The Dago Diaries

One Italian American's Journey Along America's Great Divide

ODT prelude and Day 1

The jumping off point for the ODT

ODT getting to the trail

We headed out of town on Friday and made our way to baker city a short 5 hour drive in the Cr-v. Suzy had her battery replaced so the radio needed to be reset we had no idea though and by the time we figured out the code we had locked ourselves out rendering the radio useless. Fun when you have 3 in the car, not so fun for Suzy on the rest of her trip.

We had a pleasant night in Baker City, the super 8 was a lovely hiker hotel and the restaurant suggestion was good. I loaded up with a big old hand cut rib eye and loaded potato, washed it down with Agee beers and then passed out for the night.

ODT day 1 (10 miles)

The morning found us driving to Ontario, OR which proudly proclaims, “Ontario, where Oregon begins”. We made our way down through the towns before turning down the Owyhee river road to the start. For 13 curvy miles we enjoyed watching people fish and the red canyon walls as we passed them. We pulled into the campground and spotted Mosey, Swept Away, and their cousin Randy with a spread of great food, and a pile of gear waiting to get loaded up.

The official terminus of the ODT, from Left to Right, Allgood, Salty, and Swept Away

Swept away and I spent time getting her new pack from six Moon Designs all dialed. I took Karluk to the water and threw the ball so he could get some swimming in and burn off som energy. Then it was time to start.

The ODT official terminus is peninsula with a prominent rock outcropping. We climbed up top and felt like celebrities as Suzy, Mosely and Randy took a ton of photos for us. We went back to the cars said our goodbyes and started on the trail. Within I. Hour we realized we had made a wrong turn and we’re on a road instead of bushwhacking up the drainage. We convoluted our maps and decided to hike to the top on the road and cut over to where the cross country route was to take us. We found where we need to be, found some shade and had a snack. A few hot sunny hour later we made the first spring and enjoyed some water with the cows. I realized I left behind a crucial part to use my tow Cnoc Outdoors bags as a gravity filter so I squeezed some water through my sawyer filter and dosed the rest with aquamira.

The rest of the day found us walking up and down some canyons getting a bit off course at times but then finding a way back to where we need to be. Finally after 17 miles we called it a day, stopped early and made camp. We are all cowboy camping in the the stars my favorite way to sleep at night. Tomorrow we have an early start and long day as we try to knock out 20-25 miles.

Dinner night one thanks to Backpackers Pantry!

Overall I’m feeling great, a little sore but the pre-hike jitters are gone and I feel alive and happy to be out in the desert once again. I have missed the smell of sage and even the smell of cows since the Cdt. This area reminds me of the beaver head mountains along the Montana/Idaho border and Its great to be out here. Bonus the three of us are getting along great and all are relaxed and finding our trail groove. Now to just find some more electrolytes so I can stop my legs from cramping and get a good nights sleep

To the desert hiker this water is a god send

Time For a Long Walk

Map of the Oregon Desert Trail

It’s been a while since I got to go take a long walk in the wilderness and let my thoughts wander free.  Well I guess not that long I did go hike the Trans San Diego County Trail back in January which was a blast, but I was only gone for a week and it left me longing for more.  For the past few years, I have had my eye on hiking the Oregon Desert Trail, which is a newer route here in my home state.  Ever since I followed along Sage Clegg on her pioneering hike and bike across the state I have dreamed of someday hiking this route. Over the past few years I have had a handful of other friends hike this trail and after much debate with Suzy, it is time for me to give it a go myself starting September 1st.

About the Oregon Desert Trail

The ODT is a 750-mile route that makes a horseshoe through the eastern part of OR, the trail starts or ends depending which direction you go at Lake Owyhee State Park and ends outside of Bend in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness.  The trail passes through canyons, across desert landscapes and even crosses the Steens Mountains.  Along the way, I’ll pass through small towns to resupply, visit some hot springs, and get lost in my mind as I pick my way across the landscape.

