Boundary

The last few days happened the way they should. Love walked with me, in the form of Craig, and in the form of everyone. In the form of Glacier being in me, while I’m finally within those boundaries. Though, I always was.

It snowed on the first day of our trip out, and after enough walking in the elements it got to that, “hmmmmm, I hope we’re alright” place. Craig was a trooper, high-spirited and tolerant. I thought it was appropriate that he got to see what this trail holds. Which is an edge. A place where you wonder. A place where it’s up to you to make decisions and find a balance of not underestimating them, but not losing your faith in yourself. A place where I never dreamed I’d spend so much time alone, and now I wonder when I get to go back.

Craig being a champ in the snow at 50 Mountain

Craig at 50 Mountain

After a shivery evening walk, we pitched our tent and made dinner. It was warm in the cold. Warm because of him, warm because of how I’ve learned to survive, warm because it always is. I don’t mean to seem over-charmed, but I can’t help it. I look around at all of us when we’re shivering and I think about how lucky we are to feel these things.

The next day was dryer, and it took us no time to make it to Goat Haunt. We had lunch by the shore and I tried to suppress the fear. Tried to understand why my body was hesitating to move past that point. The last 4 miles of Glacier where the biggest thing on my mind. I had hiked every bit of trail in the park, barring the last 4 of the CDT. A perfectly ridiculous thing to do. Me, in a nut shell. Then combining that with it being the end of the trail this summer, which felt more like the end of 3 trails, which felt more like the focus of my life for the last 4 years. It’s too much. Too big of a moment. I didn’t know how to handle it. I sort of still don’t.

Craig was there. Grateful to share it all and chomping at the bit to get there with me, for me. We stashed our stuff at Goat Haunt and ran for it! Which was perfect. Don’t think about it, just do it! There was the boundary trail junction first. Which meant my last step on new-to-me Glacier trail. I stopped to acknowledge it, thought about 14-year-old me, gazing at Bowman Lake and realizing that something was changed forever. I thought about 27-year-old me, sitting on the log last summer wondering what I would feel if I should be so lucky as to walk here from Mexico on some September day in 2015. I thought about the .9 miles to go. Wonder if two things that big should ever be that close together, and a third big thing hugging me close to his chest. I’m surprised I didn’t burst into flames.

We ran on. Had a moment with a raging stream, and soon enough, there it was! The border-line. That ominous clearing in the trees. My stomach turned and shoulders tightened and I reacted as though I had seen a ghost. We ran on, anyway. Just around the bend, I saw the terminus. I sprinted for it.

Then I just stood there. Looked around and took it in. It was hard to pick out anything. I mean, here you are, here it is. How is any reaction going to do it justice. We hung out there for a while. We sat next to each other with our backs against the spire, holding hands and looking south. I looked with all of me. Heard myself telling those epic peaks that I did it, but I still don’t understand. They said, “Yes.”  That’s what adventure has taught me.

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The illusion of trying to understand things has always been my downfall.  “You can’t lose what was never yours. You can’t win, cause it’s not a game. You don’t get to go around closing doors, because my darling, we’re the same.”

So I had a good cry, on Craig’s shoulder, and thought of it as all of ours. Because it is.

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And…..that’s the end, but I don’t suppose I believe in endings anymore.

Thank you. For the love, always.

Worth It

Worth it?

How can I even talk about this?

Worth the time? The steps? The discomfort? I guess I’m not sure what you mean.

Yesterday, I stood waist deep in Grinnell Lake, fully clothed, in the icy rain. I ran into it. I laughed, and yipped like a coyote. I did it because I couldn’t help it. I wanted to know how it felt.

It’s worth it to me to spend days in the elements, for the gratitude it gives me. I want to get rocked, that’s what I’m after.

It’s worth it to me to design my life around these adventures. It’s worth every penny I earn, and then some.

Oh, the things which are worth it to me!

Exposure. As internal as it is external. From the inside out.

If I didn’t stand like I do, if I didn’t put it all out there, if I didn’t grin at the clouds that roll in, I’d be someone else.

So, “worth it” is not a question that makes sense.

I don’t make sense.

How I’m able to stand here, with my feet firmly planted on the ground, and my head in the clouds, is something I’ve given up trying to understand. I supposed that puts my heart everywhere. Which is just right.

Sometimes We’re On Fire

It’s the home stretch, my friends. Two hours ago I crossed into East Glacier, MT. I’m ecstatic to be here.

