Lima to Old Faithful Village–Running for Wyoming

#¥!&$&%^*!!!!

When I saw the Subway on the corner I knew I might still have a shot to make my 30 miles. I was about 20 into a miserable bushwhack and road walk of a day. 

It had a started the night before. 

“It’s 100 miles, not 88,” I thought and swore silently to myself. “That’s going to add another night unless I add on a big day tomorrow.” I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t realized it was 12 more miles to a road in Yellowstone after I entered the park. 

My Mistake

My phone app ended at the Idaho/Wyoming border, and I hadn’t loaded the next one. “That’s what you get for being a fool.”

As I poured over my paper map, I quickly realized the mistake and made a few mental computations. I could still make Yellowstone, but it was going to take a big day along with a longer run into the park than I anticipated. 

It was four miles from where I was camped to the start of the Mack’s Inn cut-off over to Yellowstone. The cut went almost straight east to the park rather than following the Divide north through the Sawtelle range. I’d already decided to take the cut and save 70 miles to get to Michelle and Maggie quicker.  I’d have to walk most of the 34 miles of the cut in a day to still have a chance to make the park at a reasonable time. 

Making the cut

The five mile bushwack up Hell Roaring Creek was not fun. There was intermittent tread and knocked down grass where others had passed, but most of the time I just had to pick my way up through the canyon to the ridge. What I expected to take  me until 10:30am took until noon. 
The trail became solid as I reached the ridge line and became even more pronounced as I began to descend. Quickly it intersected a popular ATV road and my speed downhill incensed along with the amount of dust in the air from the vehicles and bikes whizzing past me. I was able to go into mental zone that doesn’t usually happen on the trail when I’m constantly making sure I’m in the right spot and haven’t lost the trail. The road was impossible to lose. I even closed my eyes a few times!

Bound to cover just a little more ground

When the Subway came into view, a super large fountain drink and 12 inch club were calling my name. Fighting dehydration all the time has made me a fan of a 32oz and above Dr. Pepper. It’s a habit I’ll need to break immediately upon ending this trail run, but for now they are glorious! 

Another two miles down a busy highway I crossed a river filled with tubers and canoeists. Another quick stop at Mack’s Inn provided me with a Klondike bar and a Powerade. Fuel to make another 8 miles. 

Easy stretch of pavement and then a long gravel uphill on Moose Creek Road would finish out my haul across the valley and get back up on the next ridge line. Beautiful sunset with the all the smoke in the sky. Pushing my first 30 on the trail kept me positive even as my body began to rebel. As darkness crept in I decided on a roadside turnout for a camp. It was flat. 


A moose popped out of the woods just as I layed down. She was not happy I was in her spot. She hung around for over an hour chomping and snorting at me. She finally left and then the rain started. I got up quickly and set up my tarp for the little bit of spit that came down. 

Grinding it out

Morning broke and I was walking by 6 to hammer out my 20 or so by 5pm. A little bit of gravel road followed by a long 12 miles of blah trail through a burned section of Yellowstone. The anticipation of hitting the Wyoming border fueled the morning walk, but once I’d made it the grind through the old burn was tedious. I don’t usually listen to music while walking because I have to pay attention to whether I’m on trail or not. Trail was plain, so the new CRB album, Behold the Seer, went on and I zoned the miles away. 

Michelle, Maggie, and Stoaked (She’s traveling with M & M while healing a hip injury and trying to get back on trail) were waiting for me as I broke the woods and entered the Biscuit Basin area of Yellowstone. Hugs and an olive pepperoni sandwich along with a cold electrolyte beverage finished off this section. 

Wrap-up

I made the hundred mile run in just over 3.5 days. Didn’t make it in until 5pm because I thought as I started out from Lima that it was only 88 miles until I could meet up with Michelle and Maggie again. 
Trying to get Maggie to write a blog post from her perspective. Who’d like to read one of those?

It was my first stretch of consecutive 25 mile days; it hurt. Twenties are comfortable now, twenty-fives are doable, thirties definitely hurt, but my legs are strong and getting stronger. Stringing more and more of the 20+ days together is now the goal. 

I think I got a shot at making this thing. Eight hundred miles in with two thousand to go. 

