Thursday, June 25, 2009

23 June 2009 - SE of Bonners Ferry, MT

Today was day eleven of the hike> I can feel that my body is beginning to adapt. Today we returned to hiking on a road as we have detoured off the trail to re-supply. The hike today was 23 miles, and besides a little soreness in my right Achilles, the walk was easy and pain free. Not only am I feeling less pain, but I can tell that I am able to be more observant. Instead of tiring easrly, forcing me to stare down at the trail and just focus on my next step, I am now able to walk upright, constantly scanning the area while kowing that my feet will fall properly on the trail> I am now able to spot much more wildlife or perhaps the animals are letting me appraoch because I'm acting more naturally.

Hospitality has been the big theme of our last few days. Prior to yesterday, we spent a few days in the woods without seeing anyone. Since we left the woods yesterday morning and got out on some rural roads, everyone has been interested in learning about our journey and aiding us along the way.

For example, once we got off the trail and onto a gravel, rural road, two cars stopped and asked to give us a ride. One guy recommended a beautiful shortcut through the woods. Not having learned anything from our prior day's ill-fated shortcut, we took his suggestion. We spent hours stomping through the bush just to find a barrier blocking us from the road: a raging river with a high rock cliff leading to the road. We had to backtrack through the woods, losing hours of time and energy while becoming completely soaked. The guy's intentions were good.

Due to our condition after being trapped in the bush, we decied to stay at the crossroads community of Yaak. We rented out a cabin and went to the one smoke free establishment. When we arrived we were the only patrons (the rest of the area was smoking across the street). However, the owner/server/cook Gloria was too kind, and we agreed to stay for dinner (she was the same woman who rented us the cabin and also volunteered driving into town to buy us some supplies). She was so happy to have us that she gave us some free appetizers and started playing showtunes with us on the piano> Even her dog Sandy was super welcoming. Sandy is conditioned to loving photographs. Whenever someone enters the restaurant, Sandy pouts until Gloria takes a pictuer with Sandy and the new customer.

We proceeded to have a huge meal, desserts, and lots of drinks. A local couple entered (Rick and Bobbi), and we had a fun time shooting the breeze. I then started to play the piano, keeping Gloria open an extra two hours. The following morning, Gloria opened early to give us a big breakfast. When we asked for the bill for the cabin, the three dinners, the three breakfasts, the many drinks, and some long distance phone calls, we were blown away to find practically no charge. Apparently Rick and Bobbi had left bunch of money to cover our food and lodging. They also extended us an invitation to come and go fishing with them.

Today on our hike we stopped for a drink and some road house called the Golden Nugget. Even though we only spent a few dollars, they gave us two plates of fresh fruit. We told them where we were planning on camping that night and said thanks. Later that evening shortly after we set up camp, a guy from the bar stopped by to give us some good firewood.

Montana has been good to us. Tomorrow we will enter Idaho.

Posing for a picture with Sandy the dog. Sandy gets antsy unless she gets her photo taken.

21 June 2009 - East of Yaak, MT

Today is the longest day of the year. We are lucky to be having so many hours of sunlight because we've been using them all. We've been waking at about 5:45 am and going to sleep at around 9:30 pm. During this time it is all sunlight. We aim to be hiking by 7:00 am and can be on our feet hiking for 12 hours--including some much needed water breaks. With that much hiking, it is easy to quickly pass out in the evening, completely missing the darkness.

Last night was cold. This could have been predicted by the random piles of snow that dotted the shaded areas near our tent. As we hiked this morning, the snow became more prevalent as we found ourselves either trudging through piles of snow or trudging through melted snow in the form of mud and rivers of ice cold water. This created a wet morning as Dave and Rachel both found themselves with soaked feet.

The wet and cold path of the morning greatly slowed our progress as we were forced to strategically plan each step and even did some backtracking due to losing the trail in the snow. I was desperately hoping for some drier ground. Then we took an ill-advised shortcut. One map showed a short cut and another map showed a trail which disipated into the woods. The latter was correct. After climbing over down trees and descending 1,400 feet, we learned this. We dejectedly had to turn around and ascend 1,400 feet.

We ultimately returned to the same place that we were a few hours earlier, but this time we were exhausted and out of water. Now more than anything we wanted a wet environment, but the trail just got drier and more arid with each step. After a few hours we fortunately found a small stream which we used to rehydrate ourselves. Despite this, I still felt dehydrated for the remainder of the walk. I even fell during the final descent of the day.

