This is a collection of stories with images, and video clips telling the story of my Calendar Year Triple Crown attempt which ended up as a Single Year Triple Crown. I promised something different, a video telling this story, but the footage I have doesn't match the story I want to tell (my computer probably couldn't make the video anyway as it crashed a lot just for these much shorter video clips). This format where I can combine prose with images and video clips I think tells the story better than a video could (at least a video made by me). Thanks to Sage and Sam for giving me the nudges to actually complete this.
Jack Gladstone, Patti Bartlett, and Keith Haas
Before I started my hike, I started working at Applied Engineering Services and it came time to set up my retirement account. As we had another new employee at the time, the owners of the company had our company's financial advisor, Keith Haas, come to talk to us about our retirement accounts.
I learned that Keith lives ear the start of the CDT in Whitefish, MT. As I told him my plans for a Calendar Year Triple Crown, he immediately wanted to help. I agreed that I would stop to see him in Whitefish on my way to starting the CDT.
Skipping ahead to Stehekin, WA, my last town stop before finishing the PCT. Some other hikers had a moral conundrum and stole my package including the new shoes I desperately needed. I got my maps back and nothing else. My Dad hand delivered this package, but had to leave before I could show up. So he left it at an agreed upon spot. When I arrived 2.5 hours later, all I could find was the box. My view of the long distance hiking community took a hit for the first time.
I anger hiked the remainder of the PCT finishing very exhausted and still angry, showed up to Whitefish by train. Keith took one look at my beat up cheap sunglasses and gave be a nice pair of his that he claimed he could no longer use. As he had to work a little in the morning, he dropped me off at his house for a much needed nap. Once finished, he took me into Glacier for my permit and on the drive to the start of the CDT I told him I needed to find a place to stay that night as I couldn't start that day. As I looked through my information, Keith called his friend to see if he could find something better.
I heard Keith talk to Jack Gladstone, who in a loud booming voice told Keith that he would allow me to stay at his house and get me to the start of the CDT. In the meantime, they would feed me. Keith started telling me about Jack, I think to prepare me. I had a little apprehension based on the description, but Keith assured me that Jack and his wife Patti were great.
Food, shelter, and a ride. That gave me all I needed, but possibly with a little discomfort. Jack and Patti had friends over for dinner that night, so adding Keith and I to the mix didn't change things much or so they thought.
Jack got out his guitar, played and sang a song for us. As I listened, I thought about how much my Dad would enjoy being there at that moment. Dinner came shortly after, surf 'n turf with homemade french fries, a vegetable dish that I don't remember, huckleberry ice cream sandwiches, and huckleberry cheesecake in quantities that made it effectively all I could eat. It was by far the best meal in 2018.
They wanted to feed me a big breakfast prior to starting out in the morning, so I got another of my top 5 meals of the year with omelettes, sausage, and breakfast potatoes. Most of all, I connected with Jack and Patti in a way I don't normally connect with people. Jack talked about winning the Rose Bowl with the Washington Huskies in 1978 (he was a guard on the offensive line), showed me his Rose Bowl ring, and our topics of conversation ranged greatly never running out. Jack has a unique mind so I love listening to him. His big thing at this time was performing SENSELESS acts of kindness and rewarding those who provide service for others. He performed one of those for me. We exchanged phone numbers because they thought they might be able to help me if I needed it in the near future.
Jack took me to the trail and I went on my way expecting to never see or hear from him or Patti again. I simply thought that I had an amazing trail magic story that would top any I've heard.
They got me in the right frame of mind to enjoy the stunning scenery of Glacier National Park (no anger and I finally got a full night of sleep).
I don't remember how much later, but I received a text message from Patti asking me how I was doing. We started texting back and forth for the remainder of the CDT and I felt flattered that they wanted to stay in touch with me.
After I finished the CDT, I called Keith and he told me that Jack wanted to talk to me. I tried calling him, but we just played phone tag for a while. I kept moving down the AT leaving Jack a message when in town and he would leave me a message while I hiked the trail.
On a day which had a 10% chance of precipitation, I hiked through three snowstorms. I finished the day crawling into a shelter as I noticed a fourth snowstorm starting. In the morning, I saw 4 inches of new snow on the ground that came overnight.
