Believe it or not, I haven’t been in Alabama for 2 years! I’m just terrible at consistently writing. Since there are new things on the horizon I’m going to stop worrying about catching you all up in great detail and simply provide a brief history of my travels since Alabama as to allow us to continue the story.
A brief history of my time in the south…
After Thanksgiving with friends I headed to Florida briefly then Mississippi for the holidays with a friend. After the new year I headed back to Florida for 2 months. I hit up various wild areas, hiked through swamps, got a paddle board, visited Big Cypress and the Everglades. In the everglades I paddled through alligator and crocodile infested waters. It was beautiful albeit stressful.
I headed to the Florida Keys next for several days. I swam, and snokled, and paddled, and hung out on the beach in January. It was lovely.
Back on the mainland I headed through Miami and on up the coast to Cocoa, FL and the Kennedy Space Center. I got a place to stay for the week so I could catch a rocket launch! I did indeed catch a SpaceX launch of the Falcon 9. I followed that up with a day at the KSC visitor center. I nerded out and wish I had more time.
After that I headed back to northern Florida to meet new friends and spend a week biking and swimming fresh water springs.
I started my trip back west through Georgia where I spent a couple days hiking on the Appalachian trail. From there I headed back to Nashville for beers with some friends from the PCT I didn’t see on my way through the first time.
I stopped through Indiana to visit my Aunt and Uncle before heading back to St Louis to visit more old PCT friends! The same friends who’s wedding originally brought me to the south!
We did some backpacking on the Ozark trail before I headed back to Mississippi.
At this point I was several interviews into a getting a new job and new I was going to soon be busy and road life was going to be less free.
While in MS I got the call and was able to accept the job. This meant I had roughly a month left before starting work. I decided I wanted to be in 1 place for a month while starting the job so I didn’t have to worry about managing a new job and van life. I decided that place was a KOA in Flagstaff, AZ. I had some distance to make that time and several things planned.
Louisiana got nixed in the name of time, though the drive through was nice I had no time to stop and enjoy. I powered through most of Texas, only stopping in San Antonio long enough to meet and play some top golf with my new boss and some future team mates.
The first real stop was Big Bend National Park! I only had 3 days, 2 nights but I got out on several hikes and some great roads for beautiful views.
After Big Bend I headed to New Mexico and the CDT to do some trail magic and hike a short section with friends from the PCT.
I headed way from the CDT towards Flagstaff, Arizona where I’d booked a month at a KOA so I could be stationary while starting my new job! I didn’t get out much other than some small day hikes as my life was focused on getting into my new work. By the end of the month I had done just that and felt comfortable starting to move again while working full time.
Wandering the SW
My plan was to travel and explore on the weekends before settling into a campsites on Sunday night for a week of working. I headed to the Grand Canyon on my first weekend of freedom! Not wanting to do any shuttling I hoped to attempt a R2R2R. Hiking rim to rim…then back to the first rim…a 41.2 mile journey. I felt strong but knew it would be a push either way. Unfortunately my hubris got the better of me on the way down when I tried to keep up with the trail runners to escape the hoards of people. I shot my knees and body on the way down from the south rim and spent the rest of the day crawling up the North. By the time I made the North Rim I was in no shape to turn around. I was lucky enough to get the last exorbitantly priced room and a 4 hr shuttle back to the south rim the next morning. Lesson learned for the next attempt, don’t rush.
After getting back to my van I headed up to St. George, Utah to visit some friends and spend the week working. From there I passed through Zion NP on my way to meet a friend for his first 100 mile ultra-marathon near Bryce Canyon NP. After a long day we returned him alive but broken to camp around 4am having not finished but given his everything to try. Next time Rocky!
I spent the next week sweating in the 90-100 weather of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument before realizing the SW wasn’t the place to be with no air conditioning and I booked it to Idaho!
I found a lovely camp site along a lovely river in a lovely canyon for the following week where the highs were only in the 80s. Though the regular trains passed several times a day only 100 ft behind me…it made for some interesting work calls.
I next headed to Boise to visit my friend from Bryce Canyon. I floated the Boise river several times as it’s one of my favorite things to do in the area. I also ran into a cousin and his family who was finishing a ride to Boise from Seattle. Met some other relatives and then my parents came though on a trip and I joined them in NE Idaho visiting old towns my mom’s family came from.
Leaving friends and family behind I headed to Missoula to visit the friends I’d made in Florida floating springs and biking. I was good timing cause that crazy 100+ degree heat wave was on it’s way through and I was able to hide in their basement working for the week to help escape the heat.
With July having arrived I headed out to the road towards the CDT hoping to do some more trail magic. As I pulled on to the back highway out of Missoula I saw a man with his thumb out and the distinct look of Hiker Trash. there was no question in my mind, he was getting a ride. He jumped in and we started talking trail and where he was going, an hour later I gave up on my lame plans and was taking him all the way to Augusta, MT to hang with CDT hikers over the long July 4th weekend. Needless to say, friends were made and freedom was celebrated.