The ODT is the brainchild of the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA).  My good friend Renee “She-Ra” Patrick is the ODT Trail Coordinator, you might remember her from my CDT Hike as “She-Ra” was kind enough to drive me from Albuquerque to the start of my hike in NM.  “She-Ra” and everyone else who works at ONDA is doing great work to preserve the desert of our state and you can learn more about the trail and their work by visiting their website https://onda.org/

Hiking Partners

The ODT passes through a part of the country that has the lowest population density in the lower 48.  Being a bit of a social extrovert, I opted to have some company along this hike.  For the ODT I am going to be joined by my two friends Katie “Salty” Gerber and Katlyn “Swept Away” Pickett.  “Salty” and I have been planning this hike since about March and last weekend while at PCT Days “Swept Away” and I were talking and she decided to join us as it might one of the only hikes in the West without a major shutdown due to forest fires……we’ll see though there is one fire in the Fremont-Winema National Forest that we are playing a wait and see game with if we’ll be able to hike through the area or have to come up with an alternate.

Heading out with two people I have never hiked with before on such a remote and challenging route is a bit of a risk.  To ensure we could get along though we have talked a lot about our styles of hiking and made sure they matched, we are all early risers on the trail and tend to grind miles all day.  I also have the pleasure of spending a couple of days with “Salty” during the OR show in Denver in July and think we’ll get along fine.  The biggest challenge for me is not overwhelming either of these two fine hikers with my verbal diarrhea and constant talking

“Wait, didn’t you just change jobs?”

I did recently start a new job as the Sales and Marketing Manager at Six Moon Designs.  This company is fortunately owned by a fellow thru-hiker and with his blessing, I am going on this hike.  It will not only be a good time for me to get centered, so I can kick ass in my new role but also it is going to allow me to get intimate with our line of gear. It’s nice to work somewhere that not only makes some awesome gear but also believes and sees the value in their employees hiking to stay relevant so they can come up with new ideas from actual in field experience.

I’ll be carrying one of our Fusion 50 packs and DCF Deschutes Prototype tarp/tent that will be coming out in 2019.  The pack I am taking is a major change from the past few years, the Fusion 50 is a load hauler and that is a good thing because this summer has been the hottest in Oregon’s history, so “She-Ra” told us to plan to carry up to 3 gallons of water at a time.

Ready to Go

On Friday my lovely wife Suzy and my faithful pup Karluk will drive Salty and I to the start at the Owyhee to meet Swept Away there.  It’s a long drive 8+ hours, but we’ll break it up with a stop in Baker City for a final night in a bed and a shower before hitting the trail.  I hope you’ll follow along with me on my trip, not sure if I am going to blog every day or just break it up by each section between towns.  It’s pretty hard to type every night on an iPhone and as any of you my followers know my editing skills, grammar and spelling are even worse than usual after I have hiked 20-30 miles during the day.

Anyway, if you want some humor during September stay tuned for some tales of the trail as I search the most remote parts of Oregon for a good Italian dinner and pints of ice cream.

 

Upcoming Thru-Hike of the San Diego Trans-County Trail

Map Trans San Diego Trail

This map shows the route we will follow along our hike

With the new year here and missing the thru-hiking life, I am setting off on January 10th for another adventure, the 153 mile Trans San Diego County Trail.  With work and family responsibilities the opportunity to go hike for a month or two in a row is not feasible at this time so for 2018, I am hoping to tackle some new Thru-Hikes for the Working Stiffs like I have done in the past, these shorter thru-hikes of sub 300 miles are a great way to get out hiking while keeping a proper work-life balance.

This hike is more of a route than a trail so to speak, a crew of thru-hiker Alumni that have been hiking this trail the past few years and luckily for me, they have put out a map set and GPX track so I should be able to find my way.  The trail Start at the Salton Sea in the desert of California and ends at the Pacific Ocean, in the past it has been known as the Sea to Sea.  Since it’s generally cold, dark and rainy here in Portland this time of year I figured a week of stretching my legs in the sun was just what I need to kick off the new year.

Timberline Trail

Me along the Timberline Trail in August of 2017. I spent most of this past year as a weekend warrior longing for a few more days out on the trail at the end of each trip

This should be a fun trip, as I am going with a great group of close friends.  Joining me along the way are the following group of serial hikers:

Lint modeling one of my companies new PCT beanies

Lint modeling one of my companies new PCT beanies

“Lint” who is one of only 3 people to have completed a Triple, Triple Crown.  We have been close friends since I met him in 2009, and except for a few overnights and day hikes in the PNW, I have never hiked too much with him.  I am stoked to learn from him as we work away along the route and I’m sure we’ll share a more than a few laughs too.