Tonight we are camped adjacent to a waterfall. We were all able to overcome our exhaustion to take a brief dip in the icy waters beneath the falls. Now I am dry and am hoping that the roar of the waterfall will cover up any of the sounds of flatulence being emitted from our tent.

Dave's turn swimming in the waterfall.

20 June 2009 - West of Rexford, MT

Minus yesterday, we've been doing about 20 miles a day. Yesterday, we spent extended time in the city of Eureka, MT. In Eureka, re restocked on food, sent some emails, bathed, and had some fun. We arrived the night before and went to the one restaurant that was non-smoking. There was live music from a guy originally from MN, and he even sang a song about Hibbing. After his set he sat down with us for awhile.

Yesterday afternoon we took a short hike to the hamlet of Rexford. We had some burgers, and afterwards I took a swim in the Koocanusa resevoir, causing a scene for all those in our campground (to most it was too cold to swim).

Today we hiked roughly 22 miles, crossing the Koocanusa and ascending 3000+ feet to the summit of Webb Mountain. There was no water on the route, so I carried an extra few liters, making the climb that much more difficult. At the top was a forest service observation cabin. It was all locked up, but we took a nap outside and then proceded west.

For the hike, we've been following a guidebook published seven yeras ago. This caused some problems today as all the recent clear cut taht the autor discussed had since turned into a young forest. We bushwacked for a long time until we hit an old "road." The road hadn't been used in at least a decade, and it looked more like a forest than a road. We ultimately verified our bearings and tonight are camped in a field bording a smal stream. I am ready to pass out, but first I need to do another thorough check for ticks. We have found many thanks to our bushwacking.

Our tent is in a field, surround by tons of animal droppings from different species. There is the common feces seen throughout the trail from bear and deer. There may be some very old wolf scat as well. And because we are not too far from a more used trail, there is some horse shit. I am confused by some huge piles that look like cowpies. I have not seen anything like this on all our trip. I don't know how cows could have gotten out here.

Music in Eureka.

Rexford...we had to stop.

Crossing the bridge over the Koocanusa reservoir. It was a tad windy.

Friday, June 19, 2009

17 June 2009 - SE of Eureka, Montana

We are currently exhiled in our tents due to the first significant rainfall of our trip. The rain started this afternoon and has continued on and off for the past few hours. I am surprised it is still raining. On each of the prior days of the hike, we have heard loud thunder and could see dark storm clouds. FOrtunately, the unique weather patterns of the mountains always kept the rain away from us. I suppose we were due to get hit with some rain.

Despite having grown up in a fairly rural area, I am surprised how remote this region is and am excited to go through even more rural spots. Today we hiked 14 miles on one road seeing only 1 Subaru and the border patrol (ironically, the guy guarding the Canadian border has a thick Hispanic accent). We then sent another 7 miles on a busier road, encountering 5 vehicles. The complete lack of traffic/people on roads makes me feel much more comfortable about setting up a tent randomly in the woods. It is so remote here, no one would ever find you camped out. I now know why the Ted Kazinskis of the world flock to Montana.

Today we just walked through Federal land, so there was very little signs of humans. However, yesterday we walked down roads bordered by private property. Every single lot had multiple signs reading such things as "No Trespassing", "Keep Out", "and "Private Property." Each of these lots must have been many acres (if not many thousand acres), but people want as much space as possible and want it all to themselves. This supports my hypothesis that the difference between the US and the rest of the world is space. This affects how cities are built, how people commute, what people buy, how much people work, what people think, how people view their world... (I will happily elaborate if you are curious). People are so much into consuming physical space in this country that the government has to set aside areas to protect. This was the major contrast between today's walk and yesterday's walk. It looks like Teddy Roosevelt got conservation right.

Me reading the Bible after a very cool dip.

16 June 2009 - NW of Polebridge, Montana (road 114)

Due to our early departure date coinciding with unmelted snow on the "official" PNT, we were forced to improvise our first few days. After talking with some locals in the area, it looks like we will have to continue our improvisation of the PNT. Today we hiked about 18 miles NW of Polebridge. We are currently camped in what appears to be an old logging camp. I believe this is federal land, and I hope nobody stumbles upon us. Tomorrow we will also have to hike along some rural roads and camp in a secluded area which isn't private property.

