Sometimes I wonder how I survived.

There are times when I look back at some of my experiences and decisions on my Walk and think to myself, how the heck did I actually survive that?  Like this one from day 2 in Hancock, Maryland where I was hiding from a massive storm:

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The funny thing about this video is it wasn’t until I was watching it last night that I realized that what I called a fire station alarm was most likely a TORNADO SIREN OMG.  And it had gone off three times already.  And there I was sitting in a wire and aluminum shelter.  Seriously, how did I survive this trip?

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To be fair, I had been listening to my little weather radio and was aware of tornado spottings in the area. It’s just…I’m from Maine, people. We don’t have tornado sirens here. If you hear a siren it’s a pretty sure bet that it’s just the fire station downtown. Logically I knew about tornado and storm sirens, I just didn’t think about it at the time. Thankfully I was lucky and no tornadoes actually touched down where I was. I remember hearing about one or two little ones in the nearby areas, but only golf ball sized hail, strong winds, thunder and rain where I was.

Honestly, I had the best luck along this trip. It didn’t seem like it at the time, but looking back I’m just constantly amazed at the dangers I narrowly avoided.

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This Time Last Year

I’m working on re-vamping and updating the website (so if you notice things disappearing or moving around, no worries, you’re not going crazy, that’s just me fiddling) and found this entry from about this time last year:

One Part Hippie, One Part Nerd, All Parts Awesome

Walking across the country, or any long term walk, is not always glamorous. Or even comfortable. I rarely know where I’m going to sleep each night, and more often than not sleep is on the ground in a tent. Showers are few and far between, and it’s hard to tell when I’ll even see a proper bathroom. It’s long and occasionally boring and hard work. It’s lacking most of the comforts of home.

So what do I miss most out of all of those comforts? Is it the easy access to a bathroom? The proper meals? The comfy bed and pillow?

No, what I miss most, and I what I end up thinking about a lot during the day, is pretty nerdy. Out of all of those comforts of home, I’d say the one I miss the most is video games.

A week ago or so I was climbing a mountain when at the top I suddenly heard an eagle scream. It was a pretty cool moment, hiking this old dirt camp road straight up a mountain, and then at the top a large field with an eagle soaring above. But what did I immediately think of? Assassin’s Creed and Guild Wars, both games that have eagle screams worked in to certain areas. And as much as I was enjoying the majesty of the moment, I suddenly had a strong longing to go scale tall buildings and jump in to hay carts. Or to run around in the cold of the Shiverpeaks and help out some dwarves.

I am totally enjoying myself, don’t get me wrong. I like the challenge of walking, talking to strangers, seeing the small little towns and farms. I like sleeping in a tent, and I have a super comfy sleeping bag. I don’t even really mind not having a proper bathroom to pee in. I just wish there was some way to hook up a solar powered Xbox 360 or a super laptop that I could play Guild Wars on now and then.

Because I am a nerd. True story.

That’s from June 25, just about a year ago now. I still remember in vivid detail that exact moment in West Virginia and hearing that eagle scream.  It was just one of a long list of really awesome moments on the road.

What amuses me is I’m pretty much in the opposite situation today.  I play a lot of video games these days (mostly down to Skyrim, LoL, and Guild Wars) and always have the comforts of home at my fingertips.  Instead of missing gaming, these days I’m missing being out there on the road. I miss sleeping in a tent, the feeling of accomplishment after struggling through the heat and hills all day, meeting strangers along the road…I miss it all.

I miss it all, but for now I’m enjoying the here and now and soaking up the pixelated adventures.  I have no doubt someday in the future I’ll be out having an offline adventure somewhere and be thinking about gaming. Because that’s just how I roll.

Equipment List: Walk Across America

Making an equipment list for my walk across the US was a lot harder than making the one for walking the Erie Canal.  For one, I used a lot more gear (400+ miles vs 3000+ miles). And then what gear I had was always changing and adapting.  I’d enter different climates with different demands (winter gear for mountains) or I’d mail home gear I ended up not needing (extra clothes) or stuff that didn’t work out.

Here I’ve put together a basic list of all my gear. I’ve tried to put notes with gear that didn’t work out or stuff that I didn’t need until later. Hopefully this helps some people out while planning their own adventures. If you have any questions about gear, feel free to email or comment here.