I just shook my head as I started the day thinking that the last forecast I saw had no precipitation again for the coming day. I climbed up Saddleback Mountain getting my gloves wet in the process. On the summit, I faced a blizzard (so much for the forecast). My hands froze to the point that I could no longer bend my left hand, even with hand warmers. I dropped down Saddleback, knowing I needed to go into Rangely, a town I planned to skip. In town, I regrouped, changed my thought process from long distance hiking to winter mountaineering, and purchased some clothing to better battle the conditions. Most people say to not fight nature, but for me to survive and keep moving forward, I found myself in a fight.
After getting settled into my motel room with all my town chores done, I called Jack. I wish I would have recorded the conversation because I can't remember someone inspiring me so much since Coach O'Brien died. As I thanked him for lifting my spirits, he told me, "This hike that you're doing, it's not about you. It is your obligation to tell this story others, to speak about it to others."
After I finished hiking, Patti asked me if I would speak to her class (she's a middle school teacher). I jumped at the chance and had a wonderful time talking to her students, most of whom were very engaging. That evening, I got to meet a group of their friends and just generally enjoyed just spending time with these two. Keith tried to make it down, but his car broke down on the way.
Since then, I climbed Chief Mountain with Jack, a sacred mountain to the Blackfeet Indians (Jack is half Blackfeet Indian and half German), watched a high school football game with him, and had the pleasure of eating Thanksgiving dinner with him. Each time I'm around him, he tells me something on his mind. Leading a trip to climb Chief Mountain every year allows him to "manifest kinship". Most recently, he told me about trying to achieve the place where the line blurs so who serves who becomes unclear. These ideas have stuck in my head ever since.
I don't know how I managed to get so lucky to have Keith, Jack, and Patti in my life, but they played key roles in my SYTC. Keith still takes care of my money for me, Jack provides me with his immense wisdom, and Patti continues to show support and lives in a way I try to emulate. She once told me that I am stuck with them. I certainly hope so. I feel a kinship with them ever since that SENSELESS act of kindness. Someday, I hope the line blurs on who is serving who between us.
This blog post is my attempt to tell the story I want to tell about my SYTC. I'm trying to fulfill the obligation Jack told me I have. I've given four talks, but this should allow someone unable to go to one of those talks to see my story.
Roundup River Ranch and Sarah Ingersoll
I view long distance hiking as inherently selfish. So I selfishly tried to make myself feel less selfish by attempting to raise money for Roundup River Ranch as part of my CYTC attempt. Roundup River Ranch is a summer camp for kids who have serious to life threatening medical conditions. Free of charge, these kids get to go to camp and have the medical support needed so that for a brief time in their lives, they can do normal kid things.
I reached out to RRR, and Sarah got back to me. She set everything up for the donations, and she convinced me to volunteer my time at RRR for a weekend. I really enjoyed working with Sarah over the phone and through email, but meeting her in person proved even better.
When I talked with her, her eyes lit up as though she was talking with the most interesting person in the world. Later that day, I saw her doing the same thing to someone else. I know that both of us can't be the most interesting person in the world, so that means I'm not that interesting, Sarah just makes people feel that way.
Volunteering at RRR was an interesting experience where I learned that is a such thing as an adult Superman onesie and I learned that people can convince me to wear it ... in public. I also ended up dressing like a minion as I acted as a host for a show for the kids. I let two boys slaughter my face with makeup, and watched a little boy who literally only has half a heart show everyone he has more heart than the rest of us.
A little before I left, Sarah sent me an email saying the theme for the next year was "Reach for the Stars" and that she hoped that I would occasionally see the stars, remember the kids at RRR, and get the motivation I needed to keep going. It worked.
I attempted to record the above message for Roundup River Ranch, but I'm not sure it ever got to them. I guess now is as good a time as any to post this mucus infused message from the highest elevation I reached during my SYTC.
I met Lloyd about 10 years ago and went skiing with him the first chance I got. As a ski instructor, he helped me improve my skiing greatly. My friendship with him and other mutual friends also pushed my comfort zone so I got into rock climbing, mountaineering, canyoneering, and started hiking more off-trail.