Getting here was interesting. From Helena, it was a 2 1/2 day walk to the town of Lincoln, MT. I met a nice hiker, Tom from Israel, and the company was nice, as it was a rough walk. There was some thick smoke everywhere. Extremely limited visibility and a little tough on the lungs. Meanwhile, I was paying no attention to the water situation and Tom was. Little did I know there was a 30 mile stretch about to happen, with no water sources. Even with Tom’s advisory, it was still one of the thirstiest days I’ve ever had. Chalk it up to the fact that smoke makes us thirsty.

When we got into Lincoln, and ate our weight in junk food, we got news from hikers ahead that the Bob Marshall Wilderness was 100% closed. No one in! That means a 113 mile road walk from Augusta, MT into East Glacier. We hitched ahead to join the group, Stabby and Banjo were there. As well as Rafiki and a few new hikers I hadn’t met. And thus began a different kind of adventure, road walking.

It’s been surprisingly fun. A lot of inside jokes and games have emerged. A lot of locals in small-town Montana have wonder what the hell we are doing. A nice couple, Micah and Jo, took us in in Choteau. That’s an amazing gesture, considering there are 8 of us.

Although it’s a way different style than I’m used to, I’m grateful for it. Lots of laughs. I didn’t anticipate how much it was going to mean to me to come into Glacier with the view from the plains either. Just like the first time I saw it 14 years ago, when it changed my life forever. Here I am today, more in love with it than before. If you ever want to love your home more, I recommend spending a whole summer journeying toward it. I’m here now. And the fires are subsiding, and the trail just opened back up today.

Home at last!

Home at last!

Love.

The Adventure Within the Adventure

So, there’s been a side story happening on this journey and it’s time I let it loose.

I met someone amazing this summer. One early July morning in West Yellowstone, I walked into a bike/coffee shop (Freeheel and Wheel) to be a mooch. A grumpy one at that. I was trying to find a local to get a package to Old Faithful Inn for me, since the post probably wouldn’t beat me there. A handsome, smiley fellow, we call him Craig, was not only unannoyed, but genuinely interested in my quest. He found me a friendly local to carry the package down within minutes and we exchanged numbers after a quick date at the Taco Bus later that afternoon. We hit it off, but I didn’t really realize what an impression it had made on me until I walked out of town.

It changed the game, somehow. I was thinking about quitting up to that point, but something about the way he took so much interest in what I was doing, reminded me of why I was out there in the first place. I was pretty interested in his life adventures, too. He mentioned he was running the Beaverhead 100k that following weekend. A race I’d been thinking about a ton, having just come through the area. Turns out he’s a fellow Minnesota native, as well. There were some unique parallels between us, him in West Yellowstone and me in West Glacier, both loving the hell out of life and running around mostly solo.

I called him after Beaverhead to see how he did for the 100k (which was really well) and found that talking on the phone was incredibly natural. So next thing you know, we’re calling each other in every town. And within weeks, I’m running my tail off through Colorado to get to his first 100 mile race.

I made it! I hiked all of Colorado in 3 1/2 weeks so that I could rent a car and pass through his neck of the woods a day before his race. His dad, a couple great friends of his, and I were his crew last weekend. And man oh man! What a thing to see. He was unbelievable. I ran the last stretch with him and could barely keep up. It didn’t seem possible that this happy guy, rock hopping and loving life, had just run 90-some miles and was coming up on hour 28 with no sleep. It was amazing.

I spent a few days with him after his race. In which, he walked around like nothing had happened. Then we went up to Helena together and he walked a bit of the CDT with me and sent me on my way. He’ll be coming up to Glacier next week for the big finish.

Needless to say, I’m hooked. He’s been a great inspiration for me on this trail and I’m embracing this adventure with the same giddy, wide-open arms that I’ve had on this walk. For reasons I cannot explain, it’s just been one-big-fat YES!

And here he is.

And here he is.

I Came, I Saw, I Faceplanted (A Colorado Story)

I made it. Colorado is complete and it’s been something else. I’ve never spent so much time above tree line! I’m going to remember it always. For the challenges, the spectacular sites, the learning experiences, and the friends! It’s really just one long, spectacular trail along the spine of the continent, and I’m incredibly grateful to have experienced it. I’ve never spent so much time exposed. So much time in the elements and it’s really taught me a lot. It’s a lot like life, honestly. I’m thankful to be out there and wide open, fully aware of the dangers, but saying yes, just the same.

Here are some photos.

The San Juans

The San Juans

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The Colorado Trail High Point

Sara-Tide and I at one of our road crossings

Sara-Tide and I at one of our road crossings

Slack Packing:)

Slack Packing:)

This is the kind of advertising that really works on me!

This is the kind of advertising that really works on me!