Stroller (I had an older version of this stroller.)
Backpack
Clothes
– 1 pair of jeans (later thrown away)
– 1 pair of conversion pants
– 2 pair shorts (one for sleepwear, mailed other home in PA)
– 1 pair long cotton pants (sleepwear)
– 1 long sleeve shirt
– 2 t-shirts (1 cotton, 1 hiking)
– 2 tank tops
– 5 pairs of underwear
– 5 pairs of socks
– 2 bras (by Ohio I had only 1 for the rest of the trip)
Cold Weather Gear (gathered as I hit the Rockies)
Winter Jacket
Fleece Jacket
– Winter hat
– Winter gloves
– long underwear
– heavier winter socks (mostly to sleep in)
Shoes (New Balance trail runners)
Sun hat
Rain jacket + rain pants
Sleeping pad
Sleeping bag
Tent
Odor-proof bags
Bear Vault (added in Colorado)
Cooler (given away in Colorado)
2 Nalgene bottles
Knife
Flashlight/emergency radio
Rope
Clothes pins
Journal + pens
First Aid Kit
Stove & Cookware (both added later, and only used a handful of times)
Toiletries
– quick-dry adventure towel
– toothbrush
– toothpaste
Noxzema wipe thingies (once the first pack was gone I didn’t buy more)
– face cloth
– contacts + solution
– glasses
soap
Electronics
cell phone
netbook
– mp3 player
– digital camera
– Kindle
Solar Charger

Anna’s Gear
Anna’s Pack
-dog food
-treats
-travel dog bowl
-poop bags
-vet papers
shoes (added in Utah)
-spare collar
sleeping pad (cut in half)
-blanket to sleep on

And that’s it. I think. I had other bits and bobs – hair ties, spare batteries, lip balm, sunscreen, etc – that I didn’t include, but that’s all the major stuff. Unless I’ve forgotten something, which is completely possible.

Oh, and I also had a small ziplock bag always within reach, which carried a small notebook, pen, a bunch of my business cards, and (as time went by) business cards and notes that people I met would give me along the way.

Like I said above, if you have any questions or want a more in depth review of something, feel free to comment here or email me at Ameranth (at) gmail .com

Utah, land of amazing scenery and horrible luck

first day in Utah, and already full of awesome

Utah has not been kind to Team Adventure.  In the first week here I broke my tooth, my camera died, and Anna started limping.  While the amazing scenery definitely helped soften those blows, it’s still been a rough state.

We took today off (a frustratingly common occurrence here in Utah) due to it being too cold to walk.

snow comes to Utah

It’s a frustrating decision, but it was the right one to make.  Sometimes it’s hard to think safety first, because I just want to go go go.  We are so close to the end, yet so far away, and these days off and delays just keep piling up here in Utah.

We’re planning on heading out tomorrow and hoping to be in Las Vegas in about ten days.  If we can just get over this last mountain range and to a lower elevation in Nevada it’ll be fine, but it’s getting to that area that’s proving difficult.

As for Anna,

Anna, chilling in the shade and keeping an eye on the desert in Utah

She’s doing alright.  She’s had a chunk of downtime to give her paws a break, and it’s definitely helped.  She’s not 100%, but she’s also not limping.

In addition to her new shoes Anna is now only walking half days.  Around noon or early afternoon Jon, our car support driver, meets us for lunch and planning for the rest of the day. When Jon heads out after our noon break, Anna goes with him.  It was kind of sad to be walking without Anna for the first time on this trip, but it’s one of those tough safety first decisions.

Not that it was tough for Anna to get in the car. She hopped right up, and I’m pretty sure enjoyed herself immensely.  Which is good, since this will probably be her schedule for awhile yet.

So yeah, Utah is amazing, but I’m ready to move on.

You can’t take the sky from me; Anna’s feet cont’d

Anna’s sad paw.

Bad news everybody, Anna is out of the game for awhile.

We started out from Hanksville Monday morning with high spirits. The dogs were energetic, the clouds were heavy in the sky (meaning blocking the hot desert sun), and all was good.

About five or six miles down the road we decided to break for lunch. We had gotten a bit of a late start, heading out around 9-ish, so lunchtime came pretty fast.  The dogs were happy, the sun was still blocked by clouds, and we had plenty of water. All was still good.

Couple more miles down the road and the clouds disappeared. The afternoon sun was at full blast and Anna decided she had had enough. We passed a car that was pulled over, I assume to admire the views, and as we walked by Anna dashed under the car and into the shade.  After some coaxing I got her out and moving again, but I knew from our midwest heatwave days that that was a sure sign she was heading for overheating.

A little ways up the road I pulled over and informed Ralph that Anna needed a break. She couldn’t take the sun. We pulled over, set up our breaktime shade stations, I took off Anna’s boots, and we sat down to have a rest.

After about an hour or so, after soaking Anna with a wet bandana and giving her plenty of water in the shade, we got up to get going. Only Anna wasn’t moving.  She just planted her feet and refused to budge.  Ralph, who has a much bigger cart than I do, stepped in to rescue Anna, picking her up and placing her atop his cart.

