Archive for April, 2006


Sunday, April 30th, 2006


I had an =
emotional morning.  The CDT is getting
me to face my =
Are =
those fears today m
ountain lions? No. Rattlesnakes? No. =
-infused water? Not even close.


Ive learned over and over that when =
s important, that I have to take care of it myself. I walk through =
this world as independent as I can possibly be
, hobbled by my own high =
precise moments of clarity, and unexpected, yet recurring, =

Of course =
it takes a village to complete a thru-hike, but when I can do it myself, =
I do.

So when my =
transcriber asked me to use Trail Journals
to keep my =
, I =
. My existing system, the system that I spent hours =
setting up
, lets me send an email that posts automatically to my =
blog.  My transcriber
receives a copy and spell checks my entries, fixes it up a little (if necessary), =
then replace
s the direct post with the edited =
If my =
transcriber got busy or otherwise behind on my journal, there was a =
rough version of it on my site.
  Friends and family knew I was OK, and if I =
t posting, someone might notice a little =

By using =
Trail Journals, I develop a double dependence.  First, =
m relying on Trail Journals, which can be slow or even =
at times
, for my journal.  Second, Im relying on my transcriber to =
get my posts to my readers.

Im also stepping away from the pride I take in having =
my own site; of not being like everyone else. 

I have =
every reason to trust
my transcriber. She has been reliable. All I had to do this morning was =
let go of the baggage from my past that I was bringing =
the =
Deciding to trust someone brought up fear for me. My heart was beating =
fast and
, as I stepped into the decision, my eyes began to well =
up.  The thought of switching to Trail Journals made me =

Since you =
are reading this in Trail Journals, you know what decision I made.  =
But not before getting angry and wanting to not have any =
.  I know how to set up my life so that =
m alone and single.  Now Im trying something =

The Wheres and Hows

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

I’m headed through the Arizona desert with a village. Here are some of the
residents of my CDT village:
Daniel and Eddy let me make a mess of parts of their house. I spread out,
made piles, shuffled boxes, hogged the oven, repeatedly got crumb all over
the kitchen, and was minimally sociable. I got my resupply boxes done,
last-minute details got handled, and I got a comfortable bed to sleep in.

Gottago is a friend who knows the trail, so I call her and she has an
opinion, has thought about the same issue, or knows me well enough to help
me sift through an issue. She and I went to the ADZPCTKO together, which provided a
great deadline for getting my CDT stuff done. She’s helped in so many ways
for this trip.

Larry’s doing the driving while I’m in the back of new Lexus with a power
plug attending to details that are best done on a laptop. We are north of
Phoenix headed to Tucson for two nights. Larry will then take me to
Antelope Wells. He’s thrilled to see this part of the country, and I’m
enjoying his company and the good sound system. Larry’s also given this
nomad a permanent phone number with voicemail since 2002.

David offered to host a party for me so that my friends from Tucson could
come together for an evening. That party is tonight.

My sister, Samantha, has been my home away from home. She deletes my junk
email, handles my snail mail, and provides lots of unconditional support in
too many ways to list here.

There are a bunch of other people: Susie, Betsy & Jamie, Jamie M, Antonia,
Tim & Christi, Charlie, Tom, Bart, Dad & Susan, Marty, Daniel L, and others
who all part of my village.

I’m a lucky hiker.

I Moved Out

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

I Moved Out

of my =
wallet tonight and into my backpacking wallet. Another transition.  =
My resupply boxes are done. There are a zillion things that will never =
get done, and it’s all OK.  In less than a week, I will be =
hiking again.


A Frying Pan

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

I think I’m getting it. Quite out of the blue and in a big way the CDT
is teaching me about loneliness, and I haven’t set out for the second
half yet.