Round the Mountain Trail

From Left to right “The Punisher” and “AYCE” on the Round the Mountain Trail in 2015

“AYCE” and “Punisher”, Better known as Mike and Naomi, this couple are two of my favorite hikers I have ever known.  besides being a wonderful couple and close friends the two of them love to hike.  “AYCE” not only has a Double-Triple Crown, he has also hiked the Pacific North West Trail, Arizona Trail and a handful of other trails and routes around the US.  His Wife “The Punisher” is a dear friend, who also has a Triple Crown, has hiked the Great Divide Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail and for those of you that follow me, she was also our Designated Hiker on the Denver Brew-Thru a year ago.  These two also went out of their way when I finished the CDT to pick me up in East Glacier and deliver me safely at home.

"Snorkel" on the Sierra High Route in 2015

“Snorkel” on the Sierra High Route in 2015

Finally my “adopted little sister” “Snorkel” rounds out our group.  Snorkle is a Triple Crowner, former FKT holder for an unsupported hike by a female on the Appalachian Trail, and has hiked more trails than I care to list.  her new book Long Trails,  recently won the National Outdoor Book Award for an Instructional book and I am so happy to get to share some trail with her again.  It has been a few years since her and I pioneered the Chinook Trail with Tomato and then Hiked the Sierra High Route the following year.

I am getting really excited to go, I spent a few hours the other night sorting my gear, packing up food (I’m pretty sure I packed too much as usual).  Then I got the maps printed out, GPS loaded up with the data, cleared the memories cards and gave the electronics a run through.  So now the only thing left to do is wrap up some work, clean up the house and get back on the trail!

 

What Have We Done?

Nothing says America more than riding a giant Jackalope in Dubois, WY

Nothing says America more than riding a giant Jackalope in Dubois, WY

I try not to be too political and I rarely if ever view my own personal political views publicly because I feel you will never change the opposite views mind, so why fight and argue?  This morning though I woke up and like many American’s asked myself, “what have we done?”  We just put in place a new President who could give a rat’s ass about the general public, the working class stiff, women, people of various races and the environment.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised really I mean GW won two elections, because you can never really underestimate how angry and racist many in the country are, whether openly or privately, there is still a lot of angst, fear, sexism, and racism that rules most people’s views.

What did surprise me though was the experiences I had politically this year while walking from one border of the US to the other.  While politics and religion are two things you try to never discuss on trail or in town, the long days with your hiking partners does a lot itself to having some deep philosophical discussions and with an election year like this it was inevitable it would come up at times.

From Left to Right Buttercup, Allgood, and Cheezy. I have never known two people who love America more than these Germans do.

From Left to Right Buttercup, Allgood, and Cheezy. I have never known two people who love America more than these Germans do.

I walked with two Germans and they were appalled at the fact that this country would consider electing Trump.  More than once a comparison was made to their old leader Hitler, and I think they could give more perspective than anyone.  You see they understood that someone could rise to power by preying on the fears of the masses and use a mixture of racism and poor economic conditions to rise to the top as a logical choice for some.  While Hitler blamed the Jews, Trump simply used the Mexicans and other immigrants as his punching bag, he talked of lost jobs and rising health care, and how we had lost our way and embraced a platform of Xenophobia last seen in 1930’s Germany.  They gave cautionary warnings that all of our flags and banners, anthems, and patriotic songs are exactly what led to an Austrian being able to rise to power in their country’s history.

The three of us would talk of the holocaust, and they told me how the movie Schindler’s List was a great thing because it let their country heal and talk about its dark past.  They explained to me that their generation more than any is resolved to never repeat such atrocities and that as a nation they understand blind nationalism leads to bad things.  They warned me of a rise of Trump, but one thing they agreed is if he won the worse thing anyone could do is leave this country or just roll over.  You see they feel that if more of their people had stood up and called BS on what was going back in the 1930’s, maybe some of the atrocities could have been avoided or at least mitigated.  However many fled for safety in other countries leaving behind masses who would tow the party line.

