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“Thank you for your patience; your call is important to us!”






-or- “Long Time; No Sea” (did Lewis or Clarke really say that?)

-and- “A Big Announcement!”

 

Who: Jess and Julie—Adventurers

What: Walk, for the Love!

When: March 15, 2024

Where: Congress, Arizona

Why: Still trying to figure that one out.

 

We are sitting in the cold rain (indoors) in SW Arizona—and only 75 miles from California, and a mere 331 miles from the nearest beach.

Yes, you read that right…and I am going to go out on a precarious limb here and announce the date that we plan on pulling in to the greater Oceanside CA area, so you ALL can get your airline tickets and claim one of the 25 rooms we’ve reserved at the Truckers N’ Ho’s Motor Inn (Monthly or hourly rates available!)

And that date is…. (drum roll) April 5th!!!

 

For a while, our goal was April 1st—Izzy’s 17th birthday. But then I was talking to our favorite daughter, Phoebe who is still in Vietnam, and we realized that we could walk EVEN slower and finish on HER birthday—the 5th!

A no-brainer really. We started on Julie’s birthday (July 7th) missed my birthday by a LONG shot (Dec. 1st) and this provides a realistic date goal.

 

So, enough about the non-existent future (yeah, I have been reading my book about Buddhism.) What have we been up to this past couple of months?

Let’s back up to…

 

Feb. 10th 2024  Datil, NM

We are camped outside of Datil in a BLM campground. It seems to be fairly new, has three electric sites of which we have one, and there is no one else here aside from the campground host! We have fresh snow, about an inch, and freezing weather. But the wind has been favorable.

We made it over the Continental Divide, passed through Pie Town, and are about 58 miles from the Arizona state line. All downhill from here to California! (I like to say that to Julie, who knows how full of shit I am…)

 

On the way back to Datil today we stopped at the Pie Town café’, The Gatherin’ Place II, where they have the pie, but it is made with lard, of course. So we had a big bowl of pinto beans, fresh pico de gallo, and French fries…all of it homemade.

It was fun chatting with the staff, and a tableful of Continental Divide Trail (CDT) hikers. There was one young guy from Chattanooga who was through-hiking Northbound (NOBO,) and another guy who was going SOBO (figure it out) in sections as he got the time. He’d already done the AT and the PCT. His dad was crewing for him apparently.

 

The really cool thing happened yesterday.

As I drove up on Julie, walking, I saw that she had company. Two women had pulled over and immediately embraced her in a hug, and offered to take her for pie in Pie Town. When she said she had to walk yet, they said, “Well, then why don’t you come stay in our yurt in the hills south of Datil? Or, at least come to dinner tonight?”

So, that’s what we did. We brought Carolyn over some non-vegan trail meals for her upcoming CDT hike the length of New Mexico (750 miles) in April. She’s 68 and a veteran of the AT and other hikes in her youth.

An Episcopalian priest, her husband—Eric— is a gerontologist in Albuquerque.

The other woman, Barbara, was staying with them up in “the hermitage” which, along with the yurt, is also on their land. They Airbnb them out as well. Barbara is a retired school counselor.

We watched them sip their red wine, as we licked our lips (doing “dry February”).

 

We are making slow, if steady progress these days, going 13-19 miles depending on the weather, which has been up and down. We climbed from @4600’ in Socorro, to 8200’ yesterday. It was almost imperceptible as the road rose steadily, passing the Very Large Array (which we didn’t take the time to visit, I’m a bit ashamed to say. Hopefully, we’ll come back through here and visit it.)

 

I finished Ed Abbey’s “Desert Solitaire” today. I always get something new out of it at each reading.

I still love the final lines—“The desert will still be here in the spring… And then comes another thought. When I return, would it be the same? Would I be the same? Will anything be quite the same again? If I return.”

I remember listening to these lines, on a cassette tape of Abbey reading them himself maybe 25 years ago. I was actually driving through that area of Utah right then. It was very moving.

When will it be the last time I see what he saw? At least some of what he saw? Ever again?

 

Last night, Eric told a story about Abbey setting fire to piles of tires he’d dumped into the extinct volcanoes outside of Albuquerque and causing widespread panic among the good citizens of the city. I’d never heard that story before. I wonder if it’s apocryphal?

 

We passed 3000 miles!

One of my dumb goals is to personally (not counting Julie's mileage) walk/run at least the number of miles that the shortest transcon route would be (Jacksonville FL to San Diego CA,) which is 2339 miles.

Then I can say, “I have walked and run across the US.”  That said, I have 372 miles to go, as I’m now at 1967.7 for the trip.





(No pie, but BEANS!)

(sometimes the sight of the camper is soooo sweet!)


(We got to "pin" Grand Portage at the Pie Town cafe)


 

Broke Down Blues!