As with all trips, the higlight has so far been the people. Last night we stayed in teh tiny town of Polebridge. By morning, we knew everyone at the three business and knew some of the local gossip. Our favorit person in town was the hostel owner Oliver. He is from Germany, but upon visiting the area decades ago realized that he had to immigrate. He operates a very laid back, rustic hostel with gas lights, colorful outhyouses, a huge greenhouse, and tepees. When we arrived he wasn't there but had left a note to make yourself at home. If you used any of his amenities, he asked to leave some money in a bowl by a door. When he finally arrived he was incredibly gung-ho about our trip, giving lots of practical advice. This morning we said our goodbyes, and after we had gone a few miles down the road, he caught up to us on his bike, I had left my flashlight and he figured it'd be important to us.

While we were walking, a man came running after us, excited to see some hikers. He is 59 and works odd jobs between long hikes. He had walked many of the major US trails and was gearing up to walk the continental divide. He wanted to talk all day, but we had to get going.

During the day we saw four bikers. Bruce stopped to talk to us. Apparently 41 bikers were racing from Banff to some place in Mexico. We were on their route. He was another great person to talk to, but he had to leave us and continue on his race.

I could give a short bio of another dozen amazing people that we have already met, but I am being eaten alive by mosquitoes. The morale is that there are tons of cool people out there living their life each day just as they want, with no regrets. I'm happy to be doing the same and hope to continue to do so for the rest of my life. These people prove it is possible.

Finding alternate uses for our trekking poles.

We were really excited to enter the National Forest. Little did we know we would enter and exit national forests over 100 times in the next two months.

Oliver, the hostel owner in Polebridge. Me sitting.

15 June 2009 - Polebridge, Montana

I have just finished the first three days of hiking, exiting Glacier National Park and crossing out of the park into Polebridge, a small outpost on the park's western border. The three days have brought some good adventures and a good flavor for the rest of the trip.

One of the major themes such far in the hike has been bears. GOing into the hike, I was well aware that we would be crossing through Grizzly country. I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

When we first arrived in the park, we met with some rangers to plan a three day hike through the park. For what we planned, they cautioned that there would be many bears and that the distance was very difficult. We shrugged off their warnings. Shortly into our walk while still hiking on the main road leading to the trail, another ranger stopped us, warned us more about bears ("you need to be very clean") and querstioned the route we were taking ("do you know what you're getting into?" "I can't bewlieve they'd let you do this"). He ultimately wished us good luck, and off we went, hiking a fairly worn trail which ran along the length of Glacier's largest lake which is flanked by snow capped mountains on all sides. At the end of the lake we transferred to anoteher trail which crossed over a ridge of mountains, ultimately leading into another river valley. While climbing the ridge, we encoutnered three groups of day hikers--2 had just seen black bears and 1 had just seen a grizzly bear. It made me realize that bears were inevitable on this walk. We descneded into the Camas river valley and made a journey north along a string of lakes. The walk was slowed by some recent last winter avalanches which completely cleared the mountainside in three places, leaving three large piles of snow, rock, and tress which towered many meters over the trail. There must have been so much snow piled here originally because in mid-June after multiple 80 degree days, the snow was still meters deep.

After 17 miles of backwoods hiking for the day, we arrived at Arrow Lake, the site of our campsite. Arrow Lake is relatively small, perhaps five miles around, but it is completely surrounded by snow capped peaks (about 6) which have numerous waterfalls dropping hundreds of feet into the lake. The entire shoreline is covered in thick pine forest which create a solid canopy even in our campsite. The picturesque views were stymied by packs of flies that aggressively bit through our clothes, forcing us to retreat to our tent. There was one couple staying at the campground. The guy worked for the park and said that this lake was home to the densest grizzly population in the continental US. He helped alleviate my concerns with bears confirmining that officials create fear to ensure you follow the rules and that bears will avoid you unless you are stupid and surprise them. Considering how many people that I met that day which safely encountered bears--just that day--I started to believe that an attack is rare and most common with bad behavior.

The following morning we begtan a hike along the river valley to North Fork Road. After backtracking three miles, we began a seven mile stretch which looked unused so far this season. Every few meters was a blown over tree which forced us to climb over, under, or around the tree. This made the seven mile stretch extend to over five hours. The trail had other surprises such as a strong river which we had to ford. The water was about waist deep and freezing (melted glacial ice) and the current made it a rather unsafe crossing. We all eventually crossed having picked up some learnings and frustrations in the process.