Lloyd is my most reliable friend. Every winter, he skis a lot and teaches part time as a ski instructor. He will go rock climbing and have a few other outdoor adventures each year. If there is something he decides he will regret not doing, he does it. For example, he thought he would regret never flying a plane, so he now has a pilot's license and owns a plane.
I also have a place to stay anytime I'm in Idaho Falls, even if he is out of town. When my hot water heater stopped working, he allowed me to go over to his house and use his shower very early in the morning. Anytime I need him, he comes through.
I knew that attempting a CYTC would be expensive, so I asked Lloyd if I could live in his basement. I gave him a few things of mine that had a little value to him and paid him way under market value. Staying with him allowed me to make enough money to fund the hike.
On the Appalachian Trail, my final trail of the year, my body broke down to the point of having great difficulty walking. I couldn't carry my pack without a lot of pain, so I had to see a chiropractor, and then I rested in a hotel room for several days. From that point on, the hike became a lot more expensive than I anticipated with many more nights in hotel rooms. Lloyd allowing me to stay with him for so cheap allowed me to save enough money that I didn't have to think about the money as I tried to finish the hike.
Lloyd is so supportive of my outdoor adventures that he came to join me for a couple days in Hammond Canyon. Newton (his dog) kept stepping on cactus, but we had a great time exploring Hammond Canyon and finding the most intact and well preserved Anasazi Ruin I've ever seen.
More than anything, I appreciate how bad an influence Lloyd is on me. He convinced me to buy a backcountry ski set-up on a whim. I've pursued many outdoor adventures because of him and he taught me the most important lesson I ever learned about working out: the hardest part of every workout is between the couch and the door. Without his nudging, I never would have quit my comfortable job to hike the PCT in 2016 which started this whole adventure. I consider him my best friend and someone who changed my life.
j and Dave
After I finished the PCT in 2016, I talked about trying to find an engineering employer who would allow me to live the hiker trash lifestyle I desired. I didn't actually believe it existed. Then someone put me touch with Jeanette Hackney, or as she likes to go by, j. That evening I updated my resume in about 5 minutes, and sent her an email that I effectively used as a cover letter (that took an additional 10 minutes). I later looked back at the resume and "cover letter" and realize they were bad.
Still, j contacted me to set up a phone interview for two days later with her and Dave, the most active owners of Applied Engineering Services at the time. By the end of that interview, they told me to go see Matt Beard, the boss at the Idaho Falls office. I set up and had an in-person interview with him which took place two days after the phone interview. It took a few months and an in person interview with j, but eventually they hired me part-time. Soon after, they gave me a project with enough work for full time.
I didn't hide the fact that I would attempt the CYTC. In other words, I found the employer I talked about but didn't believe existed.
They support my lifestyle so much that they came out to see me on the trail and we explored the South Fork of Mule Canyon together. It came at the perfect time as I had broken a lot of gear my first week on trail and needed a lighter time on trail from the punishment of that first week.
Throughout the hike, I stayed in contact with j and Dave more than anyone outside of my parents. Today, they allow me to live at the office in Ridgway which saves me a lot of money, and send me out on travel where I end making even more. They do this knowing full well that I'm about to leave again on another hike.
I don't tend to say I couldn't have done it without someone unless I believe it. I couldn't have finished the SYTC without them.
The first part of my hike was a "warm-up" in Southern Utah where I explored Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments. Logistically, I had one problem, how to get a package at Lake Powell. I reached out to a few places to see how to achieve that, and Josh Summers responded to me. He told me he would take care of it if I sent it to the Bullfrog Post Office. I rode a shuttle across Lake Powell and Josh met me on the other side with my package. He took me to a place where I could fill up on water and start hiking.
This enabled me to pull off this hike I wanted to do. When I compare this hike to the PCT, CDT, and AT in terms of "average scenic value", this hike wins easily. The opportunity to do this hike came because of Josh's generosity.
Scout and Frodo ... and Proton
After finishing my "warm-up" hike in Southern Utah, I hitched a car ride and rode a bus to get to San Diego. Along the way, I lost my wallet. Fortunately, Scout and Frodo hosted me as they do for hundreds (maybe thousands) of prospective Pacific Crest Trail hikers each year. They won't accept any money for it, instead they request donations to the PCTA for any money that hikers want to give them.