Our camper busted (the little slideout wouldn't slide out so our space was effectively halved.)

We had to motor down to the Phoenix area to get it fixed. Ten days and $3000 later we were back up north and walking, but it set us back yet further...if we had a schedule. Luckily our friends Jim and Julie put us up in their spare house in Tempe for the duration.


(Just another sunset in Tempe)


(Got a hike in while waiting for camper repair...Lost Duchman SP)


February 13th

 

ARIZONA: State 13…

The weather and terrain have been wildly unpredictable and this has made for some of the most pleasant, and most miserable days of walking of the trip.

We’ll have days of non-stop climbing, headwind, dropping temps—and be underdressed of course.

Then, we’ll don everything we own and the predicted headwind doesn’t materialize and the sun pops out and we’re dragging along our entire wardrobe tied to our waist and backpack.





 

Popping way ahead right now…

 

We are in Quartzite AZ a mere…I don’t know, 30 miles from the Colorado River and California.

It’s been a wild, slowish ride these last couple of hundred miles.

The weather is finally cooperating—warm temps, negligible winds, sunshine.

Route-finding is always an issue, but especially out here where roads are scarcer. It seems like the road-builders were stymied a bit by trifling things like mountain ranges, rivers, arid deserts…

So, we take what we get.

And so far, what we get has been tolerable, even fucking awesome at times.

 


(Iconic roadside sights in AZ)



Recapping.

Going through that section of “mid-northern/mid-central” Arizona which I guess I’d mark by places like Springerville, Show Low, and onward into the Strawberry and Pine area. It is up and down, skirting the Mogollon Rim—a stark plateau that divides northern Arizona from the more desert-y part of the state. It is at about 7000+ feet in elevation and you can drive/walk five miles and land 2000’ lower.

 

A bit of an adventure...

On March 6th, we made the choice to find a route through the forest in order to avoid a particularly hazardous and unpleasant stretch of highway 260. It was a roughly 10 mile section of trail that went from Camp Geronimo ( an upscale woodsy camp for white kids with cabins named after many different Native tribes…yes, I did take pics of Chippewa Cabin.)

It seemed pretty straightforward.

I took screenshots of the route, as I knew there was no cell service out here in “Indian Country.”

I had to beg my way through the first half-mile as it is private property (of course.)

 

As I blundered around for a mile or two, I found the correct trail, along a small creek that rose steadily uphill toward the top of the Mogollon Rim some 2200’ above me.

Somehow though, I lost the faint trail, maybe as it crossed the creek.

I reasoned that if I just kept heading west, and uphill I couldn’t go wrong and that I’d hit the forest road at some point.

Oh, let’s back up to my conversation with Julie when I dropped her off to do her miles earlier.

I reassured her that I would find my way up to the highway, and that if I wasn’t there in four hours, she should go back to the trailhead and that I’d be there…tail between my legs.

 

There’s an old story she tells about walking along the Lester Park trails with her ex, and her small son Andrew. They got turned around and soon had no idea where they were.

Andrew, growing anxious, started shouting, “Officer! Officer!” Help, officer!” following some old advice from his parents.

I told Julie that if I got lost I would just yell, “Officer!”

It was funny at the time….

 

Long story shorter, I got lost. I first climbed up a steep mountain until it became apparent that I was getting sucked in to a really bad situation.

At one point I looked down and saw a Pinyon Jay feather. I picked it up and thought about what I should do. Something told me to go back downhill and find the creek and either follow it back to Camp Geronimo, or up another hill to the Rim.

I had no cell signal and I knew that Julie must be freaking out by now.

Suddenly, after an hour of slipping and sliding down the hillside through brush and rock,  I stumbled upon the “real trail!” I decided to go for it…uphill. I found the switchbacks that I knew marked the penultimate mile of the trail, and within 45:00 I was on the snowy forest road that led me to the highway—some 4 miles away. It was still a hard slog, but such a relief to know that I was on the righteous path!

 





(The last 5 miles of Boogid's Big Adventure included snowy trekking)


(Up and down... down and up)



There followed, in the week ahead, a long descent (not into madness, but…) into Camp Verde where we connected with Facebook friend and fellow Duluthian, Mark Munger and his wife Renee at a RV park.

Scene: we approach the hot tub, limping along, sore from the 20 mile-long downhill on pavement. Two people are there already. A tolerable crowd. I look at the guy and, after a few seconds, ask, “Are you Mark Munger?”

He admitted that he was in fact Mark—the former judge, a current writer, honorary Finn, “Wanderer.” He had also just thrown his cap into the fray as a candidate for statewide office,

We had a nice chat about all that stuff, as well as local art, hiking, and fishing opportunities. We don’t fish, but the proximity of fishing holes to breweries and wineries perked up our ears.