They headed back to trail and I headed south to Helena NF where they’d be passing through in a week. I worked and did trail magic for folks, including my new friends before rolling up camp and giving more hikers rides into Helena! There we all ate, drank, and got stick and poke tattoos thanks to Amazon’s smallest set of tattoo needles include some 30+. “You get a tattoo, you get a tattoo…” Thanks Thursday (friend who was giving tattoos)!
Newly tattooed I bid farewell to my new friends and drove across town to visit old friends from Portland, a friend, mentor, and teacher from high school. It was a great couple days getting a tour of town in car and of the Missouri river by boat.
For several months now Two-Ply (aka Max) my good friend from the PCT and I had been scheming to go sailing out of Victoria, BC on his newly acquired sailboat. The problem was Canada was still closed to Americans due to COVID-19. The date of opening had been pushed a couple times but things were looking up for early August. I had a couple weeks to make it from Montana, across Idaho, and Washington, and up Victoria.
I headed North from Helena towards Glacier NP. I snuck in early and enjoyed some short hikes and spectacular views. But it was Sunday, I had to keep moving and find a place to work for the week. This Sunday would come to haunt me. I spent the next 4-6 hrs driving to potential campsites for them to be full, ugly, or without reliable cell reception. Despite my cell booster and best hopes, shit just wasn’t working out. I ended up finding a spot I stayed 2 nights before moving on mid-week. But this had been a theme, the stress of little time to truly see and enjoy the places I was while stressing over having to work full time. The SW had been easier cause it’s wide open spaces meant better reception, the mountains of Idaho and Montana did not lend itself to good reception.
Tired of stressing over all this and in need of familiar faces I made a quick weekend stop in Snoqualmie Pass where I ran into an old friend from the PCT, but then headed into Seattle stay with my cousin and his family for the week. It was a restful week and set me up for success to get to Canada.
Heading out to Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound I spent a week among the Firs and Rhododendrons I know and love in the PNW. I headed North along the Island’s spine towards Anacortes before crossing inland and heading up to Bellingham. In Bellingham I spent the week checking out the area, paddle boarding on lakes and visiting friends.
With my negative test results and passport in hand I headed to the Canadian border! Luckily, they me in. All international ferry services running to Victoria, BC were still shut down so it was up to Vancouver for me before taking a ferry back south to Victoria.
A day later we were cutting through the water out of the harbor! We spent the next 9 days sailing through the challenging waters of the Southern Gulf Islands near Victoria. Winds are strange due to all the islands, tides can be dangerous due to narrow openings and large tides. But we sailed like old sea dogs and made it out safe…close calls aside. We swam, we laughed, we wandered in amazement at the bio-luminescent algae in the waters, hitch hiked, beat relentlessly into the wind before giving up and used the motor. It was everything we wanted and needed.
I said goodbye to Max and headed back through Vancouver and Bellingham. I had a couple days of vacation left and so I headed towards the Enchantments and Leavenworth, WA. I spent 2 days wandering, swimming, and gaping in the mountains. The cold lakes were perfect for swimming, the mountains made for spectacular views. A fitting end to my 2 weeks off.
I wasn’t sure where to go for the week but I had a friend getting married on the Oregon coast in just over a week. A call to my parents reminded me they themselves were down at Cape Disapointment camping for the weekend. I headed down to join them for their last night. We had a nice bike ride in the morning before going our separate ways. I headed South into Oregon and found an adequate spot tucked into Oregon State forest for the week.
My friends wedding was wonderful and beautiful celebration, and down right party into the we hours of the morning. Shenanigans aside, fun was had, friends were made, and they got married. Success.
I drove to my parents home outside of Portland where they were preparing to head to Utah for the moth to see national parks. I was to house sit for them. Which was perfect. Because it was now September. I’d been on the road for almost 11 months and need a break and it was time to make some upgrades on the van. Most importantly I added heater so I shouldn’t always have to run to Florida in the winter, I added a hot water shower to make staying clean more enjoyable, and vastly improved the storage situation under the bed. Among several other upgrades.
Return to the road………
October came and I headed towards Bend. I was planning to visit for a couple weks to see friends and family before moving onto California and the SW for the winter. But I never left. Night 1 on the road I felt all the stress of needing internet and a safe place to camped and realized working full time from the van was not what I wanted right now. After a couple weeks of parking in my cousin’s driveway I’d found a place to rent! The plan was to stay in Bend for the winter and enjoy the skiing.
I did still have friends to see in California so took a week off work to go see them. Later in February I’d spend a week on the road to visit the hiker friends I met in Montana in Mammoth Lakes where we spent the weekend skiing!
Bend was great and made friends, enjoyed hiking, skiing, biking, and all the beer and food carts I could want! As my 1 year at work came near I had planned to take some time off to do some backpacking but soon realized I wanted to be out hiking on the CDT with friends that were also headed out for the summer. So, I quit my job, packed my belongings into my van, parked the van, and headed to New Mexico to once again walk to Canada.