Anna rode this way for awhile until she jumped off. Figuring this meant she was good to go, I put the boots back on her front paws – the more severely damaged of the four – and got to walking. We made it only a little farther down the road before Anna started limping…..on both front paws.  She’s been limping off and on on her front right, but now she started the left too. Super bad sign.

After climbing a rather large and shoulderless hill, back onto the cart Anna went.  She stayed there until we stumbled upon an oasis where we stopped in for a drink, only to find out they had a motel room for a fine price.

So now here we are, at the Luna Mesa Oasis restaurant/motel/campground.

Home for a bit.

Yesterday I ran into town (an hour away) to help the daughter of the owner run some errands, then when we got back I helped her feed the horses. It was a busy day, but the end result is a new friend and a ride into Loa on Thursday.

The plan, as of now, is to get to Loa and try to walk to Koosharem. We have car support coming, who was originally going to meet us in Cedar City, but now hopefully in Koosharem. That way Anna can ride in the car support, and the rest of Team Adventure can continue on the journey west.  It’ll be very sad not to be walking with Anna, but safety and health first.  Hopefully after a week or so of riding and resting she can come back to walking the road with me.  Time will tell.

But one thing is for sure, we’re not giving up.  Bears, heat waves, hail storms, allergies, flat tires, high mountains, dry desert, injuries….nothing will stop us from reaching our goal.  We will continue on until we run out of land and hit that ocean.

take my love
take my land
take me where I cannot stand
I don’t care
I’m still free
you can’t take the sky from me

burn the land
and boil the sea
you can’t take the sky from me

Anna’s feet

If you’ve been following the Twitter and Facebook updates you’ll know about Anna’s paw troubles. For those not following the Facebook/Twitter updates….you really should start doing that. I update those way more than this blog. But basically, Anna’s paws are pretty torn up and we’ve taken the past three days off to let her recover a bit.

In addition to rest, Anna is now the proud owner of a new pair of dog shoes to help protect her feet across the rest of the desert.

I know some people think getting shoes for dogs is a bit ridiculous, as dogs are pretty much built for walking all day and covering long distances. However, while dogs are meant to walk all day and cover a lot of ground, they’re not meant to walk twelve hours a day on hot pavement.  I was hoping that Anna would be okay, and throughout the entire walk I’ve kept a really close eye on her paws to make sure, but the Rockies followed by the desert – or maybe just walking from Maryland to Utah – turned out to be too much. So shoes it is!

At first Anna was a little unsure, but after a couple of short walks over the past three days of rest she’s gotten pretty used to ’em.

Rocky Mountain High

We have officially walked up, over, and through the Rocky Mountains.

And if feels pretty damn good.

Originally I was planning on getting a ride over the mountains and continuing walking to the coast from the other side. Mainly for fear of death by ninja cougars or raging bears that would surely attack a lone female hiker and her adorable dog. (Movies and television have assured me that the truly vicious animals go for the cute girls and dogs.) However, Fate intervened by way of Ralph and Alice offering a partnership through the mountains. And boy am I glad they did.

Walking through the mountains was an amazing experience. It’s nothing at all like the Appalachians or any of the mountains we have in Maine. There is just nothing to compare to the Rockies.

We started by going up and around Pike’s Peak.

Pike’s Peak, from a distance

Then worked our way up through a few mountain passes

Ute Summit

Wilkerson Pass, elevation 9502

Trout Creek Pass, elevation 9346

And eventually through our highest elevation and toughest climb up and over Monarch Pass

And then it was all easy sailing from there…..ha, no. That’s a lie.

Monarch Pass, elevation 11,312

But when we crested our last mountain pass, and saw not another row of summits before us but wide open land…

wide open below us

..well that was a pretty amazing feeling.

There were days where I thought the mountains would go on forever, but of course they didn’t.  It was both harder and easier than I thought it would be, walking through the Rocky Mountains, and I’m really glad I decided to hike on through instead of hitching a ride.  An experience on this adventure that I’ll never forget.

Wanderlust

Walk on

Last summer I walked from Albany to Buffalo, following the Erie Canal.  It was to be a trial, of sorts, for the grand adventure of walking across America.  After reaching the end my mother asked how I felt. I replied that I was proud to have reached my goal, but that it didn’t feel as though I had gone far enough.  She replied, “Kelly, it’s never going to be far enough.”

Looking at the map and realizing that I am relatively close to the end of this adventure, I have a sneaking suspicion that she was right.

We’ve come so far, and the end so close.