I’ve been a nomad for more than a year, and haven’t had a home with
stable, regular friendships. My whole adult life I’ve been “not
coupled,” and single most of it. I’ve always prided myself on being
independent (not dependent on anyone else). I’ve crafted my world so
that I can get by without anyone else. That’s not to say I’ve been a
loner. I have friends, and enjoy friends whenever I can.
As I gear up for my trip I’m staying with Daniel & Eddie. Daniel and I
have been friends since high school. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been
busy with life and trip prep. And I’ve found myself unusually drawn to
being with them when they are home. It may not look any different to
them, but I’ve noticed it’s different inside me.

It’s a little shocking or unsettling. I’ve known for a while that I’ve
been moving toward domestication; that I do want a home and some
semblance of being settled. A community of people I love who I see
regularly has always been a big draw for settling down again. Santa
Cruz, CA, and Portland, OR, both offer ample community. The Bay Area
does too, but everyone’s so busy….

All this has been amplified as I contemplate hiking the CDT. Alone. I
read Spur’s first entry this year and think about the joy of a 9-hiker
pileup. I don’t expect that I’ll get to hike with anyone for any period
of time on my hike. Maybe that’s what I need to push me to settle down.
I respond well to a frying pan over the head.

“Boing” Oh, I get it.

Then I contemplate the job I’m considering (more like, they are
considering me) overseas when I finish the CDT. It’s geographically
isolated, but very dense with people. I won’t have any social isolation,
but somehow I imagine it to be a lonely place. Hopefully, I’ll find out.

My journey has begun- Buttonwillow, CA

Friday, April 14th, 2006

04/14/06 1 AM

Gottago and I were on the I-10/ I-15 interchange at the same time today. But we weren’t in the same car or even headed in the same direction. I was headed west, having finished a long day of work, my last day of work in the desert. She and Ray were headed east. I realized my journey had begun as I approached my hotel room a few hours later.

I hate freeway noise-the sound of engines and tires fighting gravity amplified by bridges and overcrossings. I passed by a few motels backdown I-5 because they were right on the freeway.

But midnight came and went, punctuated with a low fuel light in the middle of nowhere. I paid $3.29 a gallon at a station I could see for miles, like a mirage bright and indistinct.

I’d said that I wanted to sleep during my journey to San Francisco, after leaving Palm Springs at 9PM, no sooner than Valencia and no later than Lost Hills. I’ve done exactly that having arrived near Buttonwillow.

I have a special passenger on this leg of the journey: a shiny red cruiser bike with whitewalls and a basket. The bike is a great gift from a friend. I’d gotten word of the gift before I arrived, so I brought down my bike rack, one of the “hang it off the back” kind.

I also arrived and departed Palm Springs with some of my backpacking food, mistakenly believing I’d have time to tackle a few small tasks. That, added to what I had left in Palm Springs from past visits, meant my car was reasonably full. I’d stacked what I could directly behind me so that I could still see out half the back window.

Out of that back half of the window, I could see half of the shiny red bike. I guess I could see some cars too. When I turned on my turn signal, the blinking warm light reflected on the whitewall of the tire. Break lights revealed an arc of red behind me. I like my new bike.

The Grapevine is a section of I-5 (a major West Coast north-south highway), north of Los Angeles, that goes up and over Tejon Pass and drops the freeway into the central valley. It’s full of trucks, steep grades, turns, and other joys of driving. It’s also full of pot holes and bumps. Flying along the freeway, I looked back and thought, “Is the bike moving back on the rack?” a couple of times, but I trusted engineering. “It won’t fall off. It just won’t,” I thought.

Then I got into a particularly, let’s say wavy, part of the freeway. With one particular jump I saw the half of the bike I could see fall away. It was silently gone.

I looked back to see the havoc I’d caused on the freeway. I quickly felt irresponsible because the bike (my new bike) was going to cause an 80 MPH night-time smashup. A look back revealed smooth traffic.

Had it landed on two wheels and coasted off? Had it ascended on the first day of Passover? Where the fuck was my bike? Why wasn’t there skidding and erratic lights?

An exit, lined with semis parked for a nap, was within maneuvering distance. I tiptoed, as much as one can tiptoe with a car, shoulders hunched, off to the side of the exit. During that transition, I looked out the driver’s side mirror. I saw a whitewall tire at a wild angle connected to unidentifiable shiny red parts. What?