Chris my hitch-buddy

Chris my hitch-buddy

This lovely place is just a half days walk from Silverthorn. Who knew?

This lovely place is just a half days walk from Silverthorn. Who knew?

Things got a bit technical

Things got a bit technical

And I loved it!

And I loved it!

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This view really got to me. I think it's the time in the hike where I'm getting sentimental.

This view really got to me. I think it’s the time in the hike where I’m getting sentimental.

Ah, sweet, merciful trail marker. How I missed you.

Ah, sweet, merciful trail marker. I missed you so.

Dan and I have a special bond....the bond of being a fat kid!

Dan and I have a special bond….the bond of being a fat kid!

Beads! Another great run and hug across a parking lot at the joy of running into each other! Grand Lake, CO.

Beads! Another great run and hug across a parking lot at the joy of running into each other! Grand Lake, CO.

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Carol, the angel of Grand Lake. Thanks for the hospitality!

Carol, the angel of Grand Lake. Thanks for the hospitality!

Here is an example of the kind of ridge one must bail down from when lightening comes.

Here is an example of the kind of ridge one must bail down from when lightening comes.

My last Colorado coffee break.

My last Colorado coffee break.

And the view

And the view

Adrienne's birthday party! So glad I could make it. (We are eating ice cream cake out of our hands. It's better that way)

Adrienne’s birthday party! So glad I could make it. (We are eating ice cream cake out of our hands. It’s better that way)

The Fun State

Greetings from colorful Colorado. In the last week and a half I’ve had a really great time. I’ve made it almost half way through the state, which means I’m booking it. That feels great! Colorado has been both beautiful and friendly. I saw more other hikers on my first 10 miles along the Colorado trail than I have all summer.

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The San Juans are beautiful! Its just one glorious walk above tree line for almost every mile of the 120. The views were vast and colorful and for the first time all hike, I was able to average 30 miles a day into Lake City.

Camp in the San Juans

Camp in the San Juans

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Lake City was the first hostel I’ve come to on the trail. Right as I limped in to find a bunk, my friend Spoonman popped out the front door. I dropped my things and gave him a big bear hug. We caught up for the next night and morning. I got to have a home cooked meal with him and his friends (one of which owns the hostel) and we stayed up around the camp fire playing songs and howling at the moon. It was wonderful.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get much better, my friend Sara-Tide showed up and surprised me. She has a bit of time between jobs and has come to do road support with me. I call her Sara-Tide because she was Tide Walker on the AT when we met back in 2011. She and I hiked from North Carolina to southern Maine together. Which is practically the entire trail. I don’t know that there’s anyone on this planet that I’ve walked with more, and it’s been great to have her.  On the AT, her and Stephen and I had a little group you might remember, Dumbledore’s Army. We were all Harry Potter fans and split the 7th book into three pieces to carry and read along the way. Those were good times. These are too! With Sara’s help I’ve been able to get in some big miles. And today were taking off from Salida to go do another 50 to 60 miles before she has to take off.

Salida is a neat town. We had dinner down by the river with a friend I made while hitch hiking, Chris. It’s fun to watch all the dogs play and the people rolling in the river tides right downtown. We’re in a 1.2 star hotel today, I’ve got my feet soaking, and I am excited to get back out there. It feels amazing to get to see Sara at road crossings each night. I feel light and happy and fast as hell, the excitement of getting to camp with Sara-Tide is a great motivator.

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There are so many good things on the horizon! Soon I’ll be to my good friend Dan’s house. Adrienne and Heidi will be coming out for a possible trail run with me. Then it’s all those ski towns, and a walk back into Steamboat. I’ve gone over 2,000 miles this summer. The end is drawing near. Thanks for all the love and support! Long may we walk!

Hitch!

Go and cry with a stranger! Do it in their car.

Get in their car, completely in. Take your heart out and put it in their teeth.

And listen.

Listen to them say they work too much.

Listen to them say they’re underpaid. Hear them geek out on how their truck works.

Let them crack you open a Bud, even if you think it’s yucky.

Listen to them talk about the land they love, and the wife they lost.

The way they can’t seem to find love, or to make it stay.

Listen to the way death scares them.

Relate to them admitting that as women in our late 20’s, we might have found ourselves attracted to relationships that are terrible for us. How it’s a necessary phase of life, to teach us what parts of ourselves we really need to work on, and because we’re turning into mothers, whether we want to admit it or not.

Let them tell you you’re courageous.

Let them lecture you on how you’re crazy.

Listen to them talk about how hard it is to control their teenager, or run their business.

About how they’d kill for their mama.