Random folks making us dinner on the 4th of July Holiday, why? Because America is full of good people so don't lose sight of that

Random folks making us dinner on the 4th of July Holiday, why? Because America is full of good people so don’t lose sight of that

As I walked north through communities in NM, CO, WY, MT, and ID that had populations smaller than my local grocery store before a snow storm, people in town and at trailheads would ask us about our thoughts on the election.  We would all shy away from saying much, but these folks in rural America all shocked me when they started bagging on Trump.  Not one of them supported him, even the Vietnam Vet with his ATV and .44 caliber on his hip, he really shocked me when he called Trump, “America’s Hitler”.  From town to town and community along the way the message was the same from these folks, “Why does anyone think that a billionaire from NYC gives a damn about who we are or our needs?”  Maybe I was lucky and just met a lot of enlightened people, or maybe these folks who work so hard each day to scrape out a living on the hardscrabble land they lived in got it, that no one that wealthy was putting their needs first. Just think how many stops did either candidate make in places like Lima, MT or Reserve, NM?

Here we are celebrating our vets at a Memorial Day Event in Chama, NM....no President ever held a rally here

Here we are celebrating our vets at a Memorial Day Event in Chama, NM….no President ever held a rally here

You see I set out on the CDT to not just walk through beautiful places and rugged terrain, I walked the length of the US to reconnect with America and the communities I passed through.  The whole purpose of the National Scenic Trails Act was to preserve wild places and provide a path for people to take that would connect them to the communities along it.  It’s a nice way to see parts of this country you never see, and I relished in visiting local museums, taking part in town events, and yucking it up with the locals whenever I had the chance.  The Divide connected me to a part of US I didn’t know and restored my faith in humanity and the US.

Drinking with the local in Grand Lake, CO

Drinking with the locals in Grand Lake, CO

Now the question each and every hiker, hunter, fisherman, skier, kayaker, paragliders, mountain biker, and outdoor enthusiast must ask themselves, “What does this mean for us and our wild places we love to use and roam?”  Well, it doesn’t look good for us.  In the past couple of years, or so a few folks in DC mainly led by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT 1st Dist) have been waging a war on federal land.  They stoke the fire of Sage Brush Rebellion, thinking that federal lands controlled by the BLM, USFS and even NPS should be turned over to states to manage.  They have proposed revising the Wilderness Act of 1964 to allow Mountain Bikes and other things like exploratory mining.  This to me is just the start of war soon to be waged against our public lands.

I think we will see less protection in place for wild places, sweeping sell-offs of our Natural Resources to the highest bidder.  Trump has already stated he thinks we should limit the reach of the EPA, invest more in domestic fossil fuels and that global warming is a myth.  Ask anyone in East Glacier if Global Warming is a myth, while we sit here arguing if it’s a real thing in this country glaciers are melting and the rest of the world is trying to figure out how to deal with the very scientific warming of our earth.

If we care for what type of landscape we leave the future we need to protect mountains from mining.

If we care about what type of landscape we leave the future we need to protect mountains from mining.

As a lifelong lover of the outdoors and wilderness, this morning’s news only made my resolve to protect our nation’s public lands that much stronger.  I will continue to assist organizations with advocacy to protect public lands, preserve forest and keep the Wilderness Act of 1964 just the way it is.  I will stand up and fight for what is right, not shrink away to Canada or Mexico or where ever else people considering fleeing too.  I’ll stay right here and be heard, and be the change to protect our public places so that others after me will have the opportunity to go on a long walk in the wilderness and embrace the small communities along their way.  Don’t give up America!, be pissed and be the change, write to your Senators and Congress Members, tell them to protect our public lands as they were the greatest gift granted to us By folks like Teddy Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, and John Muir.

While many will you tell you now is the time for our country to heal, the realist in me says, “nawh never going to happen, we are way too divided.”  Now is the time more than ever to stand up and fight for what you believe and fight for the places and land you love to use.  If this was a boxing match the bell just tolled from round one and we are still standing, so get ready for a fight upon round two because whether you are from one party or the other, I bet you use public lands for recreation and you better start paying attention before there is a drill rig next to Old Faithful Lodge.

This pretty much sums up how our federal land will be gutted if you don't take a stand going forward.

This pretty much sums up how our federal land will be gutted if you don’t take a stand going forward.

 

CDT Gear MVP Katabatic Gear Alsek 22* Quilt

The winner and champion the Katabatic Alsek

The winner and champion the Katabatic Alsek

It’s time to start giving out my opinion and reviews of the gear that helped me hike the CDT, while I switched out gear depending on; the environment I was in, the conditions I would encounter, and the tradeoff of weight vs comfort, one piece of gear stayed with me all the way my Katabatic Gear Alsek 22 down quilt.  This bag kept me warm and comfortable every single night I slept out, from cowboy camping under the stars only to wake up with a healthy layer of frost on my bag, to the warmer summer nights in Wyoming, never did I find it overly warm or not warm enough.

