Heart and Matter

I’ve been incredibly sick and warring with myself a lot these days, about what I want the blog to look like while I’m on this hiking-hiatus-turned-driving-extravaganza, about what I want the blog as a whole to accomplish. I’ve been writing and writing the last few months, and I can’t help but feel that, in a sense, I’ve lost my way. It’s not that I don’t feel some connection to place and space and movement through this amazing opportunity I’ve been given; it’s not even that I’m unhappy, or that I don’t want to talk about what I’m doing or how I’m feeling. It’s just that I only have so much energy in a given day, and I think that energy would be better put to use in different ways.

So I’m going to change it up a little bit.

Some weeks, that energy is going to be best used talking about the cool trips I’m taking – for example, we’re going to get the chance to do three nights and four days of hiking on Isle Royale, and that is gonna be epic, and I’m already excited to share the experience. Other weeks – well, you know all those things that I’ve said I want to get back to, but haven’t? I think those things are important, and particularly important to me as a black woman outdoors, and I think that having my documentation of my week take precedence leaves me little and less energy for those important things. So I’m going to talk about being outdoors, and about myself in a tangential way – about what I see in the outdoors world and the outdoors community, and about what these things mean to me as a black female once and future thruhiker who wants everyone to get outdoors and care for our wild spaces.

I’m still going to (try to) post once a week. I’ll still be documenting mileage and talking about the cool stuff that’s happened in a Notable Accomplishments format, one that those of you who’ve joined me on my PCT and CT thruhikes will be familiar with. And of course I’ll still be posting rad pictures from the week, because I hope they speak to you as much as they speak to me. But I’m tired of skimming the surface. This format is going to let me go deeper into issues and events and occurrences that I think are important. It’s going to let me skip the things that are less-formative and cut to the heart of a matter, laugh about happenstance, or show you something awesome that happened.

So here goes. First one up later this weekend.

Miles 3554-4082: Dearth and Excess

Apparently I push my mind too hard on our workday in Fargo, because this evening, after reading something entirely innocuous, I let my brain talk me into terror. It’s quiet out here at Buffalo River State Park, so quiet the wind is a distant whisper, and the creaking of the trees in the wet of the afternoon rain is haunting, otherworldly. I lose my goddamn mind when I hear footsteps in the gravel, see shadows leaning over the tent – I’m in a goddamn horror movie, they’re coming, I don’t wanna die like this. I wake Spesh and we do a sweep of the nearby sites. Nothing. Continue reading

Miles 3333.33-3554: Technically

We’re early into Grand Forks for a scheduled workday, settle into Bully Brew Coffee near enough to the university that I think there should be more people – but then, it’s technically summer. Technically. The weather doesn’t want to seem to cooperate, clouding over and just… staying that way. Not raining, but not clearing off, either. Well. That’s one way to get welcomed back to the Midwest, I guess. Continue reading

Miles 0-312: Training Wheels

One of the first things I learn about my new job – after driving in our new ride for the first time and meeting the other teams for the first time and making a family dinner that, despite the fact that it is the first time, actually feels like a family dinner – is that everyone, across the board, is an early riser. For the returning teams, this seems to be partially a function of the relative earliness of events, and for the other new team, it’s more a function of coming from the East Coast and attempting to maintain a normal-for-them rigorous exercise regime; for Spesh, it seems to be a function of either insomnia or his ability to effortlessly fit in. Aaaand then there’s me.

Continue reading

Start Your Engines

Spesh and I are about to emerge from our training cocoons as Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer butterflies, so I thought I’d just give a bit of an update before the longer updates begin:

  • I’ll be doing updates at least once a week from here on out; rather than labeling these by days/weeks, as is my wont, I’m gonna label them with real-time mileage from our Subaru. So don’t get confused if you see I’ve “hiked” 1000+ miles in a week. I’m not that awesome.
  • Part of the job is to travel cool places and do cool things, so I’ll have plenty of adventures to tell you about, starting tomorrow. I’m going to try to make Thursday publishing day; anything I publish any other day will be bonussssss awww yisss.
  • More information on the job and what it entails, including links and such, can now be found on The Route page; any questions that doesn’t answer you can ask here in the comments, or hit me up through the Contact page.
  • Also Snorkel wrote a book that I (and many others) contributed to; it’s called Backpacker Long Trails, and it’s already been favorably reviewed on Reddit. It’s ENORMOUS and has all sorts of rad information in it for both beginners and folks who’re looking to refine their technique or go ultralight or or or. I think it’s a boss resource that basically mimics my introduction to backpacking – as very straightforward tips from a variety of people with a variety of styles who all want to see you succeed.
  • Also also apparently they named a dinosaur after Zuul. Real life has conspired to bring together my trail name and my trail shenanigans. (That it’s apparently the ‘Destroyer of Shins’ is just a bonus.)

