Monday, March 30, 2015

Except I Have a Sandwich

The first significant section of the CDT winds its way through the desert, and as one could infer from the word "desert", there's not much water. In order to discourage hikers and trail maintenance folks from becoming vulture food, there are several large boxes called "water cache boxes" along the trail into which hikers can place jugs of water before starting their hike. Whistle and her mom, Libby, had been placing water when Whistle pulled out the logbook to see if there was anyone else on the trail.

Indeed, Whistle was bound to be alone on the trail. The only entry in the log was from December. It read,
Hey Jim, I just wanted to tell you that the tire on the FD blew and I have to walk back to 81. Don't worry about me, I'm ready for an adventure today, but if you do see this today, can you email Jessie to let her know why I'm going to be so late? If you get it on your second day, don't worry about it, I've already made it back.
Later, Whistle was sitting on a rock, just about seven miles into the Continental Divide Trail, unwrapping the subway sandwich she'd purchased in town many hours earlier. Whistle stared out across the desert landscape, taking a bite of her food and thinking about how she was the only human for many, many miles. Whistle's mind wandered back to the logbook she'd read earlier- specifically about how whoever left the note would have had to walk about 20 miles on rugged dirt roads to be able to get back to 81. She chewed and thought I kinda feel bad for that guy... having to walk back to civilization all alone with nothing. Although I guess that's what I'm doing! Except I'm not doing it with nothing. I'm doing it with stuff. I have a sandwich... And flies. Go away flies. Don't land on my socks.

Whistle and Libby (Mama Whistle) had arrived in Tuscon two days previously. The two ladies spent a day with their sweet family friend Barbara and visited the Desert Museum where Whistle got to spend several hours being delighted and fascinated by learning about all the animals that were bound to attempt to devour her in her sleep on the trail. They cached all of Whistle's water at boxes near road crossings from the first road crossing up to Silver City. They ate a questionable meal from a small town deli that Mama Whistle described as "disconcerting." They learned from a border patrol policeman about the steady rise of "murder drug mules" (direct Whistle quote) that they should be wary of if they are considering hiking the trail. Then, they slept.

In order to get to the trailhead of the CDT, hikers must elicit kindness from locals with cars blessed with four wheel drive. The "road" to get out to the trailhead is barely more than a wide trail, and has been known to swallow sedans whole, sending entire families to the Land of the Lost. Not keen on the next several years kibitzing with dinosaurs, Whistle and Mama Whistle got in contact with a local fellow, Juan, who volunteers with the CDT Coalition to bring hikers out to the trailhead in his truck. Whistle strapped on her American Flag leggings, and loaded herself in for the jangliest, bounciest ride of her life along a pot-holed trail in Juan's truck.

When they arrived at the trailhead, Whistle clipped into her backpack, breathed in the warm air, and wrapped her mother in a hug. She thanked Juan profusely for his kindness, then headed down the (literal) dusty trail. 

Whistle had started listening to an audiobook about the Dyatlov Pass Incident, and without really considering the potential psychological impact, she popped her earbuds in and kept listening to her story. The true story involves a group of Russian hikers who were found dead in the Ural mountains, scattered a mile around their campsite, their bodies highly radioactive and their hair blanched bright white. While listening to this story, Whistle couldn't help but consider what she'd heard from the border patrolman earlier. Thus it was that whenever the audiobook made a sound she wasn't ready for, Whistle would stop in her tracks, whip around and demand "Who's there?!"

After fourteen miles, Whistle came upon her first water cache campsite, which was dotted with hundreds of tiny yellow flowers. After setting up her tent and eating her dinner, she sat on her sleeping pad in the open air, watching as the sun slowly faded from the endless open sky. Her eyelids drooped heavy with sleep, but she was determined to stay awake until it was dark ("like some sort of young person!") so that she could see the stars.

She felt the silence around her, and the buzzing of quiet desert life. Before Whistle started the Appalachian Trail two years ago, she didn't think that it was going to change her as a person, but it did. Up until she started setting up her campsite on the first night on the Continental Divide Trail, she had thought "Oh, I'll just be Trail Whistle again." But sitting there in the fading evening light, she realized that she was going to change in an entirely new way. She was so happy to be out there, so excited to finally be on the journey toward finding out what she was going to love, to hate, to learn. She was overjoyed to consider what friends she might make, or what stories could come from any potential injuries. 

She was Whistle.

"I don't know what it's going to be like. And I can't wait to find out."

Mama Whistle and Barbara

Water to be cached!


Whistle and Juan. Juan has hair down to his waist, and hitch-hiked all over the
 country when he was in his 20's. Apparently he avoided certain parts of the south,
expressing that he'd heard "They don't take kindly to hippies, so I hear."

Whistle's umbrella is jerry-rigged to sit atop her backpack without needing
to be held. This is in an effort to keep her from frying to a golden crisp
in the sun.

Whistle has asked that I make it very clear that her long-distance hike of the CDT will likely not be a thru-hike due to her scheduling constraints for a job at the end of the summer. Furthermore, due to various other constraints in regard to weather, etc, a lot of her hike may be flip-flopped and done in an objectively weird order. If you are a trail "purist" in regard to how a trail is "supposed" to be hiked, then this isn't the blog for you. If you are here to learn about a fun, ridiculous adventure taken by a fabulous young lady, then you're in the right place. I'm so glad you are here!


  1. Hooray for Whistle -- off on your newest adventure! Keep the pictures looks so different from the AT but equally beautiful. We think about you a lot and so glad you're communing with us thru Clever Girl. Hugs and kisses, John and Liz

  2. Glad to see the blog posts aren't going to stop! I read that book...raised more questions than answers about those Russian hikers.

  3. DON'T MOVE TO RUSSIA!!! Have a great hike, Whistle!!