Now being the MVP in your gear list is a big honor and why you may ask did the Katabatic win out over the other items, well I’m going to break it down for you.

Who is Katabatic Gear?
Many people in the hiking word both serial long-distance hikers to the weekend warrior might not be familiar with this smaller cottage gear maker located in Lakewood, CO.  The company was founded by Aaron Martray who is a long distance hiker, mountaineer, and ice climber.  He wanted a quilt that’s was light, warm, and of the highest quality.  When Aaron couldn’t find a bag available to fit his needs he went ahead and made his own down quilt for a thru-hike of the Colorado Trail he was doing.  After having great success on the trail with the quilt, he started to make a few quilts here and there and sold them online at places like Backpacking Light ‘s gear forum.

The beginnings were humble, Aaron made the bags in his two-room apartment in Colorado setting up his one room as the workshop, he stitched the bags himself, designed and built his own down stuffing equipment, which is still used today, and with a spark and a vision he started a viable business and named it Katabatic after the Katabatic effect we all experience in the outdoors where high-density air from elevation rushes down a drainage or in the case of a chinook wind warm air is carried up slope to the windward side of a mountain.

Now Katabatic is an established company with a physical shop in Lakewood, CO where Aaron and his Partner Kris work tirelessly to procure the most high-quality items they can.  The shop has 8 sewers, a cutting room guy who also stuffs the bags and Aaron who not only is the chief designer but also personally inspects each quilt, backpack, and bivy sack before it is shipped out.  Aaron told me on a visit this past spring, “I would rather reject a bag for a bad stitch than have a sub-par product out on in the field.”  You see Aaron is a dirtbag like the rest of us and he knows that buying a high quality down product is a major investment for us adventurers and when you are shelling out $400-$500 you want a piece of gear that is going to last you for many trips.

So there you have it an American Dream success story for humble beginnings to a viable business that is helping employ sewers in Colorado and produces the highest quality quilts out there.

The owners even hike, Kristen Driers and Aaron Martray on a hike with me in Colorado along the CDT

The owners even hike, Kristen Driers and Aaron Martray on a hike with me in Colorado along the CDT

Why a Quilt?
Many people ask me, “Why do you have quilt instead of a bag?”

The answers are not so simple, the main reason is that when you have a traditional bag you lay on top of your insulation, this compressing it and taking away its R-value.  So you are basically carrying extra insulation and material that at the end of the day will be compressed and have no real insulating power.  The fact is that your sleeping pad whether a thin foam pad or a luxurious 3″thick air mattress is giving you the real insulation from the ground.  The Neo-air I used has a high R-value so it was more than enough to keep me warm when sleeping on the ground and even the snow in Colorado.

Zippers are heavy, you might not think of it when buying a bag, but that 5′ long zipper is more oz’s than you realize, by eliminating the zipper you not only save that weight you also have one less zipper to fail you or give you a headache on the trail.  Let’s face it zippers get dirty, break teeth and if you are not careful can snag delicate lightweight fabrics on things like your precious down jacket.  There are a few “quilts” out there by others that have a zipper but I personally feel these bags are confused as to what they are, is it a quilt? No, it’s basically a mummy bag without a hood, as useful as teats on a bull.

Now the other reason for me is I am a side sleeper even in the outdoors I lay on my side and tend to toss and trash around during the night.  The quilt allows the side sleeper to be comfortable without feeling constricted or rolling over to find your face planted squarely in your bags hood.  The quilt is frankly just more comfortable than a traditional sleeping bag, and more versatile as I often draped the quilt over me as I sat around in the evening cooking or taking a long snack break on a cold day, its wide top is like a blanket at home and you can even get two bodies under it to warm those chilly legs, like after crossing the Gila River 215 times.

Staying comfy while writing my blog in the evenings

Staying comfy while writing my blog in the evenings

Didn’t you get cold when you roll over?
Now the common issue that I hear from folks about not wanting to use a quilt is the loss of precious heat when they roll over at night.  Now I must be honest I hardly ever used the attachment system to secure my quilt to my pad, but on the nights I need to it completely eliminated this issue.  The Katabatic Quilt comes with two options, flat fabric straps to cinch up the back to make it tight to you like a traditional bag but even better the small cord attachment that goes under your sleeping pad makes the quilt and bag one tight and secure sleep system.  When I did use the attachments I was more than warm enough even when a stiff breeze would blow when cowboy camping under the night sky.