Their hosting duties include feeding us, giving us a place to stay, giving a talk about a variety of topics all important to the PCT (I believe it should be mandatory to hear it before one attempts to hike the trail), and driving us to the start of the trail. In order to do all of that, they need help.
I got lucky and Proton, fellow 2016 PCT hiker, picked me up from the bus station. We crossed paths at Kennedy Meadows, but didn't actually meet. We knew a lot of the same hikers. He drove me to a bank so I could get enough money until I could get my cards replaced.
Scout had to tell me that I couldn't tell someone to carry less water than they thought and Frodo had to scold me for talking too loud in the morning. Somehow, they maintain a positive atmosphere and set the tone for us as we embark on our respective hikes despite some people, like me, causing them problems daily.
For me, I felt like I was returning home when I saw the Southern Terminus and I soaked in the buzz as everyone got ready to start their 2,650+ mile hikes.
Brenda and Laurie Braaten
With the energy gleaned from Scout and Frodo, I started the PCT fast. In the morning of my 19th day, I made it to Kennedy Meadows and heard horror stories about the current snow storms Sierra. I ended up hiking through two blizzards, post-holed so much that I walked in a lake for a bit for easier travel, had a lot of difficult navigation, had wet feet for an average of 10 hours per day, and ran out of food once. The Sierra sapped a lot of my energy.
I left the Sierra exhausted and my mind went to a the darkest place of my life. Also, my feet split open making each step painful. In this condition, I arrived at Belden and called Brenda so I could pick up my package and start hiking.
Sensing I needed more than my package, she found an excuse to take me back to her place where they hosted hikers as they come through. I took a shower, ate, and Brenda started helping me with my feet. Laurie gave her some advice which she passed on to me. The next thing I knew, I spent the night in Belden for a much needed break.
I left with my mind still in a bad place, but my feet healed completely within a couple days by following the advice of the Braatens. They were a bright light during a dark time which I believe helped keep me going.
With my mind still in a bad place, I continued through Northern California, an underrated region of the PCT in my opinion.
Reaching the halfway point did not feel good at all, but somehow I had enough spunk in me to make the following video. That may have in part been due to the Braatens and looking back, this moment I'm more proud of than any other.
I showed up to Burney Mountain Guest Ranch where I met Linda. She showed me how everything worked and explained that they use the honor system. After I stepped on her weight scale and saw that with shoes and clothes on, I weighed under 150 lb. Linda fixed me lunch and told me about brisket for dinner. I stayed and believe I ate $70 worth of food (about 10 plates full), so I got my $12 worth. Linda kept begging me to eat more, but I just couldn't.
During that time, I also got to talk to Linda, who runs Burney Mountain Guest Ranch. Burney Mountain Guest Ranch is a Christian Retreat that also happens to be close to the PCT. They decided as part of their ministry to provide a place that would help any of us long distance hikers going through.
As a fellow Christian, I see the occasional negative portrayal we receive. Unfortunately, I largely understand why those portrayals exist. So, I appreciate it greatly when I see fellow Christians living in a way that buck those negative portrayals. Linda is the epitome of that.
I found some other hikers attempting the CYTC: Graduate, T-Rex, and Prodigy. I decided to join them trying to keep up as long as I could on the CDT. Graduate had a filling fall out and ended up having to take a zero (no miles hiked) so I ended up stealing away Prodigy for a little bit.
In the morning of our next town stop, Prodigy hiked a little ahead of me, so I knew that I wouldn't catch up unless he had to dig a hole. All of a sudden he stopped and started looking at something on the ground. When I caught up, he held a cucumber in his hand with a big smile on his face saying that Toe Touch left that for him.
I tried to remember if I met Toe Touch on the PCT, as all of us hiked it in 2016. Prodigy saw that she was only half an hour ahead of us based on her note, so he took off at a speed I couldn't hope to replicate. I did manage to stay in sight of him as he caught up to Toe Touch. They hugged and as they talked, I managed to catch up to them. That moment, I realized I had confused Toe Touch with Tip Toe.
