Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Where The Sun Don't Shine

A little girl sat on the edge of a wooden chair, scooping cereal into her mouth with a spoon held in her first. Her legs kicked back and forth idly through the air under her chair, while she narrowed her eyes at the maze on the back of the cereal box. She chewed thoughtfully, while tracing her pointer finger along the path. The maze was a playful, colorful and farm-themed. Suddenly her progress was impeded by a cheerful drawing of a barn and a tractor. Sticking out her lower lip she said aloud to no one at all in the empty kitchen,

"This is ridiculous! I should be able to just walk in between the barn and the tractor! Who made this maze? I'm calling Kellogg!"

Fast forward 20 years, and Whistle was standing at the real-life version of one of those mazes. She thought she had picked the right path, but suddenly, there were two ocotillo (a type of spiky plant) on either side of her, and a giant, dying prickly pear sprawling dramatically across the trail. If she were the childhood version of herself, she might consider trying to jump over the prickly pear. However, she was the adult version of herself, who took one look at that pile of spiky doom and declared,

"Heeeeeck no."

She turned on her heel and hiked back down to a starting point for a new potential path, and set off to find an altogether different way across the rocky, cactus-snarled labyrinth scree. Whistle was on day two, and making fine progress, except for being surrounded by a veritable army of things that wanted to poke her. She stepped on only one cactus by accident. It was a small barrel cactus with a Napoleon Complex that was either a baby cactus or a dead cactus, but still a very mean cactus. The long, hooked teeth had rigged their way into her socks and had to be gingerly extracted. Though only two days had passed, her legs and feet had already sustained a fair amount of abrasions from pokey, spiny plant life leaping up and grabbing a hold of her, like so many tiny little sisters begging for attention.

Whistle spared a moment to worry a bit about Grim starting the CDT later, considering that he is likely to faceplant constantly over cacti, due to trying to text and hike and the same time.

At the end of the second day, Whistle arrived at the road crossing at 81 to meet Mama Whistle, readjust her gear and eat lunch. The original plan was that Mama Whistle was then going to bid her farewell for the last time, and drive back to the airport to head home to Illinois. Instead, Mama Whistle and Whistle were met by another border patrol agent at the road crossing. This was the fourth border patrol agent to speak with Mama Whistle and express deep, true concern about the danger of hiking on the trail alone between 81 and Lordsburg. Apparently over the past week the patrol agents had been daily (and nightly) picking up drug traffickers, and that things were pretty intensely unsafe. 

Whistle made the very smart decision to drive with Mama Whistle up to Lordsburg, skipping about two and a half days worth of trail, to avoid the potential of being alone in the desert and accidentally wandering her way into murder. I want to take a moment to remind you that Whistle was completely alone on this trail. Not in the way that people start the Appalachian Trail alone, where they are surrounded by other hikers they just haven't met yet. No. Whistle was literally (not figuratively) the only CDT hiker in the southern part of the CDT at that time. She felt pretty icky about needing to skip over a section so early on, but she knew that it wasn't a good idea to do that section without any other hikers. In telling me this part of her story, she didn't defend herself at all, she simply said "I just need to remind myself that being a 'purist' isn't what this long hike is about for me." 

<rant> Even though Whistle knew she didn't need to defend herself to me, I'm going to defend her, because I know there are some silly folks (not many, but some) that believe that in order for someone to consider themselves a long-distance hiker they cannot skip any section of any trail for any reason whatsoever. I want to remind those people what I stated earlier re: murder, and request that you spend a bit of time seriously questioning your priorities. Lastly, Whistle has already the very clear decision that this hike cannot be a pure thru-hike of the CDT. It is a Long A** Section Hike of the CDT, and she is a Long A** Section Hiker (LASHer), which means she can do any section she pleases. If you still have a problem with that, I want you to imagine me making a very long, wet, rude fart sound at you. </rant> For those of you that have no problem with this, thank you for bearing with me. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go de-ruffle my feathers.
Saying goodbye to Mama Whistle was incredibly hard for Whistle to do. For the first two days, it was easy for her to feel like she wasn't alone, bolstered by the knowledge that she was going to see her mother very soon, and knowing that if something went wrong, her safety net was only a phone call away. But, waving to Mama Whistle's car as she headed down the road to drive to the airport and fly back to the midwest, Whistle understood that she was really in this for the long haul. She also understood that for a while at least, the long haul involved being mostly alone. 

Well, not totally alone. Whistle and Mama Whistle had given themselves a matching set of temporary tattoos, which is frankly no different from having a psychic connection.

Looking down at her GPS tracker, she zeroed in on herself, set her eyes on the unmarked trail ahead, and headed out into the desert once more.

I got a full straight minute of exuberant, excited voxer messages
 about this dead, sun-bleached millipede.
We all love different things.


  1. Hot damn. What an adventure! So Grim's doing the CDT too?

  2. No doubt that Whistle made the right decision to avoid potential danger and by-pass that section of the CDT. There is still plenty of trail to hike, no need to take unncessary risks.

  3. Isn't she beautiful? And courageous.

  4. Isn't she beautiful? And courageous.