"And we walked off to look for Am-er-i-ca...."

We walked back from the caves in silence. Admiring another desert sunset, likely to be our last for the season. Color played upon the rocks, each one a unique and smooth monolith created from ancient aquatic activity, visible signs of the once inland sea that blanketed our desert. We followed our shadows East, towards camp. We could not see our destination, but we knew that we were headed towards our gullied wash where dinner was being prepared just below the desert surface, so as to remain sheltered from the winds. We took our time, savoring each minute as the colors shifted amongst us and our shadows grew longer. For the first time in days, my mind was quiet, Simply being.

“And we walked off to look for Am-er-i-ca….”

Music played from our six passenger pickup. Just one month ago we had joined as strangers to combat environmental injustice, to teach and create access enabling opportunities for an environmental renaissance, and to live and breath the America Wilderness. We were all in the midst of our own journey -- a search for America. But in doing so, we were also clearing a path for further discover of America by her own citizens. For the people, by the people!

(This however, I am nearly certain, is the Capitalists' biggest fear. Fear of the popular realization that our so called "natural resources" have intrinsic value beyond what can be produced through total destruction and consumption of such "resources".)

Ultimately, it was our great American Democracy that brought our righteous work to a sudden and jarring halt.

We descended into our gully. Truck, tools, food, and equipment lay neatly along the edges of the wash. A red and white striped tablecloth was set amongst the sand and rocks with a single candle burning amongst it. One of our crew was just now bringing a flame to the dead sage she had gathered earlier. The fragrant woodsmoke blended with the scents of squash, cucumber, onion, garlic, kale, and lettuce. Slowly, the brightest stars began to show. Somebody then uncorked and poured six glasses of wine into empty coffee mugs and jars. This desert was our desert, our home, but our home no longer.

The government of the United State of America had shut down, a nearly unfathomable event from our remote perspective amidst the sand the sand the rocks. We lived here, we worked here. Outside of our six, we saw no one and heard no news of the greater world around us. We were, however, contacted through the Bureau of Land Management, and been issued orders, via radio, to cease all operations until further notice due to government shutdown. We could scarcely have been further disconnected from the D.C. political machine and yet here we were, pawns in some fat cat political maneuverings.

Just a player in Their political squabbling. We didn’t know much. Other than that the Grand Ol’ Party and the Democratic parties were at it again and therefore we could no longer work unless they came to agreement.

I didn’t care to know more. And if I did, I had no way to find the answers to my questions. It didn’t matter. I pay my taxes, I follow the rules (or at least the ones that are worth a damn), but I sure as shit don’t have the time or the patience to concern myself with their games.

Our unspoken agreement was broken. I leave them alone, they leave me alone. No longer. Their games had cost me my livelihood and my home, for without doubt, I was deemed "non-essential". That was all I needed to know.

We ate around our fire, no longer certain where we would get out next meal or how long the measly forty-three dollars a day we had made over the past few weeks would last us. The food filled my stomach and warmed my body in the chill of the desert night; my thoughts did not. Job taken. Community shattered. Good honest work, in the name of our country, brought to a complete halt. For what?

That night, like every previous night, but not the nights to follow, I slept beneath the desert sky and watched the constellations above.

The Long Distance Hiker

Written by Dan "Mellow Yellow" Klein.

… because I’m far better at moving forward than sitting still, I walked to Canada.

What a trip that is. Five months ago I stopped paying rent only to be dropped in the desert where I lay my hand upon the most bizarre wall separating Mexico from the United States, but now I’m wandering close, oh so close, to the Canadian border. In fact, I’m headed down into a valley. And I turn a corner; I’ve turned a lot of corners throughout the past five months. Only this time I turn that corner and I can see a clear-cut line extending east-west as far as I can see. There it is, the good ol’ U.S. of A. on my side of the line and Canada sits on the opposing side. They both look the same to me.