Toe Touch gave us a ride to town and had lunch with us. I think she offered to buy us lunch, but instead we bought her lunch (I could be remembering that wrong). Buying us lunch was a foolish proposition at the time.
I have to explain this picture a little bit. First, notice how skinny I am. The shirt normally fits me at least better than it does in this picture, but I'm swimming in it. My shoulders look very pronounced and not in a good way. I'm on my second plate and Prodigy is eating a burger still planning on eating the pizza. Meanwhile, there Toe Touch's plate still has a lot of food on it.
Toe Touch then patiently walked around a grocery store with us and held back her opinion on our choices of food (she's a certified holistic nutritionist). After finishing our resupply, she started driving us up to the CDT as I contacted my friend Mrs. R. for a little help at the next town stop. On the way up, we lost cell service, so Toe Touch turned around to allow me to could finish my conversation with Mrs. R.
Toe Touch has a lot of enthusiasm and manages to stay positive in situations that would derail almost anyone else I know. From my point of view, the day we spent with Toe Touch is the happiest I ever saw Prodigy.
After the hike, I contacted Toe Touch, started following her on Instagram, and subscribed to her newsletter for her nutrition consulting business. I even visited her briefly a couple times.
Do yourself a favor, and follow her on Instagram. She is my favorite Instagram follow and the favorite for at least one other person I know. Also, if you have a health issue that better nutrition can help or just want better performance that better nutrition can provide, consider reaching out to her. I say that as a client of her's. Check out her website and subscribe to her newsletter. I look forward to each email that comes from that subscription.
Before we left Toe Touch, Prodigy and I heard about the Goldstone fire. At first it was small and not impacting the CDT. Later, it grew causing a closure, but had a shorter re-route than the official trail. Soon the re-route became hard to follow and added 20 miles to the hike (I didn't have enough food for that). Finally, we met Cashmere, a hiker who Prodigy knew of but never met from hiking the PCT in 2016. She talked about the cold front and the wind coming in so she expected the fire to explode in size. Prodigy agreed with her assessment based on his experience fighting fires.
We decided to take matters into our own hands and started creating our own re-route. We decided to take a dirt road down to Jackson, MT whre we would figure out our next move. It did require a little trespassing, but the rancher fortunately let us through.
In Jackson, we met a bunch of hikers who tried to take the re-route and Forest Service employees had to pull them off the trail as the fire exploded in size. From our position, it made the most sense to road hike a little past Lima, MT to reconnect with CDT for a 110 mile highway hike. We needed help to get our packages, but my friend Mrs. R. agreed to take care of that for us.
Prodigy and I left Jackson on our way to Dillon, which had a taco bus that Prodigy swore by (he was right). As we hiked to Dillon, a Forest Service employee pulled over to talk to us named Amie. She offered us a ride, which we refused because I wanted to get continuous steps. Once she understood why we refused her ride, she gave me her phone number, address, and told us to call when we arrived in Dillon as she would open her place to us.
Amie sent another forest service employee to us to offer water as we continued our road hike and true to her word, she opened her home to us. That night, she even fed us. In the morning, she drove us back to where we left off our hike so we could connect our steps while saving a couple miles.
Road hiking is not fun. It is not relaxing. It is painful. Amie offering her home to us made it much more tolerable to accomplish the road hike.
While with Toe Touch and Prodigy, I looked through my phone to see who could most easily help us for our next town as we approached my neck of the woods. When I saw Mrs. R., I knew I found the most logical person and also the best person. I called her up to ask for a ride to Leadore from the CDT and she responded by not just agreeing to help, but thankful for the opportunity to help.
The fire changed the request to needing her to drive to Leadore to pick up our packages and then deliver them to us in Lima. That basically required two drives of 3 hours round trip. Once again, her excitement at the chance to help us made us feel like we did her a favor.
In Lima, Mrs. R. showed up with our packages, and a bunch of food she prepared specifically for us. Prodigy told me if I had any more Mrs. R.'s up my sleeve, to please use them.
I'm sorry but I only have one Mrs. R. I know other people who would have jumped at the opportunity to help us and would have done everything she did, maybe a little differently. I only know one Mrs. R.