Kindness matters

Truckin’ on

Tree

P.S. I put on a pair of size 34 waist pants this morning. That hasn’t happened since 1993. 

Ask the Tree Vol. 4 Addendum

I’ve been kicking around my response to Vol. 4. If you missed it, you can read it here. 

I realized as I was walking along that I missed adding a few key pieces to why I started long haul hiking and why I’m still doing it. 

Ego, Adventure, and a Little Bit of Crazy

I left out an important piece in the ego. In addition to time, money, and health when attempting to walk more than 2000 miles, I think you have to believe you can do something that most won’t or can’t do. 

Thoughts like, “I’m tough enough” or “I can do this thing that most can’t” has to be part of the why. I’m not sure how that rolled into  my Appalachian Trail hike, but I know it’s for sure part of why I’m walking now. I needed to prove to myself that I still have the stones to get a trail like the CDT done. 


If I’d been born in an earlier era, I’d see myself moving west like Pa Ingalls or hunting for gold in the Yukon. Instead, I have the most remote wild trail in the United States for an adventure. It’s a chance to turn corners on the trail and see new sights. To walk sometimes for days at a time without seeing anyone else. To learn to trust my own ability to find my way through whatever confronts me on the trail. To have an epic adventure of a lifetime. 


Possibly being a bit crazy is an essential part of attempting to hike more than 2000 miles. I don’t think I’m really crazy, but I’ve been told that by a number of people. And if I’m being honest there are times when I’m crossing a ridge in a thunderstorm or setting up camp in the dark when I do ask myself, “What are you doing out here?”​​​

Often I go back to my lists to stabilize my thoughts and to remind myself of what I was thinking before I left for this adventure. I wrote the lists to prepare psychologically for the trail after reading Zach Davis’ book Appalachian Trials. 


This attempt at a mid-life accomplishment is also about self-discovery at 50. What does run through my head as I’m walking down the trail? And in what sort of proportions? That, my friends, is where I’ll be headed with Ask the Tree Vol. 5. 

For now I’m hanging in Lima with Michelle, Maggie, and a mix of other NOBO and SOBO hikers. Steak tonight and back to the trail in the morning. Going to push hard for Yellowstone (90 miles) over the next 3.5 days to be able to meet up with Michelle and Maggie again. They’re going to take a side trip to Grand Teton National Park while I’m walking before we check out the geysers together. 

Kindness matters

Truckin’ on

Tree 

Lima and my love

Burgers and a reunion 

Landed in Lima (pronounced like lima bean) on the 31st about an hour before Michelle and Maggie made it in. I had an easy 8 mile walk to make I-15 where Mike, owner of the Mountain View Motel, picked me up as he was dropping off other hikers. 

After checking in I walked across the street and ordered a cowboy burger (1/2 pound with cheese, bacon, and ham) and a Pepsi and began my patient wait for the arrival of my love and my burger. Maggie sent me a text that she was hungry, so I ordered her up a burger too! The burgers and Michelle and Maggie arrived at the same time. 


We spent the rest of the day talking while I sorted out gear and drank Oberons (electrolyte mix). The local bar/steak house is closed on Monday’s, so Michelle purchased frozen chicken breasts at the Exxon Station, serious, and made a chicken noodle dinner in the parking lot. Stoaked, a thru hiking friend, came by. Drink and food were shared. She was waiting for her hiking partner, Magpie, to come in off the trail. 

Around 9pm the call came in from Magpie that she was approaching I-15. Michelle and I volunteered to go get her. We had a nice drive up through some gravel roads and the metropolis of Monida, find that on a map, to pick a tired, dirty, and thirsty Magpie. She’d miscalculated water and had a long dry run down to the road. 

Turning 50 and taking a zero day (8/1–Happy birthday, Jerry!)

Five days on the trail and you know my body hurt. It being summer, I took off my shirt, and I tried to wash off some of that dusty dirt.

Even though yesterday was a short day, my body is beat up. I’ve been pulling lots of 25 mile days and need a good rest to recuperate and clean-up. Usually, I like to have a short day into town, and then power out the next morning. Keeps me moving down the trail. That’s also why I’m late on posting a blog piece. Fourteen hour walking days, with quick in and outs in town, haven’t left me much time to write. 

Follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram for more frequent tidbits of progress. 

Today though will be further cleaning of gear and a visit to the steak house to celebrate my birthday. 

Another blog post to follow today to catch up on the last 200 or so miles along with an addendum to Ask the Tree Vol. 4, been thinking about that one, and a couple of new insightful questions that I believe will allow a deeper peer into trail life. 

Kindness matters

Truckin’ on 

Tree
​​

Bannock Pass–Waiting for a ride. 

I could see the vehicle on the road, how far away I couldn’t tell. Running down the hill with a full pack wasn’t the best idea, but it was Bannock Pass. The town I was trying to get to was 14 miles away to the south on that dirt road, Idaho Hwy. 29. Leadore had my box at the post office and a possible room or at least a shower at the city park. I went for it. Flying down the hill over sagebrush and rocks, I gave it what I had. 

I missed by two minutes. I was close enough to see and hear the truck clear the cattle guard. That was a big let down. I’d stopped for a break about three miles up trail, twelve miles into my morning push to get to Bannock, if only I hadn’t stopped I would have been on the road. 

I’m writing this 45 minutes later and no vehicle from either direction has come through the pass. At Bannock Pass you can see no human structures. It’s in the middle of the middle of nowhere. 

I can walk the 14 mile to Leadore, but I don’t want to and it blows the easy day out of the water. So for now I’m waiting and hoping to get lucky soon. 

Update

At 2:15 after being at the pass for almost three hours and not having a vehicle go past me in the right direction, I headed down the hill on foot. Big thunderheads were rollling in and it was time to get off the high spot. 
Not a mile down the road a fracker coming back from North Dakota picked me up. I had my thumb out as he was going by, but when he wasn’t slowing down, I cupped my hands in a begging motion, and he pulled over. Took him a few minutes to sort out his stuff, so I could get in. But man was I grateful. He took me right to the PO in Leadore which luckily was open 15 minutes later than it’s closing time, so I got my mail drop. 

I walked to the Leadore Inn and got the last available room. I was quickly embraced by Sam, the owner, and his friends on the porch. Multiple electrolyte beverages flowed my direction as we watched the vehicles and the clouds flow by. 

All is good in the world. 

Kindness matters 

Truckin’ on

Tree

​​

Ask The Tree: Volume 4

What first led you to walk years ago? Are there certain people who inspired/mentored you?

How did running for Coach Tompkins in Fremont help lead you where you are today?

Will you see the world differently after this journey and how will you keep this experience alive in the years to come?

Getting into the long walk

In 1989 I read an article about the Appalachian Trail in Reader’s Digest. National Geographic had done a feature article on the trail. Never did see a copy of the full length piece. 

My brother, David, happened to read the same article. In a conversation we found out we both had entertained thoughts of giving it a go. 

In order to attempt a thru-hike, you have to have time, money, and health. I’d just graduated from Calvin College with a BA in English Studies in May of ’89, so I had time. My mother, Peg, died in September, so the estate sale of her belongings and property brought the required monetary funds. I was 23, 195 pounds, and had played basketball for the Knights for the previous four years. I had the health. 

I can’t remember now what date we started on the trail the next spring. We were late in the pack, but still plenty of people around as the AT had its first boom in hiker population following the National Geographic article. 

Early on in that first long walk, I found a peace in the hard work and simpleness of measuring a day by footsteps, by feeling time go by instead of constantly measuring it. It let my mind bury my mother and be okay with it. 

This time around

In 2015 Michelle, Maggie, and I drove to California and walked 200 miles on the John Muir Trail through the Sierras. On one of the final days, we had to turn to climb Mt. Whitney where the JMT ends. The Pacific Crest Trail, which the JMT basically follows with a few small deviations, continued on south. I begged Michelle to keep going south. She and Maggie laughed and headed towards Whitney while I peered southbound and wept.

I knew then I had to go long again. 

Twenty-one years in Walkerville Public Schools with the last six as the K-12 Principal/Superintendent had worn me out. I had to be done. I had the time. 

Good financial choices along the way allowed me funds, as well as, the superintendent experience which should allow me to find employment when I return gave me the dollars needed. 