So I walk down to this clear cut. And sure enough, monument 78 is there, marking the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. A gang of hikers are sitting around, all smiles from ear to ear. Taking pictures, having a drink, enjoying a smoke, exchanging hugs and handshakes. I do the same as they do. Take my pictures, have a drink, give a few hugs and a few handshakes. Just like every single hiker who completed the trail this year has done, just like every hiker who came before me has done, and just like every hiker will do who follows in our wake. This thought crosses my mind, sure, but it doesn’t upset or depress me. It’s the way things should be. It is good.

Just as Mother Nature can humble a man, so can success. For all the individuality and uniqueness of each hiker and of each hike, ultimately it’s the same trail and the same accomplishment. Sure, what I took from the hike is something I cherish unlike anything else. And it certainly is something different from what any other hiker likely took from their experience. But, the big picture is one of a loose knit gang of wild and raucous men and women who couldn’t sit still. Who couldn’t climb just one mountain without yearning to discover what the view from the next was like. People who could set out to spend one night under the stars, only to find their heads weren’t yet cleared. We need more. And more. And more. That’s the story. Collectively it gets told and then told again, year after year along the trail, but also from small town to big city America.

Such a story is nothing less than mythic. Told and repeated annually, passed from person to person, year after year. A few hardy adventures hike from Mexico to Canada each year. Why? Because there is a trail connecting these two points. Some people have just got to know what lays between the two. 

And so that night we camped in Canada. We built a fire. We told stories. And we basked in the glow of our collective accomplishments. Another hiking season has come and gone and we are living proof that Adventure is not just something you read about in books and it aint some old timey idea from the past. If one can rouse the courage to let go of Security, Adventure's ancient adversary, he will find that Adventure is something tangible and within the grasp of anyone willing to reach out over the edge and take hold of it.

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Ruined

Written by Chris "Wolverine" Hillier.

I don't care for the towns. I don't care if it's Detroit, Berlin or San Juan and I've been to them all. The people in towns stink like soap and they foolishly compete against each other to get money to buy stuff they don't need. I'll go to the towns if necessary to get resupply and do my hiker chores. Otherwise, I'm happy being on the trail.

The paragraph above is how you start to think once you've been 'ruined'. I didn't use to think like that. I used to have a normal life. I had a career and a nice house. I wondered what kind of person could take 6 months out of their busy schedule to hike a stupid trail. Then my mom passed away and it rocked my world. I needed to get away. I needed to reset my brain and start over so I decided to hike the Appalachian Trail.  Two weeks into that hike, it occurred to me: This is how I want to spend the rest of my life. From that point on, I was ruined.

I consider it an affliction. I'm stricken with wanderlust. I got the gypsy blood, the itchy feet... Whatever you want to call it. It manifests itself as a distinct change in attitude. You stop caring what other people think. You begin to judge others based solely on how many miles they've hiked. You long for the trail – it doesn't even matter what trail it is, as long as you're out of doors with a pack on your back and you're moving forward. This disease should be covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act. We should get special parking. If only we owned cars.

To anyone considering hiking a long trail I would say this: Beware. You could be 'ruined'. You'll quit your job and give up all your possessions just for the chance to live the sweet sweet life of the long distance hiker. You'll be shocked when you finally notice how often those around you waste food and water. You'll see how most Americans are addicted to their automobiles. You'll feel out of place in normal society and you'll wonder why everyone else doesn't feel the same way you do.

Then again, you might not. Thousands of people hike the AT or the PCT and they aren't 'ruined'. They complete the hike and go back to a normal life but if you're one of those who's hiking gene has been lying dormant deep in your DNA since birth, you might activate it by going on a long distance hike.

Beware.


Chris "Wolverine" Hillier lives below the poverty line and way off the grid.

Wolverine will soon be attempting to be the first person to thru-hike a yet-to-be-named trail from Belle Isle, Detroit across the Upper Peninsula and to the Wisconsin border. After that, he plans to hike at least another 1,000 miles. Take a look at wolverinehikesmichigan.blogspot.com or find him on Facebook as Hiker Resupply.