29 July, 2004

Lake Superior

My car has been great (did spring a minor oil leak). Northeastern Montana was so beautiful. I was so lucky to be there during harvest - all the wheat and hay bails. A lot of thinking.

I reached Lake Superior this afternoon and decided not to spent too much time here: too much in the car to leave for too long, some things that will fry in the heat. So I decided for a long run instead.
Timewise, it was long. Lengthwise, it was short, or not tooo long. The trail was real 'rooty' and curvy. It was very steap, but required constant attention - not much for meditation. The few views I got of the Lake from the ridge were awfully fine though.
After an hour and forty-five minutes I turned around. The backtrack turned out to be much more pleasant than it was origonally. I think the slight downhill grade was a bit more runnible and perhaps I had grown more accostomed to the terrain. I got back to the car much faster.

Tomorrow I should make Chicago and see Ellie. Take a day off. Then the push home....

27 July, 2004

Spent a week and a half in Missoula,
lounging by the Blackfoot river.
Stu and I went up Greywolf Peak and did some fun sport climbing.  It was a great stay.  Today I am heading out for the Great Lakes.  Then to Chicago.  Then home.  My car is loaded to the hilt.  I am in need of prayer to make it home.
God help me.

20 July, 2004

Home at last.
Even after a place that effected me the way Alaska did – Montana is still home.  “Home” is not such a clear distinction for me anymore.  After all, I don’t technically have a home.  Home is where my heart is – that’s how I define it, and my heart is certainly tied strongly here.
My family is in S. Carolina.  I am from S. Carolina.  My roots are certainly southern and that, in a way, makes Columbia home – but in a very different way.  Columbia will be a place that I forever return to.  I need the re-nourishment of family and the farm every so often.  But it isn’t a place I live comfortably, healthily, productively.  So for me home is not a singular definable place.
Driving back into Missoula was rather invigorating.  So many people I love here.  I’ve been anxious to sit on Stu’s back porch and eat some of Bethany’s salmon.  I missed Wendy.  It feels great to be on such agreeable terms with her again.  It means so much to end well.
Heidi’s not in town, but I hope she comes back before I leave.  It will be close, but it’s important to see her.
So now the organization begins….. I have to see what will fit in the car.  I have close bank accounts.  I have to tie up loose strings.  I have to say all my goodbyes.  I have to have fun…. Ah, and there is a little story:
When I arrived in town I drove to Stu’s house and found it empty.  I wanted some ice cream because it was damned hot out and I was in a celebratory mood.  Stu walked in about ten minutes later and said that he and B and some others were about to go ~ kayak down the Blackfoot.  “Come on,” he said.  “Why not?”  I was a bit tired and kinda wanted to do nothing, but this was a poor excuse for not going on the river.
IT WAS SO MUCH FUN!!  Hours we floated through rapids, losing beers and laughing all the while as we continually flooded our boats – no skirts.  Bald eagles flew about, good company great sunny weather.  I couldn’t have been happier.  We decided to go back to the river again the next day with tubes.
That was Friday.  Today is Monday, no, Tuesday.  It is time to get busy with errands.  So I hope everyone is well.  Send me a line.

08 July, 2004


Maybe my final camping trip.....ah! Jeremy and I went way light up the Little Susitna River 8 miles and staid in the mountaineers hut with a sixty year old Yosimite-ite named Tom. We ate Bush's baked beans with couscous. In the morning we climbed up into a saddle called Frontdoor Gap (as opposed to Backdoor Gap). It was a rock scramble but rewarded with great views and little spires to climb up and scream. From there we jumbed down onto Penny Royal Glacier and glissaded until the snow rain out - which was soon - and then scrambled along the glacier until we reached the "snoot" and then hiked along the stream, crossing on boulders as the valley opened into meads fields with thick mosses and grasses. We did a few handstands and carwheels and discussed elves - glacial elves - no, faeries, glacial faeries. Rather solitary creatures. The valley rolled down and we saw a black bear in a wide stretch near stubby willows. He scrambled up into some talus as we went around.
At a confluence, we turned up the ajoining valley and headed up toward the glacier at the head, the Snowbird Glacier. There was a hut on the moraine on the north side, our side, that we wanted to stay at. The valley was as amazing as the last. No trail, just easy skipping along, viewing the distance and guessing the way.
Up up up, but seemed easy, too taken in with the surroundings. We reached the hut by five. Tomorrow we only would have to climb to the top of the glacier where the rock came down in a low saddle. From there it would be easy downhill four miles to the car.
We ate a good meal of falafel mixed into olive oil, balsum, and tamarind nootles. Good but spicy. We ate a Reece's cup apeice. It was perfect. We cooked outside on the porch, shirtless and burning and watched the sun not set behind the mountain, but rather follow the ridge north-westward. I smoked a cigarette.
Up early. No breakfast. We booked up the slippery glacier and hopped the ridge and skiddadled back to the car. More beautiful weather: perfect high skies. this new valley was smooth and fast. A trail fell before our feet and we ran it home. We were back cooking egg's at the Bradley's, hoping Jamie would still be home, by 11:05.

05 July, 2004

I think I should remind the world that Wendy is Great and that I love her dearly.

