Where do you sleep?
Everywhere and anywhere! Most often, I try to find a spot just off the side of the trail to pitch my tent. I usually start scouting a spot around 5:30, 6:00pm and will walk anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or so until I find a spot that feels like a good home for the night. Sometimes I’ve been invited to pitch my tent or offered a bed by folks I meet on the trail. Other times I’ll make arrangements with friend of friend connections. A couple of times I’ve approached homeowners and asked them if I could use their lawn — either because I was uneasy about the surrounding area or I wouldn’t be able to make it past a residential area before dark.
What do you eat?
All kinds of things! I’ve eaten a good number of things gifted to me that I wouldn’t have otherwise tried or made for myself — oranges and smoked oysters stand out… not bad on both accounts! I’ve been grateful to share meals with strangers and friends of friends on many occasions, and have appreciated taking in the different food cultures of the people I’ve met.
As for what I pack myself, nuts are the staple, as are ramen noodle packs. Nuts for the nutrients and high calorie to weight ratio, ramen noodles are pure calories, low weight, and low cost. I don’t eat enough vegetables — too few calories and too high in weight — so when I’m near a grocery store I tend to leaf out.
Dried fruits, crackers, and chocolate bars are regulars, too. Lately I’ve been on a Reeces pieces bend and have thrice picked them ALL out of my trail mix, only to regret it later. Just nuts!
For longer stretches between towns, I’ll pick up a few freeze dried ‘just add water’ meals.
Where do you get water?
Wherever I can! In urban areas, I ask shop owners or knock on doors and use outdoor taps if no one is home. Otherwise, I get water from lakes, rivers, and streams and treat it. I try to start my day with 3 L and will try to save the third litre until I find another water source, so I always have a litre on me, just in case!
How far do you walk in a day? How long does it take you?
I aim for 30k a day. Sometimes I’ll walk +/- 35k in search of a good spot to pitch my tent, or sometimes less if I’m arriving in town, tired, or the weather turns. It takes an hour to walk 5k straight, and with stretching and snack and stop and see, hear, feel, and smell breaks, I usually cover 30k in 8 hours.
Do you have a SPOT or something?
A Garmin In-reach mini! Arguably more reliable than the SPOT. I nerd out on this device! It tracks my distance and pace, has an SOS button, and sends texts via satellite. I use it to send my parents a text every day and take a lot of comfort in the SOS function.
Ready to hop a plane home yet? Plenty of bears and deer in the back field, and plenty of moose and elk at the camp if you’re looking for those.
No, dad, still walking…!
How’s the body holding up?
Surprisingly well! I give a lot of love to my massive bunions every day, and stopped in to a physio to deal with hip pain in Nelson, but otherwise moving along quite well.
My body is definitely rusty every morning — I look and feel like the tin man — but 20 minutes of walking and I’m limber again.
Lately, whether it’s the cold and wet weather, having had a cold myself, or just a normal consequence of this much movement, I’ve been finding I need a lot more sleep and rest than I’m used to — I’ve taken a couple of full on sleep days holed up in the tent. I was feeling like that was maybe problematic or concerning, but this recent podcast episode from Outside Magazine helped me lean into that.
Just one on the tip of my pinky toe in the first week that was more or less resolved by Mission… and I even set out in brand new boots! I think boot materials today are more gentle than the stiff leathers of days past, and I’ve also worked up thick skin in my year-round hiking and regularly walking to work before I set out.
How old are you anyway?
Popular opinion pegs me at 24, 25. Socks are frequently shocked that I’m a baby-faced 30 in human years, but my soul is actually a steadfast 86.
What do your parents think of this?
Good question! I think my mom is quite proud and I’ve felt throughout my life that she’s been understanding and supportive of my wandering ways. My dad’s feelings show up in harder ways — I think he fears my safety and I know he fears my economic prospects/trajectory. We’ve collided on these points a few times, which is hard for both of us. Ultimately, I think it drills down to care and concern. But — they would be the best people to answer! Perhaps another guest post is in order, mom?!
Need anything? Miss or crave anything?
Not really. I’m pretty self-sufficient on trail, and I’m in towns often enough to not feel terribly deprived. The one thing I’ve been craving lately is salt! Can’t get enough some days!