The second feature which I used all nights to keep my heat around me was the draft collar at the top of the quilt.  The draft collar is similar to a traditional bag except this one has two plastic snaps that you can use to make the top a secure round draft tube over your shoulders.  I would simply snap up, poke my head through and use the drawcord to close the gaps and keep my warmth in the bag.

Now not having a hood to bury into might scare some, but I always have a wool buff and a fleece beanie so I just put on my beanie, slip the buff over it slightly and down my neck and Wa la, I have a hood.  If you are thinking you might need more than a fleece beanie Katabatic makes a down hood you can wear, it’s basically a balaclava made out of the same high-quality materials as the quilts.

Breakfast in bed, the last task before walking and the hardest was leaving the comfort of my quilt

Breakfast in bed, the last task before walking and the hardest was leaving the comfort of my quilt

Earning MVP Status
Now when you are out busting your hump walking for 12-14 hours a day the one thing you really look forward to is eating dinner and getting a good night’s rest to recover and be ready for the next day.  No one likes sleeping cold or being uncomfortable so having a good sleep system is paramount. Knowing that each night I would be buried under 900fp down was one of the reasons I pushed until as late as I could, I knew that even if I only slept 6 hours or so those 6 hours would be comfortable.

The rating on my quilt was 22 degrees, but anyone who owns a Katabatic will tell you that their ratings are conservative.  I have had my bag in temperatures of 0 degrees in Oregon before I left and never felt cold, and most nights I just did up the draft collar and never once felt chilled even when rolling around.  The materials they use for the shell and lining are pertext and I think in over 2700 miles I maybe saw 12 feathers total escape from my bag.  The most amazing thing though is I never washed my bag on trail and it never lost its loft, and I dirt bagged in it every day, no sleep clothes, just jumped in with the clothes I had hiked in all day and still it never lost its loft, but it did stink like me to high heaven.

The quality though is probably the biggest thing, I have owned many bags since I was young Boy Scout at age 10, everything from major brands like Mountain Hardware, The North Face, Go Lite, and Sierra Designs and not one of them compares to the quality of this bag.  High ended fabrics, sustainably sourced down and handmade in the USA make this bag the only one to buy in my opinion.  The makers also gave me an option to get a bag that was cut just for me, with extra wide shoulders, and width yet short enough to sleep my 5’8″ frame without a bunch of extra bag at the bottom.

Often times I would pull my bag out and friends with other cottage bags by folks like Z-packs, Western Mountaineering, and Feathered Friends would take one look at the design, the loft and the ease of attachments and say, “damn I should have gotten that bag” or comment at their jealousy over my super lofty, yet only 24oz quilt.

This quilt is a 5 out of 5 star product and if you are looking to spend the money and buy a bag that will last you for years do yourself a favor and get a Katabatic I promise you will not be cold, you’ll be happy and your hiking friends will look enviously at you at night as you snuggle down in the warmth and comfort of your big down quilt.

Side note: My good friend Swami has over 17,000 miles on his Katabatic Quilt. My Friends AYCE and The Punisher each have 8,000+ mile on their Katabatic quilts and let’s not forget Snorkel who after years of using some other sleeping bags made the Katabatic switch and has never looked back since.

img_6099https://katabaticgear.com/shop/alsek-sleeping-bag/

Re-Entry The Hardest Part of the CDT

Sunset in the basin

Sunset in the basin

I finished the CDT on September 9th, it was a glorious day for sure as I had completed my goal of walking from Mexico to Canada in one shot, in one direction and with continuous foot steps the entire way.  After finishing the hike I was whisked back to East Glacier where I spent two and half days relaxing, hanging out with fellow thru-hikers who had finished or were on their way to finish their hikes.  I ate a lot of food, drank some beers, visited the Glacier Grand Lodge and then was treated to my friends giving me a ride back to Portland.
The mighty Columbia

The mighty Columbia

On our way back we stopped in Sand Point, ID to visit friends of mine No Where Man and Walking carrot who I first met on the Appalachian Trail in 1997 when I was a Ridge Runner working for the ATC. It’s great to have friends who know what you are going through, they took us for beer and dinner and I slept on the back porch with Snorkel where we chatted like little kids at a slumber party until it was well past bedtime.  The next day we loaded up the 5 of us in the Suby Wagon and drove the remaining 8 hours to Portland.  The drive took us along the Columbia River, I was so glad to see my old friend the gorge and I felt like Lewis and Clark as I neared the end of my long journey by following the very river they took to the Pacific.