I spent a great day working in the yard. I helped lift a barn; I chainsawed and weed-eated through a bunch of devil's club and elderberry. I figured I was earning my room and board. When I arrived in Eagle River, just outside of Anchorage, Jamie was housesitting for the Haeuslers, friends of her boyfriend, Jeremy. I stayed here on and off with her in between hiking or traveling. The Haeusslers were off sailing for three weeks. They walked in unexpectedly one night, a day early as I was reading and everyone else (Jamie and the Haeussler's mother-in-law) lay in bed. All five of them and a terrier walked in at twelve o'clock. That is how we met.
I had heard awesome things about them. Peter, the dad, is a geologist and is Jeremy's climbing partner. He owns a small sailboat and lives in Alaska - these are all good things. His wife, Katie, is a light. She is just all-around wonderful. She's got horses in the yard, is a great mom, loves to travel - I taught her how to sharpen her chainsaw and she was so psyched and she's got great rubber boots - a good homesteader's wife.
Since we've met they have shown me the most amazing hospitality. They feed me and give me shelter. Jamie has been off fishing with her godfather. I went down to Homer and then came back here. This is where I recuperate. When Jamie and I were first here, their house just had the most comfortable feel to it.

On Friday I decided to go up to Denali. I was a little foggy in the head, but I felt I needed to get out of the house. I don’t know why I went; there are fires galore up there – lots of smoke. I wasn’t thinking clearly.
I wasn’t really enjoying the drive. I was a bit grumpy and down, not really wanting to do anything at all. The farther north I got the smokier it became. What am I doing? I thought. I pulled over to gather myself.
Then I had a great conversation with some old guy at the roadside bar. He told me exactly what he would do if he were a young man in Alaska. I won’t give the details, but it involved buying a Ally-pack canoe: it’s a alluminium, packable canoe. He said you could get flown into the bush and then float for weeks downstream, hunt, fish, whatever, and then get picked up again.
I thought it sounded great and seriously thought about moving up here. (Still am…) The old guy got my juices flowing. I started getting fired up about all that I could do. My head started to clear. I sat back down and got my cogs spinning.
I opened up Jeremy’s Hiking Alaska book and looked for things closer to home. I was close to Denali “State” Park and there was a good run around a lake. Then I noticed what looked like a great ridge hike, only about thirty-miles. I had plenty of food in the truck.
It was Friday of 4th of July weekend. All the campgrounds around the Park would be full anyhow. Why not get up in the mountains? I had taken a few rest days. I was ready to get my legs wheeling again. It was about eight o’clock. I could start up and get up on the ridge and camp and then spend the next few days doing easy alpine miles.
I drove to the trail terminus, packed and parked. I walked back out to the road and hitchhiked north about thirty miles or so with a couple of hippies smoking dope in front of an eight year old kid. They dropped me off and I started up a nice gentle hill.
Everything was perfect. Great walking. The ridge looked great.
That night the rain set in and didn’t stop for twenty-four hours. It didn’t matter. As I gained the ridge in earnest the next morning the landscape was surreal. It was like the Scottish Highlands: gently rolling alpine tundra. The clouds nestled the ridge on all sides, occasionally breaking to grant the lichen color and contrast. The rain was no deterant: it was preferable to the mosquitoes.
At about seven that night, as I contemplated the trail the clouds broke and the rain conceded. All the rain had filtered the air clean. For now, all the smoke was gone and Denali shown clear for the firs time. I stopped early and pitched camp, thinking perhaps the breeze would dry out some of my gear.

The next day was sunny with blustery clouds. The trail was like the Mahusics (sp) in Maine – great granite plutons exposed above scraggly spruce and alder. I took a long lunch and celebrated such good fortune. Everything felt right and magnificent. I felt like myself again, happy and vibrant. There was nowhere else I could have imagined being.

Katy and the two Haeussler girls, Hanna and Kara just walked in the door. They extended their family to two ruddy ducklings, a few bobwhites, and a dozen chicks. The two ducklings belong one to each of the girls.
I got back here last night to a hearty welcome. I helped the mother-in-law cook her steak and then Katy and I stayed up a couple hours after everyone went to bed to talk about, what else, Christ, religion, parenting, culture, and attitude – among other things. Peter is out of town and not available for philosophizing.

02 July, 2004


I had a fantastic dream last night. I don't regularly have "happy" dreams. This dream was like being in a circus. I was toting a girl around whom I was inamored with and a buddy. And we faked, he and I, being clowns. Riduculous things kept happening: falling into holes, getting spooked by things laughing histarically. We ran about and forded rivers as if we were being chased. There was a show of some sort going on.


I just came back from the Russian River, one of the great king salmon runs in the world. We were a little late for great fishing. I wasn't much interested - too many people. Jamie and I slept in the back of her truck while her godfather and son fished all night. They caught three.
At six in the morning, I decided to leave them all and drive down to Homer at the end of the Kenai Penninsula. I didn't realize how tired I have been. I knew I was tired - but I set up my tent on the beach and went to bed at seven o'clock and didn't wake until eleven the next morning. Wow! Sixteen hours. I feel much better.
Yesterday I drove back to Anchorage (Eagle River) through fog and a light rain. I arrived back to a good meal and a warm bed - and internet.
Today I am planning on driving to Denali N. Park. The weather is still heavy and the smoke is supposed to be thick in the north due to a big fire. (Big fires are rare up here.) I wanted to drive up to the Brooks Range way up north, but with the smoke, battalions of mosquitoes, and a reticence to drive any more, I may bag it and start heading back south. Also I have a friend who just moved to Bellingham - maybe we can go climb.
Otherwise, I am winding up. I look forward to being back in Missoula when the time comes and Chicago and the Superior Trail as well.