I’d also love to snug my Bobcat. I’m a bit disappointed my sister hasn’t brought him to trail for a visit yet! 🙂
Do you carry bear spray?
On my hip at all times, next to my hunting knife! I sleep with both next to my head as well.
Why don’t you get a bike?
Not my style, not as nimble, too much work, and not as reliable as my own two feet. That, and I’m a stop and photograph the blade of grass, smell the sap, read the sign, feel the bark, and investigate the scat kind of cat! Three miles an hour is a good pace for taking it all in.
Have you thought of walking with a dog?
Dog, no. Cat, my dream!
In seriousness, though, walking with animals would make me a bit wary — pets might bring comfort and a level of protection, but they can also attract predators. I’d have to do the research and find the right animal… and figure out who will carry their food and fund their feeding habits!!
Are you hitchhiking?
Not hitchhiking, though I’ve accepted rides offered by people I’ve stayed with or been chatting to when the weather is severe and/or my body could use the rest.
Have you seen any critters?
Heaps of deer, marmots, ground squirrels, eagles, hawks, woodpeckers, and birds of smaller varieties, six mountain goats, three moose, two black bears, and as of this week, one very large grizzly!!
You don’t have a cell phone!?
No — haven’t had a cell phone for at least four years. Remember when phones were attached to walls? Or better yet, remember when the neighbourhood shared a party line? I struggle to keep up with the pace of life and communication today, so I don’t. I use a second hand smart phone and an app called Fongo to make calls when I’m in wifi zones and feel so inclined. Kinda like having a wall phone — when I’m not at home (in wifi), I’m out of range. Making that shift — opting out — was one of the best things I‘ve done for myself.
Aren’t you scared?
Yes, sometimes, but equally as scared of living a life of fear of the unknown, or a life I can’t remember, of days that blend one in to another.
Why not!? We so rarely make decisions completely on our own, or have to rely on our instincts and preparation to get through challenges. It’s not always easy, but I find deep satisfaction in having to work through my days without the expectation of safety or assurance from others. Having this much time and space to myself is giving me a good sense of my rhythms, my wants, my needs, my fears, and what makes me come alive.
And — I hardly ever feel truly alone. I’ve seen at least one other human almost every day since I’ve set out, and I’m only ever a few hours walk to a road where I could flag down a vehicle or a couple of days between towns. I’ve also been so surprised at how ‘seen’ I have been. There are so many people sending me good vibes, thoughts, prayers, and looking out for me every day. I’m deeply touched and energized by their support.
I have had a few meltdowns and have been in a few jams, and I’ve sought and received the help and kindness of strangers to get through. Plus, I’ve got my incredible network in my pocket — my friends sent size 5 font messages before I set out, and I pull them out at random when I’m tackling a tough stretch. I’ve walked a whole province with so much support.
What does your pack weigh?
Anywhere from 45-60lbs depending on how much food and water I’m carrying and how soaked or dry my pack and gear is. I’m looking very much forward to dropping my bear barrel in Calgary (3lbs!) and swapping out my winter sleeping bag for a lighter summer bag (heaps of thanks to MEC’s Expedition Grant for making that happen!!).
What’s the point?
Lately — through the Rockies and weeks of rain — I’ve been asking myself this a lot, too. There are so many reasons why, and many of them are in competition with one another — I don’t have enough time or money to achieve them all, or at least all at once and before the snow flies, so I’m having to drill down and decide every day, “what’s the point!?”
That in itself is one of the points — the conscious choice, life chosen, the daily weighing of the options and committing to a path forward.
Walking home is also the point. I’ve lived everywhere but home the last twelve years, and I want to go home, the long way, the scenic way.
Canada is another point. Connecting with Canadians. Relying on myself but learning to ask for what I need and accept the help and kindness of others.
Writing, having something to write about, having space to write things out.
Using my body. Learning to walk, learning how far I’m willing to walk (not willing to walk 6k RT to the Dairy Queen; willing to walk an extra 5k on top of a 30k day to find a place to sleep that feels right; willing to walk 15-20k on rest days — any distance without pack is a breeze; not willing to walk side trips in cold rains; contemplating what a year afoot, solely afoot would look like…)
Are you crazy?