It was obvious that no human had used the trail all year, but fortunately plenty of bears had used the trail, making it somewhat navigable. A lot of bear tracks were fresh, causing me to keep up constant banter in hoping to scare away any bears. About midway through the trail, we broke out of the woods onto a large meadow. On our left was the river and on our right was a hill covered in dried out, blown down trees. It looked exactly like the scenes from a Discvoery Channel show on grizzlies. The numerous bear tracks made it probable that I had seen this very meadow on a show. We continued to make noise as I led us through the border of the meadow and the hill. We were moving slowly due to all the blowdown> I had just climbed over a fallen trunk and was looking down the trail at the series of other trunks we had to cross when I saw the head of a grizzly pop up over some fallen trees. He was walking the same trail in the same direction as us. I'd estimate that he was 50 yards in front of me. In all reality he probably heard us before and was retreating down the path, but we went into precautionary mode. The bear wasn't looking at us, so we made our presence obvious by talking for about five minutes, ensuring we wouldn't surprise him. After five minutes, Dave breavely lead us down the trail, we all kept scanning, looking for where he had gone.

Eventually we made it through the trail, encountering just a few more deer but plenty of bear tracks (at one time there were so many bear trails, I didn't know what I was supposed to follow).

After our ten miles on the trail we began an 11 mile hike along a dirt road. I was surprised to see the road impassible to all but hikers as scores of trees had fallen over the road. The going was slow but far faster than the trail. We saw two black bears. With a few miles to go we encountered some wolf researchers who were trying to trap some wolves. We had been walking along the favorite route of two wolf pakcs. The wolf people were very friendlyu and even knew that we were coming. We talked awhile and then proceeded to a ranger cabin farther down the trail.

When we reached the ranger's cabin, it was getting late and we were tired from our treacherous 21 miles. We had a permit to stay at a lake another six miles away, but the rangers knew we were coming and permitted us to sleep in their yard. It surprised me how everyone we met that day knew who we were and where we were going. Apparently not many people do what we are doing, and the park was making sure we were safe.

Today we had a casual walk along the road to the town of Polebridge. This town is not much more than a mercantile, saloon, and hostel, but it serves as the commercial hub of the area. We are staying in the rustic hostel which gives you the lodging option of bed, tent, or tepee--we took the bed. I am spending the evening eating and resting my sore body. Tomorrow we have another long walk which will lead us onto the official trail. To this point we have been making an alternate route becuase the "official" trail start is impassable due to excessive snow.

Lake McDonald...the first leg of many.

Sign that we saw at most trailheads for the first few weeks.

Arrow Lake, the site of our first campsite.

11 June 2009 - Jackson Hole, Wyoming

For the fourth night in a row, I will be sleeping in a different city/state: Minneapolis, MN; Winterset, IA; Golden,CO; Jackson Hole, WY. Tomorrow, I'll add Montana to the list, and then there will be little change in my location as I begin the slow walk west to the ocean.

We are making our road trip in a Prius which is full to the brim with backpacks and people. Today we drove with five people and for the first 30 minutes we even had a rambunctious dog as a passenger. Despite the crowded car, the ride has been very enjoyable thanks to some good music and to my newly purchased pink camo bible which I have already read 20%.

Aside from the scenery, there are few highlights of spending the entire day in the car. Today, however, Dave's driving created some excitement: we were pulled over, learned that Dave was driving on a suspended licenses, causing a visit from half the law enforcement officers in Wyoming--including a visit from a drug sniffing dog. I imagine we must have looked rather bizarre crossing WY in an overloaded Prius--me with long hair, a beard, a ranger hate, and a pink bible (I apparently look like a gay preacher)--but we were ultimately allowed to go.

I'm writing this from a hostel at the base of the Jackson Hold ski resort. The other four occupants in my room are trying to sleep, but I am being "that guy" having some wine and keeping the lights on. For the past ten minutes I have written nothing; instead, I have kept the lights blaring while I have tried to think of something insightful to say besides just regurgitating recent events. I know that I will have countless life changing thoughts on this trip, but so far I have none. I am not going to force something for the sake of having text.

Picture outside of gas station where I purchased a pink, camo bible.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

6 June 2009 - Pengilly, MN USA

I recently made a quiet entry back into the United States. Besides my roommate and family, few people know of my location. My time is Spain has left me exhausted. The long nights, little sleep, intense heat, dehydration, and jet lag have prevented me from doing anything since my return. On my way to Pengilly, I did pass through Duluth and have a meal on Canal Park. I think I was one of the few people in the past two days to have a meal on the Mediterranean one day followed by a meal on Lake Superior the next.

I spent yesterday sleeping. My joints were too stiff to prevent much else. By the end of the day, my headache had eased a bit, allowing me to do some reading. Over the past few years, I have spent a considerable time familiarizing myself with the Old Testament. Conversations with a number of people--most notably my dad--have encouraged me to dedicate more time learning the New Testament. I have only spent a few hours yesterday with the book, but people are right: there are a lot things that Jesus did which don't make Sunday School or mass each week. Perhaps after reading today, I'll have more concrete insights.



