I want to start a weekly post where I share ten things I’m grateful for in order to give you guys an idea of the day to day things I experience. This week it’ll be from the last ten days, but in the future I’ll just do one every Sunday.
With my foot being in the worst condition it’s been in for the duration of this journey, the 47 mile stretch between Prineville and Mitchell was going to be a tough one. In order to reduce my pack weight and alleviate some of the strain on my foot, I made the decision to under-carry water and food. I brought enough to make it, but not enough to make it comfortably.
Evening one was dragging by and I was doing my best to conserve water when the father-daughter duo that would save the day pulled up. They asked what I was doing, and when I told them I was walking across the country they responded saying they had some stuff for me. I was delighted, figuring they were going to give me some water and be on their way. I was wrong. They ended up pulling over and that’s when the magic began. The daughter, Olivia, brought over this bag and started pulling stuff out. First was the water, one bottle, two, three, four; then came the chips and fruit snacks. She was a magician pulling goodies from a bottomless hat. What if she pulls out a rabbit? I can barely skin a potato. I was relieved to find there wasn’t a rabbit, and thrilled to find there were tacos.
We talked for a while, their accents thick and full of the country drawl that made me feel like I was at home. They were full of enthusiasm, never breaking eye contact, nodding their heads with everything I said, like I was saying exactly what they were hoping I’d say. We exchanged contact cards and the father, Joe, asked me to text him once I got to Texas and periodically thereafter. I told him I would, and I plan to text him with every new state. Right before they left he pulled out his wallet and gave me some money to support my journey. I walked away feeling light as a feather.
First off, I don’t know Richard’s wife’s name and I have never met her, but I fully approve. Psych is one of the greatest shows ever created. Secondly, how sweet and thoughtful was this. I have the best support network.
Mitchell is a small town with big personality. With a population of something like 142 it’s night life feels more like a town of 143 with its outstanding hostel and brewery. Tiger Town Brewing is where I spent the last two nights of my twenties. The first night I was shocked to find out one of the 142 people, Eric, who was the breweries operations manager, also walked across the country back in 2013. Our conversation found a familiar rhythm as we shared stories from our adventures. Eric bought my dinner at the end of the night and offered me a free t-shirt for helping him move some kegs.
Signs of Inspiration
I don’t know why, but I love any community that does stuff like this.
Downtime, Connections, and Free Hats
The day after my birthday was a rainy one. It was set to rain until 2 P.M. and I was in the small town of Dayville which had a small mercantile and that was about it. It was more than enough, though. The owner, Scott, was a personable fellow and we spent the time between customers chatting it up about everything from fly-fishing to the history of his store. Scott was the tenth owner of the small store that had been running since 1896. He bought it in 2019 and he said it was his job was to get it through Covid times and he did.
Scott was an avid fisherman and had spent a lot of time in Yellowstone. He was full of insights into what I could expect with Yellowstone’s migration season, bears, and the winter weather once I make it to the park. Scott and I talked for four hours on the mercantile porch before the rain let up, and before I left he gave me a free hat and some sort of healing stone. He also sold me bread that expired in mid-August. I only ate a few slices before I noticed the date, but it was enough to leave me expecting a fourth nipple any day now.
I ran my foot over with a forklift a few years ago and to avoid ruining our safety days at work, I never had it properly checked out. Over the years it’s given me some issues, mostly when I worked in the freezer or walked around the house without my shoes on, but they’ve mostly been minor discomforts, well until this journey anyway.
The pain was fine for the first few months, but sometime after I passed Big Sur I started to lose strength in it and the pain started becoming less manageable. The past ~8 weeks have been particularly bad with something as small as the paint strip on the road causing me too much pain to walk on without a major limp. I’d lost enough strength that a mere rock under my left heel could shift my weight forward to the front of my left foot and make me crumble. My foot just couldn’t support my weight anymore, and I finally decided to go get it checked out.
Luckily, the x-rays didn’t look like anything was broken so the doctor suspected it might be plantar fasciitis and gave me a steroid injection that seems to have helped a ton. My foot doesn’t feel powerful like my right one, but it definitely feels stronger and capable of supporting my weight again. I’ve reduced my pack weight by about 15 pounds and changed my approach to water in hopes that it will heal faster. This will be my first 200 mile week in a while and it feels amazing.
Birthday Socks and Bear Spray
I had so many kind people send me money and wish me happy birthday.
The Gentleman that Gave Me 24 ounces of Jerky for my Birthday
This was outstanding. P.S. watch the blooper of me getting flustered with myself for thinking 24oz was two pounds. This happens often.
After backtracking to Prineville to get my foot checked I needed to hitch my way back to my last point of progress in Mitchell. Hitchhiking is a delight that I don’t often get to enjoy. I can’t progress forward via anyway other than putting one foot in front of the other, but sometimes I’m blessed with the need for some detour miles that allow me an opportunity and I love it.
There is something beautiful about being trapped two feet away from a stranger with nothing but time and silence to fill. These encounters defy the normal laws of conversation. Things that are normally off limits, like grown men letting the pain trapped within flow with tears as they open up feelings they’d held in for years. Hitchhiking gets real quick, and deepens your love for your fellow human. It is something everyone should try a few times, it’s such a moving experience. Knowing you’ll never see this stranger again allows you to be naked and vulnerable, people are less conservative about opening up honestly, allowing the truth to float to the top from the beginning. Conversations find depth and often feel like a spiritual encounter. I love hitchhiking with strangers and I wish I could do it more.
Anyway, as awesome as hitchhiking with strangers is I was surprised to find a better way to hitchhike when Olivia, the daughter with the magician’s hat from my earlier story, and I’s paths crossed again as I was hitchhiking my way back to Mitchell. Olivia said she lived down the road, so she could take me to the top of the hill if I wanted, and I did. I hate double walking miles.
Our conversation found depth quickly and Olivia offered to drive me the full ~30 miles to Mitchell. While I was happy to be relieved of the extra miles, I was even more grateful to be able to continue the conversation. Our conversation meandered through a range of topics, each building on the spiritual depth of the last, like a trail wandering through a range of summits; each summit view built on the beauty of the last until you reach the final summit with the lake view—or in this case—bond, that was built on all the mountains of vulnerability we’d just summited. It was deep and moving, it felt like a spiritual journey into my most vulnerable thoughts and ideas. It inspired me to write the post about being a beacon.
This post wasn’t meant to be this long, but this journey has given me this buoyancy that allows me to be moved by an idea and the writing just takes off.
The Privileges I Don’t Know I Have
I was originally going to be write 500+ words about this, but to keep this post a readable length I’ll keep it short. This journey was beautiful from the start, but somewhere along the way my ability to fully appreciate it got lost in my foot pain. Reducing the discomfort became a mental task I always had to be aware of and it regularly prevented me from being able to float away into bliss the way I did in the beginning. After getting the injection that returned the freedom the pain had taken away, I was quickly struck by how east enjoying life was. I was gliding through the miles, floating in heaven and enjoying this journey at a level I forgot was possible. For the first time, I considered how lucky I was to have the privilege of health and it made me wonder how many other privileges I was overlooking that, if removed, could warp the way I experienced life. I’m going to do a longer post about this later, but for now this is all the deeper I’m touching on it.
I plan to do one of these posts per week. They won’t always be this lengthy, but they will always come from my heart. I challenge you to consider doing something similar yourself, whether it be ten things a week or three things at night. Just take some time to reflect on the blessings you have and enjoy them without having to lose them first.