Celebrating our hikes in East Glacier

Celebrating our hikes in East Glacier

When I got home I didn’t recognize the neighborhood the crack house I have lived across from for 13 years was remodeled and new neighbors had moved in already.  In just five months my blue-collar neighborhood has become Portland’s latest hot spot with condos going up where old dilapidated buildings once stood, and there is even a bike am yoga in our hood and Starbucks being built, man they sure move fast here.

Suzy and I hugged for a long time and after 5 months it was so nice to be back in her arms.  Karluk was over the moon to see me, he sprinted back and forth not sure how to contain his excitement.  I loved on him and schlepped my pack into the house.

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As the next few days progressed I felt lost and without direction.  Being back in the city is tough, the sounds of cars, police sirens and trains made me jump.  Driving was a new experience too and I fear my lack of awareness will cause a wreck, so I take my time driving, don’t speed and try to stay as aware as possible.

As the days have progressed each day I feel a little bit more grounded and focused, but without a daily goal of where to walk to, I often get lost and sidetracked, I swear I have a case of PTADD, Post Trail Attention Deficiency Disorder, and it’s a real problem.  One minute I am working on stuff for the ALDHA-West Gathering and the next I’m off in the yard wondering what the hell I was supposed to do out here.  My lack of efficiency surprises me and my loss of direction is something I have never experienced in my life.

Suzy and I are trying to get re-acquainted, after 16 years together my return is like starting all over again in our relationship.  We both grew and changed while I was away, she is much more self-reliant and capable than she ever realized she was, I’m much more mellow and easy going than I have ever been. The process is a bit slow but we are doing well and we know our love for each other will guide us through this time.

After a few days of being in a funk, I decided part of it was my lack of exercise.  You see when you walk all day for 12-14 hours your body and brain get used to the endorphin and if you are not getting that daily fix you go nuts.  So I did something I had not done in years, I started running every day for 40 minutes in the morning, I mixed in some push-up, sit-ups, and upper body stuff so my alligator arms from being on the trail can be strong again.

I miss my trail pals and all of us are dealing with similar emotions and re-entry issues.  Cheesy and Johnny stopped in Portland for a few days before going back to Germany, we talked about what she might experience but she shrugged it off.  Two days later I get a text via What’s App it was cheesy and her own re-entry had hit her, we chatted back and forth and I reminded her that she is a bad ass who just walked from Mexico to Canada and every hard day we had only better prepared her for life back at home.  We helped each other through our struggles just like we had over 1000 miles together out on the CDT.   I miss my trail sister and I know over time she will be OK just like I will.

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Cheesy and I riding back to trail in a cramped camper

As hard as the transition has been, I know next week will help get things back on track.  the annual ALDHA-West gathering is in Nevada City, CA and I’ll be surrounded by my trail friends and they can give me the support and perspective I need.  With inspirational speakers, plans for future trips will be hatched, or friends hugged, laughs at the fun and few beers to calm the old nerves.  As a bonus Buttercup, Maverick, 2-Ply and His wife, Popeye, Karate Kid and Tatu-Jo will all be there to represent the CDT class of 2016.

Suzy photobombing

Suzy photo bombing

For now, I’ll keep on the two daily task Suzy gives me to get back on home life, wash my stinky gear, write some gear reviews and give plenty of love to Karluk.  The hike might be over but my journey is far from complete.  The re-entry is the hardest part, I’m not depressed but I’m slowly easing my way back into Portland life.  To my friends, I will see you all in good time but please respect my need for some space, peace, and quiet as I readjust to not sleeping outside, only thinking of my next water source, the next climb and what I can eat.

Now if I could just make money from walking life would be grand.

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The folks at Katabatic Gear are currently running a 15% off bags/quilts sale. Those that have followed 'The Hiking Life' over the years will know that I'm a big fan of their quilts, and have used them exclusively on all my backcountry trips since 2011. If you are in the market for a top of the range quilt, now might be a good time to pull the trigger!

katabaticgear.com/sleeping-bags/
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1 years ago  ·  

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