Friday, June 5, 2009

3 June 2009 - Barcelona

I enjoy traveling by myself. For example, tonight I am sharing a room with five girls and no guys--not bad. I also like it because you are not tied to the desires of others (perhaps this comment would make me a bad spouse). I have successfully traveled on long trips with others, but last night I witnessed a situation which clearly illustrated some potential issues of traveling with others. Last night I turned down the offer to go out to the clubs in exchange for some much needed rest. My rest was interrupted when the three Minnesotans sharing the room with me, experienced some friction. They had successfully traveled together for nearly a month, but last night they reached a tipping point. Below are some key quotes from the hour long fight which woke me at 2:30 am:

  • I just want to hit you. (A to B)
  • You're just like mom. You hate her, but are the same. That kills you. (B to C)
  • You're jealous I was popular in high school, and you weren't. (C to B)
  • It's too bad your little sister is in Harvard grad school, and you haven't finished your undergrad. (C to B)
  • You're too judgmental. (A to C)
  • This is my trip. I let you come. (B to C)
  • It fucking sucks doing all the planning. I hate being our tour guide. Somebody else do it. (B to A and C)
  • Not everyone cares about what you have to say. (A to C)
  • So what if we're anti-social. That's who we are. (A and B to C)
After some silence, I responded from my corner bunk:
  • I had some great fallafel today. (Me to A and B and C)

2 June 2009 - Barcelona - Paral-lel

I can now empathize with immigrant groups--life isn't easy. I have already jumped through hundreds of hoops to get my visa. Now, I have 100 more to become a resident (without becoming a resident, my visa will expire prematurely). One step of the residency process is to prove that you can afford to reside in Spain by showing your name attached to a Spanish bank account which contains sufficient funds. Today when I tried to set up a Spanish bank account, I was rejected because I wasn't a resident.

Aside from the expensive/bureaucratic process of moving here, Barcelona couldn't be any better. The days continue to be hot and sunny, and I continue to meet great people while falling more in love with the culture and lifestyle. I have spent hours a day traversing the city, causing my feet to be raw and bloody from wearing cheap sandals from Target.

I am also surprised with all the Minnesota connections. In the past I have been accused of being overly enthusiastic in advocating for Minneapolis/Minnesota. For this reason I had determined to be very passive about discussing Minnesota. I am with a very international crowd and we have been things to discuss than the history of US fur trading. Despite this, Minnesota has been popping up without my influence. For example, the first day at the school, current students gave a presentation about student life. The first student to present was from Minnesota. Actually, there are already two students from Minneapolis, and they have been big advocates for the city/state--everyone already knows about MN. Even a member of the janitorial staff approached me about Minnesota. I guess taht Paris, Moscow, Tokyo, and Buenos Aires just aren't as fascinating as Minneapolis. It's about time that people realized that. In related news, last night I checked into a new hostel where I am sharing a room with five others--three of who lived in Minneapolis.

Location of Hostel:

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31 May 2009 - Barcelona - Bogatell Beach

I'm gradually becoming more and more laid back, accepting that my job is done and that my responsibilities are practically non-existent. The last two days have been non-stop, little/no sleep with lots of awe. I have spent all my time with future classmates. Each day I become more impressed with my future school and of the caliber of the students. The only foreseen friction is the lifestyle disconnect. Spain is a country for me--far more laidback/chill/real than any other place I've been, especially the US. On the other hand, business school is anything but laidback. A lot of my classmates I think are too stressed for Spain. We'll see what gives.

I have accepted that I cannot get anything done here before moving in August (apartment, phone, residency). That concept frustrates many, but it makes me relieved that I can't worry about anything because I cannot address anything for a few more months.

Everyday has been clear sky with temps in the high 80s. This will be the biggest adjustment for me.

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28 May 2009 - Philadelphia Airport

In the last week, I have slept on a bed, on the floor, on a couch, and on a bus. I am now hoping to add "on a plane" to this list. Upon waking, I should begin a relatively sedentary week. I would have spent the prior week on various modes of transportation covering more ground than most cover in a lifetime. I am looking forward to spending a week in one place. After this week, I will again be on the move until I return to Barcelona at the end of the summer. At times there have been moments of stress over the past week. At those moments I've taken a deep breath and smile, realizing that life can't get much better.


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