Monday, October 11th, 2010
As I make my way through the Okanogan National Forest the woods thicken along the narrow, twisting, ever climbing road. Pick-up trucks loaded with hay and occasional trailers loaded with horses wind their way through this majestic land which somebody a long time ago was wise enough to preserve for intrepid travelers to forever enjoy.
This is big ranch country. As in Twisp and Winthrop all of the men wear blue jeans. These are working cowboys who prefer baseball caps instead of the fancy dude wide brim cowboy hats. “Went looking for Elk yesterday”, one of them remarked at a coffee shop. “All I saw was a bunch of grouse and twenty turkeys”. To me though, it would have been an enchanting way to spend a day.
High on a mountain side I followed a dirt road and peered over the fence to have a look at the grazing cattle. No turkeys though. You can bet I will be scouting for them again as soon as I return from my short trip home to Scarsdale.
Friday, October 8th, 2010
The next day as the sun sets I reach the gold mining era town of Winthrop. Old west buildings, converted saloons and wood frame hotels dot the main street. My thoughts are captivated by the bravery and gallantry of “The Virginian” . The author conceived the idea for this first American western novel when he passed through here in 1888.
Friday, October 8th, 2010
As I push on to the 5400 foot summit at Washington Pass the air is fresh, the wind strong and the vistas magnificent.
A lone bicyclist struggles as he winds his way up the unforgiving slope.
“I am Jesse”, he says. “I’ve been traveling 23 days, going to Bellingham to start a new life. I am determined not to be homeless”. I try to impart a life time of experience to a young man seeking destiny along a lonely road. I know something about that too.
As the dreary afternoon wears on I get in my support vehicle and drive to deli 15 miles east. There I buy hot soup. I return to the mountain crest and give it to Jesse. I feel good and he is warm.
Thursday, October 7th, 2010
I leave Ross Lake at 7 AM. It is still dark and cold. The boat, now piloted by one of the owners of the resort, leaves me off on the opposite shore. Now begins the long day of climbs. First up a dirt, rock strewn, steep trail. Still carrying a heavy backpack once again I am motivated, or am I unhappy?
The road, Highway 20, winds up and up all day. This romantic narrow road was built in the mid 1800’s as a wagon road to carry prospectors and their supplies over the high mountain passes and into the gold fields of British Columbia. Today, city folks form Seattle and Spokane use it as a week-end driving adventure. Lucky for them they do not have to walk!
It is chilly again when I end my walking day at 5 PM. I am just 33 miles from Winthrop the nearest town. Oh well, I guess I have more coffee to brew.
Wednesday, October 6th, 2010
I was able to find a place to sleep at he Ross Lake Resort. It is a nice place, rustic, a little musty and smack dab on the lake created when the Ross Dam was completed in the late 1940’s. To my liking there are no roads leading to the resort. Access is by boat. But first there is a very rugged trail to negotiate through the woods, lots of steep hills. If you make it to the lake front there is a telephone. A boat from the resort arrives minutes later.
“I am famished”, I told Will the super guide at the resort. “OH, we don’t have food here”, he said. Noticing my distress he added “Maybe I can find something in my own refrigerator” I had some emergency food for the long walk through the woods I was planning. Freeze dried macaroni, instant noodles and a few raisins kept me happily going.
Moral of the story: Even if you book a reservation at a place calling itself a “resort” bring some spare food, or starve!
Wednesday, October 6th, 2010
For two days I trudge up long hills, across narrow foot bridges and climb over trees which have been uprooted by the fall rains. I have been following the East Bank Trail which bounces up and down while following the lake south. In my back pack I have a coffee brewer.
Overlooking Nozeem Lake situated close to the crest of a mountain I brew up my cup of instant and relish the silence. As always I am weary of bears as I nibble silently on raisins.
By coming along the wooded trail I have saved a few hundred miles of walking. If I had not come to Ross Lake in August I would have been forced to continue west through British Columbia crossing into the U.S. at one of the standard border crossings. Besides there are no cars, trucks, campers or people here in the high woods which suits me just fine.
Tuesday, October 5th, 2010
In the early morning hours I try to maneuver the small boat up the 12,000 acre Ross Lake in Northern Washington State. The chill, ignoring the dark, slices through the fog numbing my hands. Without warning the small craft crashes and is wedged between two giant floating logs. I am stuck! I push, shove, heave and pray until slowly the boat drifts free.
I am headed 24 miles north up the lake to the Canadian border where in August I ended the latest stage of my race walk from Alaska to Florida. I have come here with the goal of crossing the high mountain passes before winter avalanches close the trails until spring.
At the end of the lake I leave the boat and begin my ascent into the Cascade Mountains. Roots, stones and muddy creek beds challenge my conditioning. There are no other people. I know nearby there are bears, deer and elk but my frequent stumbling keeps them out of sight.
Monday, October 4th, 2010
It is all about the feet. If they breakdown on a long distance walk your destiny could be none other than rushing home with blisters and pain.
After 40 years and 60,000 miles of race walking I have blown through more than 250 pairs of shoes. There are more walking shoes in my closet than shirts. I have learned the hard way that selecting the right shoes for a long walk is the most important factor for success. Weeks before I undertake a walking adventure I drag out the musty old box of shoes,
After a preliminary warm up in my five favorite pairs, I sit quietly and begin to talk to each shoe. “Hey, will those holes I cut around the toes for previous races still give support?” “Don’t surprise me with a prick or imperfection hat will rub my skin raw”, I demand as I tenderly caress the shoes private inner parts. “Let’s drop your ratty neighbors”, I playfully tell the three pairs I will give the honor of accompanying me to the remotest corners of the globe. Finally, after stretching and flexing old rubber, webbing and laces off I go with six of my closest friends!