I put on the flashers and got out of the car. The bike was hanging by one support, contorted into the most unlikely posture;unlikely in that I can’t believe it was still attached. Unlikely in that the bike was nearly wheel over wheel inverted. I couldn’t believe that it hadn’t been flung from the car.

The basket played a key role in the salvation of my new friend. It had become caught in the rack support, lodging the bike in its unlikely pose. I looked. The bike did not appear scratched. The car did not appear scratched.

I tied down the bike with the extra-long securing straps, turned off my flashers, and set back into the chumble of the Grapevine.

Later that night I passed hotels that were right on the freeway and almost ran out of gas. All that so I could end up here. Near Buttonwillow is reasonably crowded, but I did get a single room for under $40. My room is, however, practically cantilevered over I-5. The hotel is at an acute angle to the freeway, and I have the second floor corner room that’s closest to a bridge on the freeway. I will sleep fine, and it’s funny that I got this room, the noisiest of rooms. Arriving after midnight, one can’t be too picky.

My new bike is in the room with me under the TV where there’s a dust shadow of a desk on the wall behind it. I’m going to sleep.

Oh, Gottago and I were aware of our synchronicity because we were on the phone.

Polar Services Job Fair – 2006

Monday, April 10th, 2006

I learned a lot attending the Polar Services Job Fair:
– Income in Antarctica is taxable.
-Dishwashers & Dining Room Attendants have it pretty hard.
-The community is tight, like the backpacking community: some people who had worked on the ice before came to the job fair like former hikers go to the ADZPCTKO. It’s a way to get a fix, to see old friends, and be with other wierdos just just like me. Or in my case, just like I want to be.

I drove from South-Central Denver to nowhere, otherwise known as Centennial, a horrible place where nothing is at human scale. Falling snow contributed grey dreariness of the place.
This was my second job fair. This time, I really wanted a job. When I had first conceived of working in Antarctica, I thought, “Hell, I’ll wash dishes if I have to. I just want to go.” It became less true as I discovered that I could use other skills, like my computer skills, to get paid to have an adventure. Then the perfect job came across my inbox: Computer Tech. It’s what I do now with only one stretch. An easy-to-learn stretch.

I made my way past the orientation to the IT desk. I’d heard that line at the Polar Services Job Fair could be 2 hours long. My early arrival and specialized skill saved me a wait. I heard nothing but good news. I grew encouraged and got a great reality check: It’s definitely possible that I could be working in Antarctica this season.

People who go to Antarctica fall into two distinct camps: Grantees and everybody else. Grantees are the raison d’être for everybody else. Any country’s presence in Antarctica can be, by treaty, only for scientific purposes. The US presence is through the National Science Foundation, which generates grantees. Everybody else is there in support of the NSF. It seems it’s pretty much a one to one ratio.

The US has three main places (bases? outposts? stations?) on the southern-most continent: McMurdo, Pole Station, and Palmer. McMurdo is a small town and the point of embarkation for other destinations. It sits on the edge of the continent near where many early explorers started: the Ross Sea. In season (October-February) McMurdo has around 1200 people. The Pole Station is at the geographic south pole, and in season has about 250 people. Palmer is much smaller with about 80 people in season. Palmer is on the Antarctic Peninsula, the long part that reaches toward South America. All three are occupied year-round, but the numbers during the long winter drop significantly.

I had assumed as a first-timer and by numbers that if I got a job, it would be at McMurdo. Not the case. I could get a Pole assignment. I’m not sure what I think of that, but my adventurous side is very excited.

The IT hiring process:
-Apply online for job
-Get a phone interview
– In-person interview
OK John, I was with you until PQ.
This process and the whole Antarctic experince is full of acronyms.
Physical qualifications are a broad set of exams and reviews, both medical and dental.

All this will be happening while I’m on the trail, so it should be interesting.

More to come…