My fiftieth birthday comes in two weeks, so I knew it was now or never for a shot at a thru-hike of Continental Divide Trail. I’m 25 days in and I hurt all over, but that’s to be expected. I’m hanging tough. If I take care and stay healthy, I should be able to get this done. 

People in my head as I walk

First is always Michelle. My heart has a hole in it without her, but I’ve been able to talk to her daily lately and it’s helped. She has balanced my life. I’d have been lost without her. I say, “I love you, Michelle” a hundred times a day. 

My mother has surfaced in my head a lot too. It’s been 28 years, but it still hurts that she’s not here. I think she would understand that I had to go for this. That I had to risk it. 


Coach Tompkins has been in my thoughts too. He taught me about pain and discomfort in way that benefits me everyday. You push through. There might be ache sometimes, but you are not the pain. Your being is separate from the physical hurt. Put it aside and keep going. 

That and ibuprofen now that I’m old. I only take it at night, so I can sleep. I need to listen to the pain during the day. 

Looking forward

I needed this time to reset my brain. Wired too tight. I needed this shot to believe I still had the toughness to do it. That I was still an athlete enough to get it done. 

Those things will transfer well no matter how this journey ends. I’ll have spent time sleeping the ground watching the stars. I’ll have walked the spine of United States of America. I’ll have felt the grace of God as I stand as tiny speck of matter on the passes and in the valleys. 

I’ll be able to sit on my porch and share stories about “this one time on the CDT.”

Till maybe that wandering Jones hits me again. (But don’t tell Michelle yet.) 

If it ever does happen again, she’s going. My heart couldn’t do this again without her. 

Kindness matters

Truckin’ on

Tree


Hanging in Helena–Finding my groove

Sunday morning and the sun was fresh, and I was standing at the flashing yellow light in the middle of Lincoln pondering my route out of town. The only thing I knew for sure was I was leaving that ashtray of a town before it was fully light. 

Lessons

Lincoln had been fun. Pitchers of Heff, a night at an early 1900 haunted log cabin hotel, big burgers, and a bunch of aging bikers. It also reminded/taught me some lessons to remember down the rest of the trail. 

  1. When your pack is packed, get out of town. I’m independent operator. 
  2. Don’t stay in town a second night just for drinks. 
  3. Spend the money on a quality place to sleep.
  4. Make sure to accomplish tasks to improve hiking through the next section. i.e. Laundry, general cleanliness, consumption of food that will improve health. 

I did none of these things in Lincoln. I had a damn good time, but I didn’t set myself up for the next 50+ miles. Now, I’m in Helena making sure I don’t repeat those mistakes. 

We’ll see how I do on #1 and #2 tomorrow morning when I head out of town for Anaconda. 

I set myself up for #3 by sleeping just 5 miles from MacDonald Pass, so I could sleep later under my tarp than normal and still get into town by 10am or so. Extra rest on the trail and in a room of my own in town. I don’t mind sharing a room, but what I learned in Lincoln after sharing a room with Buckeye, Magpie, and Stoked, is that you get some sleep, but don’t get enough nor do you accomplish little cleanliness things that set you up to keep moving forward. 


Lincoln Log Hotel

I also learned that if you sleep in a tent site at an RV park you can leave your site at 7pm and come back at 10pm to find it flooded from the sprinkler system. Moving to a bivouac at 10 isn’t my favorite. Neither is then realizing that because you’re camped next to the highway, the Harley’s are going to be leaving town for the next four hours. 

Another night in town, more dollars and no progress on prep for the next section. 

Finding the groove

It’s 2pm in Helena. I’ve had a great breakfast with bowl of fruit, had a bath, dried all my gear, done a bit of snack shopping, and my wash is going. 

I’m going to take a nap! Dinner shopping and some route planning tonight. Hitch to the pass tomorrow morning and on to Anaconda. 

Beer checking the map on our alternate route. 

Surprise snow cones when we scrambled down to a late season snow bank. 

Thunderstorms moving in. Forced us twice to take cover down hill. Ended up camping on a side hill. Had to shove my food and gear bags under one side of my sleeping pad to try to level off enough to sleep. 
Glorious sunrise the next morning. 