Tomorrow it’s fun fun fun with a post about training and physical sickness and metaphysical sickness – see you then!

Colorado Rockies Ruck: Full Docket

Friday morning, I’m just settling into my to-do list and I get a call – it’s my new employer, wanting to know if I’m available to pick up some more work. Mama need to make dat skrilla, so yes, yes I am available. When I arrive, settle into the scope of the project, I fear I may have bitten off more than I can chew; the work’s certainly entertaining enough, but having picked it up in the middle of doing things it goes a lot more slowly than I would like. 14 hours later, I regret everything – it’s 2:30am, and I’ve got the Rockies Ruck tomorrow. And by tomorrow, I mean I need to be up in four hours. Hoo boy. Here we go. Continue reading

Going Home

One of the bonuses about my upcoming foray into more teaching and professional road-tripping as a Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer is that the region we’ve been assigned is the region where I spent my formative years. It’s so strange to think that after all this traveling, after living on two other continents and in a boatload of other states to boot, I’m gonna wind up right back where I started. Kind of. Sort of.  Continue reading

Wrap-Up – No Hiker Is An Island

On Friday – after all the heartfelt congratulations and folks who’d never commented before coming out of the woodwork to thank me for writing – it occurred to me that I hadn’t done any formal thank yous for folks who helped me along my hike. Without your support, encouragement, and willingness to take a chance on a stranger, my hike wouldn’t have been what it was, or meant nearly as much to me. So without further ado, I’d like to thank:

Backpacker Magazine and Mountain Hardwear, for making the whole hike possible and providing me with gear that didn’t quit over the course of 2650 miles.

Altra, for making magical shoes and giving me a super shiny hat, gaiters, shoes to give away, and a badass prototype to try out.

Snorkel, for lighting the way and lighting a fire under me, reminding me one should never say never.

Dirty Girl, for her wondrous dirtiness, badass gaiters, and unflagging support.

Carrot, for being a super-supportive badass and giving this aspiring writer something to aspire to.

My parents for being supportive, even though they had their concerns, and my family for calling me crazy with smiles on their faces.

Spesh, for holding down the fort in my absence.

Halfmile, Guthook, the PCTA, and all the Trail Crews for keeping me on trail and making the walk as smooth as possible.

The trail angels I met along the way:
From the folks willing to even have a conversation despite my smell,
To folks willing to take a chance on a hiker-hitchhiker, like Patty and Russ, who picked me up on the side of the road and took me out of their way to or from an off-trail stop,
To friends like Butch and Harue, who drove two hours out of their way to make sure I had a good town day,
To folks like the Andersons and the Saufleys, who open up their homes/yards to a crazy bunch of misfits with a single dream every year, and also like Bill and Kelsey, who decided on a whim to put up a stranger.

My Class of 2016 extended hiker family, including but not limited to, and in no particular order, Pineapple, Undercover, A Game, Sprinkles, Homegrown, Outro, Yoda, Evac, U-Turn, Wolf, Spaceman, Flaming Hot, Meerkat, Six, Cookie Scrambler, Blackout, Moses, Big Spoon, Toggle, Zippee, Jazzus, Mixed Rice, Heatwave, Fuckit/Still Alive, Mama Lion (& Boone!), Roadrunner, Hammer, Shaka, Mozart, Sterling, Todd, Strider, Sweetheart, Lapsang, Skittles, Stork, Suds, Bear Sweat, Tuff Broad, Lost & Found, Powder, Schweaty Balls, Bleu Cheese, Smiles, Dilly Dally, Donger, McG, Juicy and everyone else I shared snack breaks with, camped with, and enjoyed moments with. Y’all made the pain worth the pleasure of your company.

The folks who donated to my Big City Mountaineers fundraiser, including:
Schrauf, Roxanna Roddy, Bruce Gillman, Tess Helgren, Lauren Scanlan, Ryan McEwan, Ben Schumacher, George Turner, Madman Ralph, Butch & Harue & Map & Compass, Krissi, Sean Teague, Kurt & Anna, CB, S Swansen, LaTanya Corbett-Mathis, Bailey & Anita, Katie B, Coffeebeans, Dave & Judy Chordas, Worth Baker, Nora Ni Dhomhnaill, April Sloan, Christine Hardin, Anna Mayenschein, Liz Thomas, Jesse, Mikey, Ms. Kim, Georgia Turner, Al Werner, Griff, and all you magical Anonymous donors. Thanks for helping to get urban youth outdoors!

And, last but certainly not least, all of you, dear readers – and all the folks I’m sure I’m forgetting – for liking commenting laughing crying caring about one Brown Girl’s journey from Mexico to Canada. Thank you all for making my hike – and all the writing that’s gone along with it – one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.


I haven’t forgotten to talk about reentry, I promise – that’ll be the topic of my next post. I just remembered I didn’t do it alone, and thought that was quite important to discuss, too.