I’m looking at this picture, contemplating how far Anna and I have walked and how far we’ve yet to go, and instead of being amazed at the distance we’ve already covered I find myself thinking it’s not going to be enough.  I’m not going to want to stop.

I both long for and fear the end of this adventure.

But regret nothing.

More Questions Answered

Do you periodically stop and buy new articles of clothing when the old ones wear out (socks, shoes, t-shirts ect)?

The only clothing or gear that I’ve had to replace are shoes and socks. I’m on my third pair of shoes (New Balance sneakers), and I’ve gone through a lot of socks (mostly SmartWool brand).  The rest of my clothes don’t get as much wear and tear as my foot gear, thankfully.  In Boulder I did end up buying a new top, which wasn’t exactly needed but a welcome change.

I will need warmer gear as we head into the later part of the year and into the desert. But I’m having that mailed out to me rather than buying brand new stuff.

When you go into a store, where do you leave Anna and your gear?

I just park the stroller near the door, somewhere out of the way but close enough for me to glance out and check on, put the brake on and tie Anna’s leash to the handle.  If I’m in a pretty large city I’ll also use my bike lock and lock the stroller to something.  Whenever I go into stores I’m not in there very long, so it’s not too big a deal.  It can be a little annoying, as I’m the type of person who likes to take my time and wander around shopping, but you can’t really do that when all of your belongings and your dog are sitting outside basically unprotected.

Overall, do you feel like the buggy is superior to carrying a pack?

A million times more superior to carrying a pack.  I cannot express enough how beneficial a stroller or cart is to this kind of long-term walking adventure.

For one, it is so much easier on my body. When I carried my pack on the Erie Canal I was always in pain. Each new day was a new pain – shoulders, back, hips, knees, ankles, feet – I never seemed to be at ease.  Which is one of the big reasons I knew I wanted a stroller of some sort for this adventure.  There are days when pushing the stroller up and down mountains can leave my wrists and arms aching, but it’s nothing compared to carrying the pack. And even more importantly, I can carry twice as much food and water.  Which is literally a live saver.

At some point I plan to write up a gear review of the stroller and all of it’s pluses and minuses.

Has anyone ever said “No” when you asked if you could tent on their yard?

Two or three times I’ve been turned down for yard camping. I never feel offended or upset at those time. I know I’m harmless and awesome, but to these people I was a stranger with a strange request and they have to think of the safety of their families first.  Every time someone says yes, or offers their yard, or invites me into their homes, I am amazed at their generosity and count myself lucky.

How are you getting back to the West coast? Are you walking back, flying, driving?

I’m not sure.  If the world worked the way I wanted it to, I’d end up on the West coast and someone would offer me an awesome job and a place to stay for a bit.  Sadly, the world rarely works the way I want it to.  Realistically, I will probably be renting a car and driving back.  I’m tossing around different ideas, but I think it might be nice to drive back the way I walked and thank all of the people who have helped me along the way.  Then again, it might be cool to drive to the states I didn’t walk through and see the sights I missed.  I don’t know, but I’ve got at least a month to figure it out. Plenty of time!

One thing I can guarantee is that I’m not walking back the entire way. Once across the US is enough for now.

Colorado and Beyond

This is the post in which I finally share my plan for getting past Colorado. This entire adventure I’ve been saying I’ll just get to Boulder, visit with my brother, and figure out the rest of it from there. Well, before I knew it I was in Boulder and I had to actually figure stuff out.

The plan: I am teaming up with fellow thru-hiker Ralph. Together we plan to face down the Rockies and the deserts of Utah and Nevada. Right now we’re in Colorado Springs (which is amusing the Stargate geek in me), and are planning to head out tomorrow morning for our first venture into the mountains. We’ll be following hwy 24 until Buena Vista, where we’ll jog south and onto hwy 50 – which we’ll probably be on for quite awhile.

Teaming up and following a route through the mountains and the desert was a tough call to make. I really had my heart set on heading up towards Portland and then possibly Seattle, but it wasn’t meant to be. I just couldn’t see a path where I wouldn’t need car support, which is something I couldn’t find. Ralph contacted me and offered to share his car support through the desert – an offer I found I couldn’t pass up.

It’s going to be tough – we’ll be hiking through some rough spots here in Colorado, getting up to 11,000ft elevation at some points – but I think together we can make it happen. Plus, it’ll be nice to have someone to talk to for a change. I talk to Anna a lot, but it’s just not the same.

So tomorrow we’re off to start the (hopefully) two week trek through the mountains. Wish us luck, because I think we’re going to need it.  Those mountains are intimidating from down here.

The view from the hotel in Colorado Springs.