Kindness matters

Truckin’ on 

Tree 

Out of The Bob–And down to Lincoln, MT

The Bob Marshall Wilderness was a tough walk-physically and emotionally. 

Physical

I pushed hard leaving Marias Pass. Walking was just the best medicine. Unfortunately, the trail passed through a burn with hundreds of blow downs. Nothing too hard to get over, just tedious because of the number. With the wilderness status, blowdowns are cleared with axe and crosscut saw. The two man crews do an incredible job, it just takes a long time for them to clear all the trails. 


Twenty to twenty five miles took me from 12 to 13 hours a day to cover. I didn’t stop much nor eat much for the first couple of days. Traveling was just easier. 

Lots of bear sign. Tracks, scat, and claw marks but no sightings for me. It might have had something to do with the fact I was yelling, “Hey, Bear!” every 5 seconds. 


The approximate 170 miles between Marias Pass and Rogers Pass took from June 30 to July 7. Eight hard days of walking.  The Chinese Wall and the last two days actually on the Divide were the highlights. 


The wall was visible from a Spotted Bear Pass the morning before I finally made it there. It was massive. Mountain goats climbing high on the wall with eagles and hawks catching the thermal drafts. 

In between the Wall and the last two days high on the Divide were long hot days through thick river side walks or long hot days through dry burns. One blowdown was literally 25 feet of solid trees. No way through or around. It was on the side of a steep hill. Over was the only way through. It sucked. Lots of scratches from that one. Burns have their own special beauty. They explode with flowers and the sight lines for what’s around you are greatly expanded. 

Finally getting up on the Divide was exhilarating. Mountains as far as I could see to the north, south, and west with the plains stretching out to the east. (Cell service again too after six days without.)

Getting up above tree line is hot too! These photos are from around 8500 feet. Photos do not depict how hard the trail was. Lots of sedimentary loose rock. Going up means sliding backward and going down means falling on your bum. First time is funny. After that it hurts. 


Staying on trail is different on the CDT compared to other trails I’ve walked. The Appalachian Trail and the North Country Trail are paint blazed. None of that happening on the CDT. After having made several wrong turns resulting in extra miles, I now consult my GPS app religiously.  

Mental

After I walked away from Michelle and Maggie, I spent almost three days without seeing another person. Just as I was looking for a bivy spot around 7pm, a couple appeared in front of me at Dean Lake at 7200 feet. Their dog Stella was with them. They had a baby too! I was so surprised to see them, I didn’t ask any questions. 

The three days alone (I camped alone all but one of the seven nights) gave me time to think about a lot. Most of it was pity. I didn’t handle the initial separation from Michelle and Maggie well. Luckily, having to be Bear aware, climbing over dead falls, and crossing rivers/streams doesn’t let you just become mindless. The CDT demands constant awareness. 

I had been so caught up in the physical preparation that I wasn’t ready for the mental stress. With Michelle and Maggie slackpacking me through Glacier, I was always walking to them. Without that thought, the “head” hiking was harder.

Prior thoughts about how I would feel on the trail were not accurate. For the first few days I was miserable thinking about being away from Michelle for five months. Doubt about what I was doing was a constant thought. 
Lincoln, MT

I’m at mile 294 on the trail. My mileage is slightly different due to starting at Chief Mt. and taking the Spotted Bear alternate. Tracking miles isn’t my thing, so I just go by the Guthook’s app mileage. 

The pain of the trail bonds you to others doing the same thing. I’m enjoying a zero day in Lincoln with some of the other hikers on the trail. Lying in my tent now resting up for an evening of Biker Days replete with a stunt motorcyclist and a 70s/80s rock band, Shades of Blue. Caught them last night when I pulled into town.  


Sketch having a burger at a local establishment. 

Tomorrow 

It’s been hot, so I’ll pull out early tomorrow morning and head for Helena, 70 miles or so. After Helena it’s another solid five or six day walk to get to Sula.  

I’m getting there. 

Kindness matters

Truckin’ on

Tree

PS. I DID FEEL THE EARTHQUAKE. Woke me up and after an instant of wonder, I knew what it was.  I could hear rocks falling off the cliffs around me. Pretty cool.