I met Mrs. R. at church where she had a reputation for being very good with young kids and as a saintly woman. When a pastor at the church asked me to help her, my respect for him and Mrs. R. meant I couldn't say no. That's when I got to know her. I've read the Bible cover to cover twice and the loudest messages I get from it are to love God, love people, and help people bear their burdens. Mrs. R. loves people better than anyone else I've ever met.
After I hiked the PCT in 2016, I grew closer to Mrs. R. She told me that she started calling me Barnabus, which is a Biblical name that means son of encouragement. I've been given many good trail names and this one I don't think counts as she didn't give it to me on the trail. However, this is the only trail name that it matters if I live up to it.
After I finished the CDT, I sent her a text message and she responded by saying that she really enjoys hearing from me and wishes I would reach out more often (I only tend to reach out to the people who ask me to). On the AT, I started reaching out to her consistently. During one of my rougher moments on the AT, Mrs. R. sent me a text message so beautiful that with tears in my eyes, my only possible response was a text telling her that I love her.
The last time I saw her, as I had to leave, she gave me a big hug, kissed me on the cheek and told me that I have more than one mom. If a non-Christian asks me to show an example of someone who lives as a Christian should, I would point to Mrs. R. If I someone wanted to see what Jack's phrase "manifest kinship" means, I would send them to Mrs. R and tell them this story. The person I most try to emulate as I attempt to become a better person/Christian is Mrs. R. I have more than one mom!
There are no pictures or video I have to supplement that which I have written above. My flip phone did not keep the message Mrs. R. sent me and I forgot what she said. I only remember how loved I felt in that moment I first read it.
Prodigy, Graduate and T-Rex ... and Boretide
I had navigational difficulties in Montana and finally just outside of Helena, I hit my breaking point and bought a pay as you go smart phone. Guthook and Avenza became part of my life that day so I had GPS finally. I wanted to hike the entire Triple Crown by map and compass, but gave that up when it started causing me too many delays.
As I hiked out of town trying to figure out Guthook, I saw Graduate, T-Rex, and Prodigy. I met them the day after I finished the PCT and the day before they finished. We heard of each other previously and we promised to keep an eye out on the CDT. I started before them, but they hike faster than me, so I knew they would catch up eventually.
I latched on and hiked as fast as I could to keep up with these speedsters. T-Rex hiked in front with Graduate on her heels. I could keep up occasionally for about half a day, then I had to slow down. Prodigy liked to lag behind a little bit so I normally found myself between Graduate and Prodigy, not in sight of either. Graduate showed me how to use Guthook (I had a setting on my phone that had to change) and I copied them as much as I could trying to gain any advantage to complete the CYTC.
Graduate had Achilles trouble, started peeing blood, and had a filling fall out of his mouth before we could make it to our next town. To take care of those issues, Graduate and his wife T-Rex decide to stay in town while Prodigy and I continued on. As Graduate and T-Rex hike faster than both of us, we knew they would catch up eventually.
It didn't take long before the Goldstone fire presented us with a unique obstacle. After our encounter with Cashmere, we poured through all available maps to find an alternate route. I found one that I didn't like, but it would keep my continuous steps intact. In the morning, I told Prodigy what I found, and he also didn't like it. Still, we had to get around the fire and we didn't know how big the fire grew.
At the first road that looked like it went the right direction, Prodigy decided that we should just head to town and figure it out from there. We reached an intersection where the main road veered North, but a small road continued East, the direction we needed to go. I downloaded a couple maps and saw the road going East took us where we needed to go and the road going North would at the very least take us way out of the way. Not long after that, we arrived at a gate with a No Trespassing sign. We looked at the maps to see if there was an alternative, but didn't see any without a major detour.
With this knowledge, we hopped the fence. A couple minutes later, we heard a truck coming our way, so we stood by the side of the road and hoped the rancher would let us pass. As the rancher drove up to us, Prodigy asked me to do the talking. I nodded my head understanding for the first time the difference that being a person of color meant on the trail. We both hoped that the rancher would allow us to pass, but my concern was only about the detour. Prodigy's concerns went much farther than the detour.