About being there when the Berlin wall came down.

About how they got in trouble and cleaned themselves up.

About how your health is everything.

About how family is everything.

How they lost their daughter and granddaughter in a plane crash in Alaska.

Listen to how they believe there’s good in all of us. Though it can be hard to see.

Listen to them speak of holding their baby sister in their arms as she slips away.

Talk about Cancer.

Talk about being someone’s sister, or brother.

Talk about being in the room with death and how it was beautiful, and sad.

And cry. Tell them the truth. Tell them you’re scared too. Show them you’re alive.

And then they’ll walk with you…….Always.

Running, Water, and running water

This past week has been incredible! The Wind Rivers! Truly an remarkable wilderness. Dramatic peaks, crazy scrambling over talus and boulder fields, spectacular cirques with bright blue waters, and valleys and parks nestled so comfortably in the colored rock. I hope to encourage everyone who’s willing to get there someday. It’s a magical place.

It didn’t come without a struggle either. We made pretty big miles, 170 in about 6 days. I made the brilliant decision that I didn’t need a rain jacket for this past week of travel, and paid for it. It was a first for me, as a pretty tolerant, cold-weather creature. I actually stopped mid day to pitch my tent and crawl inside my sleeping bag to keep warm. It was only cold rain, nothing I’ve never seen, but perhaps I’ve taken for granted how much the gear saves my life. I always joke about the game I like to play called keep-moving-or-die, but this time, with no break in the rain from 7 am to 1:30 or so, it just didn’t seem like the wisest game to play. Lesson learned. Banjo and I were both just sporting handsome, yellow, vinyl ponchos, the likes of which you can obtain from your local gas station for $2.49. Banjo and I were both being dumb. He passed me in the rain that day and saw me in my tent. I told him I would be fine, just needed to warm up for an hour or two and he tentatively passed on, hoping to keep moving and stay warm. Half an hour later I heard his footsteps return, “Kiddo, I’m being stupid. I’m going to pitch here too.” Misery loves company, its true, and nearly frozen loves it more! We napped and kept in touch through our tent walls for the next few hours and then had a great break in the weather. A reprieve! We both crawled out in our soaking clothes and walked over to the sun spot near us. “We’re going to be ok!” he said. “We’re gonna make it!” I said. And really, the rest was pretty great.

Banjo and I got split up the next day over some trail confusion, but we met up later that night, it was an absolutely glorious hike, and when we got to highway 28, we got picked up by a semi-truck! It was neat! So great to ride with them and learn a lot about the ins and outs of being a trucker. There life is nuts, but so is mine, so we seemed to have a nice understanding.

Another really great thing about these mountains is that I had a three pound bag of cookies to get me through it all! Special thanks to my sweet friends Jocelyn and Mary. Cookies are the way to my heart:) I made Banjo and Stabby both very jealous of my stash. It’s been a great week.

We all had our last night together here in Lander. This town is fun. So many young, adventurous folks talking about climbing and hiking and biking across the country. I got chased down the street by a young man last night, “Wait, excuse me. CDT hiker?” It took us about 10 minutes to realize that in 2013, in Stehekin, WA on the PCT we sat on the same log in the lake on a beautiful day, swimming with other hikers and loving life. The guys and I celebrated connecting our flip and moving on to the flop with some local pints and hot tub time. Then ordered pizza and made root beer floats in order to be true gluttons.

All is well. I am feeling great, and hopeful for a less than 3 day hitch down to Chama!

For the Love

Dear friends and family, I tell ya what…..Wow! I’m feeling emotionally overwhelmed right now, and grateful for it. I just spent the last few days in the Grand Tetons, which was a detour caused by a few minor issues, then turned into a wonderful side trip. I met so many travelers, Paul from Indiana, Bill from Santa Cruz, a fun couple who work in National Parks like I do, and it was all a great recharge. It’s because of the love in all of us. The connection we make, the joy we share, the journey for the sake of the journey and nothing more. Just to feel alive for the short chance we have to feel that way, and what’s more, to see others experiencing it too.

I say this with a heavy heart, having just read that my dear friend, Donna Hartnett, has passed away in a long struggle with cancer.  I gained so much from her friendship, especially watching her continue to have so much love to give us all through her illness. It was incredible to be close to her for the last few months of her life. I’m honored and touched to be a friend of hers. I’m about to go into the Wind River range and I feel like I’ll get to be with her in a strange way.

I think the very most we can get out of our short time on this earth is the chance to mean something to one another. I’m thinking of the love in my life today, feeling so lucky.

For the Love!!!PCT- Glacier 236