Ed Abbey defined it in his masterpiece Desert Solitaire. But it’s hard. Ed was much better at it than I seem to be.
There are spectacular pieces of the trail that require no distraction other than the extreme beauty in front of me; however, to get to each of those pieces often requires hours of monotonous climbing or mundane walking. Walking 12 to 13 hours a day to get 25 miles in takes stamina. The music and the words are helping.
I finished my prep work on my resume back in Dubois, WY. A wonderful lady has been hired to condense my ramblings into a tool to obtain future interviews for employment. Thoughts about what I’m going to do roll through my head on daily basis. Where am I going to land? I don’t know for now, so I try not to worry about it. But this world does take money. Michelle and I saved sufficient funds for this walk and the immediate afterward, but it is a finite amount. I must get buy at something when I return. Hopefully, in the educational field.
I’ve seen a few people request information regarding anything they could send to me. I would be gratefully surprised by three particular things right now:
- Caffeinated Clif Bars. That jolt of caffeine helps in the afternoon.
- Jerky. Jerky is light and goes into dinners or eaten as a snack.
- Amazon cards. My taste for audible contemporary writing is expensive. I can only listen to so much free Victorian literature before that becomes even more tormenting than my own thoughts.
Here’s a link to an earlier post with information about how to send something to me if you’re so inclined.
Michelle works to keep the spreadsheet up to date, but she’s starting school and things will be hectic for a couple of weeks.
Truckin’ on (Even though I’m resting in Steamboat Springs for the night. Packing those gallon bags!)
5 thoughts on “Ask The Tree Volume 5”
Love your comment on Victorian Literature, so on the point! Sounds a bit like the Madwoman in the Attic, gnihi 😉
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Hi Michael, Blessings to you! We met you in South Pass City as you were sorting your care package from Michelle in front of the old hotel. Your story intrigued me to the point that I went back and read all your blogs from prep to now. What an undertaking! Something we dreamed of doing someday, but now we can experience it through you! 😉 Perhaps with what we’re learning from you, we might try a month long walk along the trail somewhere.
I was watching your blog for a mention of South Pass or the Eclipse that took place 2 days after we met you there. Wondering what your eclipse experience was like along the trail?
We’re just back in MN so haven’t posted many photos yet but wondering if I can send you the ones we took of you. What’s the best way to get them to you?
Thanks for sharing your setup and food info.
It’s great to read your thoughts and experiences from the trail. We hope that, in spite of the monatony and loneliness, that you are daily encouraged by the beauty of the creation around you.
You’re in our prayers.
Keep truckin’ on.
Tim & Vivi Oberg
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I got into Rawlins and was lazy about posting anything about South Pass and coming out of the Winds. I’m guessing I had about 95% on the eclipse. I walked right through it. The reduction in sun made for a good 35 mile day through the Basin. I peaked at it with my eclipse glasses when it starting getting dark.
Talking to people about the trail is a highlight for me. Glad you asked such great questions!
I have enjoyed reading your blog. Through the loneliness and solitaire know that we are cheering you on from afar! Audible is a wondeful thing. What has been your favorite part of the trail so far?
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The Great Divide Basin had incredible sunsets. Other than that I think the last five feet before I sling my pack to the ground in front of a restaurant or bar is the best part of the trail. Of course I did see a mountain lion today. That’s the highlight.