All things equal, needing to curry favor with the rancher, the right person to talk was Prodigy. He has more skill in these settings than I do. We didn't know if all things were equal and we did know that I looked more like the rancher than he did. The rancher kindly let us through asking that we close all gates behind us and I like to think that without me, Prodigy would have experienced the same result. The fact that he requested that I do the talking meant his past experiences gave him some warnings that never entered my head.
Prodigy and I hiked all the way down to Atlantic City, WY together with the exception of about 1.5 days after seeing Mrs. R. I kept hiking as Prodigy decided to wait a couple hours to reunite with Graduate and T-Rex and all three caught me just before entering Rawlins. In Rawlins, I watched at racist encounter that Prodigy skillfully diffused, proving he had practice, and confirming that his fears with the rancher were learned from experience.
All of us mostly hiked together until Winter Park, CO where a storm caused a delay, so I ended up taking a shorter route. When I first starting hiking with these three, I was at least 6 days behind schedule due to my experiences in the Sierra and my food poisoning in Oregon. Part of hiking with them allowed me to catch up and even finish the CDT four days ahead of schedule. We stayed in loose contact maintaining morale support the rest of the way as Graduate, T-Rex, and Prodigy all completed Calendar Year Triple Crowns.
Graduate and T-Rex are the first couple or even group bigger than one person to ever complete the CYTC and Prodigy is the first "person of color" to complete the CYTC. T-Rex also has the fastest known time for a woman to complete a Triple Crown.
Random fact: all of us hiked the PCT in 2016. I finished just a couple days after Prodigy and the day before Graduate and T-Rex. Somehow, I never met any of them until 2018.
Graduate is a very driven man with a lot of optimism and decisiveness. Hiking with Graduate gave me chance to let someone else make the decisions for a while so I took a mental break. Also, Graduate and I share quite a few interests outside of the trail which we talked about when I managed to keep up with him for short periods of time. He also gave me some beta on the CDT up ahead (Graduate and T-Rex hiked the CDT in 2017). T-Rex brightened up the trail daily with her happy demeanor and always seemed to smile. She also found a hat for me after I lost mine in the Great Divide Basin. These two are the strongest hikers I've ever met (that includes Legend for those who know of him) and I can't wait to see what they do next. You can follow them on Instagram or on their website.
I've never hiked with anyone as much as I have with Prodigy. Hiking with him means almost completely hiking alone, but taking breaks and camping under trees with him (he refused to camp out in the open every night except one I can remember). For those who wonder if being a "person of color" made his experience different from mine, it did. Graduate and T-Rex told me about a far worse racist encounter they saw him endure than the one I saw. Trust me, he had extra obstacles to overcome and extra worries because of how he looks. Even after completing the CYTC, more negative commentary was directed at him than anyone else I know who also finished a CYTC. I consider him the best hiking partner I've ever had. You can follow Prodigy on Instagram.
A little before I split off from Graduate, T-Rex, and Prodigy, we met Boretide in Colorado. As neither Boretide nor I could keep up with others on a steep climb, I hiked it with her. With all five of us at Park View, Boretide took our picture wanting to capture the four people "crazier than her". I think she took the only picture that included all four of us.
That evening, I tried to decide if I wanted to set up camp or keep going (we got to camp early), when Boretide rolled in wanting to get a couple more miles in. I decided to hike with her and learned a few things about her. She played Division I soccer at Davidson University, ran every trail race in the state of Alaska (where she lives) except for one, and is a devoted wife and friend who missed her husband and friends up in Alaska.
I ended up getting the chance to hike with her again later in Colorado for about two days making her the fourth and final person I hiked with for more than half a day. During those two days, we enjoyed fall colors and saw some moose. I enjoyed the scenery more because her mere presence distracted me from the pain in my shoulder while she had to endure complaints about my shoulder.
She ended up finishing the trail in 84 days and climbed a few extra mountains along the way.
I enjoy hiking with people, but don't get many opportunities to do so. I enjoy sharing experiences with someone else, having someone around to discuss ideas with, and sometimes I just need to vent to someone in person. These four people gave me that. Graduate allowed me the mental break of not making ever single decision. T-Rex constantly smiling gave me a more positive outlook. Prodigy and I had some less than ideal shared experiences, like frozen shoulders, trespassing, and getting caught on a ridge during a thunderstorm. Boretide allowed me to enjoy the fall colors more than I would have otherwise.