 

It was then time to head back uphill. Such is the nature of the west….

Prescott Arizona really caught our fancy! We hit up the REI for shoes (of course) and a few other “necessities” that were on closeout.

We also met up with some other friends from back home—Leslie and Rudy—runner and biker types who were bumming around the SW after selling their home in the Duluth area.

And, yes! I finally walked with someone! Leslie and I walked about eight miles mostly uphill out of Prescott in Hwy. 89. It is a lovely winding road through the mountains south of the small city and offered up some of the best vistas of the trip.

We also went with them for a rare "out" meal and beers at the Raven Café—which has a great vegan/vegetarian menu.

 


(A great hike with Leslie Semler! Prescott AZ)



The next couple weeks brought more trekking in a general SW direction over some nice two-lane highways, and a couple of days of rough, dirt ATV roads along I-10. As tough as the terrain was, all I had to do was look at the steady stream of semi traffic to my right to appreciate my circumstances.

 

Popping yet farther ahead

 

California, HELL Yeah!!

 

On March 22nd we crossed a small wood-decked bridge over the Colorado River about 20 miles south of I-10 and Blythe, into California—our 14th and final state.

We roped a couple, who happened to be bumping along the bridge in their truck behind us, to take a few snapshots of us walking.

That made it official; we were on our last leg of the journey!

This was a good thing as I feel like we are also on our last legs.

 

While we were walking around 140 miles per week at the very beginning of the walk, we are now only managing 115-120.

I’m not sure why. We are in better shape physically, but maybe the everyday logistical strain of moving camps, finding parking spots that are safe for the car and the dogs, and just trying to not get creamed by speeding motorists were taking a toll.


We’re down to just under 200 miles as of today—really a trifling number of miles—10-15 days, and we need to keep our eyes on the prize, while staying in the moment.

 

Yes, you all heard me!

10 to 15 days to make your travel plans, pick out your walking outfit, and come up with an excuse to call in sick/ditch your kids or spouse/shrug off responsibilities, etc.

Oceanside is calling!

It’s calling us and it’s calling you. Word on the street is that it is going to be a sweet place for us to land.

 

A caveat...

Truth be told… we are letting you all off the hook. We anticipate zero fanfare as we leave our bare footprints in the sand at Oceanside Pier beach…and that’s totally fine. It really is.

We walked across an entire continent alone, aside from fewer than a dozen miles, and it’s fitting that we finish alone, together.

 

That said, we certainly wouldn’t shoo anyone away what showed up.

 

 

Final Book Report: (abbreviated) 

 

Books started….

*The Ultimate John Muir Collection

*1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (currently blowing my mind)

 

Books finished…

*The Socrates Express by Eric Weiner (trains and philosophy in a nutshell.)

*Limitless by Mimi Anderson (one woman’s attempt to set a transcon record.)

*The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (no, I’ve never read it! One of my “Arizona books.”)

*The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh (loved every step of it.)

*In the Bear’s House by N. Scott Momaday (more Momaday, after his passing.)

*Blood Orchid by Charles Bowden (pure poetry and grit…another Arizona author.)

*Planet Walker by John Francis (the silent world walker…pretty good.)

 

In the words of California’s greatest celebrity governor…. “I’ll be back!” with one more blog.

(Sorry Ronald Reagan… you aren’t even close to the Arnold)

 

Keep moving, carry Narcan, and eat some plants for pete’s sake.

We want YOU to live, because we love you!


Misc. Photos...


(Some kind of bird pecks the holes in Ponderosas, and some kind of animal puts nuts in them)


(Always, the needles!)




(Austen... a welcome sight for coffee lovers outside of Show Low AZ!)



(In Show Low. I wandered in looking for a respectiful discussion, but they knew I was trouble I guess.)


(Finding dead owls, large and small, has been a theme...sadly)

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3 Comments


pax2
Mar 25

Chi miigwech for sharing your story. What an amazing journey - walking on Mother Earth, soaking in hot springs when you can find them, meeting a myriad of people, discovering new beers, eating interesting food. How will you ever settle in at home?


We tapped trees for about ten days, pulled our plugs when the weather got cold and will start again next Monday on the Rengo Road. We have a jar with your name on it.


Hope you figured out the lights. Take care.

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slvbarb498
Mar 24

Love reading every word! And ❤️ pics! And reading list! Keep on movin! 🥰🥰🥰 Much 💓 to you both!🙏🙏🙏

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artbyhaight
Mar 24

Another great blog - they just keep getting better. Thanks, Jess. And hooray for staying in the game. Much respect from us. First time I heard that Abbey had anything to do with the burning tires on the West Mesa - most of us believe the oldsters who say they did it when they were in high school. The ponderosa: acorn woodpeckers. So sorry to hear about the owls. Wishing you sun. ❤️

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