I hiked with many other people, some for just a mile or two, others for half a day. I don't remember all the people I hiked with or shared a meal with, but know I enjoyed almost all of these experiences. I can't remember a bad time when I hiked with someone else on the SYTC.
In Wyoming, I first heard Prodigy complain about his shoulders. I was relieved as my right shoulder started aching also. By Colorado, the pain from my shoulder expanded down to my elbow and up to just behind my ear. This started causing headaches, which I hadn't suffered from in a long time. I purchased different ointments to put on my shoulder which helped with the pain, but I also noticed that I started slowly losing range of motion in my right arm.
At Twin Lakes sitting outside talking with some Colorado Trail hikers, Smiles walked up. She started talking with someone she knew and told him that she had to get off trail to close on some property in Ridgway, CO. I perked up and told her that the company I work for has an office there. Eventually I asked her what kind of work she does and she responded, massage therapy.
I perked up again and asked her to take a look at my shoulder. The next 20 minutes were extremely painful and possibly tear inducing (I don't remember, but do remember needing her to stop). She told me I had the beginnings of a frozen shoulder and showed me some things to do to prevent it from freezing all the way. If it completely froze, I would not have the use of my right arm without a lot of extensive therapy. Equally important, she told me I could make a full recovery from it even if it did totally freeze. That gave me a lot of peace of mind.
That day, my shoulder was sore, but I had full range of motion again. Over the next few days following her advice, I maintained full range of motion and the pain started decreasing, both in area affected and amount. Over time with Smiles advice, I managed to limit the pain to just my shoulder and maintained full range of motion for the rest of the hike. I now believe I have a full recovery from that injury.
Since then, I have spent more time with Smiles including a recent day of backcountry skiing which went as well as any day of backcountry skiing ever has for me. Smiles hiked the CDT last year and along with the PCT in 2014 (I could be wrong on that), she plans to hike the AT this year to finish out her Triple Crown.
Uncle JR and Aunt Carmen
After Smiles patched me up, the remainder of the CDT went off without a hitch ... kind of. I did wear some holes in my hiking shirt and didn't think about sunscreen until I had a real deep sunburn and my hand lost a fight with a barbed wire fence. Other than that, the CDT finished easily for me.
I got down to the Crazy Cook monument in the morning where I asked Uncle JR and Aunt Carmen to meet me. As I don't like to carry anymore food or water than necessary, I ran out of both after a couple hours of waiting and doubt set in. Did I tell my uncle the right day? Was there another road in other than the one I saw as that road looked really rough? Was he coming in his Jeep because he might need it? Did he break down or get stuck on the way? I started making plans for what to do if he didn't show up that day.
Fortunately, he did. To answer the questions I had, yes, no, yes, no. He took a few pictures of me, I loaded up and off we went bouncing along a surprisingly rough road.
In Hachita, we stopped and he pulled out some street tacos he made for me based on a recipe from Grandpa Benton, which I enjoyed immensely. I think I ate the rest of the way to El Paso.
As I stayed with Uncle JR and Aunt Carmen, I switched out gear for the AT and rested hoping to allow my frozen shoulder to heal. It mostly worked as my shoulder didn't cause much pain for the AT. Mostly, I ate a lot.
I met Gramps on the PCT in 2018 and we hiked together for about half a day. He helped me stay close to the trail using his GPS, but I still managed to take him on a couple boondoggles for some bonus miles. At the time, I tried to navigate solely by map and compass.
As we hiked together, I told him I about my CYTC attempt and he responded that the kind of hiking that requires did not match his reasons for hiking (that puts him in the majority). He still offered to take me from the airport at least to Millinocket where I would start the AT. I checked in with him to see if the offer still stood as I came close to finishing the CDT, and set up the arrangements.
We didn't get to Millinocket until about midnight and he had to drive back making it a late night for him. The next day I started the trail in a mist. Gramps told me the rain just started the day I arrived after a recent dry spell.